Back To School Guide: Ice Cream Break

The Ice Cream Man Returns

Eric Castillo
7 min read
Follow the Bells
The Pop Fizz mobile. (Eric Williams
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There’s something about going back to school—whether you’re a freshman in college or finally going back to finish your degree—that makes you feel a bit like a kid again. You’re meeting new classmates, finding your way around campus and getting to know your professors. It’s similar to the kind of experience you’ve had every year around this time since grade school.

But at least back then, you had it a little easier. Your biggest concerns were over picking a cool backpack and finding friends during recess, rather than what the recession means for your job search once you graduate.

I hate to break it to you, but this is adulthood. You’ve traded in P.E. for a gym membership and Saturday morning cartoons for Netflix binges.

Wouldn’t it be nice to reclaim a piece of your childhood? Every kid remembers the excitement they felt when they heard the siren call of the ice cream man slowly rolling up the street. You ran to plead with mom or dad for some money to go buy an ice cream shaped like Tweety Bird or a ninja turtle. And there was the inevitable letdown when you unwrapped it to reveal a disfigured blob with gumball eyes. But you didn’t care. Cause you were a kid. Relive some of those carefree moments with a trip to some of these food trucks, which I like to think of as modern day ice cream men, providing you cold treats with an extra scoop of nostalgia.

Jp’s Custard Cart

Eric Williams
A staple in the Midwest but a rarity in New Mexico, frozen custard differs from ice cream in a couple of ways. There’s a touch of egg yolk added for richness and as a natural emulsifier; more importantly, frozen custard contains less air than ice cream, making for a denser and creamier frozen treat. If you want to taste the difference for yourself, pay a visit to JP’s Custard Cart. You can usually catch them parked at Fourth and Osuna on the weekends. The beauty of their cart is in its ability to serve up quality frozen custard made right on the spot. Keep your eyes peeled (or check Facebook) to see where else they might be and to see if the Scoop Bus is out and about. The Scoop Bus, a retrofitted custard-serving school bus, will immediately impart that ice cream man nostalgia you’re looking for while delivering a far superior product than the prepackaged ice cream sandwiches scraped off the bottom of the freezer. For your first venture into custard, you can start with familiar pleasures like chocolate or vanilla. I personally prefer more interesting and complex flavors like their sea salt cookie fudge. The flavors may change each day, but you’ll always get the satisfyingly creamy feel of ice cream indulgence. It’s definitely a superior product compared to the prepackaged stuff the ice cream man is still selling to neighborhood kids.

Pop Fizz

Eric Williams
If you grew up or live in an area like mine, you’re used to a different kind of ice cream truck. In my South Valley neighborhood, you might come across the traditional Blue Bell truck every so often, but you’re more likely to see a man, hunched over, ringing a bell while pushing along a small cart filled with a whole variety of frozen paletas. Paletas, which simply means popsicle in Spanish, are a whole cut above the ones you had to break in two over your knee or the ones that you ripped open with your teeth and would cut at the edges of your mouth as you ate it. The flavors of authentic paletas blow those out of the water. Especially the ones available from Pop Fizz. There is a store in the South Valley (844 Bridge SW), but Pop Fizz also goes mobile with its own classy paleta cart. More recently, you can find Pop Fizz rolling the streets in a bona fide pink and white ice cream truck. The bright colors are hard to miss at growers’ markets and other community events.

What sets Pop Fizz apart from other paleterias is its commitment to using all-natural and organic ingredients in their popsicles. Simple flavors like strawberry and watermelon taste even better knowing there is actual strawberry and watermelon going into the mix.

You can also venture out and try unique options like Jamaica raspberry or pineapple habañero. I’m a big fan of the creamy offerings, and coconut is my personal favorite. It’s just sweet enough with bits of coconut flakes suspended in the milky mixture.

And did I mention the ice cream tacos? Talk about a blast from the past. These are just like those choco tacos from your youth, only abundantly superior in taste and quality. They’re big enough to share, but you probably won’t.

Squeezed Juice Bar
As nice as it is to relive parts of your childhood, it’s important to remember that, as you get older, you’re responsible for taking care of yourself. And that means making sure you eat your fruits and veggies. I hate doing it, but Squeezed Juice Bar (which has a storefront at 7900 San Pedro NE as well as a truck) makes it a whole lot easier. And at its juice cart, getting a serving of fruits and vegetables can feel a little like a trip to the ice cream man, only instead of eating something that will give you a short-lived sugar high, you can get something healthy that’ll provide a little more sustenance. It might even help you power through that stack of homework from the first week of school.

If you’re worried about gaining the “freshmen 15,” try the So Berry Slim. The smoothie comes with an added weight loss booster, and the mix of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries is delicious. Squeezed is also your source for shots of wheatgrass or ginger. Both are said to have a plethora of health benefits. For how they taste, they’d better. Even if sucking down shots of liquid that taste like the lawn doesn’t appeal to you, there are still enough smoothie and juice options to suit your liking.

So once you’ve worked through the hassles of going back to school and you need a reward for surviving the first week, treat yourself with a trip to the modern day ice cream man. You’ve earned it.

Eric Williams

Eric Williams

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