Summer Dining Guide: Paleteria Brittanica

A New Mexican Guide To Mexico’s Favorite Frozen Concoctions

Gail Guengerich
4 min read
Paleteria Brittanica
An explosion of flavor awaits in the Bombazo de Mango at La Michoacana. (Eric Williams
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You know that feeling: The tar is melting on the streets, your shoulders are braising and you’re basting in sweat. So much worse than the dog days of summer, there are times when Albuquerque feels like the seventh circle of hell. Where does one go for relief?

Might I suggest Mexico? I know, southern climes aren’t looking so good right now, save for the chilly Pacific waters. I mean
refrigerated Mexico. I mean the paleterias of Albuquerque.

Here you will find freezer cases full of icy fruit treats, stacked tight as snow bricks. Here you will find bucketfuls of aguas frescas, as sweet as they are cold. Here you will take succor with a carved mango on a stick.

But back up. Say you are scared of paleterias, like maybe you’ve never been in one or flunked Spanish and don’t enjoy Don Quixote-like adventures with desserts. Maybe all you can remember from Spanish class was reading Don Quixote in English and thinking, “Man, I’m sure glad I’m not having adventures like that.”

I’m here to help. Because now, whilst our city is lighting up like a kerosene-soaked asphalt wick, is not the time to get the jitters about paleterias.

Here’s the alphabetical breakdown:

Aguas Frescas : Fresh waters? Si, fresh fruit waters, a cold fruit shower raining down your throat. Sandia and melon are the most glorious.

Bolis: I knew them as Chilly Willies. Slushy fruit ice or ice milk you push up from its plastic sleeve.

Bombazo de Mango: A specialty dessert available at La Michoacana. In English: mango explosion! Apparently when a mango explodes, it blows into chop-sized pieces and lands in a slush of sweet tamarind ice. Then Japanese-style peanuts hail from the sky and a Tama Roca straw (plastic drinking straw with gummy tamarind paste and red chile powder molded around it) embeds itself like a stick of dynamite in the slush. Don’t be surprised if you find some Skwinkles shrapnel in there as well (Skwinkles being a Mexican gummy candy).

Chamoy: A Bloody Mary-colored sauce of pickled fruits (primarily plum) that lends a tart, briny taste to everything it touches. Fantastic in paletas, if you have an iron stomach, you can also order it poured over crushed ice (Chamoyada).

Chocobananas: Yes, the Bluth-family sort of chocobananas—frozen bananas coated in chocolate, dredged in sprinkles or nuts. You can’t really go wrong with this arguably healthy and visually thrilling treat.

Fruit cremas: Not to be confused with paletas cremas, these are like deconstructed milk shakes, a cup full of fresh fruit (strawberry, mango or banana) submerged in crema, crowned with whipped cream and fruit syrup or butterscotch, with options to add pecans or granola.

Licuados: Smoothies.

Mango with Chile: Pristine and satiating. You can get one whole on a stick, carved into a flower or cut into huge beefcake hunks in a cup. Both come sprinkled with Tajin, a spice mix of red chile, lime and salt. The mangos in these situations are often slightly underripe, the color of peaches, but still luscious and a fantastic companion to the savory spice of the red chili.

Ms. Pac-Man: Not a dessert but I must warn you that the joystick on the Ms. Pac-Man machine at La Michoacana on Zuni is broken. Don’t feed it your quarters!

Paletas : So named for the stick rammed through them (much more stick-like than our flat American tongue-depressor types). Think of them as the jam to our typical American jelly popsicles, meaning the Mexican kind boast big, bombastic hunks of fruit frozen right into the popsicle. Pretty as glycerine soap or blown glass. Standard and glamorous flavors abound, from strawberry and mango to avocado and cucumber red chile. The ones at Pop Fizz are particularly inventive and often locally sourced (green chile lime, New Mexican red chile mango). Choose between paletas de agua (water-based) or paletas con crema (cream-based). The paletas con crema are hit or miss depending on where you’re at. Some at La Michoacana go down a little waxy and taste of powdered milk.

Veggie Sorbet: Paleterias aren’t just dens of sugar and decadence. You can reinvigorate your wilted flower of a body with ruddy veggie juice sorbet made from beets, carrots, ginger root and no added sugar or water at Pop Fizz.

So, get thee to a paleteria, folks! Where bedeviling heat waves crash against the plate glass windows in vain. Come fall we’ll all come back to our senses. Until then, let’s all do what we’ve got to do to stay safe and cool.

Paleteria la Michoacana de Paquime

(3 Albuquerque locations)

3608 Isleta SW

6500 Zuni SE

6335 Central NW

Pop Fizz

844-B Bridge

Paleteria El Tropico

9601 Sage SW

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