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From the Farmers Market to Your Freezer: The Best Popsicles in L.A.
Mojito, Strawberry Lemonade among other popsicle flavors | Renee Anjanette Photo
For Emily Zaiden, her popsicle business started with how all delicious things should begin: with an undaunting passion for the food she loves, in this case, desserts. "I've always been a frozen dessert fanatic," the Echo Park resident, Laurel Canyon native, explained over the phone from her company kitchen. "In elementary school for the inventions convention, I invented an ice cream flavor," she said with a laugh.
With flavors like mojito, strawberry lemonade, orange blossom and avocado vanilla, The Popshop has developed a small cult following and for good reason. The simple-ingredient listed treats yield robust gourmet flavors--an explosion of tasty freshness, if you will.
"The popsicles that are out there in the stores, even the 'natural ones,' a lot of times don't have a lot of flavor... they are over sweetened and you can't taste the flavors," says Zaiden, whose popsicles tend to only carry four ingredients, one of them being filtered water. "You dont need to add a billion ingredients. It's so round about the way things are made. You add four million things to make it taste the like the original thing you started with."
She's on to something that's been sitting in front of our eyes for years. Try her strawberry lemonade popsicle and it tastes just like, uh, strawberry lemonade, because, well, that's what it is--lemons and strawberries. "We're just not used to [truly natural ingredients] anymore, especially with desserts."
Zaiden's popsicles are all vegan, even the creamy flavors, and carry no dyes, preservatives or sweeteners and are never over sugared--that's what the natural fruit is for. In fact, that fruit comes directly from local farmers markets, mostly from the Studio City market where she sets up shop every Sunday morning.
"We have so much available to use here in California, why would you even need to go beyond what's available seasonally? What's available seasonally is what tastes best," she explained. "I've met all these fantastic farmers who are so cool and nice and generous... they encourage me to try difference recipes or blend different combinations of fruits together."
Zaiden began playing around with recipes in 2007 and when things got extremely hot in the summer of 2008, she brought them over to a friend's dinner party. Their ecstatic reaction over the mojito and lemon ginger flavors encouraged her to dig deeper. "I started thinking of all these other ideas and combinations. And with the explosion of all these gelatos and sorbets around town, no one was doing them in pops really, so I thought it would be fun to use all the gourmet flavors in the form of a popsicle."
She began researching Mexican paletas and visited local paletarias for inspiration. "They're the only kind of interesting flavored popsicles that were out there," she said of the flavors she found in L.A., including cucumber, tamarind and jicama. That led to her trying to create cross cultural flavors like orange blossom (Middle East), lemon ginger (Asian), avocado vanilla (Southeast Asia, Venezuela, Brazil) and nectarine almond and amaretto white peach (Italy).
Other flavors include lavender lemon, horchata, Mexican chocolate, chili chocolate, pumpkin pie, cranberry clove, lychee peachy and mango lime. She mixes up what she sells every week at the Studio City Farmers Market, but a majority of her business is with special orders ($48 for 24 pops, includes free deliver to many parts of the city).
"I'm always amazed," Zaiden says over the enthusiasm she's received since starting the Popshop. "It's just a popsicle." Yes, but it's just the best popsicle Los Angeles has to offer.