In a low-slug strip mall near Krome Avenue in Homestead, the steel-and-glass front door of La Michoacana Paletería y Nevería swings open into an orange-and-gray-tiled shop. A half-dozen flat-screen TV sets blare Spanish-language news and telenovelas as you make your way to a long display case holding row after row of ice pops and cream bars. The $2 frozen treats (cash only) come in a rainbow of flavors, such as blended mamey, sweet tomato salsa, or rompope -- a popular Mexican drink similar to eggnog with ground almonds instead of booze.
Paletas trace back to Tocumbo, a tiny village in Michoacán state where three men were looking to make more than a peso a day peeling sugarcane. In the 1930s, Rafael Malfavón opened a small shop that distributed paletas from a donkey-drawn wagon. A few years later, brothers Ignacio and Luis Alcázar, along with a friend, took the pops to Mexico City, marking the beginning of the treat's trek around the globe.
Refreshingly, paletas aren't only sweet. Sure, order the corn pop -- a sugary, creamy blend with just the faintest hint of vanilla. The partially frozen kernels give each bite a chewy, nearly crunchy texture that fades as the pop slowly warms. The best, however, are those like the pepino con chile, an almost-frozen cucumber gazpacho with ruby-red flecks of chili powder. It causes a slight burn in your throat that slowly creeps toward your lips.
The shock of a savory pop can be off-putting for anyone raised on its sugary brethren. But as a cool wave of frosty cucumber tempers the chilies' heat, you realize you're hooked. Dessert will never be the same.
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