I happened to be passing by Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars at the corner of Pico and Vermont in Los Angeles, and of course I never miss an opportunity to have a scoop of one of my favorite Mexican ice cream flavors. This time I went for the Tamarindo.
Tamarind is probably my favorite of the common aguas frescas because of that sweet and sour flavor that goes so well with spicy foods. What I got, though, was a huge surprise. The sour flavor came as a blast to my taste buds, then the sweetness came into play. But with an icy cold mouthful of familiar flavors, the last thing I expected was the heat of ground chile.
It took me a couple of spoonfuls to decide if I actually liked it, but then I was hooked. It was a really remarkable experience, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Whenever I’m in the Pico Union neighborhood of Los Angeles, I try to make a stop at Mateo’s. It’s a colorful, friendly place that makes me feel happy the moment I walk in, and they have the most interesting assortment of ice cream flavors I’ve ever seen.
There are all sorts of exotic flavors I’ve only encountered in Mexico, including Mamey, Passion Fruit (called Granadilla here), Guayaba, Guanabana, etc. I recently tried the Mezcal flavor, something I expected to be a weird novelty, but was delighted with the flavor. I was feeling adventurous, so I tried it with a scoop of Rompope flavor, the Mexican version of eggnog. Again, I thought it was going to be a bizarre combination, but the flavors blended perfectly.
I’m reluctant to admit that I’ve been so involved with trying all the ice cream flavors that I have never tasted the beautiful selection of paletas, or popsicles. The good news is that I find myself in the area regularly, and will certainly get around to them.
They have various locations, but this one is at 1250 South Vermont, in a shopping center at the corner of Pico.
I’ve been fascinated with the Mamey since I first had a mamey milkshake at a Cuban restaurant some years ago. Creamy and sweet, I always look for mamey ice cream when I’m in Mexicao, and have a favorite place in Los Angeles.
It was a long time before I saw the actual fruit in a store, but I finally found it in the fruit section of a Wal-Mart in Campeche, Mexico. About half of the brown torpedo-shaped fruits were soft, like a deflated football, while the rest were as hard as rocks. Being unfamiliar with the fruit, I asked a woman customer, and she said I should get a hard one. I was disappointed to learn that my trusty travel knife couldn’t make a dent in it, so my first mamey experience was delayed.
I was recently at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles, and grabbed a soft mamey that the store owner told me was perfectly ripe. Not surprisingly, it was kind of mushy inside, but what did surprise me was the not-too-sweet carroty taste. I’m going to be tasting my ice cream more critically in the future.
Here’s a nice article in which the writer suggests that a mamey should be somewhere between firm and soft… or juuuuuust riiiiight, I suppose.