Photo by Shannon SibayanAt some point this June, Fate will force you onto the 22 freeway. You will sludge through its blocked-off lanes, closed exits and endless graffitied walls. You will be late. You will curse. But rejoice, o weary traveler: halfway through the crawl, in a dingy Garden Grove strip mall off the Harbor Boulevard exit, is Delicias de México, your summer oasis from Orange County's wretched transportation system.
Delicias de México (Delights from Mexico) is one of the county's precious few neverías: ice cream shops that specialize in resolutely Mexican flavors. There's none of that Neapolitan business—choices include velvety mango, smoky mamey, sour guanábana and many other tropical, luscious fruits. Or you can go the hybrid route and lick through strong vanilla studded with raisins, chocolate chips and pineapple chunks or chongos: chilled fermented cheese dusted with cinnamon that's so intensely sweet your tongue will tingle as if a jalapeño just zapped it. The owners of Delicias de México make the ice cream fresh every day—which explains its creamy, smooth consistency—and rely on just-chopped fruits instead of sugar for each scoop's strong, sweet power. Regardless of flavor, one scoop is a pinchebuck.
The ice cream freezer occupies the front of the cavernous Delicias de México main room. To its side is a different frozen Mexican treat experience: paletas, the Mexican fruit bars that men peddle from jingly street carts throughout Orange County barrios. The problem with most paletas is that their hawkers pack them in dry ice, which leads to a loss in the nuances of any particular flavor. Delicias de México solves that imbroglio by storing them in an actual freezer. The slight but subtle storage difference is crucial—these paletas are frosty monoliths of vim, each balanced on a sturdy wooden stick and wrapped in a plastic sheet that requires a sensuous tugging motion to remove. The aguas frescas (fruit juices) paletas refresh like a water hose on your soul—you could drip the paleta de lima (lime) over your fish tacos and no one would complain. Heartier are those of leche (milk), the ice creams now in stick form and even more exponential in their taste. Many paletas de leche come with a prize—a hunk of sweet guava or quince in the center for chewing.
And don't worry, commuters: the paletas and ice cream take their sweet time to melt. Take your frozen treats back onto the 22 and relax. See? A snowball does stand a chance in hell.
DELICIAS DE MÉXICO, 13466 HARBOR BLVD., GARDEN GROVE, (714) 636-7163.
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