Every couple of Saturdays or so, I'm a guest on KCRW-FM 88.9's excellent program Good Food, where I rap with host Evan Kleiman about the best Orange County eats. One of the eateries we'll soon discuss is Garden Grove's Delicias de México, the wondrous Mexican ice cream shop I reviewed a couple of months back. In honor of that—and also because it's summer, you know?—here are dives where you can get some chilly goodness.
Listen toGood Food every Saturday at 11 a.m. on KCRW-FM 89.9.
DINNER FOR TWO:
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A domino effect of ordering everything in sight possesses anyone who enters Ara's. Quadruple-layer columns of trays extend across the bakery, heavy with cookies, Bavarian cake slices, cream tarts and other European confections, plus eight distinct shapes of baklava. A small freezer also stocks mini-ice cream containers with mango and burnt milk flavors. Mmm . . . burnt milk flavors. 2227 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 776-5554. ¢
Customers cram this cramped emporium not for the pan dulce—which is delicious, by the way—but for raspados, the Mexican version of snow cones made with the vivacious fruits of the country in syrup form. Choose quickly from the 14 options because a line is no doubt forming impatiently behind you, already shouting out their orders. 1509 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 778-2051.¢
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There is something downright satanic about Chat Noir, David Wilhelm's latest addition to his "Culinary Adventures" family of restaurants. It's in the had-to-sign-a-pact-with-Mephistopheles execution of his French fare: basil-fed escargot, three-way duck served in an orange-caramel dressing with Mandarin Napoleon cognac, and a dessert of profiteroles stuffed with espresso ice cream. If they serve these in hell, just where do we sign, Mr. Wilhelm? 655 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6647. $$$
DAD'S DONUT SHOP & BAKERY
This is where Balboa Island locals hang in the wee morning hours before work, munching on their apple fritters while talking about market swings and the goddamned liberals. The doughnuts are good, but the peppermint ice cream and Balboa Bars are outstanding. Stay away from the frozen bananas, unless you enjoy gnawing on a rock-hard piece of fruit. 318 Marine Ave., Balboa Island, (949) 673-8686. ¢
DELICIAS DE MÉXICO
Delicias de México (Delights from Mexico) is one of the county's precious few neverías: ice cream shops that specialize in resolutely Mexican flavors such as velvety mango, smoky mamey, sour guanábana and many other tropical, luscious fruits. Don't forget to order at least one of their paletas: 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. 13466 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 636-7163. ¢
Indistinguishable from the gelato shops you find in Italy. Go there now. 2756 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 721-1160. ¢
HANS' HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
Hans Biermann likes to make ice cream and carries some 55 delectable flavors. He also serves up real meals, such as the flaky croissant filled with avocado, almonds, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese and mayo. 3640 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 979-8815.¢
Island Grill sells Hawaiian food with a Japanese bent, so that means you can get your sushi and bento box fill along with sumptuous teriyaki bowls. But regardless of the main course, your dessert should be the shaved ice: a frosty, chilled monolith flavored with fruit and so delicate you could whittle it down with dental floss. 4390 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 431-6496. $
JOE'S ITALIAN ICE
A Pennsylvania-based chain, Joe's Italian Ice has just one West Coast location, this one in Garden Grove, from which the company has hawked its namesake product to the heated hoi polloi for two years. (They also offer such soda-shop standards as ice cream cones, sundaes and root beer floats.) You can order the Italian ice as is, but it's infinitely better as a Joe Latti: your choice of Italian ice now crowned with a Babel-esque tower of velvety vanilla ice cream, each frosty product retaining its charm until uniting inside your mouth to create the most pleasant brain freeze of your life.12302 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 750-1076. ¢
NOORANI HALAL TANDOORI RESTAURANT
First-time Noorani patrons should indulge in the specialty of one of the county's few Pakistani restaurants. The haleem in particular, a sticky concoction of lentils, shredded wheat, ginger, dried chiles and beef so mashed it's not immediately discernible enmeshed in the goop, is the tasty oatmeal Americans can only dream about. And feel truly blessed if the dessert of the hour is kulfi, a slab of pistachio ice cream that makes the world's problems insignificant—at least for 10 minutes. 14178 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, (714) 636-1000. $
LA NUEVA REYNA DE MICHOACÁN
If you get lost in the bustle of Santa Ana's Fourth Street on a hot day and need salvation, just follow the ice cream drippings toward La Nueva Reyna de Michoacán, a veritable Baskin Robbins en español. La Nueva Reyna's ice cream is velvety, like a lover's tongue on yours—except for the wonderful chunks of fruit. Go for the harder-to-find flavors—sultry mango, bitter plum, luscious coconut and the fleshy aroma of guayaba (sadly a seasonal fruit, available only in fall). 300 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 835-0394.¢
SUGAR 'N SPICE
The "Original" original Balboa Bar (since 1945!) comes from this quaint Balboa Island shack. Disregard the autographed cast photo ofThe O.C. hanging from its window, and chomp away on their chocolate-and-vanilla slab of wonder. Ask for the Heath pecan topping, a molar-filling sweet toffee derivation that reminds you that the pecan is an under-appreciated nut. 310 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 673-8907. ¢
THACH CHÈ HIÊN KHÁNH
It's Industrial Revolution-hectic at Thach Chè Hiên Khánh, partly because of the space's prime nook just beyond the imperial gates of Westminster's T&K Food Market, but primarily because of its reputation within the Vietnamese diaspora for its homeland's desserts, furtively sweet confections virtually unknown to the Western palate. Specifically, Thach Chè Hiên Khánh specializes in the alchemy of xôi (steamed sticky rice) and chè (sugary porridge). Combine the super-Slurpee chè ba màu with any chè or xôi, and you'll never need Snickers again.9639 Bolsa Ave., Ste. A, Westminster, (714) 839-8143. ¢
View Orange County's best damn dining guide at www.ocweekly.com/food.