Sweets for beating the heat

In search of local alternatives to ice cream

It's summer, it's hot and you've somehow exhausted your palate for ice cream. Or maybe you're looking for a more refreshing option, without the heavy cream and egg yolks.

Regardless of whether you're suffering from ice-cream fatigue, there's plenty of variety on the Midpeninsula when it comes to cold desserts. Read on to discover some local spots that offer chilly treats with a twist.

Paleteria Los Manguitos

On a particularly sweltering day, Paleteria Los Manguitos beckons like a beacon on a hill. Except it's a bit of a hole in the wall, one of the many small, unassuming establishments that line Middlefield Road in Redwood City.

School's out for the summer, as evidenced by the kids and families seated inside, eating medleys of fresh fruit seasoned with chile or enjoying a mangoneada -- a chunky mango smoothie swirled with chile and chamoy. Behind the register, a long counter boasts fresh fruit and veggie ingredients: papaya, strawberry, mango, jicama, watermelon and lime.

Paleteria Los Manguitos offers the sort of spicy-savory-fruity-sweet combination popular in Latin America. Owner Jose "Pepe" Alvarez opened Los Manguitos six years ago, modeling his paleteria, an establishment that sells popsicles and other icy treats, after one he came across in Modesto.

On a recent afternoon, customers stepped up to a counter, laden with large bottles of Tajin, Salsa Valentina and chamoy -- spicy, chile-based seasoning that folks can add (liberally) to their snacks; it's the equivalent to a ketchup station for french fries. Alvarez said that the best sellers are the mangoneada and the fresas con crema, or strawberries with cream. In the morning, Paleteria Los Manguitos sees a rush of customers, many regulars, opting for smoothies.

What sets apart the offerings at Las Manguitos, said Alvarez, is that everything is natural. And, he said, he offers Latinos what they like -- "algo de su tierra" -- something from their homeland.

3133 Middlefield Road, Redwood City, 650-363-8143

The Tea Zone & Fruit Bar

Further south on El Camino Real in Mountain View, The Tea Zone & Fruit Bar offers a bright and cheery spot to beat the heat with some made-to-order macaron-ice cream sandwiches.

Tea Zone also offers refreshing bubble tea and green pandan waffles -- made with coconut milk and pandan, a fragrant leaf used to flavor Southeast Asian dishes, then topped with fresh fruit and nutella. Husband-and-wife team Anh Hang (Tommy) and Hong Vam-Nguyen are behind Tea Zone, and the Mountain View location is their third. The idea was born out of Vam-Nguyen's recipes, which she worked on for years prior to starting a business with her husband, who had experience with running a restaurant.

Hang claims they have a reputation for having "the best taro in town." Taro root, a staple in Southeast Asian and Indian diets, is offered as a flavor in Tea Zone's milk tea, "snow bubble" (similar to a milkshake) and ice cream offerings. A popular macaron-ice cream combo is pistachio macarons with taro ice cream.

Hang said that their macarons are "French chef-made" and local, though he did not disclose the supplier. He said it was important to the couple to sell macarons that are sourced from someone with a connection to France.

805 El Camino Real F, Mountain View, 650-567-3737

California Mochi

Sandwiched in between the mangos in Redwood City and macarons on the south side of Mountain View is a small outpost of California Mochi, which opened less than a year ago. The first and larger location is in Santa Clara.

Owner and CEO Thomas Chang said chef and "mochi master" Aaron Choi, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in San Francisco, was doing an apprenticeship in Japan when he saw strawberry mochi, inspiring him to experiment with fruit fillings.

"He thought, 'Why don't I put other stuff (inside)?'" Chang recalled, adding that he was surprised no one had thought of it sooner.

"Now, more and more, people are looking for a healthier way. They still want sweets ... but we're trying (to provide) a substitute. I figured this would be a good alternative," Chang said.

Mochi is a traditional Japanese dessert made of sweet rice that's steamed and pounded to create a rice dough. The chewy pastries are traditionally filled with sweet bean paste. The fruit mochi offered at California Mochi include white or red bean filling.

California Mochi offers both fruit-filled and ice cream-filled mochi. For the fruit version, they put the whole fruit inside, such as an entire strawberry or red grapes. Choi said that the mochi is handmade every morning with fruit sourced from local farmers markets and dedicated suppliers in California. California Mochi doesn't use any preservatives, so the mochi should be eaten within 24 hours, Choi said.

At the end of a recent hot day, some of the flavors behind the glass -- like the shop's best-selling strawberry mochi -- were completely sold out. Since the mochi is made daily, there's a limited supply. Chang recommends calling ahead to put your favorite flavor "on hold."

570 N. Shoreline Blvd. B, Mountain View, 650-584-3103


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