Saturday, July 4, 2009

Miami Ice: A world of frozen tropical treats

No offense, Fudgie the Whalers, but Carvel is so passé. So, is Mr. Frosty.
So what's a sweltering South Florida waffle coner to do? Flee to the icy, cream-capped cones of Nicaragua, Haiti, Peru, Brazil and Jamaica to enjoy a trendy, tropical ice cream experience without leaving home.
At Raspados Loly's on Flagler Street, the frozen treats are a journey to Nicaragua. The venue is like an old-school ice-cream shop with its antique popcorn machine, candy display case and kiwi-colored bench.
Inside, manager Mañuel Duque prepares the house favorite: relleno. Duque scoops a layer of shaved ice into a foam cup and adds crumbled Entenmann's pound cake, lathering it with dulce de leche. He repeats the process twice for an icy, crunchy, three-layer treat that is a textural pillage of the ubiquitous ice cream sundae (16 ounces $4.50, 20 ounces $6; cakeless version $2.50-$6).
''Relleno is sold throughout Nicaragua in these ice cream carts one person pushes with a bell,'' says customer Angela Hirsch Rizo, who enjoyed it in her native Matagalpa. ``I can remember buying it at a lady's house after school.''
You can trade dulce de leche for other fillings: mango, limon, fresa (strawberry), pineapple, tamarind or jocote (a mild-tasting red cherry). There's also the raspado -- tasty, syrup-drenched shaved ice in flavors like sour green apple, blue raspberry and piña colada (small $2.50, medium $4.50, large $6).
Inside a freezer bin, Duque points out Colombian novelties -- adorably tiny, pudding pops in unusual flavors like peanut-coconut combined ($1.50 each). But they're not the main attraction.
''People eat relleno for dinner,'' he says. ``And for memory.''
Ferere Bakery is one of many neighborhood Haitian bakeries that delineate North Miami's West Dixie Highway. Outside, there is a colorful walk-up window with display cases of Haitian patties. Inside, the crisp, white walls embrace floral-decorated cakes, peanut brittle and tubs of freshly made ice cream (cones $1, bowls $3, pints $4) that ''reflects the fruits we grew up with in Haiti,'' says co-owner Frantz Lormine.
The corossol (soursop) and sweet sop taste and smell like The Caribbean. The rum raisin is more rum than raisin. There's also mango, vanilla and grenadia (passion fruit) that tastes like late-harvest riesling.
''Delicious,'' says customer Marie Noel, a native of Port-de-Paix. ``It reminds me of Haiti.''
Walk into Mi Peru Restaurant and you feel like you're in a scene from Y Tu Mama Tambien. The red tabletops, vibrant paintings and coquettish Spanish banter add a frisson of excitement to devouring a cup of Homemade Ceasar's Ice Cream (8 ounces, $4.50).
Sold in a bin in the back of the restaurant, they are reminiscent of those Italian ice cups you used to eat with a small, wooden paddle stick. The maracuya (passion fruit) tastes like sweet cream, peaches and lychee, and the lucuma is like a spiced pumpkin pie. It's so yummy.
Cesar Rengifo, who is originally from Lima, has been making Ceasar's Ice Cream in a Lauderdale Lakes factory for eight years. ''Lucuma is a fruit exclusively grown in Bolivia, Chile and Peru,'' says Rengifo.
Other flavors include custard apple (guanabana), cherimoya and chocolate.
''The lucuma is special to us,'' says customer George Verastegui, a native of Huancayo who has been coming to the restaurant for 28 years.

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