5 Frozen Summer Treats That Are Anything but Basic

Salt & Straw's new fermentation series
Salt & Straw's new fermentation series
Photo: Jean Trinh

Let’s be blunt: The heat wave earlier this month was brutal — and it doesn't look as if it's going to cool down anytime soon. 

In our eyes, the only upside to temperatures well over 100 degrees is the necessity of consuming vast quantities of ice cream. It’s not gluttony, it’s survival! With the next triple-digit day in sight, it’s time to get serious about our dessert prep. Here are five icily delicious snacks to consume ASAP during the next heat wave — or whenever. We won't tell. 

Mango granita at Zia Valentina

Granita is seriously underestimated. The semi-frozen Sicilian dessert (halfway between a sorbet and a slushie) is light and cool — perfect for a midday snack. To get some, head to Zia Valentina at the Original Farmers Market. The spot might be better known for its waffle-cone espresso shots, but it's a granita bar first and foremost. The granita at Zia Valentina comes in several flavors, from coffee to chocolate mint, but the mango flavor is definitely the most refreshing. In true L.A. fashion, the granitas are made with Stevia sweetener, making them practically virtuous. 6333 W. Third St., Fairfax; (323) 934-3660, ziavalentina.com

Black sesame snow cream at Blockheads in Alhambra
Black sesame snow cream at Blockheads in Alhambra
Photo: Tien Ngueyn

Snow cream at Blockheads

I honestly have no idea what makes this shaved ice so delicious. Nobody does. Blockheads guards that answer more intensely than Mr. Krabbs does the Krabby Patty secret formula in SpongeBob SquarePants, and for good reason. Its snow cream hits the trifecta of compulsively consumable food: It’s delicious, it's unique, and the shaved ice gives the appearance of nutrition. In reality, there’s a high probability the shaved ice is helped out by a hefty dose of sweetened condensed milk. I don’t care, and neither should you — it’s worth it. The original sweet cream formula is the perfect vehicle for the extended menu of toppings and drizzles, but the seasonal flavors are not to be underestimated. Pineapple whip with honey boba, anyone? 11311 Mississippi Ave., West L.A.; (310) 445-8725, blockheadsshavery.com.

Radio balls at Meli’s Italian Ice

If I could change one thing about L.A.’s food scene, I would increase the number of frozen custard joints. Not to be hyperbolic but perhaps my favorite part about spending time in the Midwest is my increased proximity to the thick, frozen goodness that is frozen custard. Luckily, Meli’s Italian Ice in Koreatown offers its own modern spin on frozen custard with its radio ball: a half Italian ice, half frozen custard dessert innovation. The holy creation stacks a custard base with up to four flavors of Italian ice, from passion fruit to coconut. The result? A unique combo of flavors and cooling sensations. 4059 W. Third St., Koreatown; (909) 815-7471. 

Paleta at Mateo's
Paleta at Mateo's
Photo: Emma Courtland

Paletas at Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars

Paletas, or Mexican fruit popsicles, are a summer mainstay for many Angelenos. While it’s easy to grab one on many a street corner, park or beach, true fans head to Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars in Mid-City for a truly dazzling selection. Each pop is brightly colored, icily sweet and super fresh — the strawberry flavor is studded with fruit chunks. Homesick Oaxaqueños rave about authentic paletas such as mango chili and tuna (prickly pear, not the fish). At $1.60 a pop, there’s no excuse not to try them all. 4234 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 931-5500. 

Ice Cream at Salt & Straw

Ice cream is the classic frozen summer dessert for a reason. However, there’s nothing basic about the offerings at Salt & Straw. The Portland, Oregon–born ice cream shop revolutionizes flavor preconceptions, knocking boring vanilla out of the park with flavors like honey lavender and black olive brittle & goat cheese. Traditionalists, take heart: The single-origin Amadeus vanilla (in other words: really fancy vanilla) is an excellent update on Mister Softee. Various locations, including 240 N. Larchmont Blvd., Larchmont; (323) 466-0485, saltandstraw.com.

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