Kaileigh Brielle went to film school, dabbled in filmmaking and then, realizing that she needed a more concrete profession, became a licensed optician, working for someone else before opening her own optical shop in Toluca Lake. That should have been enough creative productivity for a lifetime, but an incidental turn of events led to her opening a gourmet popsicle shop, Suck It, in Studio City last fall.
"I was a total foodie," Brielle says, by way of explaining her disappointment at being diagnosed with allergies to both gluten and milk protein. "I love desserts the most, was baking a lot -- and suddenly there were literally no desserts I could eat. No cookies, no frozen yogurt, no cakes."
For someone with a self-proclaimed sweet tooth who once studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris just for fun, such deprivation was too much to bear. "I'd go out to eat with my family," she continues, "and a dessert would come to the table, and I could no longer enjoy it, and I'd be, like, 'I'm gonna figure out how to make this.' "
The idea hit her like a lightning bolt -- popsicles! Months of mad scientist-like kitchen experimentation later, Brielle had stumbled upon all-natural popsicles so delicious that she had to share them with the world.
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A colorful storefront with an idyllic garden patio area out back, Suck It sells flavors such as lavender lemonade, watermelon lime cilantro, cucumber lime mint, blueberry hibiscus and Vietnamese coffee. The popular Mexican hot chocolate smolders with spiciness, while the jalapeno grapefruit combines citrus sweetness with powerfully hot chunks of green pepper. The salted caramel is decadent and addictive, while the cherry limeade's maraschino cherry at the top is the only concession to artificial anything, Brielle promises. She grinds her own spices, uses real cane sugar -- only lightly, as a freezing agent -- and sources local, organic produce whenever possible.
"I get moms bringing in babies who are teething, because the cool feels good on their gums," Brielle says. "Afternoons, it's filled with kids, and then after dinner it's filled with grown-ups."
She has taken some wild customer requests. One asked for Nutella, another dill pickle. She's currently figuring out how to create nonalcoholic popsicle versions of flavorful cocktails.
Brielle says the weirdest twist thus far in her popsicle adventure has been a few neighbors' offended responses to the store's name. "People who supported me really rallied around," she says. (She has even framed a couple of anonymous disgruntled letters and hung them on the wall.) "I think the response was fantastic. Most people in the area are cool and hip and have a sense of humor."