Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What We Dream for When We Scream for Ice Cream

The tamarind ice falls onto your tongue giving easily under a toothy bite. The speckled pale freeze melts away and spreads like a cooling pool of delicately tart juice washing away any heat and dipping you, if just for a moment, into an icy current running up from an underground spring in a far away tropic. Let yourself go long enough to allow your lips to gently pull a strand of cream from the dripping layers of deep milky browned sugar and the dulce de leche will bring you with it to indulge in the abundance that comes naturally only to warm places with birthright to be nearer to the sun.

And it is with birthright that Florencio Fernandez with the help of his brother are now creating their amazing, succulent, inventive, cooling, deconstructive, sweet, redefining, tangy, cleansing, surprising, and profoundly pleasuring frozen eats at their Peleteria Fernandez in Port Chester, New York. The Fernandez brothers came to Port Chester from Guadalajara, the city in Mexico known as the “Pearl of the West”; the nation’s second largest metropolis. And it is in Guadalajara that their father owns and runs four peleterias.

Although born to an ice cream dynasty, the Fernandez brothers have struggled over the last year to establish their small shop in this outpost destination for many immigrants from Central and South America in the northern suburbs of New York. All of the over forty flavors of paletas de fruta (frozen fruit pops) and paletas de leche (milk pops) are hand crafted using all natural ingredients and fresh fruit in the back of their bright store front on North Main Street and the two brothers chop, churn, stir, hoist and scoop all of it themselves. It is exhausting physical and mental labor requiring endurance and culinary savvy together with their particular inventive genius. But the brothers are determined to introduce New York to what had been a delectable treasure to only Guadalajara and their efforts are starting to pay off. A steady stream of customers, mostly local to Port Chester, comes through the store front - enough to keep the brothers hustling to fill orders and make more cream.

Walking into the shop, it is at first glance bright and unassuming. The walls are streaked with bright yellow paint. Posters with slogans in Spanish and photographs of the brothers and their ice cream are neatly tacked up in high places. A huge sign with flavors and prices in English and Spanish hangs above the counter. Walk past the few tables and small booths in front and one can gaze into the traditional glass topped white freezers in which neatly stacked piles of paleta de fruta, paletas de leche and large tubs of freshly made nieves (ice cream) wait to be picked by children with faces pressed up against the glass to find their favorites. Behind the freezers, glass front refrigerators store papayas, sliced mango, pears and large jars of juice.

The choices of flavors of paletas are astounding. The watermelon is a red splash of full-on sweet true melon flavor with a crush of ice. The rice pudding is rich, milky and has just enough rice to give it a playful texture - keeping a mouth interested while the taste buds are intoxicating the mind with sugary fun. The chocolate covered banana is just that, a frozen whole ripe banana coated in dark chocolate and made easy to bite on a stick. Along with the refreshing tamarind (made from the tart seeds of the tamarind tree) and decadent dulce de leche, one can choose from avocado, nance, plum, blackberry, nuez (peanut), spicy mango with chiles and dozens of other flavors.

This parlor is not sleekly designed or publicized by a well financed restaurant management company. The flavors were not test marketed on focus groups. The crowds here are not chic. Paleteria Fernandez is a family operation where the paletas and ice cream flavors are conjured by the magic of taste and sensation and the management philosophy is do what it takes to make people happy. One look at the fruit splashed faces of the kids coming out of the paleteria with dripping sticks in hand and it’s clear that the Fernandez brothers and their paletas are working some very, very happy magic of summer. They may just forever change what we dream for when we scream for ice cream.

Paleteria Fernandez
33 North Main Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
(914) 939-3694
Open 7 days a week

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