Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ice Queen

I have had some bad Mexican ice cream. Atop a pasty cone sits a heap of soupy, boxed milk goop, flavored with sno cone syrup. It’s raunchy and liable to make you ill. If this has been your experience, it’s time to do something for society… Get off your bike and make some life changing choices! There’s a new ice cream name in town that’s shattering stereotypes of south-of-the-border dairy; an ice cream lady to be reckoned with on Belmont: La Reina de Michoacan.

Banking on a truly exceptional product, La Reina had the balls to open its doors to the public in a seemingly ungodly time of year: November. The unveiling ceremony was complete with mini paleta samples and a giant pink popsicle mascot- a bite out of one corner of its head and a cockeyed crown on the other. She was the queen no doubt, standing outside a transformed Belmont storefront, her name spanning the top, “La Reina de Michoacan” in perfect shadowed script. Windows painted with large mangos, coconuts, iced drinks and popsicles. A list of flavors, “Nescafe, Coco, Mamey, Fresas…” lettered neatly on the exterior.

Upon entry you are greeted by a sparking clean interior, reminiscent of some distant, Latino, Willy Wonka fantasy. It smells like an ice cream store should- waffle cones, a hint of bubble gum, and a little Soilent Green. On any given day there are over thirty choices of ice cream and paleta flavors gleaming under plate glass freezers.

Owners Gabriel and Amalia Alvarez have brought something truly exceptional to Fresno: the Michoacan style of ice cream making. The state of Michoacan in Mexico is famous for its paletas and creamy, soft ice cream made with top quality, fresh ingredients. Michoacan ice cream is made in small batches on site, so quality is exceptional, flavors seasonal, and cost minimal.

La Reina boasts a menu of all natural ice creams, paletas, augua frescas, sundaes, and fruits to entice. You’ll find classics like strawberry, peach, and pistachio along with new innovations like walnut, coconut, corn and dried fruit. For $1.75 try a generous scoop of cajeta: goat’s milk that has been sweetened and caramelized to a soft brown. Cookies and cream is faintly sweetened, reminiscent of dipping a cookie in a glass of cold milk. The avocado ice cream is smooth and nutty, with diced green fruit in sweetened cream. A personal favorite, chongos zamoranos, is a custard similar to cheesecake that is flavored with cinnamon. La Reina’s cappuccino is almost bitter at first taste, rich and full-bodied. Tropical fruit flavors such as mamey, guanabana, and arrallan, are also featured on the menu. All fruit, non-dairy paletas set you back 75 cents and range from kiwi to guava, cucumber to pineapple. If this were not enough, you can scoop up a glass of fresh made auga fresca in flavors that vary daily. Get royal and go have some ice cream at La Reina de Michoacan.

Open daily from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. 720 E. Belmont 559-485-3013

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