There once was a bumpersticker that read, "Life is too short to drink bad wine." Perhaps there also should be one that reads, "Life is too short to eat bad ice cream."
Is there such a thing as bad ice cream? Doubtful. Is there great ice cream? Absolutely.
There are ice cream shops and parlors in every corner of North County, most within walking distance or a short-drive from home. There are shops that make their own ice cream from family recipes, and venerable chains, such as Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins, Haagen-Daz and Ben & Jerry's.
Frozen yogurt retailers in recent years have also carved out a significant niche for themselves in North County. Shops like California Yogurt Co. in several coastal towns, Dab's in Carlsbad and Froglanders in Solana Beach are among places that offer a lower-fat, less caloric alternative to ice cream.
And, for some, no ice cream or frozen yogurt can compare to a fresh-fruit popsicle.
North County's frozen tundra represents not only local talent, but also some shops with flavors from around the world. Lappert's Hawaiian Ice Cream in Escondido features exotic flavors such as passion fruit and mango. A relative newcomer to North County is gelato, an Italian ice cream that can be found at Gelato Classico in Del Mar or Bubby's in Encinitas.
Here's the scoop on some of the frozen treats in North County:
162 W. Mission Ave. Escondido Calls: 489-8546 Hibiscus. Rice. Tamarindo.
They may not sound like regular popsicle flavors, but at Tropicana Delite they are daily staples.
For the past nine years, Henry and Margarita Ibarra have run this mom-and-popsicle business from a small shop in Escondido. They use whatever fresh fruit they can get their hands on to make an array of unusual icy and creamy pops.
Lemon, coco de agua (coconut), pineapple and boysenberry are among the popular icy sicles. Coconut and rice are the favorite creamy pops, Margarita said.
Summer flavors include watermelon, cantaloupe and plum. Tamarindo (looks like root beer, but it's very sour) and hibiscus (made from the juice of boiled flowers) are year-round standards.
"Our product is made with all fresh fruits harvested from here in San Diego County," Margarita said. "Nobody comes to us, we go find our own fruit."
The strawberries come from a fruit stand in the San Pasqual Valley. The boysenberries come from a grower in San Marcos.
The lemons come from Palomar Mountain. Situated in the heart of avocado country, Margarita has considered including the smooth green fruit to her popsicle menu, but so far hasn't.
Pistacio, coffee, chocolate, coconut, banana, walnut, mango and pina colada make up a respectable ice cream list. For the popsicles, the Ibarras chop fruit into chunks small enough to fit into a standard-sized blender. Oranges are squeezed by hand.
The pureed fruit is then poured into eight, 40-piece molds that float in a machine that resembles a long trough of water. It takes about 30 minutes for the molds to freeze in salted water and during the freezing process, Margarita and her husband insert the wood popsicle sticks.
The Ibarras have to mentally gauge when their pops are done and then they have to move quickly. They rinse the frozen molds under cold running water in the sink and pull the finished product from the mold quickly before it melts. Then they place their popsicles in individual plastic bags.
The Ibarras make about 400 popsicles a night, not including special orders.
Fruit, a little sugar, and an occasional seed are the only ingredients that go into the popsicles, Margarita said. Two flavors, orange and grape, are made without sugar.
Henry learned the popsicle trade from a man in Mexico and he follows those recipes still. All of his formulas are in his head. He despairs when his son, Henry Jr., who is learning the business, writes down his recipes, Margarita said.
"My husband told him one time, 'You're not supposed to write them down. What if you write them down and you lose them or somebody picks them up and steals your recipes? Then you've lost everything.' "
In the morning, Henry Jr., 19, makes ice cream before heading to his job at the Escondido Parks and Recreation Department. In the evening, after finishing work at Napp Systems USA Inc, Henry Sr. makes popsicles.
Margarita manages the shop with counter assistance from her 16-year-old daughter, Aurora. Seven-year-old Erika also lends a hand. About 70% of Tropicana's clientele is Latino, Margarita said. They come for tamarindo, guava, and coco de agua , flavors that are popular in Mexico but not easily found here.
"Mexico is very famous for its popsicles, they are everywhere," Margarita said. "Our popsicles are really popular with the Mexicans because it's something they're used to from home, something they remember they like."