Los Poblanos Grocery

When the temperature rises, frozen desserts become a go-to refreshment and a necessity to cool off. NYC has a variety of popular treats, from Italian ices to piraguas shaved off of huge ice blocks on street corners. There is another frozen sweet that deserves more attention and it comes from south of the border. Nieves, which literally translates to snow, are a unique style of ices that can vary in texture. Some may be soft and creamier and others chunkier and icy.
There is a unique process for making nieves. A tell-tale sign is a large wooden bucket filled with ice. Tucked into this pit of ice is usually a metal bucket filled with the icy confection. The reason for this setup? A concoction of water, sugar and fresh fruit is poured into the metal bucket and spun in circles. The ice from the bucket is covered in salt and the repetitive spinning eventually freezes the liquid into a slush form. Timing will vary depending on the desired texture for the nieve. A couple of YouTube videos below visually illustrate the process. One uses an ice cream machine, while this one uses a method fully by hand.


I had my first taste of nieves back in 2011 at a now defunct Mexican bar-restaurant, Las Maravillas, in Jackson Heights. After the first taste of limon, I was immediately hooked. Over the next few years, vendors would pop up in and around Roosevelt Avenue offering the same two flavors, limon and melon. More flavors began to appear once Nieves Tia Mimi, an excellent mini-chain from Brooklyn, set up shop in the neighborhood.  One day in June 2017, a stroll down Roosevelt Avenue changed our perspective on nieves.


On the corner of 93rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, a Mexican grocery store showcased a lineup of wooden barrels. A closer look revealed a selection of multiple flavors. The first that we tried was pineapple, which was a perfect blend of pineapple pulp with a creamy texture that had no extra sweetness. It tasted like eating a pineapple, but in a creamy ice form.  We were hooked from that first taste and began to stop by a few times a week. After several visits, we realized that the selection of flavors would rotate. Some of the other standouts included jamaica, hibiscus flowers that produced a tannic tangy flavor and pitaya, cactus fruit that had a light refreshing taste.


As the temperatures warmed up in 2018, Los Poblanos began offering even more varieties. Not only were there sweet flavors, but salty and spicy infusions. One of these was Piña Loca, a pineapple nieve laced with chili powder. The salty, spicy and sweet combination is popular in the neighborhood in several ways, including on sliced green mango. There is something about the mix of flavors that is satisfying and harmonious.


Once again, Jackson Heights is the place where an enterprise has sprung up from an unassuming grocery store. We are happy to witness their expansion and see others enjoy the delicious treat. Have you tried nieves before? Where have you had them? Let us know in the comments below!
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