Editor's note: Every week, we'll spotlight a culinary treat found around Dallas-Fort Worth — whether it's a new opening, a dish at a restaurant, or a grocery find.
Dish: Solero frozen fruit bars
Location: Sprouts and other grocery stores
Finding a worthy popsicle is harder than it seems, even as we're surrounded by them: from the supermarket kiddie variety to the wave of gourmet shops springing up in walkable neighborhoods, serving them like ice cream cones for consumption on their front stoop.
Before we get too fussy, it should be noted that pretty much any frozen sweet item on a stick is a good thing; and there are pops for all needs.
Sometimes all you need is the simple sugar-and-water formula of the brand-name Popsicle (which, legally-speaking, is the only time you're allowed to use the word "popsicle").
Sometimes you want something "healthy," a la Nestle's Outshine line, with frozen pops that incorporate real fruits and vegetables in combos such as strawberry rhubarb and acai blueberry.
Sometimes you want something indigenous with exotic flavors. For that, you have shops all across Texas selling Mexican paletas featuring fresh fruit, often in appealing chunks, in flavors such as coconut, watermelon, tamarindo, and rice pudding.
The texture thing
The shortcoming in most frozen pops is texture.
Water-based pops are always hard and crystallized, until they suddenly become liquid — except for the fruit pieces, which remain hard, while the melting pop drips down your arm.
Texture is better on frozen pops containing dairy. The problem is, they contain dairy. Some people avoid dairy or don't like it in a frozen pop — it messes with the simplicity that's kind of key to the treat.
Solero is a new-ish brand of fruit bars and pops, introduced in the spring, and it has possibly the best texture for a frozen pop: It's creamy, has no crystallization, and does not contain dairy.
Solero is of local interest because it's from Josh Hochschuler, who founded Dallas-based Talenti Gelato in 2002. He subsequently sold Talenti to UniLever and is now surely some kind of illionaire. (He rejected my friend request on Facebook, boo-hoo.)
Solero already existed as an ice cream brand internationally but Hochschuler licensed it for his line of frozen, crushed fruit bars and pops.
They're described as "specially crafted with real, premium fruit sourced at the peak of ripeness," made with natural or organic ingredients and no added flavors or colors. Which is very marketing, but the bars really do stand out from their peers.
They come in flavors such as coconut, made with "organic coconuts from Sri Lanka and the Philippines pureed into a fine cream and mixed with organic cane sugar and water," and strawberry, with organic strawberries, organic cane sugar, water, and lemon juice.
Other flavors include mango, banana-cinnamon, pineapple, lemon lime, raspberry, strawberry-colada, and piña colada.
Most of them have four basic ingredients: water, fruit, sugar, and gums, consisting of carob gum and guar gum. The sugar helps temper the freezing point. The gums are what create the creamy texture and eliminate crystallization.
The flavors seem more pronounced than their peers. The coconut is intensely coconutty, and you can kind of feel the pureed pulp in your mouth as it melts.
But it's the texture that puts these over the top — the way they melt that's so memorable. They come out of the freezer hard, and when they soften, it's almost a pudding-like texture.
A 4-pack is $5, and a 12-pack with a combination of flavors is $6.