Pop quiz: Where can one find America's only gelato-on-a-stick? Pop answer: popbar in Manhattan's West Village. Combining innovation with the tradition of his native Italy, Reuben BenJehuda introduced the popular Florentine-inspired gelato concept to New York when he and Daniel Yaghoubi opened popbar in May, 2010. Their handcrafted frozen treats make a great summer refresher or a delicious dessert. I was invited to sample some recently.
The display case affords a large, colorful selection of popbar's 26 rotating flavors. Not only are the pops attractive, fresh, and delicious, they're also kosher certified and made from natural ingredients only—no preservatives, gluten, artificial coloring, or artificial sweeteners are used. PopGelato and yogurtPop bars ($4.50) contain hormone-free milk; popSorbetti ($3.75) contain over 70 percent real fruit and no added sugar. Everything is made daily on the premises.
With the assistance of a "Popologist" at the custom bar, one can choose "poppings" and "dippings" to design a personal "myPop." Poppings include chopped hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios, as well as coconut shreds and chocolate sprinkles. Dippings comprise melted Belgian chocolate—dark, milk, and white—into which a pop may be immersed, half-dipped, drizzled, or double-dipped.
For my tasting, I chose two popSorbetti and one popGelato. My first selection was lemon, the flavor by which I gauge all sorbetti and ices. Its frosty burst of citrus tang refreshed my palate without overwhelming it with unwelcome sweetness. This icy lemon pop was a bracing antidote to a hot summer's day.
My second taste was of another fruit. Much denser than the lemon, the mango popSorbetto had a mouthfeel similar to that of a frozen mango. Every bite seemed to be filled with pulp. Though its flavor and texture were true to the fruit, it was a bit sweeter than I'd normally like.
I hadn't any idea I'd saved the best for last. My final sample was an exquisite pistachio popGelato, popped with chopped pistachios, and half-dipped with dark chocolate. Wow! The crunchiness of the nuts and chocolate combined harmoniously with the silkiness of the nutty gelato it enveloped. Best of all, it wasn't too sweet. It's hard to imagine a better frozen treat on a stick.
5 Carmine Street (SW corner Sixth Av),
West Village, Manhattan (map)
By bus: M5 (uptown), M20 (downtown), M8 (crosstown)
Video from Cooking Channel's Unique Sweets show