The Brazilian street vendors’ call “Olha o picolé!” (“Look at the Popsicle”) will evoke memories of steamy days for anyone who grew up in Brazil. But the picolé, once considered a cheap alternative to ice cream, has gone upscale. Now sold at shopping malls and even French restaurants, the picolé has become a favorite of discerning Brazilian foodies.
In recent years, vendors have begun selling a new generation of frozen treats they call paleta, modeled after the Mexican Popsicle, which is richer, bigger and less watery than a picolé — and perhaps just as important, is only a little pricier, running between 6.90 and 10 reais (about $2 to $3). A spokesperson at Los Paleteros, one of the most famous paleta chains, told AQ that the inspiration to build their brand came from an opportunity to breach the ice cream market with affordable, high-quality offerings. The brand took off and today Los Paleteros boasts over 100 locations around the country selling paletas with flavors such as cheesecake, Belgian chocolate and açaí.
But the picolé isn’t melting before the competition. The Paris 6 French restaurant, located in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, has partnered with the famous picolé brand Gelato Diletto to create Instagram-worthy deserts named after Brazilian celebrities, such as Deborah Secco and Tom Cavalcante. These hybrid sweets start off with a standard dessert, like crème brulée or chocolate cake, topped with a Diletto picolé and, finally, coated with a thin layer of condensed milk or melted chocolate. And with Paris 6 locations reaching as far north as Miami, the Popsicle wars have just begun.
Brown is a programs associate at Americas Society/Council of the Americas