May 11, 2006
Pops in the park

The strawberry shortcake, hot dogs and cherries all were tempting, but with the temperature at 90 degrees the treat that really caught my eye and grabbed my palate at last night’s farmers market in Davis was the “gourmet popsicles.”

H.T. Jaymes Luu may have the smallest space at the market – basically an ice-cream vendor's bicycle cart – but her pops just might be the brightest and most novel food in the park.

Her fruity and icy selection changes for each Wednesday and Saturday market, running to such flavors as the creamy strawberry and coconut, the spirited kiwi and mango and the popular green tea and honey, which yesterday evening had sold out long before we found a parking place (Wednesdays and Saturdays is when Davisites forget they’re supposed to uphold the city’s image as the cycling capital of the West).

So far, she’s created about 30 flavors. Others include strawberry banana basil, honeydew cucumber, guava watermelon, cantaloupe chai, beet tangerine and citrus hibiscus.

In addition to the green tea and honey, other especially popular pops are the kaffir limeade with avocado, cantaloupe chive and plum passionfruit. The most unusual could be the “mint Arnold Palmer,” a blend of homemade lemonade, home-brewed tea and crushed fresh mint, inspired by a beverage popularized by the golfing great in Palm Springs.

“The flavors change all the time. They’re different each week,” says Luu.
Most have their fans, but a couple have bombed, like the “drunken cherry chocolate” and the corn and coconut.

A graduate in business from the University of Florida, Luu devises her own creations or follows up on the suggestions of customers. She uses all natural ingredients, often working with overripe produce she gathers from farmers at the market.

Soon after graduation she discovered the business world wasn't her thing, so she returned to her hometown of Orlando to work in restaurants before heading west to enroll in culinary classes from Sonoma to Rocklin. "I've always loved ice cream, and knew I wanted my own food booth," she says.

At first she experimented with Italian ices, then got fascinated with popsicles. She founded the business last spring, originally as Pink Rhino, but she’s recently changed the name to Aisu Pop (“aisu” is Japanese for “ice”).

She makes the popsicles at Tucos Wine Market & Cafe in Davis, where she also prepares desserts, though none of them is frozen. She sells about 150 of the pops at each of the twice-weekly markets. They cost $2 each.

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