Not your parents’ popsicles: Popbar’s chocolate and peach (left); People’s Pops’ roasted red plum and pear-ginger — and that’s a lot of “P’s”!
In the last year, the old-fashioned frozen confection on a stick has been pimped out so you wouldn’t even recognize it. We clasped People’s Pops to our breast when this tongue-depressor goody was first created, using only sustainable farmers’ market products, sometimes in odd and seemingly crazy combinations.
More recently, along came Popbar, offering what they were pleased to call “gelato on a stick.” Well, some of the flavors didn’t seem very gelato-like, but they were damn good, and you could trick them out with crushed nuts and other toppings — at extra expense, of course. So, since this is Fork in the Road, we decided to pit these two exemplary products against each other in a classic Battle of the Dishes.
The freezer case at Popbar offers a stunning array of flavors and colors.
Popbar Tasting Notes
Popbar occupies a storefront at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Carmine Street. The pops are attractively ranked in a case, and when you order one, the attendant whisks it from the case and rests it in a special contraption on top, waiting for you to scoop it up.
Some of the pops seem like gelato, especially the ones that contain greater amounts of dairy. Others are more like Italian ices. The chocolate that we selected for the competition — one of our favorites — doesn’t taste like either. In fact, it’s like a new and improved version of the Fudgsicle, creamy and chocolaty at the same time and completely irresistible.
The peach was slightly disappointing, a little too sweet, and we wish we’d chosen the cantaloupe, which is superior. In fact, if Popbar’s frozen pops have any overarching defect, it’s an excess of sweetness.
The corner of Sixth Avenue and Carmine Street is the perfect place to snag passersby.
Each day there are only five flavors at People’s Pops.
People’s Pops Tasting Notes
The primary location of People’s Pops is now Chelsea Market, where a bar-type setup allows admirers to sit and enjoy their pops while looking into the market stall, where the roster of current flavors is colorfully chalked on a blackboard.
There’s no doubt that a moralistic aura envelops the pops, which can make you feel good about eating them, or make you feel bad, depending on your mood. In the early days some of the flavors were too austere and unsweet for us, or simply too strange. But the crew’s prowess as frozen-treat formulators has increased, so that now even the weirder combinations — such as watermelon and cucumber, or tarragon and cantaloupe — are often pleasurable.
Though the pear and ginger pop was a little on the gritty side, it tasted great nonetheless, with the ginger just a whisper. We might have enjoyed a little more ginger, so that it would burn your lips like ginger beer, but we realize that would please few customers. The roasted red plum was the real prize among the pops tasted, tart and intense, with just the right amount of sweetness, and an almost creamy mouthfeel backing up the sourness.
People’s Pops offers seating at a popsicle bar.
Next: Our conclusions …
Really, if we’d done this tasting a year ago, we’d have preferred Popbar, for the intense, dairy-driven flavors. The People’s Pops at that time were sometimes too thin and flat-tasting, a result of using little or no sugar. Now that problem has been remedied, and the pops are richer and sweeter, and the experimentation with herbs is usually a positive feature.
The winner: People’s Pops