The hot sun was shining down on me hard the day I first tasted it. About fifteen people deep in line I waited my turn impatiently. One by one, people walked away gleefully with their treat and I inched closer to the table. Finally it was my turn. There was no moment of hesitation when I said firmly “Watermelon & Basil!”
Watermelon & Basil snow cone. Raspado to be exact. Mexican snow cone from Sno Con Amor.
Is there anything better on a hot day than shaved ice?
The Koreans have pat bingsoo, which is shaved ice topped with sweet red beans, fruit, ice cream, and odd bits and pieces such as cereal (Captain Crunch or Fruity Pebbles anyone?) and candied mochi. It comes in a huge bowl and as you can tell, a mish mash of flavors, textures and ingredients. The shaved ice part is almost never flavored on its own. It does the job but there’s too many things going on. And then there are snow cones which are simpler in nature. It is usually shaved ice topped with a syrup, most often with bright, nearly neon manufactured stuff. It’s safe to say shaved ice has never been a big part of my life.
And then Sno Con Amor came along. Snow cones made with love, flavored with syrup hand-crafted from natural ingredients. Having my first bite of the watermelon & basil snow cone, I knew this was something special and my lackadaisical attitude towards shaved ice was put to rest. Simple and abundant with fresh flavor. The flavor offerings are really special – walnut, coconut, pineapple lime, beet lemonade, tamarind! And the list goes on. The creativity and care that goes into each of the flavors is amazing. My eyes have been opened to artisanal snow cones and I am a happier girl for it.
Lauda Flores, the raspado master and flavor guru behind Sno Con Amor, was kind enough to answer a few questions.
What inspired the birth of Sno Con Amor?
One mystic winter night on a trip to Alaska I had the great fortune of meeting the legendary Frosty the SNOW MAN right before he melted! From his deathbed you wouldn’t believe what he whispered in my ear, “kid, you need to make delicious all natural snow cones”……..”with love”.
Ok so the less spectacular version is that I got laid off from my job and thought “Hey when life hands you lemons, make snow cones!”….. and so it began.
Growing up, my parents owned a Paleteria/Raspado shop which we had for 30+ years up until they retired. LA Weekly’s food critic, Jonathan Gold named it his “favorite paleteria” of the moment!
Raspados are basically Mexican snow cones, I would describe them as a hybrid between Italian Granitas and Hawaiin Shaved Ice. Paletas are those yummy fruit popsicles that you often see guys selling on the streets from push carts, ringing their bells and hollering, PALETAS! My mom used to come up with really unique and fantastic flavors, it was so much fun being her guinea pig. Anyhow needless to say that as a little tot I became a seasoned connoisseur of all things cold and much later in life was inspired to come up with my own concoctions, my only problem was that I had to decide which one to do?! Raspados won obviously, I saw them as a dying breed, at least in this neck of the woods.
You may be happy to know my mama’s proud and no snow men were hurt.
I love that your snow cones are flavored with all natural syrups made with “fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and flower extracts. “All natural” and “organic when possible.” Yay. It’s so refreshing to have shaved ice made with real ingredients. What’s your philosophy with keeping things natural?
I love to chow down and I eat almost everything so I have to be wise about my choices if I want to continue to do so.
There are so many healthy, affordable and easily accessible alternatives for everything now days, (especially in this town) that there’s no reason not to choose natural quality stuff that offers some nutritional value and tastes ten times better anyway.
It’s rewarding to be able to offer one of those alternative choices even if it’s just in the dessert arena. I mean it’s pretty awesome to see a kid eat a snow cone for the first time, because up until now snow cones with artificial flavors were not an option for a lot of the kids that come to the Hollywood Farmers Market, which is where I sell.
The flavors are amazing and and some with unique combinations, such as the delicious watermelon and basil. How do you come up with these lovely flavors?
Lots of drunken nights my friend.
Last year I started catering private events and was challenged with customizing flavors, that’s where the heavy experimenting came in. We offer boozy snow cones for weddings and adult parties so you can imagine the sacrifice that went into testing all these new creations, one boozy snow cone after another, but this is the kind of loyalty and dedication we offer our customers!
How I came up with our flavors is a collective mix of what’s in season, old family recipes and a batch of traditional Mexican flavors such as Tamarind, Hibiscus and Guava. Other flavors have been dictated by some of my favorite dishes. If you’ve ever had a watermelon, basil, balsamic vinegar salad you can see how that one made it into the group. By the way, you should also try our Watermelon with Cinnamon, YUM!
Once I started making them and seeing all the beautiful natural colors that you get directly from fruits/vegetables/herbs I went nuts! I was amazed at how gorgeous the different combinations made. Lavender is one of my favorites for this, not only does it have a wonderfully fragrant bite but properly infused it gives you these beautiful purple hues. Another one to add to your list to try is our Grapefruit Lavender Vanilla, and yes we actually use real vanilla beans!
Here’s a chuckle. We were recently in a commercial for Kaiser Permanent, they had a farmers market scene and liked our booth so they rented it! Anyhow, the art department used color dyes to fill my bottles up since I didn’t take my own syrups and even though they were just using them as props I couldn’t stand to see a neon blue color in one of my bottles, hahaa! I know it was ridiculous of me but I had to inconspicuously pour it out and replace it with orange juice.
What is your fondest memory of raspados?
The day I ate my first Walnut snow cone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of Lechera! I never got over it.
The seasons are changing and new fruit is abound at the farmers market. Do you have any new flavors you are working on?
Yes. Always. I got my team of foragers out on the loose as we speak, the new flavors are in their hands but I sense Pomegranates and Pumpkins and Figs and Apples in the air!
We’ve also been invited back to participate in Pasadena’s Waldorf School, The Elves Fair next month so we’ll have some new mythical flavors we’re making especially for the occasion, hmmm……….I’m thinking gnomes, fairy dust and dragons breath, FUN!
*Thank you Lauda!*
You can find Sno Con Amor at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sundays 8AM to 1PM (1600 Ivar Ave).
Sno Con Amor is available for private events year round.