Yesterday, we got a hot tip about a restaurant waaaaaaaaaay out in the Burbs. So Mr. Foodie and I were able convince our friend Michelle of Eugene’s Hot Chicken and Miss Dots post fame to come along (OK, it didn’t take much convincing). As often happens in this world of anonymous food blogging, the restaurant was just ok, in our opinions. Don’t ask me what it was…. and you’ll never guess it…. we only blog positively so we just consider meals like that sunk costs. It was still a lot of fun.
As we were heading past the Galleria on the way home, Mr. Foodie made an important discovery. We were just 3 minutes away from a place that has been on our must-try list for a month or so: Urban Pops.
As y’all know, I’m always trolling Yelp for new places. About a month ago, I became obsessed with looking for homemade ice cream, since we have so little of it in this town. And somehow, on one of my Yelp searches, Urban Pops came up.
So I perused a menu someone had posted… chocolate, cookies and cream, saffron…..
Wait, saffron? Something was up. I would certainly be willing to try a new popsicle place for any of the other more ordinary flavors, but saffron moved this place to the very top of our list.
So back to that moment in the car – we re-routed ourselves to Urban Pops.
Here’s the outside: very cheerful with a great logo.
On the inside, the place is very modern. We walked up to the counter to order, and were greeted by a very sweet woman who I later learned was one of the owners. We looked at the list of flavors:
Chocolate, cookies and cream…..kulfi…..
“What’s kulfi?” I asked.
Here’s a Wikipedia article I’ve since found on the topic. She explained it as a food that is original to India, and that their kulfi uses cardamom. Sold. She then gave me a choice of three kulfi sub-flavors: mango, coconut, and rosewater. All of these also included my favorite nut, pistachios. I was getting excited. Based on her recommendation, we opted for the mango.
Here it is:
Wow, isn’t this a thing of beauty? You can see that this pop is chock full of pistachios and cardamom. Then you take a bite: it tastes exactly like the best frozen mango lassi you’ve ever had. Which makes sense, since mango lassis are often a mixture of yogurt, mango, and cardamom. I savored every bite. I declared it the best popsicle I’ve ever had.
I ran back up to the counter. What were those other flavors again? Mr. Foodie loves coconut, and the owner highly recommended it. So I bought the coconut kulfi. Here it is in all its glory:
Dense with coconut and pistachio, still with that cardamom flavor. Unlike anything I’ve ever had before, absolutely outstanding.
The owner came over to check on us, and we struck up a conversation. Her name is Reba. She told us her daughter had traveled to a few big US cities and saw that popsicles were popular, even in the winter. They decided they would try their hand at the popsicle business and opened up a year ago. All the pops are homemade in the back of their storefront. They have a devoted following in the burbs and people who come all the way from Birmingham (it’s really not that far away) to eat their popsicles – no surprise there.
As we walked out of the store murmuring to ourselves about how great the blog post was going to be, I realized that we didn’t have a picture of the menu. I would have to go back inside to take it, and if I did that, Reba would probably think it was a little strange that we bought one popsicle, then another, asked a bunch of questions, and then took a menu shot…. so I made the rare decision to tell her that we would be writing about her, which is why I needed to take more pictures. But I also used the opportunity to ask her more about the kulfi. I had to understand: how did she decide to make a kulfi pop? She explained that she has a friend from India who suggested it, and her husband figured out how to make it. Great suggestion, and even better execution. I asked her if they always have kulfi, and she said yes, they almost always have either kulfi, or…..
Saffron! Just like I read in my original Yelp post! I had to understand…. why the saffron? She explained that the saffron pop is actually an Akbar Mashti popsicle containing “chunks of cream,” rosewater, saffron, and pistachios. I asked if she had any and of course…. I bought my last popsicle and ran back to Mr. Foodie and Michelle in the parking lot:
As unreal as the other two were, this one was the crowd favorite. Unbelievably fragrant, you could taste all of the aforementioned flavors. The “chunks of cream” and pistachios made the texture really rich. We were speechless.
Of course, I needed to learn as much as possible about this mysterious Akbar Mashti popsicle. After 30 minutes of internet researching, here’s what I understand. There’s a type of ice cream in Iran called Bastani Sonnati that contains “frozen clotted cream,” rosewater, saffron, pistachios. According to Lonely Planet, there’s an ice cream store in Tehran called Akbar Mashti that has been around since the ’50s and is famous for this style of ice cream. Outside Iran, there’s a place in LA called Mashti Malone’s that serves several flavors of this style of ice cream and is insanely popular. As far as I can tell, outside of Iran and LA, you can get Akbar Mashti ice cream in …. Birmingham, Alabama.
Edited to note: Akbar Mashti is also available at a place called Bella Gelateria in Vancouver, BC. If anyone can find other places in the U.S. to find Akbar Mashti in any form (ice cream, popsicle, gelato, cupcake, whatever)… let me know.