Sweet Relief

From Avocado to Zestini, the coolest icy ingestibles in town

Sometimes, a drippy blue-raspberry Otter Pop just isn't enough. Instead of inciting brain freeze from a pathetic Popsicle this summer, refine your palate. From simple shaved ice to gourmet gelato, there's something to satisfy every type of sweet tooth and stave off the sweats.

If you're bored with Baskin-Robbins, and Cold Stone leaves you cold, try one of the Valley's one-of-a-kind shops. Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor, 4005 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, 480-946-0051, oozes the nostalgia of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor -- it's been there since 1958 -- with a mouth-watering menu to back it up. This pink-and-white-clad palace is all about fundamentals, so go with a simple scoop of rich chocolate ice cream served in a chilled glass bowl. MacAlpine's Soda Fountain, 2303 North Seventh Street, 602-262-5545, supplies the same retro vibe with tasty fountain sodas, shakes, malts and sundaes.

Think creamy can't combat summer heat? Naysayers, beware. You won't be able to deny the chilling -- and downright orgasmic -- effects of The Gelato Spot, 3164 East Camelback Road, 602-957-8040. Run by Don Plato and fam, this new franchise offers more than 30 flavors of authentic Italian gelato on any given day, from sweet cantaloupe and tangy kiwi (best for summer) to richer options like cookies-and-cream and Bacio (Italian for "kiss"), which combines milk chocolate and hazelnut. Get it side by side with a scoop of the Amarena (sour cherry and Italian cream), and we swear you'll offer your firstborn at the chance for more.

Someday some genius will make furniture out of ice cream, but for now, you can eat some to cool off.
Someday some genius will make furniture out of ice cream, but for now, you can eat some to cool off.

If you still demand more ice than cream, cool off with some sweet sorbet. Berto Bertuccio is famous locally for his unique collection of sorbets that he creates for La Fontanella, 4231 East Indian School Road, 602-955-1213. His handcrafted, two-tone wedges come in a variety of crisp flavors, including pear, strawberry, lemon and cappuccino.

Then there's the reliable snow cone, which is more than just ice and sugary syrup to fans of raspados. Better known as Mexican snow cones, raspados combine crushed ice, fresh fruit and sometimes ice cream to create the coolest, tastiest snow cone around. Typically sold out of small, tucked-away Mexican corner shops, raspados are hard to come by, but they're worth it. Try Aguas y Raspados, 5037 North 35th Avenue, 602-249-0626, which offers a slew of flavors, including watermelon, mango, cherry and guava. At $1.50 for a small and $2.50 for a large (extra to add cream), this might be your cheapest form of frostbite.

For a totally hypothermic experience, go to Bahama Buck's. This independent franchise with faux tropical decor is native only to Arizona and Texas, making the pilgrimage east for mounds of shaved ice a bit more tolerable. (For locations in Tempe and Mesa, go to www.bahamabucks.com.) Buck's ice is light and fluffy -- a far cry from crunchy, chunky snow cones -- and melts instantly on your tongue. Choose from dozens of flavors, including our faves: banana colada, mango, and strawberry daiquiri. For an extra smooth shave, Buck's whips in a dollop of cream, and, for the ultimate chilling experience, try the Bahama Rama Mama. This trademark three-layer treat combines ice cream, flavored snow and tropical crème. The quaint bungalow also offers tangy lemonades, limeades and sweet fruit smoothies.

Speaking of drinks, sometimes the best cold concoctions come in a glass (and doused with alcohol). A tart lemon or orange Zestini from Zest Spirited Dining, 4117 North 16th Street, 602-274-7442, is an excellent start. The dimly lighted restaurant is the perfect place to escape the cruel sun, and the Zestini, sweetened with a dash of citrus vodka, is the perfect company to escape with.

If a Zestini sounds too weenie, chill out with a frosty mug of Arizona Peach ale on the patio of Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe, 1340 East Eighth Street, 480-303-9967, or Four Peaks Grill & Tap in Scottsdale, 15730 North Pima Road, 480-991-1795. It's always on tap and always tasty.

Margaritas your M.O.? Your taste buds haven't truly savored tequila until you've downed the Blue Agave margarita from Old Town Tortilla Factory, 6910 East Main Street in Scottsdale, 480-945-4567. Made with 100 percent Blue Agave tequila (the good stuff), triple sec and fresh-squeezed citrus juice, this is the ultimate thirst-quenching, buzz-making margarita. The tequila is so subtle, you'll want to suck down this icy drink (blended or on the rocks) glass after glass. If you haven't cooled off by then, you'll be too wasted to notice the heat anyway.

Sober types seeking an arctic quality to their drinks have a few options as well. Tempe's E!Ba Café, 705 South Forest Avenue, 480-784-2282, is an obscure but attractive Asian hideaway where tongue-freezing teas are infused with fruity syrups, icy soy milk, creamy yogurt or chewy balls of boba. And for coffee fiends who just can't abandon the bean during summer, you'll want a chilled caramel frappé from the Xtreme Bean Coffee Company, 1707 East Southern Avenue, 480-820-0333, also in Tempe.

When you need a variety of options right in front of your flaming face, let the frozen-food aisle be your frosty haven. Fans of the aforementioned Bertuccio sorbets can find pints of the tasty treats at AJ's fine food stores or Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket, 2025 North Dobson Road, 480-899-2887, in Chandler.

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