Eating the World

La Nueva Pico Rico Dulceria is a One-Stop-Shop for Pachangas and Herbs

Hey, readers, get ready. We're putting new meaning into the term "street food." For Chow Bella's latest mission -- "Eating 16th Street" -- we've employed a young woman who's literally eaten her way around the world. Alex Rodriguez has eaten borscht in Moscow, steak in Buenos Aires and a "life-changing panna cotta" in Bra, a small town in the Piemonte region of Italy. Now we've set her palate loose on Central Phoenix's 16th Street. Rodriguez will try it all, from Jefferson Street north to Thomas Road -- and report back, place by place.

The Place: La Nueva Pico Rico Dulceria and Yerberia The Food: Plenty of Mexican candy - and mountains of party goods. The Backstory: There are 4 stores around Phoenix; the 16th Street location has been around for 4 years. The Price: $15 piñatas, $3.99 for 1 pound of Pica Gomas.

Everyone likes a good party. But everyone loves a good pachanga. No matter how old we get, or how tired we are, or how miserable our lives become, almost any day is salvageable with a good party. La Nueva has plenty fiesta goods to satisfy the party monkey on your back.

Let's start with the candy.

If you've ever had Mexican candy before, you'll know the the most common ingredient, besides sugar, is chile. In fact, sugar and chile practically go hand in hand. The two flavors are a match made in matrimonial confectionary heaven. It really is a beautiful thing.

My mom used to pack little candies called Pica Gomas in my lunch as my "dessert" during my first few years of school. Being the shining example of courtesy that I am, I'd offer Pica Gomas to my friends in exchange for a pudding cup or fun-sized Snickers bar. At first, they'd be intrigued by the look. It's a little ball, individually wrapped, with a deep brownish reddish color -- like mole.

My friends would unwrap the tiny candy and pop it in their mouths, and the next part was always my favorite: their faces after letting the flavors of the Pica Goma melt. It's something between the face of someone eating a Warhead (that puckery face) and eating your least favorite vegetable that you just discovered Mom hid in the mashed potatoes. To the untrained palate, Pica Gomas are kind of disgusting - and strange. It's tart like a tamarindo, but sweet like candy, and spicy like you probably wouldn't expect. Funny enough, my mouth is watering as I write this.

Needless to say, Mexican candies like that aren't for everyone. They're an acquired taste that I've been fortunate enough to grow up with. So don't trash it until you've tried it 5 times. Of course, La Nueva doesn't just offer candies like I described. There's plenty of rollos de coco (sweetened coconut rolls, $4.99), and lots of varieties of candied peanuts, and the Mexican version of Nutella and crackers called Duvalins ($2.99).

But if your party is in need of decor rather than confections, La Nueva sells that, too.

You'll find balloons, party cups, plates, utensils, goodies to fill your pinatas. You can even rent bounce houses!

Six months ago, the owners of La Nueva decided they wanted to incorporate a yerberia (herbal store) into their party place. If you're standing at the front entrance, the yerberia section stands right in front of you along the back wall (you can see it on the first photo). There you'll find loose leaf teas and assorted herbs.

The addition of a yerberia might sound a little strange, but our tour down 16th Street has shown that the street is anything but ordinary. So, yeah, let's go get some party supplies, and tilo for abuela.

Eating 16th Street So Far: Eating 16th Street: Let's Begin at Pollo Sabroso La Frontera Taco Truck: A Hit and a Run Asadero Norte de Sonora: Family Friendly and Fit for a King Mariscos Playa Hermosa: From the Shores of Mexico to a Colorful Central Phoenix Restaurant Salsitas: Blame it on the Alcohol Pro's Ranch Market: Contents of a Fiesta Under One Roof Filiberto's: My Burrito of Sorrow La Cocina Economica: Bringing Familia from the Kitchen to the Table Hacienda El Bar-Ril: Central Phoenix Home to Diamond Tacos de Cabeza Dulceria Mayra's Y Mas: Small Place Packs a Huge Party La Condesa: Great Eats, but that Wait is Rough Mariscos Ensenada: Hold On to Your Margarita to Escape the Hyper Tension Tortas El Guero: Life-Changing Mexican Sandwiches Realeza Michoacana Paleteria and Neveria: The Ice Palace of Confection

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Alex Rodriguez