Warm-up Act

It's only April, and already I'm waking up in a pool of sweat. Ugh.

Like insects crawling over a corpse, an army of air-conditioning repair trucks is beginning to fan out over the city as we begin our inevitable death-spiral into summertime heat.

Like everyone else, I've developed my own personal approach to our eternal summer. I don't care how high gas prices are, I refuse to get into my baking Beetle until I've let it run for a while with the air conditioning on. Blisters on my ass from a hot car seat is just not my idea of fun. At home, meanwhile, I blast the A/C with the thermostat set at 65 degrees, crank up a ceiling fan, and even point another fan directly at my face when I sleep.

I'm nearly allergic to heat. But I've still managed to do well on my trips to Mexico, despite the lack of air conditioning or fans blowing in my face at hotels there. But though the days are warm, Mexican nights are cool and bearable. And folks there take advantage of it.

The streets are packed with the after-dinner crowd strolling the streets, people sitting outside their homes, watching a television on a long extension cord placed under a tree. And food helps. The cold kind, that is. In Mexico, street vendors sell ice cream and paletas (frozen fruit bars) from little pushcarts.

In the Valley, these vendors also exist, pushing carts or driving old-fashioned ice cream trucks. But the real warm-weather treat here can be found at La Flor de Michoacan, with two locations on 32nd and 16th streets in Phoenix. At La Flor you can find the usual frozen fruit pops in a long and exotic list of flavors. But the gem of this establishment is its ice cream, with true Mexican flavors such as avocado, coconut, mamey fruit, papaya, dulce de leche caramel, mango, guava, elote (corn), watermelon and, my favorite, nuez (pecan cream). Using the recipe from the famous original La Michoacana in Michoacán, Mexico, La Flor produces gallons of creamy and flavorful ice cream.

But don't stop at the ice cream. You can also find healthful licuados (malts and shakes) made with delicious and unusual ingredients. A pico de gallo de fruta is a fruit cocktail topped with salt, lime juice and chile de arbol pepper. The sweet fruit flavor is enhanced by the salt, lime and chile giving it a dynamic edge unlike your run-of-the-mill plain fruit. You can also find fresh fruit topped with cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, honey, nuts, raisins and granola.

As the weather warms, you'll regularly catch me at La Flor de Michoacan cooling down with a cone topped with nuez ice cream. Maybe you'll spot my other Volkswagen parked outside, my beloved Karmann Ghia. The one with no air conditioning, that is. Damn those hot seats!

The author is a local chef and restaurant owner.

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Silvana Salcido Esparza