Houston is notorious for its summers: unbearable heat making the mercury climb to the upper nineties and even hundreds, humidity that leaves you drenched in sweat in the two minutes it takes you to go from door to car. And don't forget all the third degree burns from climbing onto your leather car seat or from touching the steering wheel.
Ah, yes, summertime in Houston is enough to drive a person away to another, more temperate part of the world, or at least to a refrigerator or an air conditioned place that serves cool summer snacks.
Here are my top five places to enjoy a cool dessert while seeking shelter from that unmerciful Texas sun.[jump]
5. Juice Box
This little shop in a Chinatown strip mall serves up Taiwanese-style shaved ice: chunks of fresh fruit, finely shaved ice, a scoop of fruit-flavored ice cream, and a drizzle of condensed milk for extra sweetness. I prefer the mango, but strawberry and watermelon are good summer options. The ice cream is the same flavor as the fruit in your shaved ice. I personally ask for the condensed milk on the side as I find it too sweet, but there are many who swear by the stuff. An order is large enough to share with a friend, so for a few bucks, you'll be feeling cool in no time.
Perhaps a healthier alternative is frozen yogurt (or froyo, as it's been dubbed), a trend that rose and plateaued in the past few years. Whether or not it's on the decline, I can't say, but it's still a yummy snack to get on a hot summer day. I like Berripop because it has just the right ratio of tartness to sweetness. There are a handful of yogurt flavors like original, strawberry-pomegranate, blueberry, mango, etc. You can dress your froyo with all sorts of toppings from cereal to nuts to candies to fruit. The best topping is the mochi, a doughy floured Japanese rice cake that is chewy and subtly sweet. I've tried all sorts of froyo combos here but always revert to my favorite: blueberry yogurt with fresh blueberries, granola, and mochi. There are multiple Berripop locations all over town, so it should be easy to find one near you. Don't forget to ask for a punch card; you'll be grateful you have one to support your cool habit.
This blue trailer calls its current home on the corner of Rutland and 20th in the Heights. For $2, you get a small New Orleans-style cool summer snack -- very finely shaved ice called "snoballs" instead of "sno-cones" -- in the flavor of your choice from the classic Grape to the zany like Tiger's Blood or Dill Pickle. So far, I've tried Dreamsicle (like an Orange Julius or those orange Creamsicles) and Pina Colada and enjoyed them both. Next on my list will be Georgia Peach. For a little extra, you get a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream at the bottom, a little condensed milk or sour spray at the top. The ice is very fine, not like those coarse chunks of ice from childhood with extra sweet flavored corn syrups squirted on top. No, these snoballs melt as soon as they touch your tongue. Very cool. Check their website before going to make sure they're open.