These Local Frozen Treats Pack A Pop

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - May 25, 2011
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Joshua lanthier-Welch

When ono Pops owner Joshua Lanthier-Welch received a call from his brother Joe to say he’d seen a great new food concept he thought would work well in Honolulu, Josh’s initial response was something other than positive.

“I thought he was crazy when he called to say he was at a gourmet popsicle stand,” he says.

Working as a chef in a restaurant in california, Lanthier-Welch had no intention of coming back to Honolulu any time soon, and certainly not to make ice pops. But fate has a habit of intervening, even in the culinary arts, and within six months of the call he was back in Hawaii, his interest in gourmet pops piqued.

“The more we learned, the more my brother and I became interested in the paleta tradition,” he says referring to the Mexican technique of preserving unique flavor combinations of herbs and fruits in ice.

Today the brothers have taken both exotic and humble ingredients offered by Hawaii’s unique landscape and combined them in frozen bars that provide the ultimate gourmet dessert.

But ono Pops offer more than just a frozen treat on a stick. By tapping into an abundant supply of locally grown herbs, produce and spices, ono Pops showcases an all-natural process that marries multi-ethnic foods with locally grown ingredients. The flavors are an oftentimes dizzying array of local, seasonal ingredients, many of them sourced from the smallest farms: Moka anisett’ features Waialua Estates 70 per cent cacao chocolate, organically grown star anise, chinese five spice and Island milk and cream. The Poggs is a citrusy blend of lilikoi, guava and Kona oranges. Professor Umebushi combines local cane juice, Japanese ume and Thai basil in a tart and fragrant combination.

For Lanthier-Welch, coming up with the flavor combinations is not the hard part.

“Pineapple Li Hing Mui and Guava chiffon, for example are childhood favorites,” says the Punahou grad. “It’s something of a no-brainer putting them together. It’s executing the combinations of flavor and getting them into ice that requires skill.”

It’s a skill that he’s developed seriously over the past few years, combining his training as a chef with a desire to create a unique, all-natural treat.

“Take Li Hing Mui Pineapple,” he says. “If you really want to make pineapple li hing mui without using red coloring or food dye then you have to start by making your own li hing.” The long process for this piquant pop starts with organic chinese li hing powder. and then there’s the Guava chiffon, a popsicle that’s meant to represent a heavenly slice of cake - on ice. To imitate a cake that’s usually set with gelatin or egg whites, he made a cooked guava pudding with local eggs and milk from Naked cow Dairy in Waianae, and found that it replicates the flavor well. you’ll find ono Pops at dozens of stores including some Foodland locations, Marukai Markets, Kokua Market and Whole Foods, and you’ll find them at farmers markets at Kcc, Hawaii Kai and Kailua. and check out the selection at Honolulu Burger company on Beretannia or at Pizza in The raw on Waialae avenue.

Personally, I won’t be surprised to see the pops in some form on dessert menus in a few favorite restaurants. With flavors like Butter Mochi, caramel Shoyu and Mountain apple rose, these little mini treats deserve some serious culinary attention.

For now, Lanthier-Welch is enjoying the reaction from chefs and customers alike caused by say, a yellow Gingertanical.

“It’s ginger candied into raw cane syrup so it’s like a hot ginger candy with lemon and vanilla and turmeric and ground spice,” he says. “Some chefs just freak out when they taste it.”

Happy eating!

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