Todd Saulles' pops won't end with summer


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Summer is coming to a close, but that doesn't mean frozen pops have to go away. Soon you can try fall flavors such as pumpkin, cranberry and apple married with warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, all made in Pittsburgh.

Todd Saulle, an English teacher at Central Catholic High School, has been stopping event-goers this summer at his Pop Stop Popsicle Co. by selling gourmet frozen pops from his heavy-duty yellow bicycle. The flavors run the gamut from strawberry-basil to watermelon-parsley to the exotic pineapple-spice infused with crushed red peppers.

"I am not a culinary artist," said the 27-year-old, who lives in Morningside. "I read recipe books that clued me in on what works well together. If an herb is growing at the same time as strawberries or watermelon, they will blend well."

He buys all his fruit locally, grows the herbs in his backyard and prepares the pops with help from his wife, Laura, in the basement of Franktuary in Lawrenceville -- in exchange for offering Frankturary pops to sell.

"This for me is just another representation of how various small food businesses can all work together," said Franktuary co-owner Megan Lindsey. "And I personally love Popsicles, so it's great for me."

(Although just about everyone calls them Popsicles, the word is a registered brand of the Unilever company.)

Starting in September, Franktuary Downtown will be offering two different fall flavors each week.

Some flavors exclusively sold at Franktuary have a little extra kick. Ms. Lindsey said most customers are excited about the alcoholic pops, such as the dulce de leche, made with local caramel liquor from La Dorita, served in a tall, skinny shot glass.

For events, Mr. Saulle loads his cargo coolers packed with dry ice and attached to his bike. His next event is the Allegheny County Green and Innovation Festival at Hartwood Acres on Sept. 28.

"It's a lot greener than a food truck," he said of his bike, which was shipped from the United Kingdom and can hold up to 400 pops.

After talking to an ice pop worker from Philadelphia earlier this year, he couldn't believe that a mobile pops business hadn't yet started up in Pittsburgh. With food-truck vending in his family, he had knowledge of the business and decided to start experimenting.

After just two months of vending, his company has "sort of exploded," he said. At BikeFest earlier this month, he distributed 100 pops in a few hours.

He wanted his pops to have limited sugar content and real fruit blended in or bulging out, as is the case with the honey-berry. The blackberries are visible in the Greek yogurt, which is infused with honey.

After finding the right size ripe fruit, the "cooking" is simple. He cuts the fruit and blends it with sugar water and lime and lemon juice to bring out the natural flavor. He then pours the thick, soupy mixture into classic pop molds and freezes them for five to six hours. Cantaloupe is his favorite flavor.

"You don't expect it to be a popsicle flavor," he said, adding that it tastes better than eating the fruit alone.

Another eyebrow-raiser is the watermelon-parsley.

Parsley is "like the underdog herb," he said.

Many of his ideas are inspired by the Latin American paleta, a fresh fruit ice-pop with a water or milk base. One of these is the creamy avocado-lime mixed with coconut milk.

What can't be masked entirely is the spiciness of the pineapple-and-red pepper pop. If he had stuck with the original paleta recipe, the spiciness would have been overpowering. After altering it, the result was a savory taste that "messes with your head," he said.

"It's cold, but it's also spicy. It balances itself out."

Because local mobile food restrictions prevent him from vending on the street, he generally works with private event coordinators, charging $3 per pop. Discounts for bulk orders start at 100 pops for $250 and 200 for $400. More information can be found at thepopstoppgh.vpweb.com.

He plans to keep the mobile aspect of his business, but he hopes to ultimately open his own pop shop. For now, he is especially interested in doing more pops served in glass cups for those who want to make their wedding different.

What is the best way to eat an ice pop?

"Some people do the 'corn on the cob,' " he said, biting into the side of a tie-dyed-looking watermelon pop. "I prefer it from the top down. If it's the right kind of Popsicle, you should be able to bite it."

food

Marina Weis: mweis@post-gazette.com.


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