National Ice Cream Day fell on July 16, two weeks ago, but there is no reason to stop celebrating, particularly since Hollister’s La Michoacana has been recognized by Nextdoor users, a social media platform, as the best ice cream parlor in the area. And if you are in those summer doldrums where it is just too hot to eat a full meal, they also offer aguas frescas (fruit drinks), Mexican street snacks and refreshing dishes made from fresh local fruit.
“Business has really started to pick up now that it feels more like summer,” owner Ana Ramos-Aguilera said. “And, of course, we want to say a shout-out to all of our neighbors who voted for us.”
Though they focus on water- or milk-based ice creams made fresh daily, La Michoacana has been selling Mexican street foods since it opened. Some, like elote, steamed sweet corn on or off the cob, covered with mayonnaise, queso cotija, Valentina and tajin, are so incredibly delicious it makes you wonder why every restaurant does not offer some variation.
At La Michoacana, there are several elote-based snacks, with one of the most fun being Dorichascas – a sliced open bag of Dorito chips topped with corn, mayonnaise, lime, queso cotija, tajin and Valentina. Basically it is an elote dip in the messiest form possible. This is irresistibly good.
It is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of treat with six options as to the kind of chips you want, but the chips can also be combined with a wide range of toppings to make different snacks such as Tostilocos, which combines Tostito chips with cucumbers, jicama, cueritos (pickled pork rinds), Japanese peanuts, chamoy, lime and Valentina sauce.
Between the raw vegetables and the chewy pork rind, the wide range of textures and flavors make this filling enough to be considered a light and nicely portable lunch. These variations of bags of chips with toppings are also very popular items on La Michoacana’s catering menu for parties and events.
“We love to cater,” Ramos-Aguilera said. “We have done the food for weddings, baby reveals, quinceañeras, anything. They can order anything that we have here, but sometimes people will just want some of our paletas.”
While opening during the pandemic definitely made things harder for the shop, a year and a half later La Michoacana has become one of Hollister’s best fun food destinations, particularly in the hours after dinner when families fill the place.
“I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “I ask myself every day, ‘What day is today?’ It is always Monday. For me, every day is Monday, but I’m very happy with what I am doing. I still can’t believe that I could have a business like this and I just want to say ‘thank you’ to all my customers for making it possible.”
A few summer treats from La Michoacana Paleteria y Neveria
Bionico – “This is a typical thing that they do in Mexico,” Ramos-Aguilera said, “Families would serve this at parties, and it uses all the kinds of fruit we have here.” A combination of diced melon, strawberries, pineapple, bananas, and mango, it is mixed with the same cheesecake-like house sauce used in the strawberry treat fresca con crema, topped with granola, coconut flakes, and green apple slices, then finished with a drizzle of honey. (A variation, the Super Bionico, comes with a scoop of any of the shop’s ice creams.) It honestly made me salivate just typing those ingredients out, remembering how well the range of textures and flavors of the fruit contrasted each other and vied for the attention of my taste buds. This can be ordered in trays to feed up to six people and would be a show-stopper at any party.
Taro ice cream – “Our employees are always suggesting new things,” Ramos-Aguilera said, “and sometimes when we try them they sell very, very well.” This one is interesting: the lavender color and extra body come from the starchy root, which gives it a subtle and elusive flavor that is part sweet coconut, part tapioca and part toasted oatmeal. It is a curious combination and worth asking for a taste.
Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream – The vanilla ice cream that forms the base for many of La Michoacana flavors is mixed with queso cotija, providing a great platform for dice-sized chunks of cheesecake covered in strawberry topping. This is almost too decadent: chewy and sweet and creamy, gaining a little texture from the cheese and the graham cracker crust. My favorite ice cream there is the Mexican caramel, but I could see this one taking its place.
Agua Fresca with Cucumber, Chia, and Lime – La Michoacana carries a dozen or so of aguas frescas, which can be ordered straight or combined with other flavors. This is a favorite of Ramos-Aguilera’s, a half-and-half combination of cucumber water and limeade. Two flavors that already work well together, the finely diced bits of cucumber in the water are satisfyingly chewy, and the chia seeds add a little extra crunch. “This is a guilty pleasure for me,” she said. “It reminds me of when I am on vacation.” Delightful.
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BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.