Fancy popsicles are the latest dessert craze, and they've come to Birmingham in the form of delicious, fruity flavors from Steel City Pops in Homewood. Owner Jim Watkins had been searching for his next step, something he'd be really happy doing for a living, when he remembered a family visit to Las Paletas in Nashville almost 10 years ago. The simple, fresh, gourmet flavors resonated with Jim, and a plan to bring his own version to Birmingham was born. "I thought I'd like to do something like that – fresh, creative," Jim says. "I don’t have a culinary degree, but this was something I felt like I could get my hands around and be able to develop."
Inventive flavors like Strawberry Balsamic, Chocolate Chili, and Avocado complement the simplicity of full fruit flavors such as Mango, Orange Cream, and Banana. Coffee has been a hit as well. He has plans in the works for fun fall flavors too, like Sweet Potato and Cranberry Orange. Jim wanted to honor the Latin American tradition of paletas, which is where flavors like Hibiscus come in, but he's also inspired by seasonal produce he finds. "Something will catch my eye when I'm looking at good produce," he says. "I'll see beautiful raspberries, and I'll want to use them. Citrus pairs naturally, and it's a natural preservative as well. We use a lot of lime, lemon, and orange juice that's all fresh squeezed here." Jim is working on a local source for certified organic heavy and sour cream, which has been difficult to find, but Steel City Pops uses organic fruit almost exclusively and local sources when they can. You can see the piles of fresh fruit in their open prep area behind the counter. Jim says the choice to create an organic product was an extension of how he and his wife like his four boys to eat. "I want people to be eating a lot of fruit that's sweetened with a natural product," he says. "When you look at it looks real. My banana pop looks like a banana, not bright yellow."
From their logo to the store design to packaging to the pops themselves, Steel City is all about simplicity. They value being natural, delicious, and creative. "We don't want the business side or product side to get complicated," Jim says. "We're very open as a company. You can watch us make everything. All our ingredients are on our menu. Simplicity is big for us." You can't get more simple that fruit, made special in popsicle form.
As a freelance writer and copy editor, Emily Brown gets to juggle many roles, including work-at-home mom. She likes to cook more than she likes to follow recipes, and she likes her vegetables extra crunchy – no beets allowed. If she could make you anything, it would be a roasted chicken. Her baby is beyond adorable.
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