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Rows of colorful popsicles sit displayed in a freezer case.
The paleta display at Ice Queen.
Ice Queen

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Ice Queen Begins Its Reign in Hosford-Abernethy With a New Paleteria

The vegan frozen treat shop serves paletas in flavors like oatchata, mangonada, and chocolate-dipped fresa

Back in 2018, Rebecca Smith had her heart set on making ice cream but couldn’t afford the necessary equipment. So she decided to try her hand at making paletas, Mexican popsicles with fresh fruit in a water or milk base, instead. Four years, countless pop-ups, and a now-shuttered walk-up window location later, Ice Queen, the Chicana- and Indigenous-owned vegan paleteria and dessert shop, opened in mid-October.

The paleteria is currently offering a limited menu, though diners looking to lean into the October of it all can find Halloween-themed frozen treats such as the Shut Your Pie Hole (pumpkin pie) paleta and a spooky float made with locally made chamoy from Pica Drip. Ice Queen will have 15 permanent flavors in stock, including customer favorites like oatchata (horchata with an oat milk base) and watermelon Tajín, plus five seasonal specials and perhaps an extra “random flavor” that Smith has made on a whim. The shop also serves chocolate-covered bananas, vegan soft serve, and house-spun cotton candy.

Its avid customer base has followed Smith along the entire journey. “There have been so many people that literally came to my first pop-up,” Smith says. “During COVID, I was delivering to people’s houses. The pop-ups, the walk-up window...they’ve been with me through that whole thing. It’s been cool, and I think it’s something that’s really very specific to Portland — just how much people are willing to ride for you.”

With the shop’s playful touches, Smith hopes to bring “some of the fun back to ice cream.” Paletas are propped up in a colorful display, and a chocolate well and toppings bar are embedded in a light-up counter next to the case for customers to customize their dessert. Behind the bar, a custom acrylic sign bears the name of the shop’s logo, which was designed by Tyler Alexander of Portland-based creative agency Kamp Grizzly.

Smith, a Bay Area-native, found a love of ice cream growing up eating paletas from the corner store in her neighborhood. “Paletas were always in the background of events,” Smith says. “When there’s celebrations, there’s always the man with the cart walking by...for me, it’s really emblematic of California and its street vendors.” Starting the business has helped Smith maintain a strong connection to her Chicana heritage — she’s always delighted when customers who also hail from California come in and tell her they haven’t had a paleta since moving to Portland.

“I never set out thinking about those things and their significance to me,” Smith says. “I just wanted to open my own business, but the deeper I got into this, the more I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually making an impact to some degree. People feel seen and validated and nostalgic.’”

The beginning of Smith’s journey into vegan ice cream began with watching YouTube videos, reading, and experimenting. She credits The Fat Duck Cookbook as being especially instructive in breaking down the science of ice cream. Smith did a lot of recipe testing using ratios laid out in the book for dairy-based ice cream, but substituted in vegan ingredients. “The Fat Duck was very important to this journey, ironically, for this vegan ice cream store,” Smith says.

Smith has herself been vegan for nearly a decade, so she was accustomed to recreating veganized versions of things she wanted to eat through lots of trial and error. That same trial-and-error process went into making vegan paletas, including experimenting with different bases — Ice Queen most often utilizes oat and soy for its milk-based paletas, but has also used coconut and almond — temperature control, and scaling recipes into large batches.

“Surprisingly, there’s a lot that goes into [making] a popsicle,” Smith says. “I’ve had friends come and watch me make them, and people were always like, ‘I thought you were just putting them in a freezer!’ Which is fair, because there’s a lot of books about ice cream, but there’s not a lot of books about making large quantities of ice cream, which is totally different.”

“And,” she adds, “there’s no books about making commercial popsicles.”

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