With summer rapidly approaching and folks looking for ways to cool down, there could not be a better time for Pop Craft to hit the scene.
With a tantalizing variety of 40 unique popsicle flavors like blueberry-lemon-basil, white chocolate-balsamic-fig, hibiscus, cocoa-caramel-orange, strawberry-lavender, Mexican chocolate and pineapple-cilantro, Pop Craft provides a repertoire of choices to intrigue, delight and refresh nearly everyone's taste buds.
The Sarasota gourmet popsicle provider keeps “popping up” around town. Starting in spring 2010 the Pop Craft push cart began appearing at the Downtown Farmers Market that takes place every Saturday.
More recently, the pops found their way onto the dessert menu at downtown’s newest Mexican restaurant, . In about 60 days, Pop Craft will move into its first stand-alone location next to at 2245A Bee Ridge Rd.
Pop Craft is the product of mother and son team, Donna Tortorice and Martin Scott, and it began right in Tortorice’s home kitchen.
Tortorice was planning to open a restaurant in Sarasota so she called her son, who was working at the time as a restaurant consultant in Georgia, for his advice. Scott had another idea.
“Martin told me he met some guys in Georgia who had a business selling gourmet ice pops and he suggested it might be a cool thing to start our own popsicle business in Florida,” Tortorice recalled.
Scott, a trained sommelier and maestro in the art of flavor combination, began to scheme up recipes that he and Tortorice tested in her kitchen and sampled out to friends and family. Once a selection of flavors was established, Pop Craft took to the streets at the St. Petersburg Farmers Market.
“We sold 500 pops our first day and we thought, ‘OK, we’re definitely on to something,’” Tortorice said.
The first day of sales proved Pop Craft’s potential for success and the overwhelming need to move out of Tortorice’s kitchen and into a larger location, so Scott moved to Sarasota and the duo opened up a commercial production space on South Tamiami Trail. Torotorice continued to sell the pops from the push cart in Sarasota and St. Petersburg and the business began to branch out. According to Scott, there are currently about eight push carts operating in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Orlando.
When Pop Craft opens its retail space in time for summer, the store will sell popsicles and paletas, as well as currently unspecified “frozen confectionaries.”
“We have some ideas we’re going to introduce in the shop, and we’ll be the first that I know of in Florida to carry them,” said Tortorice. “It’s a special surprise that we’re going to unveil during our grand opening.”
In the mean time, Tortorice continues to sell the pops from the push cart while Scott works at creating new flavors inspired by the techniques of wine making and food pairing.
“Whenever I create a new flavor, I look at it like I look at wine. I’m a big fan of three-dimensional flavor as opposed to linear," Scott said.
"I’m interested in how it hits the taste buds first, how the texture rounds out and how it works with the finish. I like to play with the depths of flavor. I don’t throw things together just because they sound cool. I think of flavors and smells, and somehow I’m just able to visualize it,” he added.
Of course, as in all trial-and-error creations, sometimes a flavor simply bombs – which is why Scott’s family and friends still serve as his official taste-testers before the pops go public.
“I always taste them myself to figure out if it really uses the inherent qualities of the ingredients, but there have been times when I’ve thought a flavor is great and nobody else likes it,” Scott said.
“One of my all time favorites – red grape with tarragon, anise and fennel – was one that hardly anyone else liked. It tasted like licorice, which is something people either love or hate, and I thought it was one of the best I’d ever made, but almost everyone hated it,” he said with a laugh.
However, most of his other favorite creations like raspberry-rose-almond, white chocolate-balsamic-fig and French pear with tarragon and thyme have received rave reviews from taste-testers and the public alike.
Some flavors, like the French pear and the peach mojito, are only available seasonally because Scott prefers to use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Pop Craft also uses spring water as opposed to tap in all of its frozen treats.
Until the Pop Craft store opens, frozen treat aficionados can enjoy the pops sold at Tequila Cantina and at the Downtown Farmers Market, where Tortorice operates the cart every Saturday near the large red food truck on Lemon Avenue.
“I love being out there every Saturday and I can’t wait until we get the store open,” she said. “There’s nothing like making people smile with a popsicle. It’s just a happy business.”