Andy, The King of Pops

27 Sep

Organic! Naturally made! Frozen over! Jalapeños on a stick!

The rainbow colored umbrella and chalkboard (note: chalk=seasonal) menu are the best signs of what to expect from the frozen forays of Andy McCarthy, the King of Pops. Representing the Southern chain, McCarthy is the grand master of gourmet Popsicles in the Charleston area.

Originally, the King was an Atlantan food and beverage guy by day. He fiddled in bartending, traveling, and networking, never considering the frozen future all the while. When the economy stalled and froze, his roommate Steve Carse from AIG lost his job.

What to do when opportunity sludges along? Make your own.

Image created by Justin Brewer

The beleaguered roommates actually cooked up a plan to start their own Popsicle business, in one of those “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if” ways. Fellow roommate Nick LaSieve left his law firm to follow along. With McCarthy’s prior food quests and LaSieve’s business knowledge, the team had all the powers to enterprise. Ever since, they have conquered the South with their brand of gourmet popsicles with a domain from Folly Beach to Asheville.

“There’s all these people around looking for something like this,” McCarthy said.

Rolling with a zap on the corner of Calhoun and St. Philip streets, skirting the back of the Charleston Farmers Market, combing the beach at Folly: the King of Pops cools down and confuses taste buds wherever he decides to prop up his “Handmade Pops” sign.

He’s got a daily route of the peninsula with classic stops and pops, but his umbrella covers enough weirdo wacko concoctions to make you question what a Popsicle is.

“You grew up and ate them as a kid,” McCarthy said, “It’s good with the twenty-year olds because you remember.”

A pop fit for a king isn’t a plastic bag full of high fructose corn syrup and mystery elixir. It’s not a tri-colored Rocket pop. It’s not even one of those push-up sorbet snacks. A “home-grown” pop from the King has the honesty of local peaches but the whimsical appearance of a children’s story. The flavors’ inspiration, taking off from Central American paletas, makes for a neon-colored treat charged with equally outrageous flavors.

The mojito has the zing of mint sprigs and the pucker of lime juice; the blackberry ginger lemonade has the zest of a summer drink, the bite of real ginger, and the color of the Hulk’s underwear. Orange basil sounds like a rancid ravioli sauce, but with real basil leaves and citrus juice the potion has been a hit.

“Part of it is getting the combination. It’s trial and error,” McCarthy said.

And the flavors don’t end there.

Some of the King’s flavors like chocolate sea salt have become signature “secret weapons” he never erases. Like any mad scientist, though, he’s had his share of laboratory duds (he cringes at carrot ginger and beer trials).

Extremities aside, the King’s only complaint came from a young girl who wasn’t hot about hibiscus habañero.

“She didn’t believe it was spicy,” McCarthy said, who resorts to goggles and gloves when pairing the incendiary with mangoes and margaritas.

McCarthy’s ambitions are bent on opening a kitchen along with Johnny Battles, founder of SweeTeeth chocolate. Both are about tweaking and tricking the “sweet” taste bud, and they could be dangerous together.

Until that time, find his wow-inspiring and icy-fiery pops on the corner or in a cart. Ask him to moonwalk on Tuesdays, and the King won’t be cooling down.

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3 Responses to “Andy, The King of Pops”

  1. Lily Clare September 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    So much fun! You make me miss Charleston. I would love to try one of those orange basil pops. You know we’re currently going through a “heat wave” in Edinburgh, which is mid-seventies. I need an ice pop to cool down in these unreasonably high temps. 🙂 Miss you, last call.

    • trwerner October 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      I think he’s getting to be a permanent part of the Farmers Market, so even if your exile is far too long, he’ll still be here.
      And a heatwave? What does that entail? American heat waves remind me of Do the Right Thing.
      Miss you, mother hen.

    • Christine October 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

      Orange Basil is my favorite ones!!! I have been loving King of Pops so much this summer, that Sean got me a popsicle making kit for my birthday! Yum yum!

      While you’re having your heat wave, its actually finally gotten cold in Atlanta. Yesterday I wore a coat.

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