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The doughnuts, it's been established, are out in force. But the snow cones and popsicles aren't far behind.

Melissa Yen, creator of Jo Snow Syrups, will be setting up shop at several farmers markets starting in June with her Japanese hand-cranked ice shaver (below) and syrups inspired by the markets.

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She'll sell snow cones ($3) -- think blackberry lavender -- and a Taiwanese dessert called bao bing, shaved ice topped with her syrups, sweet red beans and condensed milk.

If you've never partaken in the colorful, delicious tradition of Asian shaved ice desserts, you're in for a treat; it's been too long since I've had halo-halo, the Filipino version loaded with jackfruit, young coconut and other fruits. Yen's bao bing will range from $5 to $6, depending on the ingredients.

Yen will be at the Lincoln Square market on Thursdays, the Forest Park market on Fridays and Logan Square on Sundays. She also will sell her syrups at the Andersonville market every third Wednesday.

Also at the Andersonville and Lincoln Square markets, and giving helado vendors a run for their money, will be Salted Caramel's Ginna Haravon, who will be offering chocolate mole pudding pops and Thai mango yogurt pops, as well as inspired ice cups (watermelon coriander, lemon-rasberry-goat cheese). Haravon, who built her company around a bag of bacon bourbon caramel corn, also will sell at the Park Ridge and Jefferson Park markets.

Her pops and ices will sell for between $3.50 and $4.

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story and photo by guest blogger Lisa Shames

The way chef Evan Percoco of Cibo Matto sees it, dining in a restaurant is all about bringing people together. So he's always on the lookout for ways to keep the conversation flowing.

That goes for the Loop restaurant's post-dessert/check-accompanying freebie, too. No boring mints or chocolate bon-bons here. Rather, the new chef -- he replaced Todd Stein, now at the Florentine, a few months back -- taps into a childhood favorite to keep his guests smiling.

To wit: cotton candy.

"When we put it down on the table, people automatically start talking about old times," says Percoco, with the conversation becoming about memories, rather than, say, business.

Don't expect your typical cotton candy though. Percoco, who's been doing this for years at other restaurants, gets creative with the carnival staple, churning out flavors like cinnamon, vanilla, pineapple and lemon. "As long as you can spray it on the sugar, it can work," says Percoco. Be on the lookout for a Manhattan- and maybe a licorice-flavored one soon.

It's not just the guests who are having all the fun with the sticky-in-a-good-way treat. Since it has to be made fresh for each table, the entire staff lends a hand in manning the bright-pink sugar-spinning machine. And while the process takes less than a minute, that doesn't mean you can't get imaginative with it.

"It's funny that everyone has their own style in making it," says Percoco, who admits he prefers it fluffy and piled high in the bowl while one of the servers is known for his "Q-tip" shape. "It gets pretty competitive during service to see who can create the best."

Cibo Matto, 201 N. State, (312) 239-9500.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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