New Orleans, La. –
It's no surprise that New Orleanians form intense loyalties to their preferred snoballs. After all, some locals were practically weaned on them. For those who branch out to new turf, however, the diversity of stands and their flavors is enormous and grows from year to year.
As the south Louisiana summer heats up, and as snoball season reaches high gear, this segment continues a series from Where Y'Eat exploring why the humble snoball has such a lock on the frozen, syrup-stained palates of New Orleans people from every walk of life. Today, we go on a snoball safari of new and offbeat flavors mixing it up out there on the New Orleans streets.
One of the oddest flavors to come along has to be pickle. There are many stands serving this sour, puckering flavor now, but if you try it at Droopy's Snowballs in Harahan you can get an actual pickle stuck into the cup. Just down the street at Ro-Bear's Snowballs, there's a more traditional specialty in cream flavors, like Creole cream cheese. And Uptown, the backstreet classic Plum Street Snowballs has a version of king cake flavor that tastes so much like the Carnival season confection that you might just find yourself looking for a plastic baby at the bottom of the Chinese food take-out containers this stand famously uses for its snoballs.
From its River Road headquarters, the SnoWizard company makes flavors that supply snoball stands all over, and it is constantly adding new ones. They get a test run at the SnoWizard's own snoball shop Uptown on Magazine Street, which essentially functions as the company's test track. Try chai lattea, based on chai tea, or cherimoya, based on the South American fruit of the same name with a custardy, mellow berry taste.
A lot of stands have developed their own unique flavor combinations, and that's certainly the case at the Metairie Road landmark Sal's Snowballs. Here, regulars know that the "pink squirrel" is cream of nectar with almond and that the "sock it to me" is, naturally, a mix of bubble gum and ice cream flavors.
It can seem like time stands still inside Hansen's Sno-Bliz, that Tchoupitoulas Street temple to shaved ice. Yet intriguing new flavors have emerged here too, like anise, ginger and satsuma. Crushed pineapples or marshmallow fluff are among the age-old unique toppings here, while a simple dose of fresh apple juice over the "sno" makes a guilt-free alternative.
You can find a more evolved vision of that lighter ideal at Beaucoup Juice, which opened along the rapidly rejuvenating Freret Street commercial strip as a hybrid snoball stand and juice bar. Here, they use a traditional snoball machine to shave ice, but over that ice go custom blends of fresh fruit juices. Some of these are blended with agave nectar or sugar, but the end result is far less sweet than the typical snoball. Try the pineapple juice snoball made with mint harvested from the nearby Edible Schoolyard garden program at Green Charter School.
Now, New Orleans food traditions being what they are, some snoball fanatics will not budge from their favorites, and there's no knocking that. But when the temperature soars and the need for a dose of sno grows stronger, just know New Orleans has a deep roster of variety at your disposal.
4719 Freret St., New Orleans, 504-430-5508
6560 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, phone n.a.
4801 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, 504-891-9788
Plum Street Snowballs
1300 Burdette St., New Orleans, 504-866-7996
6869 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, 504-737-5013
1823 Metairie Rd., Metairie, 504-666-1823
SnoWizard SnoBall Shoppe
4001 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504-899-8758