A weekend almost 7 years ago, I took JP, our 12-year-old son to Perkins Rowe to join Nick and his buddies for a birthday party at the movies. After disembarking from our car in the parking garage and waiting with JP for the birthday entourage in the front of the Perkins Rowe movie theaters, I happened to notice a trailer pulled by a truck parked in the front area that advertised for “Snowballs” as us ‘Yats affectionately referred to what most folks know as shaved ice!
Since it was almost 100 degrees outside at this 1 PM time, I decided to take a further look at what this snowball delight might entail. As a connoisseur of those sweet coolants, as most of us N’Awlin folks are known to be, I couldn’t help but try to compare what this outlet offered to some of the fond places we recalled from our earlier days living in the “Crescent City.”
While I often get “brain freezes” from these delightful summer drinks, the addiction to their great tastes is beyond behavioral modification. A few years ago, my wife did help for me to discover a quick remedy to those brief but painful mini-migraines: quickly breathe in a strong aroma. The first time I tried it with one of the roses we had, it was like a miracle feeling the beginning of the sharp pain vanish, so I wouldn’t have to push my hands firmly against my forehead and moan aloud – which my wife couldn’t stand and claimed I over dramatized!
The mobile snowballs stand in front of the movie theater looked just like the one I used to see a few years ago parked in front of the LSU Lakes Beach area on Dalrymple where I would do my hump day runs after work. What a great cool down it was to get one of those simple snowballs. But when it appeared that a brain freeze was ensuing, I would quickly grab a clover or even the inside of my shirt spewing with “BO” to ward off those treacherous head attacks.
Many of us ‘Yats fondly recall the renowned Uptown snowball stands that we frequented as a kid. Living on Broadway and not far from St. Charles Avenue, we would at least weekly make a bike trek or car ride to “Plum Street Snowballs,” or “Willaims” as it was affectionately known. Most of the times as you were approaching the snowball stand, there would be a long line to just to get into an out of the sun step up area for you to make your order.
The same could be said for Hansen’s Snowballs, located on that famous street name you always test tourists to spell: Tchoupitoulas near Napoleon. This is close to another New Orleans landmark by the Mississippi River, Tipitina’s, where great groups like the Neville Brothers got their start. Not only would you have to wait an inordinate amount of time for the delightful treats at Hansen’s but you could also do some politicking, as one of the Hansen sons was an elected official.
The matriarch Hansen was also a sweet and social lady who lived one of the N’Awlins credos to the tee as you might hear the following while anxiously waiting in line for an ice cream filled Sno-Bliz snowball, as to what you had to ask as a test for a prospective person wanting to marry into your family: "Who's Your Mama? Are You Catholic? And Can You Make A Roux?"
So what was my favorite snowball flavor that I was contemplating while sweating in the heat in front of Perkins Rowe Theater? Nectar and Almond Cream! My friend, Scott, another native ‘Yat and childhood friend turned me on to that as a kid. I used to just get the regular Spearmint and Strawberry like flavors till Scott got me a little more adventurous with exotic flavors. As noted earlier, while I would get those brain freezes, it was too hard to resist the scrumptious flavors.
Both Plum Street/Williams and Hansen’s seem to have figured out two of the most important secrets to making a wonderful snowball: the ice texture and cream mixture. We’ve been to many other decent snowball stands in New Orleans and Baton Rouge but none ever match our favorites in New Orleans. Their secret ice cutting machines produce a unique snowball that is so delightful to the taste buds. While most snowball stands will pour condensed milk or evaporated cream onto a snowball to make it a higher priced “cream flavored” snowball, both Plum Street/Williams and Hansen’s have figured a way to pre-mix their flavors that are out of this world!
So as I approached the “Cool Tiger Ice” mobile snowball stand in front of Perkins Rowe while waiting with JP for Nick’s birthday party group, I considered actually ordering one for my wife, since she’d been recently nagging me about having not gotten her a snowball recently. One of my wife’s favorite snowball flavors is Chocolate Cream, so I ordered it per Debbie, the proprietor. In chatting with her about my favorite snowball spots from New Orleans, Debbie reported that she had actually learned some of secrets of the trade from Plum Street/Williams and Hansen’s, so I was very patiently awaiting a chance to take a taste of her product.
Debbie, upon hearing about my love of Nectar and Almond Cream made me a little sample to try. As I tasted it, I was sent back in time to actually a soda stand like they used to have at K & B Drug stores when I would order “Nectar Soda!” It was fabulous! And my wife’s concoction tasted very yummy – like an old fashioned “Fudgesicle” pop! My wife was lucky to get the half of the snowball I took home for her!
So be sure to “beat the heat” as much as you can this summer. I’m blessed to have a pool to cool off – even if the water is close to 90 degrees at times in this sweltering heat. But also keep a look out for “Cool Tiger Ice” for some delicious snowballs!