While many towns have events and attractions that are open only in summer, New Orleans is focused more on a hot weather sweet treat to eat rather than on an amusement park ride. Go figure.
We formerly had a great amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach, which really hit its stride during the school’s-out months. Ain’t dere no mo’. It ain’t been dere for a long time. For a while we even had a Six Flags outpost, but that busted big, and so that too, ain’t dere no more.
Not limited to summer but it was particularly apropos at that time of year, we also had a fun restaurant in the French Quarter, Anything Goes, that offered all sorts of different dining settings. Guests sat in a teepee, a locomotive engine, a jail cell, and even a Budweiser can. The salad bar was an antique sports car and the wait staff dressed in costume. Sitting in a teepee and being served by a Jewish-looking Indian was disconcerting but not that much out of the ordinary considering the neighborhood and this town’s penchant for costumes.
To make matters even more weird, the restaurant, operated by the Brennan family, was in the same place occupied by the Playboy Club just a few years earlier. Going from fish-net stockings and high heels to a Puritan Princess was not such a stretch for us.
To me, Anything Goes was a summertime place because we were focused on keeping the young ones entertained. The rest of the year there were school activities and homework, but summer required dedication to filling idle hours. “You’d better be good or we will not be going out to eat” is probably the ultimate New Orleans threat.
The one constant in summertime in New Orleans is still snoballs. No other city is so freaky over these icy treats. No other city has so many plywood “buildings” dedicated to serving an eager public with almost raw sugar. To do this culinary treat right, New Orleans invented the machine that puts the ice into the cup just right. It’s not Italian Ice, nor Hawaiian Ice, and most certainly not traveling side-show ice. In New Orleans, it’s Hansen’s.
Ernest and Mary Hansen created a machine fashioned from a hunk of iron in 1939 that shaved an ice block to a proper consistency. Enough texture to allow the end-user to crunch away for tactile enjoyment, but not so fine that the cup of ice would too-quickly melt away in our semi-tropical heat and humidity. Genius.
The second part of the equation were the syrups. Flavorings of heavenly taste long before Jelly Belly candies even thought about what pineapple really tasted like away from the pine. The talent on the consumer’s part came from the combinations, many of which were enjoyed only by the creator. Try as someone might to convince family and friends standing on line, the idea of raspberry and spearmint only appealed to one.
The addition of cream and half-and-half to the sweet syrups was strictly acquired taste.
And this being New Orleans, many dads and moms carried bottles of adult beverages in their pocket or in their car to be added to the adult’s straight snoball order, and then acting like no one knew what the hell they were doing. The real mystery was who did not know what they were doing.
So why did it take so long for a fine restaurant to pick up on what customers wanted? Why did we not have snoballs with alcohol before now? The answer is blowin’ in the wind, but the important fact is, we do have such a thing now.
Brennan’s on Royal Street has just introduced their Boozy Snoballs. The syrups are made at Brennan’s and the ice is the classic texture the Hansen’s themselves caused to happen. The snoballs are so good, you will be tempted to leave the kids at home.
Right now, the flavors are Ginger Mint Julep, Blackberry Tea, Chocolate, Watermelon Tequila, and soon to come, of course, Bananas Foster. More flavors are being developed all the time. This all goes side-by-side with Brennan’s fantastic Champagne program, 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every Friday. Deeply discounted bottles of fine Champagne abound, great bargains all. Bit of Champagne on your snoball? Why not?
Going along with the summer snoball season, the talented folks over at Loa in the International House Hotel have focused on granita, which is an Italian version of the snoball, and they are offering these special treats during regular hours.
Thankfully and finally, someone has owned up to the fact that New Orleanians never really outgrow their love of snoballs. Only our tastes change to include something distilled.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/