I think I found the one. The official food of summer 2011.
Forget ice cream. Forget gelato. I’ve discovered sno-balls and there’s no looking back. I’m hooked.
While walking down a shadeless 6th avenue in the West Village, feeling my skin literally sizzling under the relentless mid-afternoon sun, I saw it: Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls.
What the heck? Woodpecker balls? Wait, no, sno-balls? Wait, huh?
Intrigued, shiny faced, and sweaty, I stepped into the tiny, crowded shop. A sign on the wall listed dozens of flavors: birthday cake, watermelon, buttercream, root beer, banana, dreamsicle and even mojito among others. Underneath it, two shelves were lined with bottles of syrup in a rainbow variety.
Sno-balls! I get it! Like snow cones, but in better flavors!
Because I found out these were a New Orleans style treat, I stuck with the theme and tried the Mardi Gras King’s Cake flavor… with condensed milk topping. (I’m a pretty firm believer that if condensed milk is ever an option, the answer should definitely be YES.) What I got was a Chinese take-out style container packed high with shaved ice and generously doused in a violet-colored syrup flavored like the traditional cake served in New Orleans around Mardi Gras (sometimes topped with green, gold or purple icing, hence the color here). Drizzled over the purple mound of snow were thick drizzles of sticky, sweet condensed milk.
In a word: awesome! In more words: delicious, creamy, soft like clean, freshly fallen snow, sweet but not in an overtly chemical or artificial way, refreshing and frosty cold. It was quirky and different, new and fun, and well, I loved it.
I want to try all the flavors, and with another two months of summer, I think I might just set out to do that. I’m making it the summer of sno-balls.