Summer in Baton Rouge: The Snowball Effect
by Jay D. Ducote
Along with the humid wave of blistering heat that hits Baton Rouge every summer comes a cure for the summertime weather. Though they are known by different names from place to place, one thing for sure is that Baton Rouge is a snowball city! Call it a “snowball” or use the “sno-ball” spelling. Even say it is “New Orleans style shaved ice” if you must, just please don’t call it a snow cone! As the Shultzilla (www.shultzilla.com) t-shirt so clearly points out, “Sno don’t come in no cone!”
No matter where you get them, true snowballs have several things in common. First, a snowball is only as good as its ice. The shaved ice should be powder-like in consistency and void of any large chunks that might accidently hurt a tooth. Second, true snowballs are served in Styrofoam cups, piled high over the top, and come with both a spoon and a straw for optimal consumption. The fluffy snow becomes saturated with any flavor or flavor combination of choice, and a good snowball stand will have plenty from which to choose. Flavors start with your staple fruits like strawberries, mimic popular adult beverages such as pina colada, and even try to capture the tastes of memories like bubble gum and wedding cake. Most flavors also add an imagery of bright colors that are guaranteed to turn your tongue any color in the rainbow.
I recently had a chance to visit a couple of Baton Rouge snowball stands to check out their facilities and see what’s in store for 2010. BB’s Icebox Snoballs on Congress Avenue at Perkins Road was my first destination for sweet frozen treats. Owners Drew Pearson and Gaines Garrett purchased the snoball stand earlier in the year and are excited about their first summer of operation. The stand has been in existence for a while, and despite the change of ownership, BB’s Icebox still has plenty of loyal customers that stop by for their snoball fix.
Drew said that the ownership opportunity came up through a friend of a friend, and after some financial evaluations, he and Garrett decided not to let the chance pass by. Both owners are graduates of LSU and have regular jobs, so for now the ownership of BB’s Icebox is a side job. Still, Drew said that they viewed this as a great way to get their feet wet in business ownership. Wanting to try one of BB’s standards, I asked Drew for a large wedding cake snoball with condensed milk!
The ice machine hummed in the background as the ice was shaved and turned into fluffy snow. The ice then got packed into a cup, liberally flavored with wedding cake goodness, crowned with more snow and additional flavoring, then topped with the sweetness of condensed milk. After Drew handed me the snoball I tried to continue the interview with condensed milk and wedding cake syrup running down my hand, but that just wasn’t happening. I figured the next best thing I could do would be to just enjoy the snoball. To their credit, it was truly delicious. My taste buds had never before experienced a wedding cake snoball, but they were happy that they did then. The condensed milk added an extra layer of flavor to the wedding cake and partnered to create an excellent marriage of flavors (haha, get the pun?).
BB’s Icebox also offers a “stuffed” snoball for the adventurous eaters. The stuffed snoball contains soft serve ice cream, mixes in snoball flavors, then tops that with shaved ice and more flavoring. BB’s serves vanilla and chocolate soft serve and Drew claims that it is some of the best in town. After having a taste of the chocolate, I think I might have to agree! BB’s Icebox is open seven days a week from 12-8 PM.
BB's Icebox Snoballs and the Ninja Snowball Truck
My next snowball proved difficult to find. That wasn’t because their location is off the map, but rather because they are a ninja! Ninja Snowballs is incorporating a new business model to Baton Rouge: the food truck! They started operation during the summer of 2009 when the idea hatched from brainstorming about how successful a snowball stand would be right off of LSU’s campus. After inspiration from the success of food truck models in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, owner Jared Loftus decided to give it a try in Baton Rouge. The ideas merged into a mobile snowball stand that uses social media like Facebook (facebook.com/ninjasnowballs) and Twitter (twitter.com/ninjasnowballs) to tell customers where to find the truck. As for the name, Jared said that Ninja just made sense because the truck would be moving around and tricky to find compared to stationary snowball stands. “Not to mention,” he added, “everybody likes ninjas.”
After beginning operation in June of 2009 with a black Ninja Snowballs trailer, the company quickly saw the drawbacks of the trailer model and decided to buy purchase a large truck before the 2010 snowball season. I caught up with the Ninja Snowballs truck outside of Stella Boutique at the Perkins Road Overpass. Ninja now moves around town in what used to be a large postal service truck that they completely renovated for snowballs on wheels. Complete with custom plumbing, the truck is now painted bright red and easily spotted with social media logos on the side.
Like BB’s Icebox, Ninja’s most popular flavors are wedding cake and strawberry. While those flavors are staples that no snowball stand can afford not to have, Ninja also has a couple unique flavors that keep people coming back. They make a chocolate cream flavor and they also get a coffee concentrate flavor from Highland Coffees. Jared noted that a lot of people like to mix the two together for an iced-chocolate-coffee snowball! Ninja Snowballs is working on adding some organic and natural flavors to their product line in addition to the sugar-free flavors that they have now. All sugar-based Ninja snowball flavors are actually made by Ninja with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
My brother, Eric Ducote, and Aimee Schultz from Shultzilla joined me for a sampling of Ninja Snowballs. Ninja Emily served me a large mango snowball for my tasting pleasure. Ninja prides themselves on their very fine ice that the spoon should slide through like a hot knife through butter. After just a couple bites I could tell that they are serious about their ice because there were no chunks to be found in my snowball. The mango flavor highlighted the lush snow and added a great tropical summer feeling to the frozen concoction. I could no longer tell how hot it was outside as I cooled down with the delicious Ninja snowball.
Baton Rouge has quite a few snowball offerings other than BB’s Icebox Snoballs and Ninja Snowballs. When the summer heat hits you hard and you need to be refreshed, seek out the stand closest to you and enjoy a snowball. After all, it really isn’t summer in Baton Rouge without one!
Jay D. Ducote is the author of the blog Bite and Booze, which chronicles his culinary and indulgent cultural adventures around Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, and the world. It can be found at www.biteandbooze.com. You can also reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @biteandbooze.
Thanks to Eric Ducote of BRBeerScene.com for taking all the pictures for this article. Also thanks to Hunter Brown for the design of the title graphic.