Early August in Little Rock, and despite the relatively mild summer we've had so far, this past week has made me remember just what midsummer feels like. Oppressive heat and relentless humidity give way to streets that shimmer in the distance and car steering wheels that feel like gripping the reins of Apollo's chariot — and only after a few hours in the sun. All is not lost in these arid times, however, because a temple of frigidity exists in a small purple building in Hillcrest: Cajun Sno, the life-saving sno-cone vendor that makes me feel like a kid again every time I dig into one of their frosty treats.
Sure, there might not be much to a sno-cone — it's something so easy that they slap Snoopy on a hand-cranked ice shaver and sell it to kids. But a good one, like the ones at Cajun Sno, have something special. The ice is shaved fine, is never gritty, and the syrup is applied just heavily enough to flavor the ice but to not cause premature melting. Cajun Sno accomplishes this in spades — and for just a couple of bucks a cup.
Flavors are numerous at the sno-cone stand, from basics like cherry, root beer, and (my favorite) vanilla to more exotic fare like Cajun Sunset (a cinnamon-strawberry mix) and Tiger's Blood (preferred by Charlie Sheen fans everywhere). Additional flavors like coffee, peach, pina colada, and bubble gum make ordering a flavor pretty difficult given that they're all pretty tasty. Go for the old fashioned-style serving with a large dome of ice atop your cup — or do what we do, and order a much more manageable medium size in a large cup for on-the-go ice snacking. Either way, when the Arkansas summer comes with both barrels blazing, you've got a respite right there in Hillcrest.
Cajun Sno is located at 3000 Kavanaugh, and they're open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Mix, match, indulge — and most importantly, stay cool.
Summertime in Arkansas has always meant trips to the lake for me, and growing up in the Southwest corner of the state, the four-lake powerhouse of DeGray, Ouachita, Catherine, and Hamilton were always my favorites. And while I've probably been swimming and hiking at Ouachita, DeGray, and Catherine the most, I've probably been around Lake Hamilton the most, due solely to the fact that it's part of one of the best summertime towns in the state: Hot Springs. The Spa City straddles a fine line between historical town and kitschy tourist trap, and between the junk stores, dive bars, and natural wonders, a body is bound to get hot and tired when the summer sun gets high in the sky. At this point, your best bet isn't taking a flying leap into the lake, it's getting yourself into the air conditioned interior of Hot Springs' very own artisanal ice cream and ice pop shop: Nom Noms Mexican Grill n' Chill. Nom Noms is stocked with over 50 different flavors of handmade ice cream, and their Nom Bar ice lollies are among the best around. And while we in Little Rock are no strangers to great frozen treats, the unique styles and flavors at Nom Noms makes it worth a trip down to Hot Springs for their cool refreshments alone.
Now for folks like myself, a regular ice cream bar won't do — I need something with a little bit of kick to it. If you're like me, then make your way for one of the restaurant's fruit and chili combinations for a flavor that's a shocking and delicious study in contrast. Based on the flavor of chamoy, a group of sour, sweet, spicy pickled fruit sauces popular in Mexico, these ice bars are electrifying with their assertive flavor and bold texture. I've had these spicy chili concoctions with mango alone, or with mango and pineapple, and the result has been the same every time: a striking paradox of spice and cold, sweet and salty, smooth and chunky. These hot ice bars aren't the only time where Nom Noms will play with sweet and spicy — ice cream flavors like strawberry-jalapeno again push the limits of ice cream into some crazy and compelling places.
"But Michael," you may be saying, "eating ice cream flavored with hot peppers just doesn't sound like fun to me." Well, you're absolutely crazy (because it's awesome) but Nom Noms has your back. From flavors like carrot cake to cookie dough, the inventive spirit that motivates the place makes for some pretty tasty flavors well within most folks' comfort zones. If, however, you'd like to go a little crazy without ingesting an ice pop that burns your mouth, a great way to do so is the Fruity Pebbles Nom Bar, a cream-based ice lolly that tastes like every college student's favorite dream of making their favorite bowl of cereal into a mobile, hand-held sugar delivery system. Fred Flintstone's signature cereal is encased in a flavorful vanilla base, and while the result is far too sweet for me, my wife thought it was one of the best things she'd ever eaten.
No matter which way you go with Nom Noms, the fresh ingredients and quality workmanship is sure to deliver you a tasty treat. And while the ice creams are excellent and worth eating a pile of, it's those Nom Bars that keep me coming back time and time again. I keep seeing flavors every time I'm there (like Nutella Brownie) that have me planning my next trip to the frozen delicacy joint before I've even taken my first bite. And if you're more of a "dessert only after a meal" type person, the grill side of Nom Noms stands ready to get some great hot food inside of you before you dive into their various frozen delights.
Nom Noms Mexican Grill n' Chill is located at 3371 Central Avenue in Hot Springs. It's a locally owned place, proving once again that folks in Arkansas have got skills. My three favorite frozen treat places in the world are all local Arkansas joints, and Nom Noms joins Loblolly Creamery and Le Pops as tops for the cold stuff in Arkansas.
Well dear friends, look no further than Le Pops. Maybe you’ve seen Le Pops’ products popping up at various venues, farmers markets, and food truck events around town—maybe you’ve had the pleasure of sampling them in their headquarters in the River Market’s Ottenheimer Hall. They like to refer to their products at “ice lollies,” which is completely adorable, but rest assured they are simply genuine all-American popsicles.
When Laurie and Charles Harrison first sampled homemade ice pops in Florida in 2010, they were determined to bring a high quality product to Little Rock…and really, when it comes to ice pops, Le Pops has got the market cornered. No one is doing ice pops at this level in these parts. Le Pops is committed to using local fruits and berries whenever possible—thankfully, in Arkansas they’re got a lot of great product to work with.
They’ve also got a fine selection of cream based pops that make for a smooth, soft ice pop that’s perfect on a hot day. I’m partial to the raspberry cream with tart, bright red raspberry chunks in a creamy, milky base. And for those wanting to keep things completely guilt free, their “Pure Sunshine” is a fantastic sugar-free blend of mango, orange, and banana—no added junk, just the natural flavor and sweetness of fruit.
When’s the best time to enjoy a Le Pop? Anytime really, but I particularly enjoy grabbing one at outdoor events. Last week I suffered through the incessant heat at the Bernice Garden’s SoMa food truck event. I sweated through the entire devouring of my Santa Lucia pie and followed this up with a bright, ice cold Le Pop lolly. I could practically feel the heat being sucked from my body—thank you, Le Pops, for saving the day. Additionally, to all you parents, we like to frequent the Peabody splash park with our young’uns when the heat gets to be unbearable. We find that a pop into their Rivermarket shop is a perfect way to follow up a few hours of sloshing around in the water fountains. No matter how you get your hands on them, get you some Le Pops this summer.
You can find Le Pops being sold at their home shop in the River Market at Market Hall, 400 President Clinton Avenue. They’re also sold at the Little Rock Athletic Club Corner Market, Pizza Cafe, Boulevard Bread, HAM, Argenta Market, All Aboard Restaurant, The Country Club of LR, The LR Racquet Club, and various mobile events around town. Check out their Facebook page for current locations and the day’s flavours.
There are about a billion things to love about Arkansas—really no need to start naming them here—but I’ll never be totally content with the summer heat. Sure, I’m a big baby, but it sucks the soul right out of me. But I’ve found that exceptional summertime treats are a guaranteed pick-me-up, the greatest way to pull yourself out of that heat funk you’re sure to be wallowing in within the next few months. Where does one go to successfully ride the heat wave? We’ll be sharing a few of our favorite eats and drinks throughout the hottest months of the year right here on “Beat the Heat.”
Kelli tells me she wanted her ice cream sandwiches to be something relatively unique to the Little Rock frozen treat scene. Maybe she doesn’t already realize that anyone willing to produce small batch, handmade ice cream, utilizing local ingredients is already going above the norm at this point. Sure, I did feel a bit like I was cheating on my beloved, Loblolly Creamery, who will always hold a special place in my heart, but with Kelli’s skill as a baker combined with her knack for inventive combinations, I felt like I couldn’t pass up an offer to sample her wares.
Sweet Love is committed to a constantly rotating list of flavors. When I visited, of course, I snagged every flavor available…for journalistic purposes, I assure you. It was a hot day and I was in dire need of something to dampen the heat, and these ice cream sandwiches barely lasted me ten minutes—needless to say, I enjoyed them,
Sweet Love is doing a fine job with their ice cream. It’s handmade, and has high quality, dense, creamy texture, free from excessively frozen crystals and not overly hardened by too much time in the freezer. But the magic really begins when it’s paired with their lovely cookie sandwiches. Upon my visit, I was completely won over by the Key lime with graham cookie crust. She makes small rounds of graham cookie, bakes them off, giving them a toasty flavor, leaving them light and crisp. The lime ice cream is subtly flavored, not pucker-inducing, but with just bit of zest to bring to mind pleasant thoughts of far away beaches, poolside frozen drinks, and Florida orchards. I’ve always been partial to Sweet Love’s brown butter cookies which incorporate butter that’s been cooked past its melting point until the milk solids in the butter brown and begin to give off a wonderful nutty aroma. Sweet Love paired these with a simple, fresh vanilla bean ice cream—the results were splendid. I would have eaten five in one sitting if my waistline would have allowed. Then came a seductive salted caramel and almond ice cream (always a fantastic flavor profile in my mind) and slathered that onto a crisp, buttery waffle cone sandwich—another successful sandwich, but they really had me won over at salted caramel. The occasional touch of salt, sweet caramel—I was very much pleased with my selection.
Sweet Love is constantly imagining up new combinations to keep their customers coming back for more. You can also pick up scoops of ice cream alone in pre-portioned quantities if you’d like to pass on the cookie all together (or if you’re watching your carbs for swimsuit season). Local, seasonal ingredients include those in such ice creams as their cinnamon peach with bourbon soaked pecans, or their creamy lemon and blueberry. Try passing that up.
There you have it. No excuse now to fester on your couches wishing it would cool down outside. Sweet Love has air conditioning and enough items in the freezer to keep you smiling ‘til October.
(Sweet Love is located at 8210 Cantrell Road, Little Rock)
As Little Rock's biggest Loblolly Creamery fan-boy (bordering on obsessive), I could barely contain myself when they announced that today (December 21) only, all pints of their wonderful ice cream will be on sale for $3 at the Green Corner Store on South Main. This stuff is so good that I think it's a bargain at the normal $6 price, but if you haven't had a chance to try this homemade-style ice cream you should head down and take advantage of the sweet, sweet sale. And for all of you who know how good Loblolly is, make sure you stock up — the creamery is shutting down for three weeks in January for some research and development time.
I spoke with Frozen Goodie Genius Rachel Boswell, and she says that they have double vanilla, chocolate sorbet, salted caramel, chocolate pistachio, chocolate pumpkin, persimmon sorbet, raspberry fromage, spicy thai, peppermint stick, rum vanilla, blueberry port and possibly more flavors available, and I personally guarantee that each of these is worth wrapping your lips around.
The $3 deal cannot be combined with any other coupons or specials, and supplies are limited, so it behooves you all to form a sugar-craving mob and descend with force and fury on the soda fountain to get your fix. The Green Corner Store is located at 1423 Main Street, and the Loblolly crew will be scooping pints from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. (or until the pint containers run out). Ice cream not your thing? Well, I'm sorry for you, but you can still get a fresh-made phosphate, egg cream, or do some last minute holiday shopping from all the local products available. And if the world doesn't end today, you'll be ready for the best New Year's resolution possible: eating more ice cream.
It was Halloween, and despite the unseasonably warm afternoon, a strange chill came over us as we walked from our car to the shadowy depths of the Bernice Garden. Strange shapes began to emerge from the darkening streets — tiny witches, zombies and Power Rangers came forth with high-pitched cries of hunger, begging for tricks and treats and mouthfuls of candy. The chill deepened. Perhaps it was something supernatural, a force from beyond the grave coming to exact revenge on those of us who still drew breath — or perhaps it was the Peanut Butter Buttermilk ice cream cone from Loblolly Creamery that filled my mouth with a sweet, tangy richness that that made me shiver with delight. For Halloween in SoMa was a festive affair, with crowds of trick-or-treating families heading down to the Bernice Garden to sample some local food truck favorites before heading out to score their sugary loot.
We had originally intended to grab the appropriately-named Mortadella Monster sandwich from The Food Truck, but the long line of pixies, lion cubs, and one light saber-wielding Darth Vader made us re-think our plans. We contemplated a cheese steak from Philly's, but we finally decided to try Wishbone's, a gourmet hot dog truck that we hadn't seen before, despite its having been open for nearly a year. Fortified by grilled meat, we mingled with the crowd of horrors and hilarities and made our way to the Green Corner Store, where the mustachioed soda jerk was offering tastes of blood-colored hot chocolate, goblin green ice cream, and the delightful caramel apples pictured to the right. It was a great scene full of people out enjoying the weather, stuffing their faces with junk food, and generally just being neighborly. We read every year that the traditional Halloween ritual of going door to door has fallen victim to the fears with obsess and possess our increasingly more isolated society, but that's certainly not the case on South Main. In SoMa, any reason is a good one for getting together with folks in the neighborhood, with Halloween just an opportunity to dress up like a crazy on top of the general feeling of community.
More pictures after the jump.
By now, I'm sure you're all aware of the wonderful cold treats available from Loblolly Creamery at South Main's Green Corner Store, but ice cream isn't the only summertime refreshment they have available. Loblolly's newest treat is as tasty as it is good for you: house-made kombucha, a naturally carbonated tea-based drink with a crisp and tangy taste that's worlds apart from the mass-produced kombucha drinks sold at places like Whole Foods.
At first glance, the process by which kombucha is made might seem a little strange: lightly sweetened green or black tea is infused with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (or "scoby"). The scoby feeds on the sugar in the tea, forming a large layer on top of the tea reminiscent in shape of a pancake. As the bacteria and yeast feed, they produce a variety of acids which give the kombucha what Rachel Boswell and Sally Mengel of Loblolly call "a satisfying tang." Once the kombucha has reached a reached a state of balanced flavor between sweet and sour, it is filtered and bottled. Just before sealing, Rachel and Sally add a bit of flavor to the drink: honey, agave nectar, or one of the several homemade syrups the use in the Green Corner Store soda fountain. This added sweetener allows the kombucha to bottle-condition and develop natural carbonation. Each bottle is labeled with the date it was bottled and served cold from the cooler.
Having sampled both an agave-flavored green kombucha and a citrus-flavored black, I can say that Loblolly's drinks taste like nothing else around. The green kombucha is light and crisp, with a flavor that starts tart and ends sweet. The black has a deeper flavor which reminded me of a home-mixed cola. Both made me want to come back and try more. The drinks are available in two sizes, 7 oz. for $1.50 and 12 oz. for $3.00. Both prices include a $0.50 refundable deposit, and the folks at the Green Corner Store will even make a magnet for you out of the Loblolly logo bottle caps. Loblolly is also accepting donations of empty Corona bottles, Mexican coke bottles or any other clear glass bottles that do not have twist tops - and they'll give you a free scoop of ice cream for every six-pack you bring in. And with the hot weather right around the corner, do you really need any more reasons to stop by?
Oh, yeah. I also tend to like frilly coffee drinks. Mind you, I don’t drink them daily. They are a treat, and if I have one in a week’s time that’s usually it.
So finding a place that does both well was rather exciting. To tell you the truth, I pretty much guessed I’d like Gellattes from the moment I first heard of it. But until I went, I couldn’t be sure.
just a link back to last year for your convenience — on the makings of snow ice cream.
This is the most insane and hilarious way an old thread has popped back up…
Goof - send me your email to email@example.com
Daniel - better than Cordell's? If so I'd love the recipe.
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