The shakes

I am the only person I know who absolutely loves a pineapple milkshake. I seek them out wherever I can, from the humungous ones they serve at The Hop on Cantrell Road, to the petite-but-perfect specimen to be found at the Purple Cow. Done right — even done mostly wrong — there is just nothing that compares: sweet vanilla ice cream, swimming with juicy, tangy little bits of pineapple.

As much as I love pineapple shakes, I’ll be the first to admit that, compared to their much more user-friendly sisters — chocolate, vanilla and even the sassy redhead, strawberry — there’s just not much to recommend. That’s because, of all the delicacies in the frozen dessert kingdom, none is a bigger pain in the ass to eat than the pineapple shake.

I say “eat” instead of “drink” because the pineapple shake demands so much of the diner — much more than just the traditional tipping-up so you can get at the last little bit that remains in the corner of the cup. Unless you’re employing a straw the size of a chimney flue — or unless your shake has reached room temperature — the little bits of pineapple clog up the works roughly every 3.7 seconds of the drinking process. Imagine if the much more user-friendly vanilla shake was this hard to enjoy: You just got your shake, it has finally thawed to the point that it is no longer like trying to inhale a cat through a drainpipe, and you’re getting those first little dribbles of goodness on the tip of your tongue. And then, right in the middle of that first good, sweet mouthful, a gob of vanilla bean wedges hard in the straw, like that fat kid who got too close to the river of chocolate in the Willy Wonka movies. Not so tasty now, is it?

The pineapple milkshake: recommended by 6 out of 10 sadomasochists worldwide.

Once the inevitable clog happens, you can try and remedy the problem in a number of ways, none of them too graceful (and probably none too hygienic). First, you can try sucking on the straw until your lungs collapse. That works most of the time. When that doesn’t work, you can try jiggering the straw up and down, maybe shoving it against the bottom of the glass, in hopes of moving things along by brute force. That almost never works, but at least it gives you something to do while everyone else is enjoying their shake (too, when you eventually succeed in punching a hole in your Styrofoam cup, you can always eat yours from the bottom like they do in China).

Another option — recently learned from my kid, to whom I have obviously passed on my love of the pineapple shake and all of my class — might be called the backpressure method: blowing down the straw to unstick the little bits. While fairly effective, I disavow this solution. Why? Have you ever heard a bubble blown under half a foot of semi-liquid ice cream? None too appetizing, though it does discourage others from asking for a drink.

Finally — and this is assuming you’re without a handy spoon — there is the third option, not to be attempted on first dates, while driving, or by those with extensive facial hair. It’s a pure desperation move: simply discard the infuriating straw, whip off the lid and turn it up. While rewarding, there are a number of pitfalls for those seeking this option, the least of which is the dreaded “sploop.” Therein, when you hoist the cup, the remaining contents of the glass hang for a second, tantalizingly just out of reach, and then — like a mighty, very sticky avalanche — drop in a large wad onto your lips, nose, and (depending on how big the cup is) forehead.

Sad? Disgusting? Hard to get off your glasses? Sure, all those things come to mind, but isn’t your dignity a small price to pay for a large blob of melted ice cream and half a cup of crushed pineapple?

If saying yes is a crime, then let me be guilty.

The Hop: 7706 Cantrell Road, open 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.; closed Sun.

The Purple Cow: 8026 Cantrell Road and 11605 Chenal Parkway, opens daily at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. Sunday on Chenal). Cantrell closes at 9 p.m., Chenal location at 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Fri. and Sat.

— By David Koon

Make mine a mojito

When it starts to get hot, you could do worse than follow the lead of the Cubans. And their favorite cold drink is the mojito (pronounced mo-HEE-toh).

Think of it as a mint julep, but with rum instead of bourbon. It’s cool, refreshing and packs a nice punch of alcohol.

The mojito has been a trendy drink lately, so you can find it at quite a few places around Little Rock. One of the best is made by Clay Caldwell at Ciao Baci, which has a wrap-around porch that goes well with a cold drink.

Caldwell said he learned how to make his mojito while visiting the Ivy at the Shore in Santa Monica, where they use tonic instead of soda water.

He starts by muddling eight mint leaves, three limes and a few cubes of ice at the bottom of a cocktail shaker. To that he adds an eight-count of Bacardi rum, two ounces of simple syrup and a splash of tonic. Then he stirs it up and pours it into a tall, thin glass.

It looks and tastes like summer.

Ciao Baci: 605 Beechwood, 603-0238. Open Mon-Sat. from 5 p.m. until late.

— Warwick Sabin

The real thing — cherry Coke

For most of my adult life, I’ve been on the constant search for a great cherry Coke, a real cherry Coke –- one with sugary cherry syrup and the chopped up cherries mixed in. When the Coke’s all gone, there are still pieces of cherry and crushed ice to savor until the final drop is consumed.

In my hometown, Pine Bluff, the place for years to find that perfect cherry Coke was at Derwood’s Dairy Bar, a tiny drive-in hut on (where else?) Cherry Street. When gas was 30 cents a gallon, or even when it was topping 85 cents a generation ago, teens dragged Cherry Street every chance they got and Derwood’s was the northern turn-around for cruisers. Like a scene out of “American Graffiti,” dragging Cherry Street in Pine Bluff is but a memory today. Derwood’s is too, and its perfect cherry Coke.

We found the perfect drink again, though, at Kream Kastle Drive Inn, about halfway between Little Rock and Hot Springs on Hwy. 70, near Lonsdale, where a constant cluster of cars and trucks in the parking lot attest to its popularity. Their freshly made concoction of Coke and mashed cherries costs only $1.39 and they’ll even add a shot of vanilla syrup to enhance the experience. In a day when just about every soft drink company has marched out a canned “cherry drink,” even diet versions, it’s nice to know you can still find the real thing at Kream Kastle.

Kream Kastle: Hwy. 70, six miles west of Interstate 30, is open daily until 8 p.m. Sun. through Thu. and until 9 p.m. Fri. and Sat. during the summer months. It has a fine cherry limeade, too.

—Jim Harris

A good mugging

We say it doesn’t get any better than THIS: a numbingly cold, hefty glass mug, filled to the brim with chilly lager beer. Unless you add a slice of hot pizza and a balmy breeze in the shade of a big catalpa tree.

That’s the formula at Pizza Cafe, one of the biggest sellers of Anheuser-Busch kegs in town since opening in Riverdale 15 years ago. You can now get four beers on tap — Michelob, Bud Light, Boulevard Pale Ale and Michelob Amber Bock.

“We keep it as cold as we can stand it without freezing it,” says manager Bill Margrave. “It’s about 36 degrees. Maybe 38 if the box gets opened a lot.” But the real secret is in the heavy glass mugs, kept frozen in an old standup freezer. “Those mugs help keep the temperature down,” Margrave said. “It’s blasphemy to use plastic.” They get a lot of heavy use. The cafe runs through eight to 10 cases of mugs every summer.

The mugs hold 14 ounces. The price is $2.75; $3.25 for the ale and bock.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the perils of a really hot day. “We try to keep our mugs frozen, but some days we run out because everybody DOES love a cold beer,” Margrave said.

Pizza Cafe: 1517 Rebsamen Park Road, 664-6133. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

— Max Brantley

Take me out to the ballgame

How’s this for Happy Hour on a sunny summer afternoon: You pull into the parking lot of the Junior Deputy ballpark on Cantrell Road on your way home from work, just in time for the first games of the evening. There’s beer and hot wings across the way at Cajun’s, but nachos and an Icee — well, here they call it a Swirl — await at the Junior Deputy concession stand. Back when I played first base, Coke was my flavor of choice, with a long spoon-straw to go with it, but this particular afternoon that’s not an option. The game’s still the same, though: over on Bill and Skeeter Dickey Field, a gangly pitcher named Mac pursues out 3 while a kid half his size tries to steal third. Cherry Limeade will do just fine, thanks.

Junior Deputy field: 2500 Cantrell Road.

— Jennifer Barnett Reed



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