Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NOLA Summertime Treats: Snowballs!

Posted by Benson

I have been on the road for almost exactly a month, with back to back and contemporaneous trials in Chicago, New Jersey, ED TX, and Virginia.  It has been a long run, but I am finally back home.  And boy, is it HOT!

Having been in Chicago and Virginia for the past month, I actually started to forget how hot it is down here in New Orleans, and summer is in full swing.  Don't even ask what my yard looked like after four weeks of unchecked summertime growth!  

That's what it felt like

I stood in the middle of my yard last week, piping hot weed-eater hand, ankle deep in the wroth I had visited upon my lawn's temerity, wrapped in the viscous miasma of 90% humidity, hating the Louisiana summer.  As I stood there in my lawn, dehydrated, overheated, and jetlagged, I could not think of one thing that was good about summers in NOLA.  And then, when all was nearly lost, and I was on the verge of pulling up stakes right then and there, I remembered that is was snowball season!

That's what it felt like :)

Ahhh, snowballs!  No matter what summer throws at you, it always comes with snowballs!  Now don't get me wrong, there are many great things about NOLA in the summertime, but snowballs are simply the best part of it.  In fact, snowballs are so amazing that the mere thought of the icy confection being available all across the GNO immediately made all of my discomforts seem like a trifle inconvenience.

Now, you may be wondering what a snowball is.  First, a snowball is not a snowcone.  Snowballs and snowcones may have had a similar genesis back in the days of ice block distribution, but there is a crucial, world-defining difference between them.  Snowcones are made with chipped ice.  Snowballs are made with shaved ice.  

Ewwww...what is this cold, soulless monstrosity?

Hardly a difference you say?  Well, Baseball and Football both use balls, but you can't hit a homer off of a pigskin.  Chipped ice is hard, crunchy, watery, and utterly fails to soak up the flavor in which it is bathed.  Shaved ice, on the other hand, is soft, fluffy, melts in your mouth, and becomes infused, through and through, with its cheerfully colored and deliciously flavored syrup.  

That's more like it!  What a thing of beauty.

Snowballs hold their shape, but just barely, always threatening to collapse if roughly handled.  The ice sits on your tongue just long enough to cool you off before dissolving.  You may, if you like, enjoy a moment of satisfactory mastication, though in a properly constructed snowball this is merely a delightful option to explore.  A good snowball melts just quickly enough to allow a sip of flavorful nectar every now and again, giving the confection a thirst-quenching effect.

Every one a different flavor, and at the best stands, mixed fresh daily!
And of course, you can have your snowball in hundreds of different ways, with each stand providing a dizzying array of flavors, toppings, and fillers.  Would you like strawberry, strawberry cream, sugar free strawberry, topped with sweetened condense milk, stuffed with soft serve ice cream, topped with a cone?  The flavors range from the classics like strawberry, nectar and watermelon; the fanciful like bubblegum (pink or blue), cotton candy, and dreamsicle; the avaunt-garde such as cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, and mocha; and the unique creations of vendors from The Joker to Rocket "88".

Talk about a cultural institution.  Obama is in Mississippi, but you can see that posing with a snowball is about like kissing a baby or giving a speech at a munitions plant

Over the next few weeks I will be your guide through the world of snowballs in the Greater New Orleans area.  We will sample snowballs from the classic New Orleans stands like Plum Street and Pandora's and my personal favorite spots on the Northshore.  We will learn about the subtle art of crafting a quality snowball, and all about how something as deceptively simple as shaved ice and syrup has become a treasured cultural institution in New Orleans.

The only way to do it right.  Snowcone?  Please....

Friday, June 7, 2013

DGA Wine Club: PLR Legacy Blanc de Noirs NV

Posted by Matt

I will attempt to write an objective review of this sparkling wine, despite the fact that the circumstances in which I drank this were less than ideal.  I thought my wife was joking when she approached me on Saturday night and said “In honor of Edward and Bella’s wedding, we should open that bottle of bubbly.”  Sadly she was not kidding.  The PLR Legacy Blanc de Noirs is a fine sparkling wine that deserved much better than to be consumed during a viewing of any installment of the Twilight franchise.   Happily, the PLR Legacy helped eased the pain. 

The PLR Legacy is a limited-release exclusive from Parker-rated winemaker Reed Renaudin – and, it’s already racking up acclaim. Wine Spectator gave it a 90-point rating and called it “A bubbly that’s both festive and serious, with floral raspberry and citrus aromas and supple yet bone-dry flavors of lemon, almond and spicy vanilla.)   The PLR Legacy is a great value in sparkling wine.  Under a different label, it might fetch $50 or more a bottle, but this elegant blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier can be found closer to $30.

'Blanc de Noir' refers to the fact that PLR Legacy is crafted from dark-skinned ('black') grapes. But don't be alarmed, it has a brilliant golden color. After a gentle pressing, the skins (which contain the color pigments) were removed from the juice.

This sparkling wine has strong aromas of roasted nuts and almond biscotti combined with citrus aromas and hints of spice and Bing cherry.  The wine’s bright fruit and acidity give way to a delicate creamy finish in this elegant, complex sparkler.

The Winemaker

Reed was destined to make great sparkling wine: his great, great great grandfather, Paul Levieux Renaudin, was one of the founding owners of the Bollinger Champagne house.  Reed, who did extensive graduate research at highly regarded UC Davis wine program, is continuing the family's legacy in California. 

With Food

This is the perfect bottle to open when celebrating a special occasion. Its elegant mousse (bubbly foam), crisp green apple and citrus flavors along with a creamy texture make it a winning apĂ©ritif.  We enjoyed ours with a plate of soft cheeses and pistachios; the nuttiness of this sparkling wine was a fine accompaniment.  Fine sparkling wine can also be a delicious accompaniment to food. Great matches would be a ground nut-crusted halibut or herbed pork tenderloin.   Alternatively, the PLR would be an excellent match with grilled oysters or other shellfish.