A few years ago, Neesa Peterson decided to leave her career in the fashion industry to start her own business and bring New Orleans-style snow balls to the Big Apple. Since then, Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls has been giving New Yorkers a frosty taste of the South, as well as one more reason to look forward to summer. Our countdown has already begun, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for Neesa! Check out our interview with the queen of the New York sno-ball scene to find out what she has been up to this winter and how she really feels about Nectar Cream.
There are many people out there who have never had a sno-ball and only know about snow cones. Can you tell us what makes a sno-ball different from a snow cone?
A sno-ball is different because it is much lighter and fluffier than a snow cone. The consistency is real snow as opposed to the crunchy shards of ice in a snow cone. The syrups on a sno-ball are tastier and much more palpable than your average snow cone syrup. Sno-balls don’t come in a cone, they come in a cup or a Chinese take-out container.
I know that the name of your shop is a nod to the previous tenants, Birdbath Bakery, but what made you choose the Imperial Woodpecker, specifically, to be your namesake?
The Imperial Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species. It is thought to be extinct. When babysitting for this little boy, he had a picture of one in his room and told me all about it. I found the name to be very interesting and thought it would almost be a tongue-twister, so I chose it. Try saying Imperial Woodpecker Sno-balls 5 times fast without messing up!
At Imperial Woodpecker Sno-balls, you make your own syrups and offer dozens of flavors to choose from. How do you come up with your flavors and decide what to feature on your menu?
The last two summers I have run a traditional New Orleans-style sno-ball shop. All of the flavoring extracts come from Louisiana, and I make my own simple syrup, which is then combined with the flavoring to give it the perfect taste! Choosing my flavors is the most fun part of my job! I try to choose them based on what people will like the most, while also choosing flavors that are synonymous with New Orleans desserts such as Bananas Foster and Nectar Cream. I really love introducing new food to people. There is such a lack of New Orleans food in New York City, so it makes my job fun and challenging all at the same time!
Many of your patrons choose to combine syrup flavors for their sno-balls. What is the craziest flavor combo request that you have had in the shop?
One of my adorable customers, Izzy, combines Spearmint and Cotton Candy. She swears by it and gets it every time she comes!
I’ve read that Nectar Cream is one of the first flavors you had as a child and one of your favorites. Can you describe the flavor, and what memories does it conjure up for you?
Nectar Cream is the most fluffy, creamy, nostalgic, sweet, happy flavor I have ever tasted! The combination of almond and vanilla extracts, and the pink icy flavor, was all I wanted to exist on when I was a kid…and even now! When I eat one, I am reminded of why I started a sno-ball shop. I am reminded of why I spent hours in line at a sno-ball shop growing up. I just love it.
You wrap up your second sno-ball season at the end of summer. When does sno-ball season 3 begin?
I am spending this winter in New Orleans! I am on a fact-finding adventure, trying to learn by soaking and eating up as much of the food and culture I can. Hopefully we will be open by May! Follow us on Twitter to find out where our next location will be!
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