It was a stifling, sultry day in Houma, Louisiana, when Dave (aka "Seprock") tasted his first snoball—a New Orleans–style frozen treat of soft shaved ice drenched in sweet syrup. Dazzled by its delicate texture and rich flavor, Dave became determined to bring the treat back to his hometown. With his wife's blessing, he eventually opened his own snoball shop in a cheerful plaza in Hunter's Creek.
Today, Seprock’s Snow is a kaleidoscope of color. Bright walls surround vibrantly decorated tables, and servers adorn icy snoballs with a rainbow of fruity syrups. Dave and his staff also stuff their treats full of creamy ice cream to add an extra dimension of goodness and help patrons sneak dairy past airport security. For colder days, they supplement their frozen treats and wash customers' tongues clean of their red, blue, and green color with steaming coffee, hot cocoa, and apple cider.
At Mikado Japanese Cuisine, art is not hung, but served horizontally. Expertly sliced fish nestles against lettuce leaves inside a miniature wooden boat, and sprigs of blooming flowers garnish snugly wrapped maki rolls. Clearly, the chefs behind the sushi bar put presentation on the same high pedestal as culinary finesse. Their emphasis on eye-catching edibles has helped to propel the restaurant's growth, transforming it from a single tiny sushi shop into three expanded establishments.
At each one, diners can peruse a menu of 31 specialty rolls, including the Hot Mama—a compilation of smoked salmon, avocado, crab, bay scallops, tempura crunch, and cinnamon-honey sauce. Fresh fish also arrives as nigiri, sashimi, and sushi, creating oceanic complements to grilled hibachi steaks at the Lake Mary location. Tempura shrimp and fried vegetables accompany toasty bowls of udon and soba soups, and appetizers range from skewered barbecue chicken to baby octopus, which only differs from adult octopus in that it never learned to count its tentacles.
One of the largest privately-owned specialty coffee and tea shops in the United States, Barnie's offers dozens of different gourmet coffees, each quality-controlled tested to ensure a premium cup of joe. Your caffeinated combo comes with a pound each of three palate-pleasing varieties sure to keep you alert during the season when homes are most vulnerable to invasion by diabolically generous bearded elves. The first bag contains Barnie's Jamaican Me Crazy blend, a sweet, vanilla-infused flavor that carries hints of caramel and tropical liquor ($14). Next is Kenya AA, a bold choice throughout the workday crunch, culled from mountain-top soil in east Africa ($17). You'll also get the 100% pure Hawaiian Kona, a rare and superior-quality coffee grown in rich, volcanic soil ($45). Packaged in a reusable wooden magazine crate ($7), each coffee pack comes with a stainless-steel scoop that's ideal for precise coffee measurements and also handy for impromptu chiclet fights ($7).
The name Hana Kimi originates from the Japanese phrase meaning "for you in full blossom,” which is fitting for founder Song Xiao's restaurant, as his primary goal is to dazzle taste buds with the freshest possible meal. He blends locally sourced and imported seafood with seasonal ingredients to highlight his sushi's shape, color, texture, and shoe size. But sushi and fresh-cut sashimi aren't his only specialties. Stir-fried noodles arrive to the table laden with shrimp and scallops, and tender steak and chicken sizzle on the kitchen's hibachi grill. Diners may also request a plump scoop of green-tea ice cream, or wash down dinner with one of Hana Kimi's signature sakes.
Ben & Jerry's came from humble beginnings—in 1978, its eponymous founders served ice cream out of a renovated Burlington gas station, and delivered pints of their now-classic flavors to grocery stores out of the back of Ben's VW Squareback wagon. Today, its myriad shops dispense cups, cones, shakes, and smoothies brimming with a variety of quirky flavors, including Phish Food and Cherry Garcia, named for famous revolutionary Cherry Garcia. The duo is also famous for their social responsibility, which is evident in their community activism and in their use of fair-trade products, such as cage-free eggs and sustainable, growth-hormone-free dairy.
Born in the Andalusia region of Spain, siblings Jose and Bernie grew up watching their mother prepare traditional Spanish dishes. Their fondness for her cooking lasted into adulthood, prompting them to leave their respective careers and open Paella House to re-create those flavors together. In the restaurant's kitchen, chefs infuse rice with saffron and mix in meats and seafood to create platters piled with enough paella for two people to share or build a fort with. The paella Negra blends scallops, shrimp, clams, and mussels with a black squid-ink sauce that gives the dish its signature hue, and the paella Valenciana harmoniously melds chicken, chorizo, and pork. The chefs also whip up tapas to share, such as aged serrano ham with manchego cheese, sausage, and olives and empanadas filled with spinach, as well as entrees such as the San Jacobo—a breaded sirloin steak stuffed with manchego and mozzarella cheeses and drizzled with a creamy blue-cheese sauce.