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Posted at 12:21 PM ET, 05/18/2009

An Early Taste of Bayou Bakery

By The Food Section

A day before Bayou Bakery snoballs hit the streets at Sunday's 22nd annual Taste of Arlington, chef David Guas put on a small preview party at his damgoodsweet HQ in McLean. You may recall that the chef and the Liberty Tavern guys are trying to open their New Orleans-inspired venture by late June. The retooling of the old Murky Coffee space in Clarendon is challenging their start date, but I can tell you that the hand pies and pralines are ready to roll, with a coffee program nearing its final stage.

First, the snoballs: The chef, a Nola native, grew up enjoying the ones at Plum Street Snoballs, where flavored syrup is poured over softly shaved ice and served in Chinese takeout containers. He's ordered a few favorite syrups and is making his own as well. He even bought the real McCoy of tabletop shaved ice machines: a Southern Snow, manufactured in Belle Chasse, La. It's wonderfully mechanical, with a toggle switch and whirring blades.

Capt. Snoball, a.k.a. chef David Guas, at damgoodsweet HQ. (Simone Rathle)

So, his strawberry syrup will be made from fresh Virginia berries, and it's not overly sweet. Snoball aficionados will be able to order theirs drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, in addition to their syrup of choice. Paired with orange, it evokes Creamsicles straight from the neighborhood ice cream truck. Customers lacking a serious sweet tooth will be sated instead by Bayou Bakery's lineup of sandwiches and house-made pickles.

Next, the hand pies: They're four-bite fried turnovers, another favorite of the chef's childhood. He has developed fillings of apples (Granny Smith-Golden Delicious) with a touch of nutmeg, and barely cooked cherries kissed with orange essence. His dough stands up to deep-frying yet remains tender.

And those pe-cahn praw-leens: The chef had a saucepan already hot on the stove. He could tell when the mixture was ready just by the look of its bubbles. He deftly poured a quick eight or 10 of them on a piece of parchment paper, then made a chocolate batch by adding some 60-percent Valrhona to the pan. They're best eaten the same day they're made -- and I consider it practically goofy to even mention that, because the pralines are so addictive I can't imagine they'd see the light of a new day.

Stephen Fedorschak of Liberty Tavern was on hand at HQ to let us sample the potential coffee of choice at Bayou Bakery. The partners are deciding on a winner this afternoon. Counter Culture, Pronto, Southern Skies and Community Coffee were in the running.

Sunday's snoball sales at the Taste of Arlington got off to a slow start, says chef David (maybe it was the weather?). But then he was shoveling shaved ice as fast as he could. Customers who knew from New Orleans treats ("I went to LSU!" "I'm from Baton Rouge!") were all about the customized add-on of sweetened condensed milk. Pretty soon, word got out down the lines, and then about half the folks were ordering "half and halfs" the way they do at po'boy shops (actually, "thirds" -- a mix of Wedding Cake and Strawberry flavors with the condensed milk on top).

-- Bonnie Benwick

By The Food Section  | May 18, 2009; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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