Nola Ice brings New Orleans to Sherman Oaks

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sydneyember90BY SYDNEY EMBER

The wedding cake has a delicate hint of vanilla sugar and butter frosting. The sweet kiss of the first taste suggests bouquets of baby’s breath, taffeta veils and scattered roses, and when sipped through a neon straw, blends subtly on crystals of melting ice.

The Sno-ball

The Sno-ball

In New Orleans, they are called sno-balls, shaved ice packed into a cup and drenched with colorful syrups. And Nola Ice brings these icy desserts and the Big Easy right to Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.

Nola Ice is that little neighborhood shop that would go unnoticed between a Japanese restaurant and a coffee café if it didn’t sport a pink striped umbrella outside its quaintly decorated door. Its tiled counter evokes soda-fountain candy shops. Artfully iced cupcakes frame a jewel-colored array of syrups layered in sparkling ruby and cobalt.

Owners Jillian Defrehm and Erin Earls with Vi

Nola Ice owners (left and center) Jillian Defrehn and Erin Earls with Se La Vi Sweets' Vi Trinkh (right).

“It’s like a New Orleans tradition,” said Erin Earls, a Big Easy native who opened the shop with her business partner, Jillian DeFrehn in  June 2008. “It kind of kicks off the sunny time of year.”

Created in the 1920s, Sno-balls became one of New Orleans’ most popular ways to cool off in the sticky summer months.  They have become a familiar sight at fairs and outdoor events, though Earls says these treats, unlike the ones served at her shop, are more similar to Hawaiian shaved ice.


Se' La Vi Sweets inside Nola Ice offers these chocolate covered cheesecake bites in an assortment of flavors and colors, which can be customized.

“The difference is New Orleans is a food town. The flavors of the sno-ball are as unique,” she said. “It differs in that it’s not a tropical fruit thing.”

The sno-balls come in a small cup for three dollars or large cup for four dollars. Customers can mix flavors that range from lemon, peach and black cherry to margarita, praline, ice cream and red velvet cake.  But the most popular flavors, Earls said, are probably wedding cake and spearmint.

Behind the counter are endless lists of syrups, with sections labeled ‘From the French Market,’ ‘From the Bar,’ ‘From the Bakery’ and ‘From the French Quarter.’


An array of unique syrups can make a sno-ball taste like your favorite decadent dessert.

Coconut, pineapple and burnt sugar mingled subtly in the pina colada, and the peach was a reasonable imitation of golden nectar.  The lemon and orange are on the sweet side, rather than tangy.  The most impressive and unique syrups came from the bakery section.  Red velvet cake was a liquefied version of buttercream frosting and rich chocolate, made airily light and satisfyingly crimson in the slivers of ice. Strawberry shortcake was a nuance of candied strawberries and whipped cream, and the wedding cake tasted surprisingly like a vanilla confection.

It was harder to pinpoint the flavors in a syrup called nectar, what Earls said was one of the more traditional New Orleans syrups.

“The nectar flavor tastes close to cream soda,” she said as the vanilla and cream notes emerged through the frozen slivers.


A little slice of the Big Easy on Ventura Boulevard.

The idea for Nola Ice, named for the city and state that invented the sno-ball, first came about in the winter of 2007.  Earls and DeFrehn were both publicists at Paramount Studios and had wanted to start a business together.  They toyed with different ideas including a day camp for dogs until Earls proposed the shaved ice shop. After six months of ice events, they opened their desert emporium in the heart of Sherman Oaks.

As the San Fernando Valley continues to explode with frozen yogurt shops and other desert options, Nola Ice seems to fit into a unique niche. The icy treats are dairy-free and low-calorie, providing the satisfying chill of sugar without the guilt. And Earls said she doesn’t know of any other places in Los Angeles that are serving the traditional New Orleans deserts.


Cupcakes and babycakes are also available for a sweet bite at Nola Ice.

An extra treat offered at Nola Ice is Se’ La Vi Sweets made by pastry chef Vi Trinkh, who with partner, Physent Walker, has carved out a space at store for her delectable desserts.   Se’La Vi offers a scrumptious collection of cupcakes, brownie bites and an assortment of chocolate covered cheesecake bites, which can all be color coordinated for any theme or event.

With temperatures skyrocketing into triple digits and gray smog collecting in the valley’s belly, a frozen sphere of rainbow ice, and some special sweets, is a welcome respite from the heat and the haze.

Nola Ice 13569 Ventura Blvd Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

(818) 817-9373  11am-7pm daily

Sydney Ember is a student at Brown University, where she is a senior staff writer for The Brown Daily Herald. She is studying cognitive neuroscience and maybe literary arts or philosophy. She is a graduate of Harvard-Westlake in Studio City.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.