Saturday, June 10, 2017

Roundabout View

I’ve been gearing up for this pairing for a few weeks, and like others which have made their way around these pages, this one puts a new spin on things once again.  This time we will reach for the golden ring as we sit astride a painted pony.  The fairground carousel has an interesting origin story, having derived from training exercises of Turkish and Arabian horsemen in the twelfth century.  In the middle ages jousters would ride in circles practicing while tossing balls to one another.  This skill training tradition evolved into entertainment with cavalry riders spearing tiny rings on tall poles for the crowd.  At the end of the eighteenth century amusement park carousels emerged and a menagerie of wild animals was soon added to the pretty horses.

Carousel Box by Kelly Snache

From the creative mind of Canadian puzzle box maker Kelly Snache comes the Carousel Box.  Kel produced this as an homage to another fine box full of gears, the Stickman No. 3 Puzzle Box by his friend Robert Yarger.  Like any good reference, the similarity is superficial and Kel has placed his own brand of puzzling on this work.  He set out to create a brightly colored spectacle with fully rotating gears which interacted together and recall an old time carousel – and he succeeded!  Kel is known for his clever retrofits of old wooden boxes, in which he places hidden locking mechanisms crafted from fine woods.  He built the carousel box entirely from scratch with Walnut, Bloodwood, Curly Maple, Rosewood, Pau Ammarello, Purpleheart, Wenge, Oak, Cedar, and Lacewood.  The detail is exquisite and the hand carved gears are a sight to behold.  They function as described, interacting and spinning with full rotations.  

Bold bright bands of color adorn this festive work

The boxes are striking with bold striped wood across the tops and a contrasting band of color along the sides, and the gears are brilliantly striped as well.  Inside this puzzle is a marvelous mechanism which is equally as beautiful as the outer gears.  There are actually four locks which need to be manipulated in order to access the inner compartment, which is quite large.  Two of these are controlled in a rather magical way, using two distinct methods that Kel has cleverly engineered.  All of this is hidden from site (sadly!) and knowing this is not helpful in the least, but it is so ingenious that I wanted to mention it without giving more away.  A few of the boxes have an extra hidden move as well for one more layer of complexity.  Inside, Kel has lined the box with old theater and carnival tickets to continue the carousel theme, a rather nice added touch.  Opening this box will make you feel like you have indeed grabbed the golden ring, after going round and round and round!


If you don’t feel dizzy enough already, you will soon enough.  We head to storied New Orleans next, to the Hotel Monteleone where we will toast the “Old Square” in the historic French Quarter.  Inside the Monteleone we find the famous “Carousel Bar”, which is literally a rotating carousel.  Each of the twenty five seats at the bar make a complete revolution once every fifteen minutes.  While that may sound lovely and charming, try it while actually having a drink or two … The bar is also famous for being the birthplace of one of New Orleans’ most iconic cocktails, the Vieux Carre (Old Square).

Vieux Carre by Walter Bergeron c 1938

Local lore has it that in 1938, head bartender Walter Bergeron created the drink as a tribute to the multicultural flavor of his city.  He added Cognac and Benedictine for the French, Rye whiskey for the Americans, sweet vermouth for the Italians, and spiced Angostura bitters for the Caribbeans.  Of course there’s a drop of Peychaud’s bitters too, to set it uniquely in the French Quarter.  The Vieux Carre is a boozy delight and has stood the test of time as a true classic.  Next time you are in New Orleans, stop at the Carousel Bar to have one – and hold on tight as you toast this tradition.

Full of the flavors of New Orleans

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
-                                   - Joni Mitchell

Treat yourself to a carousel ride

Vieux Carre c. 1938

3/4 oz. rye whiskey
3/4 oz. Cognac
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 barspoon Bénédictine
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Lemon peel garnish is traditional.

For prior puzzle boxes by Kel Snache see:


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed the box! I don't really collect them but I couldn't resist the gorgeous wood and the solving experience was fabulous!


  2. Don't worry Kevin this is a carnival ride, not a box!

  3. Fantastic box and enticing cocktail, as per usual. But I think the lemon/lime peel carousel horse takes first honors in this post.

    1. Thanks Mike, that's very kind - cheers!