Give yourself chills


POSTED: Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, and not because of winter cold, but because it still feels like a summer sauna in December.

Those dreaming of a white Christmas at least have the edible kind of snow in the form of shave ice. It's the one dessert that goes hand in hand with the non-changing of the seasons, and the one plus during the holidays is that of all the confections you'll be nibbling on — if you're willing to skip the add-ons of condensed milk, ice cream and sweet beans — it probably will have the least fat.

Here are two stops worth checking out, whose names are not the oft-mentioned Matsumoto's, Aoki's, Waiola or Ice Garden.



Ala Moana Center 944-2004

This cart on the third floor of Ala Moana Center built its reputation on fine teas, iced drinks and desserts, and owner Lynette Jee recently made the leap of adding guilt-free shave ice to the menu.

This is not the treat from small-kid time, but created with a grown-up palate in mind. The shave ice flavors start with teas, fruit nectars or coffee, with no added sugar. The sweetness comes from a small scoop of Italian gelato; gourmet toppings; or optional condensed milk.

To date, there are three shave ice offerings available, at $5.50 each, while Jee continues to experiment with flavors. Each one has its own charms, whether you like your shave ice fruity, coffee-flavored or could use the anti-oxidant benefits of matcha green tea.

I know, I know, “;healthy”; is an off-putting word when it comes to desserts, but the shave ice does have so much flavor without sugar that if you're watching your weight this time of year, I think you could get it without the scoop of sorbet and feel satisfied.

The flavors are:

» Pineapple Coconut Island: Flavored with 100 percent pure Dole unsweetened pineapple juice, water-based coconut flavoring, piña colada gelato and toasted coconut drizzled with Hawaiian honey and topped with a fresh pineapple slice.

» Thai Coffee: Rain Forest blend coffee is made toddy-style, for a low-acid, rich dark brew. The shave ice is also topped with a little condensed milk, Kona coffee gelato, chocolate-covered Kona coffee bean and a medley of berries drizzled with chocolate syrup.

» Green Tea Matcha Latte: Creamy latte is made with soy or regular milk and Pacific Tea Garden's fine matcha green tea powder, made from young Gyokuro tea leaves. The flavor is intensified by a scoop of green tea gelato and a dusting of matcha powder over a small bit of whipped cream.

Best part of all, Pacific Place Tea Garden offers tables that allow you to sit and relax over dessert, served in a bowl, without fear of the drips and spills that usually accompany shave ice.

If you want to learn more about Pacific Place Tea Garden and Chinese and Japanese teas, Jee will host a free class discussing tea varieties and proper brewing methods at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The class will feature free tastings and recipe handouts. Seating is limited so early arrival is recommended.

The tasting will include organic fair trade Jade Cloud from Hubei, China; Mao Feng grown near Huangshan Mountain; and Genmai Matcha from Kyoto.



330 N. School St. 371-8899

Shimazu's offers proof that shave ice is a weather-dependent phenomenon. Kelvin Shimazu opened his first shave ice business 10 years ago in Mililani, but it does get chilly in Central Oahu, so after a few years of slow business, he decided to focus on private parties while looking for a new location.

The climate in Mililani eventually started to heat up along with the rest of the island, but it was too late for area shave ice fans; he found a new home 3 1/2 years ago in sunny Liliha, where the former food broker doesn't limit himself to the typical syrups. Yes, he offers a vanilla, but there's nothing vanilla about the flavors he creates for his customers.

“;I don't want anybody to make it for me. I'm an extremely picky eater, and I just feel more comfortable being able to control my own destiny.”;

Here you'll find fluffy, powdery ice and more than 40 flavors. Choose a maximum of three flavors for treats small ($3) to extra-large ($8.50). A bowl ($4.50) is already plenty big, so I've seen it shared by three children and their mom. For 50 cents each, add vanilla ice cream, azuki beans, condensed milk or li hing powder. For 75 cents each, add mochi balls or creamy haupia.

Flavors range from old-fashioned favorites such as banana, coconut, strawberry, root beer and green river. It's the more exotic flavors that will attract foodies. These would include buttered popcorn, mojito, crème brûlée, peanut butter chocolate crème and red velvet, the latter close enough to cake flavor that it has pastry lovers running over from across the island.

“;The cupcake connoisseurs say it's only missing the frosting, so I'm changing the flavor again so it'll have just a hint of cream cheese flavor to get a complete taste, as if you're eating an actual cupcake.

“;I'm introducing it next week, but I'm not going to tell anyone when. I want it to be kind of a mystery so when they do get it, hopefully they'll be able to pick out the cream cheese flavor.”;

The flavor is all contained within one syrup because a separate topping, as done in bake shops, is not an option.

“;For us, speed is important,”; Shimazu said.

Almost anything is possible, flavor-wise, and customers often have their own ideas about what they would like on their shave ice.

“;I've had people ask for beef and chicken, but I think that would be a little too strange for other customers,”; said Shimazu, who said the most popular flavor, 10-to-1, is still strawberry.

He's loved shave ice since he was a boy and always dreamed of having his own shop, and is happy to oblige the craving for an original favorite flavor.

“;I want senior citizens to come try the strawberry and, even if it's for five minutes, have that flavor take them back to when they were kids, and I want to be able to create those memories for today's kids.”;

Although Shimazu is progressive in creating new flavors, he's a traditionalist in other aspects of the shave ice business, which he considers the ultimate in local comfort fare.

He insists on having his phone number unlisted in the phone book, because he wanted to create a place for local people instead of aiming to be in every tourist guide.

“;I think it's working. We're still a best-kept secret in Liliha. All our business has been by word of mouth. It's a challenge, but if people like you, I think they want to talk about you.”;

Best of all, for the accident-prone, he says, “;We'll replace any accident because for children, as well as adults, dropping shave ice is very traumatic.”;

His policy stems from experience, he said, recalling he was 5 or 6 when it happened to him, and the shop he was visiting didn't replace it.

“;I had to go without, and I wasn't too happy about that. It was so embarrassing, so I know what it feels like when you drop it, whether you're a kid or senior citizen.”;

Open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays.


Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).