I was first introduced to the simple pleasure that is shave ice during our visit to Kaua'i last winter about two hours after landing. I'd read so much about it that I decided I would attempt to have shave ice every single day of our visit, from as many different places as I could. We ended up having it every day, but sometimes returning to the same places because they were close to where we were hanging out at the time.
By the end of the trip, we were having discussions about what characteristics made one shave ice spot better than another. That, my friends, is success from dedication to a cause. Not to mention a damn good way to spend a vacation with your husband and kids.
I've found a few shave ice spots in the Bay Area and let's be clear: they are serving glorified snow cones. Don't even bother.
But let's get to the good stuff, shall we?
First, to me, a good shave ice is one that is not packed too tight. The ice is fluffy, not crunchy, and simply melts when it hits your tongue. The syrups should be strong and sweet, without a powdery or medicinal flavor. Also, I recommend getting shave ice with Macadamia Nut ice cream underneath (if you're not allergic to nuts, of course). It turns a good shave ice into an amazing shave ice and makes up for the bad syrup you sometimes are used in certain shacks.
Brenneck's Beachside Deli: On Day One of our trip, we had dinner at Brennecke's Beach Broiler at Poipu Beach and the restaurant has a little snack shack at street level.The ice slightly packed into the cup. The syrup flavors are extensive and they are solid in taste but light in color. Go across the street, find a seat at the picnic tables, and have your shave ice while taking in the most beautiful sunsets ever. You may even spot a whale in the winter. Flavors tried: Pineapple, coconut, strawberry, grape.
Shave Ice Paradise (Hanalei, Kaua'i). We went to Shave Ice Paradise after an afternoon of boogie boarding and playing on Black Pot Beach in Hanalei. (Absolutely stunning views and such a great beach for little kids.) The syrups were sweet and the ice was light and fluffy. Yum. Downside? Overpriced. Flavors tried: Pineapple, coconut, mango, watermelon.
Koloa Shave Ice. The little flower-esqe cone used at Koloa Shave Ice drove me nuts and made eating shave ice super messy for the kids. There was almost too much in the container. That said, the ice was super, supper fluffy (near perfection), easy to eat with a spoon and it melted fast enough for the kids to use a straw. The syrups could have used more punch. But the addition of sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top of the ice was crazy good. Flavors tried: Strawberry, mango, pineapple, coconut,
Jo Jo's Shave Ice (Waimea). How can it be that I have zero photos of the very best shave ice on the island? Here's how: We jumped out the SUV in the middle of a torrential afternoon rainstorm and ran to the shack (seriously…total dive). I didn't bring a single thing with me and just ran like the wind. We walked into Jo Jo's, all four of us soaked and cold. And yet, we each ordered shave ice with three toppings. Q., the hubs and I ordered our shave ice with Macadamia Nut ice cream underneath; Seven went for shave ice, straight up. Seven's shave ice was fluffy and light because they packed it right in front of him. The shave ice with ice cream was pulled from a freezer, preassembled to make service easier. The end-result was that our shave ice was packed too tight and it was difficult to get a bite from the bowl without really digging in and causing a bit of a mess. So we let it melt a bit and once the rain stopped and the weather warmed up, it was perfect. The big bonus is that the ice cream comes from Lapperts Hawaii, which can only be described as divine. Jo Jo's has the most extensive list of flavors of any of the places we visited. And the syrups were rich without making your teeth feel like they would fall out from too much sugar. Flavors tried: Grape, pineapple, mango, coconut, strawberry.
Ahhh. So fun to take that stroll down Kauai'i memory lane and look through all of my notes. I can't wait to be in Maui in a few months!