Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday: Shaved Ice Day

Today marked the end of the first full work week in November. The sky was a brilliant blue, and with the temperature at a pleasant 80 degrees, I decided to have a little fun. I’ve been hearing so many good things about a place selling shaved ice in Round Rock, Texas, that my curiosity got the better of me. On a spur of the moment, I got into the car and drove the relatively short distance to the icy destination in Round Rock.

I’ve enjoyed my share of snow cones and shaved ice over the years, including the shaved ice in Hawaii. It’s always nice to get one I guess, but they all seem to be about the same to me. Snow cones are crunchier than the shaved ice, but other than that, the biggest single factor between a good and a somewhat less than good icy treat is just how much flavored syrup is added. In my estimation, more syrup means a better product. Snow cones and shaved ice are, well, just that. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way or make a special trip for either one of them. It is just ice and syrup after all, isn’t it?

The place everyone is talking about is called Kawaii’s, which advertises having “Hawaii’s Finest Shaved Ice.” That’s quite a claim, given the fact that its location is in Texas, not Hawaii. Despite hearing about long lines, I had no wait today, most likely given the fact that it was in the middle of the afternoon on a work day. And, while there was no line in front of me, a steady stream of people did come and go as I was eating my ice.

The list of flavors posted on the sign by the walk up window was unbelievably long, which explains another sign on the window telling people to “open the window” when they are ready to order. I can imagine that the sign was put there out of necessity, wanting to prevent the needless waste of cool air conditioning as someone, racked by indecision, reads and then reads again the available flavors and sizes.

I’m not one to be indecisive, and I think that was quite noticeable to the very nice and friendly employee inside, because before I even had a chance to slide the window open, she slid it open for me. The cool breeze blowing from the air conditioner had barely begun rolling out of the building when I quickly said, “small bubblegum flavor, please.” I couldn’t believe how big the “smallest” size was. And unlike those tourist destinations which charge ridiculous prices for what is essentially, ice and little flavor, the price here was very reasonable. But, the best was yet to come.

After watching my cold snack being carefully shaped, and a large amount of blue syrup being poured in, I sat on the outside patio to eat, what I thought, was just going to be one more shaved ice at one more venue. The minute I put the first spoonful in my mouth, however, I immediately realized why this place was so popular. Expecting to taste merely a mouthful of flavored ice, what I tasted instead was something more akin to ice cream. It was smooth and almost had a creamy quality to it. There was no doubt at that point, that I knew my curiosity had been rewarded. This shaved ice was delicious, and definitely different from any other one I’ve ever had. Using the same basic ingredients of ice and syrup that every vendor does, there is an incomparable result.

As I drove away with my tongue stained blue, I was already thinking about coming back. This is one shaved ice location, I thought, which justifies a special trip. It is now hours later, and I still can’t believe how good it was. Tomorrow is Saturday. Maybe I’ll find the time for another road trip.

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