Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not Quite Shave Ice

The Banana Banshee and Blumenthal.

Ironic that the first post after I announce the G9 would be accompanied by another iPhone photo, isn't it?

On Thursday, I blew the tire on my GMC Sonoma and ended up changing it in the dark with Jackie coming out to check on me every few minutes. Too macho to accept her offers for help, I trudged along in the bleak darkness.

Yesterday, I took the damaged tire to the local Good Year dealer for a repair. While waiting, I decided to visit our old competitor: SnoAsis - the long-standing snowball stand on Padonia Road in Timonium for a taste of their Banana Banshee snowball.

To the uninitiated, snowballs, shaved ice and shave ice are all the same. Au contraire, mon ami. There is a big difference and it's all in the ice. True Hawaiian-style shave ice (no "d" in "shave") is extremely fine in texture. Like snow with no chunks or chips of ice in any form. The snowball (or New Orleans-style shaved ice) that they serve at SnoAsis is nice but there's still bits of ice pieces in the snowball. It's slightly crunchy. And there's nothing they can do about it.

The problem is in the actual machine used to shave the ice. The machine is designed to accommodate a 6" x 6" x 12" block of ice horizontally where a hand operated plate pushes the block against three fixed blades mounted on a disk spinning at nearly 1,000 rpm. The texture of the ice is determined strictly by the amount of pressure the operator places on the ice block. Push lightly and the texture is soft and fluffy, but production is slow. Press harder and the ice comes out like a blizzard, but it gets chippy and crunchy. You can guess the amount of pressure a typical operator places on the block during a rush.

To me, this variable in the machines' design is a major flaw. Too much possibility for inconsistency in ice texture. Too easy to press harder and make it crunchy. It's a great machine for the average snowball operator but not ideal for one truly fixated on quality and the pinnacle of fluffy ice texture. In other words: It's not the machine for me.

But in the heat of the moment, it's a decent enough alternative. Some shaved ice, a bit of evaporated milk and banana syrup and all is good. But sixteen ounces of the stuff is just too much. Too much to eat and in this heat, at least a fourth of it has melted, rendering it useless. Of course, placing the snowball in a paper cup that offers no insulation doesn't help either.

At least I've got the words of Heston Blumenthal to while the time away while waiting for my tire to be repaired.