You’re As Cold As Ice

by Nancy Bestor

IMG_3710You might think that shave ice and snow cones are the same thing. You’d be wrong though. Very wrong. Yes, they are both sweet treats. Yes, they are both made of ice. And yes, they are both drizzled with flavored syrup. But any Hawaiian will tell you that a snow cone is definitely not the same thing as shave ice. And having sampled both several times, I absolutely agree.

Amazingly, we didn’t know about shave ice on our first trip to Hawaii, in 2001. Eight days on Maui wasted. But on subsequent visits to the islands, friends and customers encouraged us to try this Hawaiian delicacy. And boy, are we glad we did. Shave ice is just what it sounds like—ice, shaved by a special machine into a fluffy, fine, and powdery consistency that is then enhanced by a wide assortment of sweet flavored syrups that are drizzled on top. If you’re really living large, you can get it served over a scoop of ice cream, and/or have sweetened condensed milk poured over the top (a snow cap). There are lots of shave ice stands throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the most popular spots often have significant lines at shave ice rush hour.

Shave ice actually traces its history to Japan, where in the very early days (1185 A.D.) ice was a delicacy. It was hauled down from the mountains in the winter and stored in caves. Since ice was rare, shave ice was quite the luxury and thus was reserved for royalty. When Japanese plantation workers immigrated to Hawaii, they brought this traditional dessert with them.


I’m not a huge fan of the snow cone. Inevitably, it gets crunchy, and the flavored syrup is always gone long before the “snow,” leaving you with a pile of tasteless ice. Not so with shave ice. The super-fine shavings allow it to maintain its fresh, powdery-snow consistency, and also allow the delicious syrup flavorings to deeply penetrate and seemingly become a part of the ice.

We’ve tried shave ice at many different spots in Hawaii, and our favorite (and the favorite of Yelp and Trip Advisor reviewers as well) is Ululani’s. With several locations on Maui, Ululani’s shave ice is delicious, the service is great, and the flavor choices are plenty. Jo Jo’s on Kauai is also a top spot and highly rated by The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook.

And just so we’re clear, it is “shave ice.” It is not “shaved ice.” I don’t know why, but if you don’t want to sound like a tourist, please leave off the D.


I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink

241655_3022by Nancy Bestor

Twenty-five years ago I did some traveling for my job with the California banking industry. My expense account was generous, and the hotels were high end. My co-worker, who had been traveling with the company much longer than me, said when she was on the road she would often order room service and hide out in her room, to avoid company dinners whenever possible. She also clued me in to using a hotel room’s mini bar if I didn’t want to see anyone in the hall or down in the restaurant when getting a soda or drink. This made perfect sense to me, because I was 24 years old, and didn’t really want to spend my evenings with bankers 50 years my senior, after I had already spent the entire day in meetings with them. I got used to getting a coke from the mini bar when I returned to my room, and ordering a hamburger and french fries from room service, then sitting on my bed to watch a pay-per-view movie and eat my dinner. I didn’t pay much attention to the prices, because I just signed over the bill to my company (and I wasn’t ordering Chateaubriand either).

Fast forward 25 years. Bob and I are paying the hotel bills now, and I realize that room service and mini bar prices are damn expensive! No way am I paying $4 for a can of coke, or (I kid you not here) $5 for a 12-ounce bottle of water. I can walk down the hall, or better yet, send Bob to the vending machine, and pay $1.50 for a coke (yes, still a rip off, but better than $4). water bottlesI can even LEAVE THE HOTEL, and walk to a convenience store to buy a soft drink. And room service, really? The food is mediocre, arrives lukewarm at best, and it is WAY overpriced.

Here are a few random but interesting minibar facts: the top selling minibar snack is Pringles; M&M’s make up for 7% of minibar revenue; and the number one minibar item is bottled water, followed by Diet Coke. (Maybe Jeopardy will have a hotel minibar category sometime soon. If so, you’re welcome.)

Many hotels have done away with the minibar altogether, as apparently I’m not the only one who thinks the prices are not worth it. I’m always frosted (get it, frosted?) when some hotels won’t even let me put my own food/drink into the refrigerator to keep it cold. Since minibar products are sometimes on sensors, even if you move a drink to make room for your leftovers, you’ll be charged. Rude.

minibarWho even uses the minibar these days anyway? Are there still companies like mine from 25 years ago who will pay most every hotel bill and not bother to suggest their employee go down to the lobby or restaurant for a soda or hamburger? Give me an empty hotel fridge any day. I’ll fill it with cheaper and better food and drink.