I didn’t know until recently that snow cones, snowballs, shaved ice and other flavored ice concoctions varied from place to place. I mean, some are better than others. Duh. But I didn’t know there actually is a difference between, say, a snow cone and a snowball.
In Baltimore, they are very proud of their snowballs. I tried one last year, just to see what all the fuss is about, and it seemed to be the same as any snow cone I have had in the past, albeit in a styrofoam cup (not a cone) and with some marshmallow cream on top (highly recommended).
In Hawaii, they have shave ice. The shave ice at our hotel was not terribly different than a snow cone or snowball, other than its presentation — a huge cone of ice in a plastic flower-like cup thingy. But the shave ice we got from a food truck on the North Shore of Oahu…
and the one my former co-worker Jeff bought us at the Prince Lot Hula Festival… (with a drizzle of sweetened-condensed milk on top. Yum!)
…were both fantastic. It seems that the key is to let the ice sort of fall into the cup and not pack it down too much. The ones we got at the hotel were sort of hard and packed, whereas these were light and fluffy.
According to a New York Times article from last year and a few quick searches, you can buy a shaved ice machine for less than $30 online. With the weather as hot as it is right now (it was 93 degrees in the gym today), it may not be a bad investment. I probably will just stick to sorbet and maybe try making granita. But if you do make your own, try not to pack down the ice. It really makes a difference.