Can shaved ice be cute or cuddly? Fluffy Snow hopes so.
The two-week old shop, which opened on Noriega, has all the hallmarks of a fro-yo shop: pastel walls, the smell of warm vanilla (the source: a pan of egg white tarts), skewered fish balls, a logo with a baby seal on it. It's also the second shop
in San Francisco to serve xue hua bing
, or Taiwanese-style "snowflake ice."
Place your order, and the counterwoman will lift a giant cylinder of flavored ice -- milk, green tea, mango, lychee, peanut, strawberry -- onto a rotary blade. When the blade starts whirling, thin, delicate ribbons of ice fall into a cup, resembling tissue-paper carnations.
Any number of fruits and crunchy bits can go on top, or you can pick one of the shop's combinations. Which is how SFoodie ended up with the mango -- mango ice faintly tasting of fruit, plus tart, fresh mangos, a little mango syrup, and cubes of jiggly, mild egg custard.
The texture of the ice was as satiny as it was grainy, as if we were lifting off the top layer of last night's snowfall, before it has time to melt and refreeze. Even more appealing: Snowflake ice is far less sweet than the syrup-doused shaved ice that comes in a paper cone, which requires a 100-degree day and being under 12 years of age to properly enjoy.