Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat … shave ice is not a snow cone.
And yes, it’s shave ice, not shaved ice. That was the lesson being taught by Jason Giandalia, proprietor of Minnesnowii Shave Ice, one of the food sensations at festivals throughout the state including the upcoming Minnesota State Fair.
Shave ice is a traditional dessert of Hawaii. It was there where Giandalia, 32, was introduced the icy treat.
“I spent a lot of time in Hawaii and on one trip I was hanging with a buddy of mine and he was saying let’s go get this shave ice thing,” said Giandalia. “I was like I didn’t spend eight hours on a plane just for a snow cone.”
Giandalia relented and spent an additional two hours in line for the “snow cone” but clearly it was worth the wait.
“You can truly say it was love at first bite. I was blown away,” said Giandalia.
As the owner of Minnesnowii explained, shave ice differs from mainland snow cones in the way the ice is prepared. Shave ice starts with a large block of ice that is finely shaved with a razor blade.
“The ice is so finely shaved and so soft that the flavors of the juice absorb into every piece of snow,” said Giandalia. “It’s just light and fluffy and full of flavor.”
Twenty-four flavors to be exact. Minnesnowii offers the traditional cherry, grape, lime, watermelon, etc., but it also offers the exotic in the form of mango, dragon fruit, tiger blood (strawberry and coconut), lychee, guava, passionfruit and more. Exclusive for the fair are three new flavors – maple bacon, Pumpkin spice and Giandalia’s take on the Mexican favorite, mangonada.
Giandalia said he imports all his flavors from Hawaii and uses locally-sourced sugarcane to create his sweet icy treats.
In business since 2011, Minnesnowii has had a coveted spot at the State Fair for the past three years. This year his booth is in the new West End Market at the fair. Asked how he was able to get the proverbial golden ticket into the fair, the shave ice maker said his efforts at other fairs and festivals throughout the state got him noticed.
“I just worked hard and I earned it,” said Giandalia. “I’m glad they (state fair officials) picked me and I’m blessed to be in business with the fair. It’s really like a dream come true.”
The Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 23 – Sept. 3 in St. Paul.