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Blockheads Shavery

October 16, 2014

By late spring, my husband and I had made a decision that we would take a trip to Eastern Canada later in the year.  In planning our trip, there was a particular restaurant that we had both read about that we really wanted to try.  Ultimately, we weren’t successful at booking a table at this ultra-hip locale during our time in Eastern Canada.  However, this story does have a point, as it’s because of our desire to dine at this restaurant that, in the end, brought us to a new dessert/snack eatery not too many miles from our home in Los Angeles.  So, how does one connect to the other?  Well, you see, the owner of the restaurant in Montreal that we wanted to go to is a well-known celebrity chef that has hosted a number of shows on the Cooking Channel and has been see on the Food Network before as well.  The chef is Chuck Hughes, a native Montrealer.  One day, when my husband was doing some research on local eateries in our area as my parents were coming to town the next day to visit, my husband texted me and told me to look into a place called Blockheads Shavery.  The minute I saw this come up in a text message, I knew exactly where this place was, even if I didn’t know exactly what this place was.  My husband explained to me that he knew this place was near our place, and that when he was looking up stuff on Chuck Hughes, he saw that Chuck hosted a show called “Chuck’s Eat the Street” where Chuck travels to different cities around North America, chooses a particularly popular food street in that city, and then he visits different eateries found on that street.  I guess, not too long ago, Chuck did an episode of his show in Los Angeles, and he picked a very trendy and popular street called Sawtelle, and Blockheads Shavery is one of the locales that he highlighted.  Now, how do I know Blockheads?  I drive by Sawtelle and Blockheads Shavery every single evening when I leave work and I head home.  I’ve seen the storefront so many times since it’s right at an intersection where I find myself backed in traffic pretty much every day, and my eye was always drawn to it because their logo incorporates a very cute-cute looking penguin.  I’ve always seen the people who line up to get into the store, and the hordes of people who pack the indoor and outdoor seating of the store.  And as I’m driving, I always tell myself to remember the name of the store and go home and look it up to see what kind of an eatery it is, and yet, I never have remembered.  But the minute my husband mentioned Blockheads Shavery, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

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So, going back to the text, my husband asked me to look up Blockheads because it was a place he wanted to try, he thought I’d try, and most importantly, he thought that my mom might enjoy it when she came to visit the next day and he figured it was a new place we could take my parents to.  As soon as I looked up the eatery online, and I saw what they were, what they served and looked over their menu, I knew right away that my husband was right.  It’s something he would like, something I would like, and something I knew both of my parents, especially my mom, would enjoy.

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What is Blockheads Shavery?  What does it mean?  Essentially, Blockheads serves snow cream.  What?!?!  Snow cream is a mix between Hawaiian shave ice and ice cream.  According to Blockhead’s website, snow cream is something that “combines the fine texture of Hawaiian shave ice with the creamy goodness of ice cream to create a unique treat we’re proud to call Snow Cream.”  Still confused?  Instead of taking pure blocks of ice and shaving it down into a cup or cone and topping it with flavored syrups the way you’d do with Hawaiian shave ice, Blockheads takes fresh ingredients and creates mixtures, much in the way you’d make homemade ice cream, and then freezes these mixtures into blocks that look like ice blocks.  When the blocks are frozen to the right temperature, then are then shaved the way Hawaiian shave ice would be shaved.  The snow cream shavings are put into a cup, and then topped with a whole list of ingredients and sauces that you can choose from.  Still confused?  Well, it’s almost something you have to try to understand.  The snow cream is shaved in a fine, ribbony texture that looks and feels like shave ice, but it has the flavor and consistency and creaminess of homemade ice cream goodness.

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You start off by looking at the menu, reviewing your options for snow cream flavors, toppings and drizzles (sauces) for your dish, and then you step up to the counter and order.  As soon as you order, your creation is made for you right in front of your eyes.  Every creation starts off with the shaving of the flavored snow cream of your choice into a cup.  There are generally 4 different flavors of snow cream that you can choose from each day that are the staple flavors, and then 1 additional flavor that is a seasonal flavor.  Remember, the snow cream is made fresh, in store, with wholesome ingredients that are in season.  The flavors that are always available are original (think Pinkberry’s original flavor), strawberry, green tea and black sesame.  If you haven’t guessed yet, Blockheads Shavery is an Asian-inspired eatery, in an area of town known as the Little Tokyo of West LA, so every eatery on the block is Asian.  So the flavors and toppings and ingredients are all very Asian-inspired.  The first time we went to Blockheads, their seasonal flavor available was cantaloupe.  On a subsequent trip to Blockheads, the seasonal flavor was almond milk.

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Once your snow cream is shaved, then the cup is brought to the counter where the toppings and drizzle that you’ve chosen are added on.  You can add as any toppings as you want to your snow cream, for a price, of course.  So, what kind of toppings are we talking about?  Here, you see fresh blueberries being added to a cup of snow cream.  That would have been part of the concoction that my husband ordered.  Other toppings include fresh fruit in the form of strawberry, blueberry, lychee and honeydew.  There’s Asian favorites such as rice cakes (made fresh daily, in house), mochi, honey boba, almond jelly, egg pudding, grass jelly and red bean.  If you don’t know what any of these toppings are, you probably aren’t Asian, but you don’t need to be to try them, no matter how weird they might sound.  Then there are some classic toppings such as brownie bits, chocolate chips, yogurt chips, sliced almonds, cookies ‘n cream, coconut flakes, graham crackers, toffee crunch, mint thins, rainbow sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles.  Whatever toppings you want, the people behind the counter pile it into your cup.

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Finally, the drizzle is added over the top of your snow cream.  The first drizzle is included in the price of your snow cream, but you can order additional drizzles for a nominal price.  What are the drizzles, you may ask?  Your options are condensed milk, strawberry puree, coconut puree, chocolate sauce and caramel sauce.  See, some flavors you may be familiar with and others you may not be.  If you’re Asian, you’re probably a lover of the condensed milk.  If you’re looking to create a concoction that’s more similar to an ice cream sundae, you’re probably ordering chocolate sauce.

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On our very first trip to Blockheads, my parents, who ended up loving the place ordered a green tea snow cream with red bean and rice cakes as their toppings and condensed milk as their drizzle.  My parents have yet to have an opportunity to go back to Blockheads, but I’ve heard my mom mention it to me a couple of times since then and I know she really wants the opportunity to go back.  Until you try a snow cream, you can’t even really imagine how interesting, unique and flavorful the concoction is.

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For my first snow cream, I tried the seasonal flavor: cantaloupe.  The cantaloupe actually tasted like cantaloupe gelato. It was lightly flavored and sweet, so you know it was made with fresh fruit, which was terrific.  Again, the flavor of the snow cream was creamy, yet not thick the way ice cream is.  It really had the texture of shave ice, it was flaky and melt-in-your-mouth.

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Of course, I too went with the condensed milk drizzle.  After all, the sweetness of condensed milk goes so well with a creamy, icy concoction.  Why do you think Vietnamese iced coffee tastes so good?  Or at least, that’s how I feel.

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My final concoction was a cantaloupe snow cream with strawberries and rice cake as my toppings and condensed milk as my drizzle.  I loved the rice cake, which Blockheads makes in-house every day.  It was so chewy and subtle in flavor.  It’s a mix between mochi and boba, that’s probably the best way to describe it.  The chewiness works well with the creamy, icy snow cream.  And strawberries and condensed milk is a combination I’ve used on other sweets I’ve made, include my homemade crepes.

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For my husband, his final concoction was a green tea snow cream with mochi, lychee and blueberries topped with a snow cream drizzle.  In the picture above, you really only see the mochi and the condensed milk drizzle.  You get a hint of the blueberries underneath the mochi, and the lychee is buried at the bottom of the cup.  My husband loved the fresh blueberries in the snow cream – but again, blueberries are probably his favorite thing in the world.  The mochi gave a nice chewy texture in the same way that I liked the rice cakes, and the lychee added a touch of sweetness and also texture to the snow cream.  My husband definitely liked his creation.

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When my husband and I went back to Blockheads Shavery on our own for the second time, I was a bit disappointed to see that the cantaloupe snow cream was no longer available.  Alas, I knew that the cantaloupe was a seasonal flavor.  This time instead, the seasonal flavor they had was almond milk, which I wasn’t interested in.  So, I opted to order the strawberry snow cream.  I loaded mine up with chocolate chips and rice cake as my toppings.  After all, who doesn’t love a little chocolate with their strawberry?  And the rice cake, I just couldn’t resist since I liked it so much the first time.  And of course, the much beloved condensed milk drizzle which just makes everything a little bit creamier and a little bit sweeter.  You have a better idea in this picture of how much bigger the rice cake is in comparison to the mochi, you could probably make 8 mochi balls for each rice cake.  I really liked the flavor of the strawberry snow cream.  It was sweet with natural strawberry flavor, but not overpowering and it was incredibly refreshing.  The chocolate chips were both sweet and provided a nice texture combination.

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My husband, who says he never wants to mess with a good thing, once again ordered a green tea snow cream the second time around.  This time, he decided to top his creation with mochi and coconut flakes with a condensed milk drizzle.  So, it was a complete white out over the green tea snow cream.  Again, he enjoyed the flavor of the green tea snow cream.  You can see in his picture the kind of ribbony texture of the snow cream, like perfect shave ice.  The mochi was chewy and the coconut flakes provided a hint of sweetness with a little bit of texture to go with the sweet condensed milk.

Believe me, my mother is already asking when we can go back to Blockheads again.  It’s easy to see why this place is so popular and well-liked, and why there always seems to be full tables and a line out the door.  As we walked out of the store the second go-around, my husband even made the comment to me about why there weren’t more Blockheads or snow cream places around.  I think that probably has something to do with their flavor combinations, after all, black sesame snow cream, green tea snow cream, topped with rice cakes, red beans and mochi aren’t really mainstream flavor combinations most people who don’t live in Asian communities would be familiar with.  But the idea of the concept is a terrific one, and one that I think will grow and gain traction.  Blockheads is certainly a place I can see my husband and I stopping by for a treat from time to time, especially on a warm Southern California day.

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