With the heat index at 105 degrees today and no end to the warm weather in sight, Houstonians are making do the best way they know how: by never leaving the A/C. Dashing from air-conditioned car into air-conditioned office building, from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned store. Despite the fact that it becomes like the inside of a brick pizza oven in Houston for several months every year -- every single year -- people still act as if the plagues of Egypt have all struck at once the second it gets above 90 degrees.
I have a better solution. I go to Star Snow Ice.
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Star Snow Ice #1 (9188 Bellaire Boulevard) is quickly becoming a Houston institution in the same way -- and for the same sweet, cool reasons -- that Mam's House of Ice is becoming a mainstay in the Heights. There's nothing like a fistful of shaved ice with something sweet on top to make the heat more bearable.
Although we associate shaved ice with that all-American treat, snow cones, it actually originated in Japan well over 1,000 years ago. You read that right. One thousand years ago. The shaved ice that we're more familiar with came from Louisiana, where the first "ice block shaver" was patented in 1934. The folks in New Orleans still make the best snow cones anywhere (although Mam's is doing its part to bring that tradition to Houston).
Star Snow Ice serves a Taiwanese twist on the old Japanese favorite, kakigōri. Bowls of crushed and shaved ice are topped with your choice of fruit syrup, fresh fruit pieces and more exotic treats like sweet beans or grass jelly. The sweet beans in particular are an acquired taste for Western palates, but are addictive once that taste has been acquired. A small bowl of shaved ice will run you a mere $2, with each topping 50 cents.
You can eat your shaved ice (or boba or iced coffee or taro smoothie) inside the air-conditioned shop, but it's far more fun to take it on a stroll around the strip center and check out the other shops at the popular Diho Plaza. As you eat the sweet ice and the fresh fruit, you might even find yourself enjoying and appreciating the heat. After all, it's not like you can eat shaved ice in the winter. Enjoy the summer while it lasts.