Hanalei Shave Ice (https://www.instagram.com/hanaleishaveice/) is a refreshing new addition to Orlando’s sweet scene, run by native Hawaiian Brandy Ford, who has a fascinating story of her own. Located at The House on Lang in the Mills 50 neighborhood, one of Orlando’s best areas for food, this welcoming and festive trailer serves up authentic Hawaiian-style shave ice (never “shaved” ice!) treats that are a perfect, soft consistency, almost like snow, topped with your choice of several delicious sauces, which are so much more than just flavored syrups.
Brandy offers dozens of flavors of shave ice, and all but one of her sauces are homemade, with all-natural ingredients. I do like orange-flavored desserts, but she went out of her way to warn me that the orange flavor contains food coloring. It might still be awesome, but I would sooner start with the others that she makes herself. And so I did.
In the article I linked to above, Brandy tells the story of buying a vintage ice shaving machine from Hawaii that had been used in a grocery store. She spoke to her father and realized it was not only from the same store where he worked decades ago, but it was the exact same machine he used when he made shave ices back in the day. Here is my delicious shave ice, posed in that meaningful, multigenerational machine (although she used a more modern machine to make it):
So this was my shave ice, with a combination of two flavors, lilikoi (passion fruit, my latest flavor obsession) and strawberry guava. There are little chunks of strawberry on top, and it is drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, which makes everything better. Brandy asked if I wanted it sprinkled with li hing mui, a dried plum powder that is popular in Hawaii, and I told her to go for it. Good call. Li hing mui adds a sweet-salty-sour taste to fruit and desserts, and it reminded me of the chamoy sauce I have enjoyed in mangonadas in the past, but different.
Here’s a close-up. The shave ice is so silky and smooth, similar to the texture of Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, for all you Orlando locals who have enjoyed it in the past. It isn’t in big chunks, and the flavor syrups distribute well throughout the entire cup, so you are not left with unflavored ice or a pool of plain water at the bottom, something that always frustrates me about Slurpees and similar “slush” desserts.
On my second visit, I got a combination of two different flavors: key lime pie (in my all-time Top Five desserts, so I had to try her version), and piña colada, once again topped with sweetened condensed milk (which may also place in my Top Five desserts, just as a solo act!). Again, it was so sweet, refreshing, and just delightful. I think the two flavors would work better separately, or combined with other things rather than with each other, but this way I got a taste of both.
When I used to teach my students about library materials, we would discuss legal treatises, and inevitably, one kid in every class would insist on pronouncing it “treat-ICE” (rather than “treat-ISS”). Nope, sorry, but thanks for playing! But here at Hanalei Shave Ice, you can get actual treat-ICES.
On weekends, she offers malasadas, traditional Portuguese doughnuts that are extremely popular in Hawaii, particularly the ones from the famous Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. (I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I make a living with my research skills!)
I brought home a half-dozen beautiful malasadas:
Here’s the soft, fluffy, inviting inside of a malasada, perfect for filling with three flavors of ice cream: vanilla, ube (sweet purple yam), or cheese (which I will definitely try next time), or tropical fruit sauces. Unfortunately, Brandy didn’t have the lilikoi and guava sauces the day I got these, but I was happy to accept and eat them plain. They were like really fresh, really good, really LARGE doughnuts, clearly hand-made with love rather than rolled off an assembly line.
At Hanalei Shave Ice, you can pay with cash, Apple Pay, Zelle, CashApp, or Venmo. Apparently I am an old, because I don’t have any of these apps, just Paypal, since I have been buying, selling, and trading collectible comic books and action figures online since the ’90s. So I paid cash, which I rarely do anywhere else.
You need to check out Hanalei Shave Ice. While I usually hate that Orlando doesn’t get a real winter with cold weather that lasts more than a day or two, an upside is that we can enjoy cold, sweet treats year-round. Brandy Ford has ample experience in the restaurant industry as a chef and manager, but since she decided on this phase of her career, she’s building a loyal following with Hawaiian hospitality here at the House on Lang in Mills 50. She’s so warm and welcoming, quirky and kind. Her shave ices are so refreshing, and you have almost infinite flavor combinations to keep coming back and treating yourself. They’re so much lighter than ice cream, to the point where you can convince yourself you’re actually eating health food here! I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to Hawaii, but Orlando is already building up a deep bench of restaurants serving Hawaiian favorites, like my beloved Poke Hana and Hanalei Shave Ice, just minutes away from each other. I’ll have to bring my wife out there one day, because I’m already such a huge fan of the local specialties.