Given my love for Taiwanese snowflake shaved ice, of course I had to try it from the source.

As a quick recap, snowflake or snow ice was introduced in Taiwan a few years ago. Instead of crushing/shaving blocks of ice, water and condensed milk are mixed together and frozen. These condensed milk ice blocks are then finely shaven in special machines. The addition of the condensed milk and the shaving process creates an ice that is much more fine, fluffy, and tastes almost like ice cream rather than ice.

The last time I visited Taiwan, snowflake ice hadn’t yet become popular. So after eating it at various places in LA, I was curious to how it compared in Taiwan.

One thing I observed during my trip was that while snowflake ice is only now developing popularity in the US, its popularity in Taiwan seems to have waned quite a bit. In fact, the places we did try it at were mostly full of tourists. When I mentioned wanting to eat it to my relatives, they preferred the traditional old school shaved ice.

First up, Yu’s Almond Tofu (

I love the way the ice falls into sheets. This spot is quite famous for their almond tofu snow ice. I got the recommendation from Hungry Girl in Taipei. It’s a chain of stores and I found locations in night markets, shopping malls, etc.

Almond tofu is a popular chinese dessert. It’s not actually tofu. It’s chunks of agar agar jelly, flavored with almond milk. The jellies are white in color, resembling tofu.

The snow shaved ice here was quite cheap (about $3-4 US dollars for a bowl). The toppings were a bit limited. They offered traditional shaved ice toppings like mochi balls, red bean, sweetened peanuts, mung bean, chewy jellies, etc. They placed the toppings at the bottom and then covered it with ice. I prefer my toppings to be on top so I know what I’m eating.

How cute is this strawberry tea pot?

This tea pot kettle inspired the next in my mug cake series: strawberry mug cakes.

Like all the other mug cakes, this one was easy to whip up and cooks in the microwave. Clean-up is minimal since you mix everything directly into the mug.

I love the little pretty red pieces of strawberry mixed within the cake. The cake is fluffy, sweet. I prefer this white cake recipe more than the previous one I used for the blueberry mug cake. This cake is perfect all year long.

Cowboy Star may be one of the best hidden gems in the San Diego restaurant community.

In some ways it’s not very hidden. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from all those who have dined there and it has over 400 yelp reviews. However, it’s hidden in its unassuming name and decor, the appearance that it only specializes in steaks, and reservations are still relatively easy to come by.

I usually prefer to drive up to LA for most of my fine dining experiences because the restaurants in San Diego simply don’t compare. Cowboy Star is one of the few exceptions, serving up dishes that rival those of some of the fancy hyped up places I’ve dined at in Los Angeles.

We recently dined here for San Diego Restaurant Week.  The main dining room is in front of an open kitchen. I was hoping we’d get one of the large oversized booths, but instead we were led into a small private room with a handful of tables. While I enjoyed the quiet and intimate atmosphere of this room, the lighting was a serious issue– and not just for photo taking. It was so dim that it was bothering my eyes to even focus on reading the menu. And there was a bluish glow to the room because of a blue lit wall in the back of the room. I really hope Cowboy Star reconsiders the lighting of this room as it was definitely bothersome.

For SDRW, Cowboy Star offers a 3 course prix fixe menu for $40. In addition, there are supplements to each dish as an option, for an additional price. The supplements are items like truffle and foie gras, something I see a lot at the fine dining places in LA, but not often in San Diego.

After we ordered we were served a complimentary amuse bouche. Another practice we see in LA but not often in SD.

One bite of this and it cleared up my grumpy mood about the lighting. I don’t recall exactly what it was, but it was some kind of smoked fish served on a crouton. Delicious.

Instead of being given a basket of bread, a server comes around, asking if you want bread. If so, a hot bread roll is served to you. Again, much like the practices in LA.

The bread was fresh out of the oven: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The best way to eat and serve bread in my opinion.

Charcuterie Plate
a selection of house made sausages and pates, pickled vegetables and baguette

FH and I both wanted this one and we weren’t disappointed. The house made sausage and duck pate were both delicious. The pickled onions were tasty too. We liked everything on the plate.