When Alan Wong’s pastry chef Michelle Kerr was a little girl, her grandma used to make a shave ice treat: vanilla ice cream and a handful of homemade mochi balls topped with a mound of flavored shave ice.
She never forgot the pleasures of that sweet-chewy-icy confection.
Then, one day in Alan Wong’s kitchen, there was this pineapple; a beautiful, sweet, low-acid Hawaii Crown pineapple. Experimenting, as they often do, Wong and Kerr (who has been pastry chef since 2007) decided to try freezing the fruit to see how it tasted. Delicious.
Inspired, Kerr recalled that she’d always wanted to make a shave ice dessert for Wong’s menu, which is made up of dishes inspired by long-ago local foods taken to celestial heights of sophistication.
“Think about it and make me one,” Wong said. So she Microplaned the pineapple flesh, combined it with vanilla and ginger, vacuum-packed and froze the mixture. In place of ice cream, she made a smoother-than-silk vanilla panna cotta and in place of mochi balls, a coconut tapioca pudding.
The layered dessert went on the menu a little over a year ago and has been eagerly received. Despite some skepticism, I tasted it at a recent dinner there and it was a revelation–such pleasing contrasts of taste and texture, such a light and lovely way to end a meal.
Last Saturday night at the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival Makahiki event, Kerr and her staff flavored, compressed and froze dozens of pineapples and gathered 11 microplanes and set out to do the seemingly impossible. They made 1,500 servings of pineapple shave ice to order to serve to grazers wandering by. (Just think about the lines at the average shave ice place on a hot day and you’ll get a sense of the task they set themselves–without benefit of a shave ice machine.)
Grandma would have been proud.