Small Bite: IT’S-IT

” Essentially San Francisco’s version of a Klondike Bar “

Every part of the US has a food item that they are famous for. Maryland has crabcakes, Chicago has deep dish pizza, and San Francisco has IT’S-ITs. If you’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard of these delicious little ice cream pucks; if you are a native, you probably grew up on them.

This one is mine, you can't have it.

This one’s mine, you can’t have it.

What is an IT’S-IT? It’s two oatmeal cookies made into an ice cream sandwich and dipped in chocolate. That’s it. This tasty treat is extremely simple, but it’s an all-time classic. It’s essentially San Francisco’s version of a Klondike Bar.

For a lot of people, myself included, biting into an IT’S-IT is like taking a time machine back to the good ol’ days. It makes me think of sitting in the bleachers on a hot day for an A’s game, or maybe hanging out with friends after school and absolutely positively NOT causing trouble of any kind. Well, not getting caught anyway. Even if you haven’t grown up with melted IT’S-ITs running through your veins, there’s still something very comforting, even wholesome, about them.

Stop licking the screen. That's disgusting.

Stop licking the screen. That’s disgusting.

It’s not quite worth your while to buy a plane ticket to SFO just to try an IT’S-IT, but if you’re not from the San Francisco Bay Area and you happen to find yourself in the general vicinity, stop by a convenience store, pick one up, and savor the inevitable ice cream headache. Oh, and absolutely do not eat it in your car. These things are messy.

Nonstandard Disclaimer of Randomness
The author does not apologize in any way for waxing nostalgic or making you hungry for an IT’S-IT. The author also recommends that you do not read the calorie count on the packaging for the aforementioned delectable treat, because it will make you sad and guild you into running on the treadmill for three days straight. The author is also not responsible for any traffic accidents caused by ice cream headaches or melty chocolate bits dropped into your lap. I told you not to eat it in your car.

Product review: Texas Gunpowder

In spite of the name, Texas Gunpowder is actually food. It’s made from 100% pure jalapeño peppers that have been dehydrated and ground up into a fine powder. That’s it. You can use it anywhere you’d be inclined to use black pepper, as well as a number of places you wouldn’t.

A bottle of original Texas Gunpowder I keep stored in my secret underground lair.

A bottle of original Texas Gunpowder I keep stored in my secret underground lair.

” A good solid dusting will burn your face completely off “

Texas Gunpowder was originally created by Whit “Pappy” Pinnell and developed quite a cult following in the 1990’s, which is when I first discovered it. Unfortunately, Pappy passed away some years ago, and so the legacy of Texas Gunpowder was lost. I hoarded as much of the stuff as I could – a mere dozen bottles – and used it sparingly, but eventually my stash (and my spirits) began to run low. Then, earlier this year, I discovered that the rights to produce the spice were acquired by the unfortunately named SuckleBusters company, and there has been much rejoicing in my cupboard ever since.

This little bottle is full of sinus-clearing wonderfulness.

This little bottle is full of sinus-clearing wonderfulness.

A bottle of ground up jalapeños sounds scary, but it isn’t. This stuff is actually fairly mild, believe it or not, and the powdered consistency allows you to scale up the heat in as many little increments as you so desire, from mega-wimpy all the way up to Dante’s Inferno. One tap of the bottle can barely even be tasted, but a good solid dusting will burn your face completely off.

Strangely, Texas Gunpowder doesn’t have much flavor of its own. There’s no salt or vinegar or tang or sweetness or anything else; it’s just pure heat that can be turned as high or low as you like. This means that, unlike most other spices and hot sauces out there, Texas Gunpowder can be used pretty much anywhere. It’s amazingly good in Italian food, especially pizza, and it’s great on salads. Oh, and sandwiches – you have to try it on sandwiches. And eggs, and barbecued steak. And Mexican food. And… well alright, it’s good on basically everything. I haven’t tried it on ice cream but I bet it’s good there too.

Why you should buy this

  • Texas Gunpowder is a simple, natural way to add gentle (or searing) heat to a mind-boggling array of dishes.
  • It’s sodium free. That might even mean it’s healthy. *gasp*

Why you shouldn’t

  • Avoid if you are a weenie (e.g., you think ketchup is too spicy).
  • Invisible particles of jalapeño always, ALWAYS float through the air and into any available nostrils, causing violent fits of sneezing in most carbon-based life forms.

Where it can be found

Also available in red jalapeño, chipotle, and habanero, but regular old jalapeño is still the best though.

Also available in red jalapeño, chipotle, and habanero. Regular old jalapeño is still the best though.

Standard Product Review Disclaimer
No, I didn’t get paid to review whatever it was that I just wrote about. Shortest disclaimer ever.

Maui Shave Ice Extravaganza

As if Hawaii wasn’t fabulous enough with its tropical climate, breathtaking views, and go-with-the-flow mentality, it’s also home to the mother of all hot weather refreshments: Shave ice. My wife and I make it a point to consume as many of these icy, sugary heaps of wonderful as we possibly can whenever we find ourselves on the islands.

Before we get started, let’s talk about the name. It’s “shave ice”, not “shaved ice”. There is no D after “shave”. Yes, technically “shaved” is the grammatically correct approach, but anyone who says it that way is probably from the mainland and thinks that Magnum, P.I. was a reality show. So why is the wrong way to say it the right way? Because that’s how they say it in Hawaii. Why is a “po’ boy” sandwich not called a “poor boy”, and why does Mr. T say “I pity da fool!” instead of “Verily, I feel sympathy for individuals in predicaments such as that one”? Same answer. Local dialect + awesome food = stop complaining. On a related subject, if you’re high strung enough to let the name “shave ice” get on your nerves, you could probably use a Hawaiian vacation. Just hang loose.


Those dark specks are kiwi seeds. Why? Because Ululani's smashed up a bunch of kiwis and made their own syrup out of them, that's why.

Those dark specks are kiwi seeds. Why? Because Ululani’s smashed up a bunch of kiwis and made their own syrup out of them, that’s why.

Our very first visit, Ululani’s, turned out to be our favorite spot for the entire trip. There are several locations dotted around Maui, and we visited three of them over the course of the week. Ululani’s standout feature is the fact that they make most of their own syrups from scratch and sweeten them with cane sugar. Unlike the fake bottles of dye everyone else uses, these syrups actually need to be refrigerated to keep them from going bad. They’re actually made out of real fruit! *gasp* Their list of flavors is astronomical, from kiwi to wild cherry to mango to lychee and dozens more. It’s probably the best shave ice I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something.

Ululani’s Shave Ice
Flavor options: Mind-boggling
Snow cap: Yes
Ice cream: Yes
Ice texture: Fine, dense, almost powdery
Rating: Your head asplode


Given the choice between Maui Barista and no shave ice at all, I suppose I'd go with Maui Barista out of sheer desperation.

Given the choice between Maui Barista and no shave ice at all, I suppose I’d go with Maui Barista out of sheer desperation.

Maui is home to dozens of charming towns, lush tropical vegetation, and breathtaking coastal views. Whalers Village shopping center features none of these things. It was an unfortunate turn of luck, then, when my spouse and I found ourselves there due to a bit of devious GPS trickery. There’s nothing especially wrong with Whalers Village per se, but it’s just not special. And it’s certainly nothing like the tropical paradise we inexplicably left behind in order to trudge through retail hell.

To help make something worthwhile out of our journey (and to validate our parking stub), we paid a visit to Maui Barista Coffee & Smoothies. They make shave ice too, but apparently it wasn’t important enough to include in their business name along with everything else. Just like the mall in which it’s located, Maui Barista isn’t bad so much as it’s unremarkable. (In a remarkable place like Hawaii, however, I suppose that probably is bad.) The flavor selections are limited and very standard; banana is about as crazy as it gets. Further compounding the issue of mediocrity, additional options (e.g., snow cap) are nonexistent and prices are a bit on the high side. Service was prompt and friendly and there’s a nicely shaded seating area nearby, but that just about sums up all the good points. If you happen to find yourself trapped in Whaler’s Village and aren’t sure what to do with the extra $4.75 in your pocket, I guess you could consider stopping by.

Maui Barista Coffee & Smoothies
Flavor options: Meh
Snow cap: No
Ice cream: No
Ice texture: Loose and a bit grainy
Rating: zzZZzzzZzzzzZzZz


A shave ice shop owned by surfers. It just doesn't get any more Hawaiian than that.

A shave ice shop owned by surfers. It just doesn’t get any more Hawaiian than that.

Breakwall Shave Ice Co. is one of those places you wish you owned. It was founded by a bunch of surfer dudes from the Midwest who decided they were tired of living in the middle of corn fields and moved to Maui. Their first priority was to find some sweet waves, which they did. They then decided that making money probably wasn’t a bad idea, so they opened a shave ice shop. Now why didn’t *I* think of that?? The subtle genius of their simplistic approach is startling.

Personal jealousy aside, the guys at Breakwall sure do know how to make a mean shave ice. Although the flavors aren’t homemade, the selection is as deep as what you’d find at the venerable Ululani’s. Their snow caps are thick and seem to be nearly pure condensed milk. Although I like this particular style quite a bit, my wife wasn’t really a fan and prefers the thinner type snow caps. The texture of the ice at Breakwall is absolutely spot on, and there are seating areas both indoors and outdoors where you can chill and enjoy some surfing videos. Tubular!

Breakwall Shave Ice Co.
Flavor options: Extensive
Snow cap: Yes
Ice cream: Yes
Ice texture: Light and snowy
Rating: Highly recommended, dude