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Last week's sweltering temperatures inspired a visit to 37 Degrees Dessert Cafe, a 2-year-old Asian dessert and snack shop in the Outer Sunset. It's a place where you can get an unusual version of shaved ice, previously found only at San Jose's now-defunct Snow Miracle. It's called snow ice.
Late last year, owner Diane Cheung installed a special machine that creates paper-thin ribbons. It's a style of shaved ice common in Vancouver and Taiwan that also shows up in L.A. Unlike Hawaiian- or Japanese-style shaved ice, which is crunchy and covered with sugary syrup, this ice is preflavored, with a delicate texture that melts as soon as it hits your mouth — hence its nickname, "frozen cotton candy."
The shop offers five flavors: original (milk), chocolate, strawberry, green tea, and mango. For $4.50, you get three toppings and a syrup of your choice. After that, it's 50 cents for each.
Ordering is simple: Look for the paper slips on each table, mark your selection, and give it to the waitress. For other food, ask for the regular menu, or grab one from the stack on the counter. The large, laminated trifold menu will confound most non-Asians with its wide variety of fried snacks — waffles, chicken wings, and noodle soup, plus elaborate desserts (ice creams, puddings, fresh fruits, pearl barley, tofu) with exotic ingredients like aloe vera, sago, lotus seeds, seaweed, coral weed, or "tadpoles" (gelatin). But no coffee.
My mountain-high order of green tea ice with condensed milk, bananas, mango, and mochi was a delight, and since it melts so quickly, there's little risk of brain freeze.
This is a place that gets crowded late — the preferred time for young Hong Kong expats. And in case anybody's wondering about the name, 37 degrees Celsius is the average temperature of the human body.
37 Degrees Dessert Cafe: 1155 Taraval (at 22nd Ave.), 566-3887.
How big should a torta be? Should it fit in the palm of your hand, the bread griddled in spoonfuls of oil, the fillings seeping out and staining the wrapping paper chile-red? Should it have eight fillings and weigh 2 pounds, like the Mexican-style cubanas you find all over the Mission? Should it be daintier, with a little grilled ham, a little avocado and Swiss, and enough lettuce to make the top bun appear to hover over the meat?
You can find one of those mammoth cubanas at Boos Voni, a D.F.-style torta shop in Crocker-Amazon with marigold-colored walls, a classic lunch counter, and a mural honoring the Aztecs. The torta I prefer, however, is the chicken milanesa ($8.90). A fluffy, griddle-crisped telera roll the size of a large clutch is the frame for a breaded chicken cutlet enveloped in tomatoes, chopped lettuce, onions, and avocado. Smears of sour cream and crumbled queso fresco, half-melted onto the warm roll, hold the fillings in place, tart and creamy enough to avoid the need for sauce. The torta milanesa is a sandwich built for two — divide $8.90 in half and you have quite a deal — but wears its girth easily. It may take hours for you to realize you won't need to eat until tomorrow.
Tortas Boos Voni: 5170 Mission (at Geneva), 585-5880.
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