Friday, January 01, 2010

In Hawaii, Obamas Make Shave Ice Run; The President Samples "The Snowbama"

A break from monitoring national security for a dose of Island Snow...
President Obama took daughters Malia and Sasha--and about fifteen guests--out for shave ice today, the special Hawaiian frozen confection that's like a mainland sno-cone, but with ice of a finer grind, and very sweet fruit juice syrup. It was almost a requisite visit: Island Snow, the shave ice venue of choice in the town of Kailua, where the Obamas are vacationing, has named a special treat after the President. Last year, president-elect Obama also visited Island Snow, and his order has been dubbed "The Snowbama." It contains the favorite mix of Presidential flavors: Lemon/lime, cherry and passion-guava.

The President ordered his eponymous shave ice today, too, and also ordered for everyone in his party, reading the flavors off a piece of notebook paper. But he declined the addition of sweet azuki red beans or ice cream, which is how many Hawaiians eat their shave ice. (Above: The President, daughter Malia, and friends with their shave ices)

"'I like my shave ice straight, no frills,'' the press pool reporter noted the President commenting. He was wearing a white T-shirt, khaki shorts and sandals, and joked about New Year's Day football games.

''He's heartbroken, so I'm buying him shave ice,'' Obama said, and pointed to a pal in his group, who had been rooting for the Oregon Ducks, who lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl (Above: The President waits for his shave ice).

The pool reporter also noted that about 100 people packed into the shopping center parking lot to catch a glimpse of the vacationing president and his girls. They crowd got a bit of a peek: The Obama party sat on benches outside Island Snow to eat their shave ices, with the President giving a young member of his party "instructions" on how to tamp the ice down so it didn't spill from its cup.

Island Snow, like many Hawaiian stores, is multi-purpose: The shop also sells its own line of t-shirts and surf gear, in addition to having a popular shave ice counter. Owner James Kodama was thrilled with today's visit; he told media last week that he was "excited" the president was on island, and hoping for he'd come by. (Above: The President in line again...)

"People come in all the time and want to try the flavors he [President Obama] likes," Kodama said. "We're getting so many people wanting to come by the store and take pictures of where he sat. We're just kind of waiting to see if he comes by again." Kodama got his wish, and the President got his shave ice.

Public Obama foodie activity has been relatively low this year, compared to last year's Hawaiian vacation, when the President-elect was surprising media by eating local fave dishes such as Spam Musubi and Plate Lunch. Or maybe the foodie activity has been high, but no one's caught it: The President's press pool has been held at a far distance this year. For instance, each morning, the pool has been confined to the McDonald's on base at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where the President has had a daily work out since his arrival on Christmas eve (yes, there's a McDonald's on base, as at many US military bases). There was a traditional Christmas dinner at home, and a dinner visit to the local Marines. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited Alan Wong's Restaurant in Honolulu, which is close to the President's boyhood home. The acclaimed Chef Wong has guest cooked at the White House; he was Top Toque for the first-ever White House Luau, in July of 2009.

The rest of the week has been what Hawaiian media is referring to as lomolomo, or leisurely; President Obama has taken his family to the movies--Avatar, in a closed-to-the-public screening; they've snorkeled in Hanauma Bay (also closed to the public; the bay is routinely closed on Tuesdays in an attempt at sealife preservation, and the First Family visited on Tuesday). There have been a few beach picnics, and a whispered-about Luau on Wednesday night, with no details available. The President has also managed to work in a couple rounds of golf, including one yesterday at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Lanikai, as New Year's Eve fireworks burst in the distant sky. Hawaiians love their fireworks, and on New Year's Eve, the action starts in the early morning, especially if it's a cloudy day (it was).

Of course, the President has spent much time monitoring the Detroit airline terror attempt that occurred on Christmas...and in fact, tomorrow's weekly address is all about what's being done to keep Americans safe. The White House has released no official vacation photos, save for two that show the President being briefed about the national security, including the one, above, in which President Obama is receiving an update from National Security Staff chief of staff Denis McDonough, on Dec. 29 in Kailua.

*Photos: Shave ice by AP; President Obama with McDonough by Pete Souza/White House