Our search for snow — the dessert — in Silicon Valley
The quirky Mountain View cafe has a knack for worldly sweets
I was in search of snow, my second attempt in a week. Peering through the windows of an unlikely cafe, I was back in the same tranquil neighborhood near the Caltrain tracks in Mountain View. Yelp and Google said, “Open.” The sign said, “Closed.” I almost gave up, but on this side of the Pacific, I’ve found nowhere that makes better snow—the dessert, that is.
Fortunately, the cafe opened and I found what I wanted — a frozen blend of ice and milk, shaved and served on a plate. Snow. A refreshing taste of Asia and Asian America, fitting for a cafe that serves the Peninsula’s diverse patrons. Here is Chilly & Munch, serving its take on various Asian, European and American desserts.
When I was living in Taipei in 2011, a friend asked, “Have you ever eaten snow?”
Having grown up on the Front Range of Wyoming, I quickly replied, “Of course!” I pictured snow flakes melting on my tongue.
We walked into a popular cafe on a hot spring afternoon and she explained, “It’s famous for snow.”
I half expected a snowball in a bowl. Instead, the dessert—the snow—was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
A machine in the cafe rapidly spun a cylindrical, frozen block around to shave off incredibly thin sheets. A plate was then passed underneath, back and forth, back and forth, to catch the icy ribbons as they fell. Soon, it looked like folds of silk, or maybe piles of flower petals. They were a bright orange blend of mango and cream and sugar and ice. It was served drenched in condensed milk, and covered in cubes of fresh fruit.
The concoction was dense. Satiating but not cloying, cold but not icy. Its tartness bit the tip of my tongue where it landed just as soon as it melted. It disappeared like a dream. But the memory of the experience did not.
Here in the States, the cafe at 2101 Showers Drive in Mountain View has satiated my snow cravings since 2014, when it first opened as SnoZen. It’s since been reincarnated as Chilly & Munch under different ownership, but still takes me back to the warm spring day when my friend and I sought to escape the heat by finding solace in sweet snow.
Chilly & Munch’s Mango Tango — $6 for a single, which comfortably feeds two, if not more — features mango-flavored snow topped with fresh mango and condensed milk. This version has a bit more flair than the one I originally had in Taiwan with the addition of mango jelly, which I find to be delightfully chewy, best described in Chinese as “QQ.”
There are other flavors ranging from the refreshing and fruity, such as the Summer Sunset with mango and strawberries, to richer adaptations, like Rocky Road with chocolate, almonds and marshmallows. My personal favorite is the bright purple Atari, with taro, almond, mochi and condensed milk.
More than just snow, Chilly & Munch offers a globe-trotting range of other international sweets, such as house-made American brownies, Hong Kong egg waffles, Italian tiramisu, Japanese cheesecake and more.
New manager Johnny Li, a cake artist who hails from China’s Guangdong province, pointed out a 20-layer crepe cake with a generous dusting of matcha powder and smear of raspberry.
“Have you heard of Lady M cake?” he asked.
Had I! I’d only dreamed of trying the brand-name confection. A nine-inch Lady M cake sets you back $90. “This is not Lady M,” he clarified. “This is Chilly & Munch’s version.”
It was phenomenal.
Seeing these desserts’ global influence, I recall one of my past visits here, when I ran into a group of six friends who dived into a pile of shaved snow with spoons.
“You know,” one of them told me, “We can’t travel around the world, but I feel like food is another way to ‘travel around the world.’”
I agree. At Chilly & Munch, I can trot the globe and also find a taste of home here in California.
Stop in for snow and other sweets at Chilly & Munch, Tuesday to Sunday, generally 2 to 8 p.m. (call before you go to confirm the hours)
2101 Showers Drive, Mountain View // (650) 935–2275