My Ice Program

In the later days of my 32nd year strange things were afoot, or rather afloat. Rocky times involving horrible news of cancer and chemo, an irreparably broken relationship that  slogged its way to the lion’s share of a decade, work stress, life mess, odd decisions. The image and experience that defined this time period was ICE, the frozen stuff, a large polar lake filled with  rupturing ice – loud breaks and fissures, noisy and scary, distracting and concerning. Every morning felt more treacherous, it was not a good time and that is a significant understatement. A good friend in Denver offered some advice on my predicament and metaphor – find the largest block of ice and hold on. So I held on, hugging a frozen brick the size of an inner-tube until I was numb and blue.

A few days after my birthday I slept through the night for the first time in months and upon waking I noticed the ice had abated, I was floating in very cold waters but it was certainly an improvement. Perhaps I cleared the tail end of my Saturn Rising. Regardless, in the genius words of Cheryl Strayed “Gut Yourself. Start There.” I’m using the thaw as a starting point, navigating the frigid waters. Every day feels like an experiment in embarrassment and humility but I’m warming up.

The point to all of this, if there is one, is that ice (in a non-metaphorical sense) is an obsession of mine. While surviving the menace emotionally, I developed a passion for it physically. This fixation has led me to purchase many laughable items: a large plastic bin for freezing slabs, an ice pick, multiple silicone cube trays, a Lewis Bag, a wooden carpenters mallet. It’s surprising I didn’t end up with a Kold-Draft Ice Butler but I am limited by the space in my kitchen.

sweet potato with orange, tequila, and a smoked paprika ice cube
concord grapes, banks rum, ruby port

These were the drinks that launched My Ice Program, two of a 10 cocktail and appetizer frenzy at Aviary in Chicago. The full report never made it to print, the photos are dark and progressively fuzzy from the first to the last. Also, I lost my notes on the experience in the Great Wallet Incident of 2012.

I’ve had a standing invitation to try a restaurant with an Ice Program, significantly more sane than my own, complete with a Clinebell. Riffle cuts the ice after the harvest with power tools forming structures for drinkables and edibles. I intended to sit at the bar but ended up at the Raw Bar with a full view of the kitchen.

Icey Friends
gin, lime, celery, absinthe, salt, full runner ice tower
sea urchin, quail egg, shot

This shooter is an experience of deceptive simplicity; two gifts cracked from their shells joined in a brine. Absolutely great. I’ll never quit you, uni.

beet cured salmon carpaccio, bacon aioli, peanuts

I should have tried a different raw offer, not that this wasn’t good, it was, but they were sending it out all over the restaurant. Made me feel like my norm was showing.

kumamotos, one fig, one bloody mary, pounded ice
let’s check-in on the collins
halibut cheeks, fennel puree, parsnip chips

Snow-white barn doors perfectly prepared, I’ve had issues with parsnip chips in the past but these were still a vegetable and complemented the sweetness of the fish.

summer stuffing

This was a pleasant decision ordered on a whim. Zucchini, bread, pesto, tomatoes. An excellent side that will be attempted in my kitchen within the week.

how we doin’?
Room D – rye, becherovka, quinine, citrus

My Drink, I’ve found you at last. Becherovka and I have a history that includes sunny parks and statues in the Vinohrady neighborhood of Prague. Mail ordered bottles for birthdays before it was available in the states:

large quantities

I’ve only been fond of rye for the past two years-ish but they are a tremendous pairing. The Room D cocktail is also a melting pot of spirits:

Pennsylvania, Karlovy Vary, Peru
The Freeze and Thaw

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