Why Anything Served On Ice Makes Our Hearts Melt
Know what's nice? Ice. (We'll stop now.)
September 4, 2017
By Richie Nakano and ChefsFeed Staff | Image Lisovskaya via iStock
When I was 19, I worked in a fancy French bistro where I couldn't afford to eat.
On the menu, there was the "Fruits De Mer Le Grand Plateau," a triple-tier seafood tower with a dozen oysters, a dozen mussels, a dozen clams, 16 peeled shrimp, six snow crab legs, six bay scallops, a fully dressed Dungeness crab, and a whole lobster. Accompanying it was mignonette, cocktail sauce, fresh horseradish, and a dozen split lemons with fancy lil' nets on them to catch the seeds.
Guests would come in and order it with a bottle of Perrier Jouet, and I would go red with envy. It was such an indulgent, bougie display—gorging oneself on a $120 platter of chilled seafood that would barely whet the appetite of two hungry people—and I wanted to experience it, badly. If ever there was a culinary equivalent of a Puff Daddy video, Le Grand Plateau was it.
Once I finally scraped together enough money (see: stopped buying weed for two weeks) it was absolutely worth it. It changed me forever. Now, if I go into a restaurant and they've got a crazy spectacle of a seafood tower on the menu, then rent money be damned: I'm ordering it. And as long as it stays hot out, even looking at towers of ice like that will continue to help, as long as you resist face-planting into the ice after you demolish what's sitting on it. That's all the excuse you need, really. —RN
If you haven't made the pilgrimage to Charleston's The Ordinary, the shellfish tower there is a thing of beauty that leaves most people speechless—it's Chef Stuart Brioza's [State Bird Provisions, The Progress] favorite in the entire country. (Right now, they've got a cantaloupe mignonette on there, because of course they do.) While you're there, you may as well snag the American caviar service too, and enter a better way of life. In Montreal, plan to indulge at Au Pied de Cochon and Le Bremner. Au Pied is the kind of place that has nine—count 'em, nine—different options for foie gras preparation, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they crush a seafood tower. And since we're on a French theme, Monsieur Benjamin in San Francisco is old-school in the best way when it comes to les grandes luxes.
If you're looking for single-level ice, consider the caviar service at Chef Bonnie Morales's Kachka in Portland, or Chef Michael Scelfo's Waypoint in Cambridge. Waypoint serves theirs with blinis AND donut holes, y'all. DONUT HOLES! [Honorable mention: it's not on ice, but the fried chicken madeleine with caviar at San Francisco's Rich Table will end you.] If you're craving an elegant but approachable ice vibe, swing by The Riddler, a bright and lounge-y Champagne bar in San Francisco. They pair their caviar with potato chips, which rules, and the Champage is always just the right temperature. Turns out there's a trick to that.
"I generally fill the bucket 3/4 of the way, with about a 3:1 ratio of ice to water," says owner Jen Pelka. "I like to make sure rosés are extra chilly, especially if I'm drinking them for refreshment on a sunny afternoon. Most people prefer their Champagne ice-cold. I also like them chilled all the way down, unless it's a vintage Champagne or a very full-bodied Champagne, like Krug—[then] you want to the aromatics open up in the same way that you might open up a white wine."
Another benefit to eating things off a pristine bed of ice? It's always a relief to see something sweating more than you. Win-win.