Recently we learned that nearby State University of New York at Delhi had one of the only state university culinary/hospitality programs that offered ice carving as an elective for students. (And not only ice…butter, vegetables, fruit, chocolate & pastry as well!) We made a mental note to visit to see firsthand for ourselves…and maybe try our hand at some carving ourselves.
Our “mental note” turned into a “must do now” when we were invited to join the students following their ice carving class for a dinner at the school’s student-run restaurant,
Signatures. Umm…ice carving followed by an amazing five course meal that only costs $30? Sign us up. Often. (The restaurant is open to the public. We highly recommend it as an amazing date night spot…and your date won’t even have to know you only spent $60.)
Check out the slide show below to learn all that we did about the art of ice carving, and see Brent
not cut off any digits.
Special thanks for our special day to David C. Brower, Hospitality Department Chair & Professor, Instructor James Margiotta, CEC; Students Patrick McIntee, Caitlin Jones & Jessica Monahan; and all of the students and faculty who prepared and served our meal, as well as our fellow dinner guests.
How did our logo in big chunks of ice wind up in front of our store? Well…like all ice, it started out as water…
At Suny Delhi, Instructor/Chef James Margiotta showed us one of their ice block freezers. It takes four days for the 300lb blocks to freeze solid.
The water is constantly circulated to keep air bubbles from spoiling the clarity of the ice. The water freezes from the bottom up, so when there is only about 2 inches of flowing water on the top, the blocks are ready to be removed.
A student first vacuums the excess water from the top.
A hoist is used to first lift the block…
Then it’s lowered on a wheeled “cradle.”
Two students wheel the 300lb block into the freezer.
Brent tries his hand at hoisting the second block.
Inside the deep freezer, the temperature is kept at -10F. Here Chef Margiotta explains how we’ll be carving our logo into the ice. The students have already prepared the “B” as an example.
The ice is mostly crystal clear…
But occasionally, different mineral deposits might mar the blocks. Students must consider this in their designs, being sure to remove any blemishes.
The first project every student learns to carve in ice is a perfect sphere. Brent tries to predict our future.
Once the ice blocks have tempered nicely, they’re brought outdoors to carve…if it’s cold enough, of course.
But even when the temperature is below freezing, direct sunlight can fracture the ice. Ice is a very delicate medium…it can’t be too cold, too warm, too bright…conditions must be just right before carving.
Many ice carving tools resemble wood carving tools.
This scary looking saw created rough edges…which are helping when two pieces need to be fused together.
This specialty bit cost several hundred dollars and can cut through ice as easily as a chainsaw.
Ice blocks are brought out for our logo.
They call this an “Alaskan Lumberjack.” The chain saw rig precisely slices a block, vertically.
The first block being shaved thinner.
It’s great to see two young women – Student Chefs Caitlin Jones & Jessica Monahan – handling power tools confidently!
And even greater to see two very young women looking on admiringly.
The “8” in our “1802” is projected onto rice paper and traced.
To affix it to the block, water is squeezed onto he block’s surface…
The paper is then laid onto the ice…
And a final squirt of water helps seal it to the surface. This stencil serves as a temporary guide to carving.
Student Chef Patrick McIntee begins carving.
You can see how far the drill bit carves into the ice.
Patrick makes several concentric cuts into the ice.
Then he chips it away with a chisel.
Chipped ice is blown away as he works.
Once the carving is roughly done, Patrick uses a sander-type too to remove the paper stencil.
Brent begins carving the “1” in 1802.
…Not bad. No blood.
Brent and Chef Margiotta move the ice back into the freezer for the next step.
The carved letter/number in the ice is actually on the back of the block, for our design…
It’s packed with fresh snow…
Packed really tightly…
Then hot air is applied to fuse it into place.
Brent shows off his handiwork.
The last step is evening all the bases of the letters so that they can be fused to sturdy ice bases.
Posing with the chefs in the freezer. Say “Freeze!”
After finishing the carvings, we went for dinner at the nearby student-run restaurant.
Look at this great menu. And only $10 for students!!!
A full front of house and chef staff. Every single morsel was perfectly cooked, plated and served. Bravo!
We were lucky enough to be joined at dinner by the President of the college and several faculty and administration members. They have a Friday Night Supper Club and invited us to join them. Great fun!
It wasn’t easy unloading the 300lb blocks, but we did it.
Luckily none broke!
By definition, it’s the ultimate “One Day Only Retail Event!” The temps are supposed to hit 40F…