Get the party started with a visit to the ice factory
Having a group of friends over for a gathering or dinner, one thing is always on our list – ‘buy ice’. Dubai temperatures mean that a large cool box (in Australian an ‘esky’, in New Zealand a ‘chilly bin’) is filled with chipped ice and a load of beers and soft drinks. Drinkable ice is needed in copious measures for long drinks, cocktails and cooling things down. You can buy a bag or two at the supermarket or visit the ice factory which is my favoured option.
It feels like a mini-adventure driving up to the Modern Ice Factory (which looks far from it). Round the corner from the Oasis Centre Mall and gleaming BMW dealership this is a little bit of ‘old Dubai’ operating in the same way for decades. On a Friday morning there is often someone in a 4 wheel drive ahead of you in the queue. When it’s your turn you reverse up the steep concrete ramp and place an order in pidgin English. There is ‘machine ice’ or ‘block ice’ which comes in an enormous block or crushed for cooling purposes only and ‘drinking ice’ or ‘tube ice’ which is suitable for consumption in cubes housed in smaller packets. It’s the same type that you buy in the supermarket but cheaper when you go direct.
Machine ice comes along a chute, out of a hole in the wall onto an elevated platform and one man puts it through a crusher which whines loudly like a chain saw into a sack below (old rice sacks). The sacks are dropped down to from the platform. An older man always loads it into your car and does the deal. Last time I was there I had a bit of a chat (fragmented words and sign language) and found out that his name is Nixamiti (excuse the spelling) from Jaipur in India. He has six children and has been in the same job for 25 years. Do say hello if you visit.
What to do with ice
- Fill your cool box or ice bucket with crushed ice or ice cubes to keep drinks cool. If you want to cool things down quickly, a combination of half ice and half water will do it quicker than all ice. If you are doing this with wine, make sure you take it out when it’s reached the right temperature. A quick guide to wine serving temperatures here.
- Put into a long tall cocktail or shake one over ice. Here are two simple gin cocktail ideas to get you started.
- If you don’t have a pool that’s chilled in the summer (you have to live in the Middle East to understand this), buy some of the huge ice blocks of machine ice. Float them into the pool for evening swimming parties (they will disappear too rapidly if you do this in the day – although can be fun for a children’s party).
- I’m tempted to say ‘make an ice sculpture’ – but only if you have thermal gloves and a chain saw or chisel and a lot of patience! These are incredibly popular in Dubai and often the centrepiece of a display or entrance – which is quite bizarre given our summer temperatures. Apparently you can order one of these from Modern Ice too (they deliver).
- Have a power blender (such as a Vitamix)? Make instant sorbet by adding juice, a sweetener and ice cubes and giving a quick whizz.
I’m one of those people who ask for room temperature water and hate masses of ice in drinks (bars make drinks look bigger by filling them with crazy amounts). I’ll make an exception for ice in cocktails – who wants a warm G & T? Not me. Are you an ice-fiend or a chilly mortal like me. Any cool ice ideas (sorry)? Please let me know in the comments….