Last night we had an excellent meal at the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler. Fine company, fine food — and also the unique opportunity to don winter parkas and drink chilled vodka shots in a kind of man-made ice cave.
The Bistro features a supercooled Belvedere Ice Room that is maintained at a constant 12 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. Inside, under ghostly blue light that somehow accentuates the cold, various vodkas are stored in little cubbyholes carved into walls of ice, and trays of shot glasses rest on a table made of ice. The idea is that vodka should be kept at freezing temperatures, and if you drink fine vodka under such conditions you avoid “the burn” of the alcohol at the back of your throat and therefore can better appreciate the quality of the liquor.
I’m not a vodka drinker, but how can you turn down the once-in-a-lifetime chance to put on a parka, enter a frigid, ice-sheathed room, and taste vodka selected for you by an expert host wearing a mad bomber hat? Our hardy band sampled vodkas that were potato-based, wheat-based, and even corn-based, from Russia, Poland, and Canada. Our favorite (and the favorite of the host) was the last of the four vodkas, a Polish blend called Uluvka. The host said it tasted like pure water, and it did. (Of course, this raises the question of why you would want to drink liquor that tastes like water, but that is a question we’ll have to leave for another day.)
Incidentally, the combination of the meat locker temperatures, blue light, ice-lined walls, freezing cold hooch, and fur-lined winter coat did seem to minimize the burn of the alcohol. That may explain why vodka is the national drink of Russia.