Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The hierarchy of ice cubes
Eating lunch at TK Burger today, I was met with a welcome surprise: rabbit pellet ice. Not sure what I'm talking about? Check out the rad Sonic cherry-limeade above; THAT is ice, my friends. This got me thinking about the different ice varieties out there...let's generate a hierarchy of the ice cubes, so you can understand what ice options are out there and where they rank in the ice cube food chain. FYI, I have assigned names to each variety of ice and referring to these forms of ice in a public setting may be met with confused looks, or excitement as someone appreciates that you know your ice!
At the top of the heap has to be the "rabbit pellet" ice, named for it's close resemblance to rabbit pellets; maybe Cap'n Crunch, I don't know. This ice provides ample surface area and flat out looks cool. The sound it makes landing in your cup is soft, inviting. It's a joy to eat due to it's rather soft consistency, crunchable from the first sip to the last briquette clinging to the bottom of your cup. It might bunch up, but a gentle shake and the network of ice cubes breaks up instantly. Coupled with a high foam-content soda such as root beer and you have soft drink nirvana. Yes, this ice cube is bacon of the ice cube world: none can challenge its greatness.
Next up comes the "flat/crunchy" ice as I like to call it. This ice is frozen in sheets and then dropped into the bin, resulting in an ice that is small and flat with very little height. Easy to crunch, abundant surface area for maximum cooling efficiency, this is a high quality ice; still second place to rabbit pellets, though. Rapid melting becomes an issue with this ice due to it's smaller volume but it, too, is a welcome sight coming out of an ice machine.
A cousin to "rabbit pellet" and "flat" ices described above is the rarely seen "high oxygen content flat ice" (photo unavailable...too rare a beast). Slightly thicker, but loaded with trapped air bubbles, this ice is like a flat version of rabbit pellet ice, but in flat ice form. Quite the frozen treat, to be sure.
"LEGO" ice. This is probably tied with speed bump ice as the fast food ice of choice. The cubes sometimes come out in these groups of 3 or 4 and resemble LEGO bricks or an egg carton. This is a solid all-around ice. There is ample surface area for keeping your drink cold, crunching the ice isn't too difficult and it doesn't bunch up that often. It's popular for a reason, folks.
"Froot Loop" ice. This ice could be strung on a rope or necklace (and may be in the Arctic) due to it's rather large center opening. This ice is very common at fairs, concession stands, banquets and such. Sporting events seem to find this ice a winner, as well. Several grocery stores sell bags of froot loop ice, too, so it's certainly no johnny-come-lately cube. Decent surface area, but too thick. Crunching this ice is dangerous and not recommended. This ice lumps together and builds strong bonds, not easily broken with a simple shake of your glass. Use caution with this ice.
"Speed Bump" ice, named for its close resemblance to the "cool" speed bumps you can still haul-ass over in parking lots and in neighborhoods, not those annoying Mt. Fuji wannabe speed bumps. This is probably the most popular ice cube found in restaurants. The cubes are wide squares with little height and an arced dome shape. They melt slowly and provide adequate surface area; perfect for restaurants looking for customer satisfaction and maintenance due to its popularity. There is much wasted cooling energy stored inside these cubes that could be better utilized if the cubes were smaller. Crunching this ice is ill-advised until the cubes have melted somewhat and are thinner; more transparent.
Lastly, "homemade" ice. If there was a poster child to keep ice cubes in school to get an education and stay off drugs, it would be this. The ice comes from your freezer ice bin all white and stuck together and it tastes gross. Look at the photo: does that look appealing in any way, whatsoever? This is an absolute last option ice, even though it's convenient and free. The best things in life are free...unless those "things" are ice cubes.
"Ice machine" ice is lumped into the same category. It's those big crescent-shaped cubes that your ice machine automatically makes for you, as if it knows you love the ice it makes and wants to please you by making in without any prodding. I've got news for you, ice machine: your ice sucks...start making rabbit pellet ice and you're my new best friend.