- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

Water in all its manifestations was the centerpiece of an unusually cool dinner Wednesday at the House of Sweden, the Swedish Embassy’s stylish new home and exhibition hall on the Potomac River just off K Street Northwest.

So what if the temperature in Stockholm that day was a relatively balmy high of 57 degrees, compared to Washington’s 54? That was all the more reason to brag about the myriad physical and spiritual qualities of home-grown H20 as shown in sculptured ice forms, furniture (a vodka bar with servers wearing furry hats), glass- and dinnerware, and, yes, plain drinking water.

Nothing was plain about the occasion, however, ostensibly a formal celebration of an all-encompassing public exhibit called “Water in the Environment” that features a number of frozen art pieces — one of them representing a molecule — and huge blocks of ice from the country’s prized Torne River above the Arctic Circle. Yes, tons of the stuff were shipped all the way here under the watchful eye of Yngve Bergqvist, founder of Sweden’s world-famous Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjarvi. The ice was intended to be merged eventually with our far less pure Potomac.

Guests arriving through glass walls of falling water at the entrance were given white cotton gloves to enable them to handle — very gingerly — the Absolut Citron cosmopolitans served in square ice receptacles at the reception. “A very warm welcome to all of you,” begloved Ambassador Gunnar Lund said before inviting everyone to go outside and toss the melting remains into the river.

What a menu: vanilla-marinated salmon, Kalix bleak roe (a Swedish specialty), rack of reindeer and moose milk ice cream with lingonberry consomme. The Icehotel’s chef in charge was imported as well.

“The [Torne River] is the mother of the ice, and we are so proud to have brought her here,” Mr. Bergqvist remarked before the main course. “Twenty tons, or 20,000 liters of water, the same amount that passes by the hotel in less than a second every day,” were used to produce the ice used at the dinner, he noted, adding that he is grateful to “live in such a rich part of the world where we have such water.”

“The river is the mother of the ice hotel, so we can build a new hotel every year at the end of October. … Then in spring we give the ice back to her.”

Ann Geracimos

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