JACK FROST has nipped your nose, and rental skates have squeezed your toes. And when the Zamboni machine threatens to chase you off the ice yet again, it's time to unlace and unwind.
If huddling rink-side on a bench with coffee in a styrofoam cup isn't exactly what you had in mind, consider retreating to a cozy apres-skate hot spot. You and your crew can savor hot buttered rum, cocoa, specialty coffees and cider (spiked or spiced) while you congratulate those who didn't fall once, or comfort those who are counting (on frostbitten fingers) their graceful spills.
The havens highlighted below are within a brisk walk of selected downtown rinks, or just a quick car trip (with the heat full blast) from suburban arenas. PERSHING PARK
Slide off the ice and slip into something more comfortable, like one of the plush sofas in J.W. Marriott's Garden Terrace Lounge right across Pennsylvania Avenue. As you sit sipping a hot toddy, hot buttered rum or Bench Warmer (hot cocoa with schnapps), enjoy gazing out the picture windows at the bobbing heads in the Pershing Park rink below. In the evening, lights strung in the surrounding trees offer an additional show. On weekends, and after 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, an order of spicy hot nachos, hearty soup or a hot sandwich will prepare you to face the outdoors again.
J.W. MARRIOTT -- Garden Terrace Lounge, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; 393-2000. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.; Friday 11:30 to 1:30 a.m.; Saturday, noon to 1:30 a.m.; Sunday noon to 12:30 a.m.
After the second go 'round of Paul Anka's skating rink hit "I Only Have Ice For You," head for another classic -- the American Cafe, which serves "Lively Coffees & Hot Drinks." Warm your hands around a cup of toasted cappuccino (with creme de cacao and amaretto), or cocoa spiced with rum and orange and peppermint liqueurs. Take a seat by a window, sip your mulled cider, hot buttered rum or Tea Amare (Earl Grey with amaretto), and watch the crowds go by.
AMERICAN CAFE -- 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue (in The Shops at National Place); 737-5153. Monday 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday & Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight.
While your legs still think they're on ice, waltz up to Cafe Mozart for an afternoon or evening of Viennese gemutlichkeit. Besides serving cappuccino, espresso, Viennese coffee and hot chocolate, this spirited restaurant (tucked behind the German Deli) features gluhwein and hot buttered rum to accompany any of its Viennese strudels, pastries and cakes. Every evening, the Cafe presents live music, ranging from piano (with a statue of you-know-who surveying the scene) and Viennese chamber music to a singalong with alphorn, cowbells, accordian and tuba. If this doesn't get the glow back in your cheeks, just try to pronounce any of the several German brandies at the bar: Tackle "zwetschgenwasser" for a warm-up.
CAFE MOZART -- 1331 H Street NW; 347-5732. Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 to 10. NATIONAL SCULPTURE GARDEN
Just a snowball's throw from the rink is the Smithsonian Ice Cream Parlor at the National Museum of American History. You can travel back in time, to where "turn-of-the-century Americans went for refreshment, relaxation and good-humored socializing." After all, it was during Victoria's reign that ice skating and ice cream parlors became popular in America. Let loose your laces and dig into some hot apple cobbler, Federal Fudge Cake (with hot fudge dressing) or the Washington Waffle (served warm with ice cream and strawberries). To chase the chills, espresso, cappuccino and hot chocolate should do the trick.
SMITHSONIAN ICE CREAM PARLOR -- National Museum of American History, on the Mall at Constitution and 14th Street NW; 789-9031. Daily 11 to 5.
If you've blossomed into a Tai or Randy . . . toast your victory at Blossoms (in the Old Post Office Pavilion), where the Club Warmers Menu was especially created for the cold nights ahead. In addition to an extensive list of coffees (Jamaican, Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean) the bar offers such creative concoctions as a Broken Leg (hot cider and apple schnapps), Hot Apple Pie (hot cider, tuaca and vanilla liqueur) and a Hot Peppermint Patty (hot chocolate, peppermint schnapps and creme de cacao). If ice dancing is your dream, ask for the Nutcracker Sweet -- a hot almond, hazelnut, and peacan pastry glazed with chocolate and whipped cream.
BLOSSOMS -- (at the Pavilion), 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; 371-1838. Winter hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30 to 10; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 10. CAPITOL REFLECTING POOL
After a spate of below-freezing temperatures in the District, the conditions will be just right for skating at the Capitol and for a fireside chat at Yolanda's. Just a half-mile up Pennsylvania Avenue, this Italian restaurant has what it takes to warm you like the Mediterranean sun: a crackling fire in the front room, where arched windows overlook the street scene below, and a cozy bar with an after-dinner menu of hot drink specialties, cognacs and rich desserts. It'll be hard to choose between the Cafe Yolanda (amaretto, sambuca, creme de cacao with a lightly sugared rim to keep your strength up), and the Grand Coffee (Tia Maria, Grand Marnier and creme de cacao. These and Yolanda's other hot coffee drinks are all topped with freshly whipped cream. If the savory smells wafting from the kitchen are too tantalizing, the hot mozzarella with zesty tomato sauce will hit the spot.
YOLANDA'S -- 223 Pennsylvania Avenue SE; 544-6603. Monday through Thursday, 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 6 to 11; Friday & Saturday, 11:30 to 2:30 p.m.; 6 p.m. to midnight. Closed Sunday. LIBERTY PLAZA
Even Hans Brinker would have traded in his silver skates for any of the homemade pastries from the sumptuous selection at Maison Blanche -- a classy French restaurant that also welcomes the skating crowd. Join content and comfortable Washingtonians who sip specialty coffees by the windows in the Oval Room and watch the skaters swirl by. The civilized light-fare menu, available after 2:30, offers additional delicacies.
MAISON BLANCHE -- 1725 F Street NW 842-0070; daily 11:45 to 11. WELLS ICE RINK, COLLEGE PARK
Clean off your blades and fly across the street to the 94th Aero Squadron. Facing the runway of the oldest continually operating airport in the world, the lounge's welcoming armchairs are soft where the ice has been hard. Waitresses in WWI Red Cross uniforms administer their own brand of "Nurses Aid" to fatigued skaters -- hot chcolate with a dose of strawberry or banana liqueur, whipped cream and a cherry. Their Winter Drink Roster also features the "Albatross," hot apple cider with rum and a cinnamon stick. (Note: while slightly icy trousers aren't frowned upon, faded jeans are.)
94th AERO SQUADRON -- 5240 Calvert Road, College Park; 301/699-9400. Friday, 11 to 3, 5 to 12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 11 to 3, 4:30 to 12:30 a.m.; lounge open until 2 a.m.; Sunday 2 to 10.
Take a quick drive back to Route 1 and replenish yourself at R.J. Bentley's Filling Station, a casual, congenial warm-up spot known for its home-made soups and hot stuffed sandwiches. Rev up with some High Test Nachos or fill up on a Model T (ham and cheese hot on a Kaiser roll). Pull into the Parts & Accessories shop around the corner for great take-out bakery and deli fare to make departing for home easier.
R.J. BENTLEY'S FILLING STATION -- 7323 Baltimore Boulevard, College Park; 301/277-8898. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday 11 to 10:30; Parts and Accessories: daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CABIN JOHN PARK ICE RINK
After skating up a storm, head for a warm-water port. Hamburger Hamlet is a family favorite perfect for delving into the Ultimate Most Hot Fudge Cake, or a generous helping of hot apple pie in rum sauce with vanilla ice cream or melted cheese. Nearby in the Georgetown Square Mall is Seibt's Kinditorei & Cafe, an unpretentious place to pick out some pastries to accompany your hot chocolate. Warm up with some goulash or French onion soup.
HAMBURGER HAMLET -- 10400 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda; 897-5350. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 to 10; Friday & Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight (bar open till 1 a.m.); Sunday, noon to 9:30 (bar open till midnight).
SEIBT'S KINDITOREI & CAFE -- 10400 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda; 530- 8822. Sunday noon to 5; Monday through Wednesday, 9 to 7:30; Thursday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. MT. VERNON RECREATIONAL CENTER, ALEXANDRIA
Now that you've perfected your figure 8 at the Mount Vernon rink, don't worry about keeping your figure perfect. At Bread and Chocolate, you'll find the real skater's diet -- award-winning espresso, cappuccino and hot chocolate (real chocolate, none of this powder with miniscule marshmallows), breads and dozens of freshly baked pastries served in an atmosphere voted most friendly among patrons. Conveniently, there are even hooks to hang skates and mittens on while you thaw. The strains of classical music blend with the sound of steaming milk and the clatter of clanking tea cups to create a comforting atmosphere.
BREAD & CHOCOLATE -- 611 King Street, Alexandria; 548-0992. Monday through Saturday, 7 to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 8 to 5.
But if your craving for something sweet to eat demands instant gratification, you don't even have to get into your car. Just walk out of the rink's parking lot and cross Belleview Boulevard to the shopping plaza, specifically to Brenner's Bakery. A scrumptious pecan sticky bun will set you back 55 cents, or, for 89 cents, you can go all out and dive into one of their famous giant chocolate eclairs, filled with either fresh custard or whipped cream. And if it's Friday, you're really in luck. That's when they bake their very best: radio bars, a 69-cent chocolate-covered log of devil's food cake filled with cream. Aren't you glad you skated that extra lap?
BRENNER'S BAKERY -- 1512 Belleview Boulevard, Alexandria; 765-4688. Tuesday through Saturday, 8 to 9; Sunday 8 to 7; closed Mondays.