N2 Gelato: When science meets ice cream

I was excited when I found out a new ice cream shop opened in the city. N2 extreme gelato is no your ordinary ice cream place. The people working there claimed that they are “mad scientists” passionate about blending exotic flavors of gelato. Yes, two selling points here: Science and extraordinary flavors.

Cup to Cone

From the name, you can probably guess that they are using nitrogen to make their gelato. Of course in this case it has to be liquid nitrogen, which is nitrogen (N2) in liquid form at extremely low temperature (-196°C or so). Even though you may be curious on how cold liquid nitrogen is, you don’t want to touch it with bare hands. It’s super cold and it can freeze living tissues in an instant, causing frostbite. At room temperature, the liquid nitrogen just evaporates instantaneously into nitrogen gas. So, when it is poured onto a mixture of cream, it will absorbed the heat from the mixture, and there you have ice cream in a second.

Refiling the liquid nitrogen

The first time I saw an ice cream making demo using liquid N2, I was amazed and inspired. It was during the picnic day, an annual open house event at UC Davis, CA. The smoke of evaporating N2 had that WOW factor that it withdrew interests from many people during the event. For me, it is the one kind of the unforgettable molecular gastronomy experience.

The interior of N2 extreme gelato is designed to be laboratory-like. The staff wear white lab coats and the menu is written with chalk on the blackboard. A scoop costs AUD 6, and no one can ever order two scoops. It says, “You don’t need it.” I didn’t believe it, but once I got my gelato, I knew they were right because one scoop was adequate.

A Lab Experiment

The Menu

Chilling in the lab – a new hobby?

Mixtures of liquid with different flavors, from Geisha’s juice (green tea with mixed pepper), blueberry cheesecake, Olesnya’s Secret (spicy strawberry) are kept in Erlenmeyer flasks on display. To make the gelato/sorbet, the mixture is blended in the colorful kitchenaid mixer with the smoky liquid nitrogen.

Experiment in progress

Some flavors that intrigued me were cough syrup and cigar smoked (Hainanese Coffee), but they were sold out when I went there. When I saw a bottle of familiar Chinese herbal remedy on the counter, I had a smile on my face. The cough syrup they’re using is Pei Pa Koa (枇杷), which I often have when I get sick/cough. Good to know that at least the cough syrup gelato wouldn’t taste like cherry cough syrup (*dislike!). I finally settled on getting the earl grey infused caramel while a friend ordered blueberry cheesecake. The gelato was soft and smooth. Even the blueberry cheesecake tasted light. I expected to have stronger flavor, but afterall it was the happiness that counts. And it’s “priceless.”

The mixed pepper and the cough syrup

Earl grey infused caramel and blueberry cheesecake

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