The Guilty Pleasure: Liquid nitrogen ice cream
Where to Get It: Creamistry
Price: $4.50-$8.50, not counting add-ons
What it Really Costs: Your pants will definitely feel a bit tighter after one of these babies. Sadly, not even science can save you from that.
Made-from-scratch liquid nitrogen ice cream may not immediately sound delicious. At first glance, it can sound more like someone's high school science project than a delectable frozen dessert.
But, as it turns out, good ice cream is not the product of magic or alchemy, but hard science. At least, that's how you might feel after a visit to Creamistry, a rapidly-expanding, California-based franchise chain that specializes in made-from-scratch liquid nitrogen ice cream.
Currently, there are two Creamistry locations around the Valley, one at the Scottsdale Waterfront and the other at Uptown Plaza in midtown Phoenix. A third location is in the works at the Scottsdale Quarter.
The ice cream at Creamistry is made right in front of you using a rapid freezing process. What makes this ice cream different is liquid nitrogen, which is used to quickly freeze the fat and water particles in your ice cream base, with temps plunging downwards to -321 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to one of the friendly ice cream makers at the Phoenix location of Creamistry, the faster a batch of ice cream is made and frozen, the less time there are for ice crystals to form. This, according to fans of this method, results in ice cream that is denser and creamier than conventionally-made ice creams.
To place your order at Creamistry, you start by choosing your size and ice cream base. Creamistry currently offers four bases: a signature "premium" milk base, an organic milk base, a water-based sorbet, and a nondairy coconut base.
Once you pick a base, it's time to pick your cream flavor, toppings, and other add-ons. This is the part of that might make you feel like you need a chemistry degree just to sort out all the options.
There are dozens of ice cream flavors, which are organized into six different flavor categories. You can pick from cereal-inspired ice cream flavors (including Cap 'n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, and other kiddie favorites). There are ice cream flavors patterned after popular cookies and cakes (including birthday cake and cheesecake); coffees and teas (including Thai tea and matcha); and, of course, a smattering of classics (chocolate and French vanilla, among others).
There are more than 30 toppings and sauces to choose from, ranging from mini-gummy bears to candy bars to fresh berries. You can upgrade your order by having your ice cream served with a waffle cone, brownie, or in an edible chocolate bowl.
Part of the fun of Creamistry, and all other liquid nitrogen ice cream shops, is watching your ice cream being made. When the liquid nitrogen is mixed with your ice cream base, it makes the air around it very cold. This creates fumaroles of white fog, so that it feels for a minute like you've wandered onto the set of an '80s hard rock music video.
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Once the fog clears, your freshly made ice cream is whisked away to the toppings bar, where it's adorned with all your pre-approved toppings.
On a recent visit, we ordered a lavender-hued taro ice cream made using the premium house cream base. Our ice cream maker recommended mochi marshmallows topped with a chocolate drizzle and mini-brownie bites.
The toppings paired well with the nuttiness of the taro ice cream, but the most notable thing about the dessert was the texture of the ice cream. Boy, this ice cream is dense. It's also quite rich and creamy, and holds up remarkably well, so you can stretch out the ice cream-eating experience a bit longer than normal. It's just another reason to be thankful for modern science.