Street-Level Molecular Gastronomy: Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream at Lulu & Mooky’s


The moment when the liquid nitrogen is poured into the ice cream mixture is your dramatic payoff.

It was inevitable that the “science chef” techniques employed by such noted chefs as Grant Achatz and Wylie Dufresne would work their way down to the street level — with mixed results, of course. Lulu & Mooky’s, an ice cream shop on the Lower East Side, represents just that tendency.

Ice cream flavors available at Lulu & Mooky’s.

The place specializes in “liquid nitrogen ice cream,” which means ice cream created on the spot using nitrogen cooled to its liquid state at minus-321 degrees Fahrenheit. Indeed, when you step into Lulu & Mooky’s, the first thing you’ll notice after the brace of pink KitchenAid mixers is the tall stainless steel cylinder of liquid nitrogen fuming in the rear of the store.

The list of ice cream flavors, created using a series of small squirt bottles displayed behind the counter, is enormous. When you order a cone or cup, the operator takes out a metal bowl, pours in his ice cream mix, then adds a couple of squirts of flavor. He then puts these in the bowl of the mixer, turns it on so the bowl rotates and the paddles churn, straps a plastic funnel on top, then draws himself a measuring cup of liquid nitrogen from the cylinder. It’s all very Mr. Wizard.

Next, he pours the liquid nitrogen via the plastic funnel into the turning bowl, which causes the future ice cream to sputter and send up clouds of gas (since gaseous nitrogen is invisible, these clouds represent ice crystals condensed from the atmosphere). The ice cream mixture rapidly turns to lumps of ice cream, which is then scooped into a waiting receptacle of your choice.

A scoop of the blood-orange-flavored liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Indeed, it seems like magic. Fork in the Road sampled the blood-orange flavor. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste much like blood oranges, and though the ice cream had a pleasantly smooth texture, the mouthfeel was fuller than even high-fat ice creams, leading us to suspect it had been made from some canned milk product. Note that we don’t know exactly what’s in the ice cream mix the guy uses, but it tastes different enough from commercially produced ice creams to be slightly dissatisfying.

Still, the process is interesting enough that you might want to invest $5 just to see how it’s done. Naturally, the use of liquid nitrogen in such a small space is a bit disturbing, and we couldn’t help recalling the catastrophic accident that occurred at Texas A&M University a few years ago.