Chefs have been tinkering around with liquid nitrogen for some time now, turning, well, anything into instant ice cream. But come spring, New York City will be home to not one, but two shops peddling the frozen treat. Sean Pomper, who owns two liquid nitrogen ice cream stores called Nitro on Long Island, tells us that he’s planning on expanding his business to the Upper West Side and to Greenwich Village.
“I’ve always been a lover of ice cream,” says Pomper. “A couple years ago I had a couple of Italian ice shops. And in 2005 I created a flavor spray with David Burke. … But cut to now, about five years later, I’m watching the Food Network and I see Mario Batali using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. There were some restaurants [also making liquid nitrogen ice cream]. But because of my flavoring background I said I’ve got to take it to the next level.”
Liquid nitrogen ice cream differs from traditional ones because the instant jolt of cold eliminates the icy particles that can form in the freezer. “It’s unlike any ice cream you’ve tasted,” says Pomper, whose stores created more than 100 different flavors. Many are offbeat, like buttered popcorn, which he makes with a butter-flavored base and toasted corn nuts. Pomper adds that he’s also beginning to expand the business to include mix-ins and other toppings to complement his lines of regular ice creams, no-sugar-added varieties, and frozen yogurt. “The more and more flavorings, the more fun it is,” he notes. “I had to design the line of flavorings to work with the ice cream base,” explains Pomper. “There still has to be a supply line — you can’t have different recipes for 100 different flavors.” Pomper’s knack for innovation has also translated to other frozen-dessert successes. “I just designed something to make ice cream cakes in under five minutes. I made a liquid nitrogen box and you put the batter in, and we’ll make it fresh for you so you don’t have to wait 24 hours. His next project? “I’m trying to make a dessert or treat that’s hot inside and frozen on the outside.”
That, and rapid growth. He’s just signed leases for two more shops on Long Island and is currently talking with landlords in Manhattan. “We’re looking between Lincoln Center and 86th Street on the Upper West Side, and also on 4th Street in the Village,” he says. “We’re opening both at the same time and trying to get both going by February or March.” Looks like it might be time for an ice cream social.