There’s definitely a movement to “creating” desserts at the table with the likes of liquid nitrogen and the iCream store in the Wicker Park area of Chicago is now making big business of it. It’s pretty easy to spot with a big sign that almost looks like a big “Information” sign outside. You can definitely tell it’s an ice cream store on a warm day with plenty of people hanging around enjoying big cups of it.
iCream is unique in that it creates ice cream just in time using liquid nitrogen. This gives them a huge edge over other ice cream stores since they can create a huge variety of ice cream flavours and mix-ins to suit whatever you like. In fact, that’s exactly how it works. You pick a base (yogurt, sorbet, ice cream), a flavour from their large list, a colour and then any mixins that you would like. They have a huge variety of flavours and their concoctions are meticulously measured (as you can see from the large number of syringe like devices below).
The actual mixing process is very clever with four industrial mixers (KitchenAid brand of course!) outfitted with a tube fed from the large tank ready to inject liquid nitrogen at the push of a button. The carefully measured solution is dumped into each mixing bowl, where the mixing blades churn it to the right consistency and with the push of a button, the liquid nitrogen is dispensed. The boiling gas rolls out spectacularly and the mixture is scooped out when it’s at the right consistency.
Amazingly people try to put things together that just don’t work and I overheard the the person taking someone’s order recommending them to avoid a certain combination which I’m glad that they did. My combination of a green lime flavoured ice cream topped with pineapple went down a treat!
Found at: 1537 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, 60622
With some additional time to kill and some chocolate cravings, we decided to head to Union Square to try out Max Brenner’s. I’d heard about them in Sydney, and saw the store last time I was in Manhattan but couldn’t quite justify having a meal there. It’s location near Union Square is fairly large and definitely popular and even at 4pm seemed to be heaving with people having late lunches or just there for dessert.
Looking around, one of their most popular dishes seemed to be the fondue that included a flaming pot to allow you to “roast” marshmallows and other items that arrive with the hot chocolate pot. The two of us tried half a chocolate pizza (pictured above), though a quarter of it (for both of us) would have been enough. Imagine a light pizza base, smothered with chocolate sauce and then topped with hot chocolate marshmallows. Indulgent? Absolutely, and it was far too sweet for me.
They have some funky mugs like the hug me, and for iced drinks, the bizarrely shaped Alice mug with the words “drink me” on them. They also do other foods that you can follow up with the chocolate menus but given the desserts, they’re probably rich enough by themselves.
Name: Max Brenner
Location: 141 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
The Good: Lots of interesting flavour combinations involving tons of chocolate. A nicely decorated store, airy with plenty of tables. Our waitress was excellent, even informing us that our pizza was still taking some time. Even have some cafe tables for those just wanting a dreamy hot chocolate.
The Not So Good: The round shapes of the room make for some very awkwardly positioned tables. Many of them crammed in right next to each other where you have to shift the table to the left or right unless you’re stick thin (which you definitely won’t be at the end of the meal)
I’ve never had a chance to go to Serendipity 3 though it seems to be one of those places people want to go. They’re in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s most expensive dessert (something we didn’t try).
We arrived fairly late in the day and therefore missed the lunchtime rush crowd that apparently results in a long queue, indicative of that it’s one of the current “trends” in New York. The two of us even got to sit at a four person table, almost simply needed to peruse the larger-than-chest-size menu of offerings. Of course, you could have lunch here with plenty of sandwiches, salads and things to share. Well we were here to have dessert in the form of their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate.
Had I known how big it was, we would have shared a single one instead of both getting one although we would have had to get something to meet the $8 minimum order each. Topped with cream (which we both forgot to ask not to have), it was huge, as you can see for yourself in the picture above. How was it? Pretty good although I had to fight one of those ice cream headaches at more than one point, eager to taste it. You can tell that they use a hot chocolate powder, since it has that slightly gritty texture to it. Plentiful, sweet and definitely tasty, was it worth it the $8.50. Just this once.
Location: 225 E60th Street, NYC, 10022
The Good: Kitsch decore make it an interesting place to sit. Frozen hot chocolate huge!
Not So Good: Waiters could have told us about the serving size. Can be busy at times