Why get your ice cream scooped from a tub when you can watch a 60-second show as your nitrogen ice cream is being made at Chill-N? The place resembles a mad scientist’s lab with a row of modified Kitchen-Aid paddle mixers behind glass at the counter fitted with metal tubes that shoot out compressed liquid nitrogen made from minus-320-degree filtered air from large tanks, creating a cloud of vapor that delights kids and adults alike.
Danny Golik was the first entrepreneur to open a nitrogen ice cream shop in South Florida, in October 2012 in Pinecrest (a Fort Lauderdale location came later). Golik, who studied economics and pre-med at the University of Florida, completed a six-month internship at a bank in London only to find out banking wasn’t for him. When a buddy told him about nitrogen ice cream, he started experimenting using the friend’s Coral Gables garage as a laboratory until he perfected the technique. He made a business plan, and his family invested in the first store.
And it’s truly a family affair. His mom bakes the brownies, apple pie and red-velvet cake with cream cheese frosting that are flavors or add-ins. His two sisters are graphic designers and created his logo. He hires high school and college students as staff members; they help with social media. Schoolchildren are brought in by teachers to learn about the science behind the technique.
His equipment is specially made for him by engineers, and he gets the liquid nitrogen from a gas company. The ice cream bases come in five-gallon boxes from a dairy near St. Petersburg.
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Here’s how it works: From the periodic table-looking menu, make your flavor (fans share theirs on Instagram, and three are chosen for weekly featured flavors). You choose an ice cream base made from milk, cream, sugar and vanilla beans or nonfat vanilla yogurt in liquid form; one of 11 base flavors like Nutella, dulce de leche, chocolate, strawberry, biscotti, cake batter and peanut butter; then add mix-N’s from chocolate chips and coconut shavings to Pop-Tart bits and granola.
The mixture flash freezes while the paddle of the mixer stirs the base into super-smooth ice cream. The rapid freezing makes ice crystals smaller, creating a creamier texture.
Some tasty combos: Try coffee with Krispy Creme bits or cinnamon toast crunch; butter pecan with Heath bar bits; peanut butter with hot fudge; dulce de leche with brownie; chocolate with Oreo bits. And then there’s strawberry with banana; vanilla with bits of Butterfingers or gummy bears; apple pie with honey pecans. Other flavors are added depending on the occasion — Bailey’s Irish cream for St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps?
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.
If You Go
Place: Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream
Address: 17831 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, 8271 SW 124th St., Pinecrest ; 2422 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 305-925-7530
Hours: 2-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 2-11 Friday; noon-11PM Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday