Nitro ice cream: The heavenly taste of a science experimentBy MEGHAN PIERCE
Sunday News Correspondent October 24. 2015 5:06PM
MARLBOROUGH -- When Assembly Creamery opened last month, it brought the nitro ice cream trend to the Monadnock region.
The frozen treat is made when the ice cream ingredients are flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen.
“There's no ice cream on the premises at all, until we make it,” said owner Malaise Lindenfeld.
The business sign on Route 101 reads “Assembly, Better Ice Cream Through Science,” and the making of nitro ice cream in the shop certainly looks like a science experiment.
“You can actually see the liquid nitrogen, and it looks just like boiling water because that's exactly what it's doing, boiling and evaporating,” said Chelsie Mack, store manager.
Using a cream base and fresh ingredients, employees make the ice cream right in front of customers using a machine mixer fitted with a nozzle to release the liquid nitrogen.
There are the standard flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, but maple bacon is by far the customer favorite, they said.
“It tastes like maple bacon; it's so good; it really does,” said customer Liz Tousley of Marlborough. “I'm really not a great ice cream person, but ... I'll definitely be back.”
Mack has also been working to perfect other flavors requested by customers such as pumpkin pie, green tea and pomegranate.
“You can have it any way you want because basically there is no limit to what you can do,” Lindenfeld said. “If you want spinach ice cream, we'll make you spinach ice cream.”
Customers are often confused by the process, they said. Mack said she shocked one customer when he asked her if she could make pineapple ice cream.
“I don't know what he was expecting, but when I opened up the refrigerator door and took out a whole pineapple his jaw dropped,” Mack said.
One man was shocked to find a blueberry in his blueberry lemon ice cream, Lindenfeld said. “You ordered blueberry. Of course there's blueberry in it.”
The creamery has had to close early several times in its first few weeks because it ran out of nitrogen and had to restock.
“The best part is people's reaction to it. The texture is so different,” Lindenfeld said.
Because nitro ice cream is flash frozen there is little to no air whipped in during the process, making a smooth and dense ice cream.
“It's not super hard, but it's not soft serve either. It's like something in between,” Lindenfeld said.
Originally from Venezuela, Lindenfeld has also lived in Florida (where she first tasted nitro ice cream); Mexico (the inspiration for her corn ice cream); and New York City (where she went to both restaurant school and film school.)
After landing in the Monadnock region about 15 years ago, Marlborough became her home.
Lindenfeld owns many businesses along Route 101/Main Street in Marlborough, as well as Audrey's Café on Route 101 in Dublin. She bought the café because she liked eating there, and the diner was in danger of closing. The other businesses she started either out of her own interest or because she saw a need in the town.
In Marlborough, she owns the Goth and Steampunk clothing store Inkubus Haberdashery, Suds to be You Laundromat, Zeppelin & Kaleidoscope Vegetarian Café, Mother's Hardware and the Latin American restaurant Piedra Fina.
Her media company, Cerberus, which she runs with her husband, Beau Gillespie, will soon open a location next door to Assembly Creamery.
“I wear many hats,” Lindenfeld said.
But owning an ice cream shop has always been a dream of hers, she said.
The modern history of nitro ice cream goes back 20 years, to the 1990s when scientists and entrepreneurs began making it.
“It's the typical science experiment,” Lindenfeld said. “It's been around for a while. The funny thing is everybody claims they invented it. Seriously, you can look it up on YouTube, and everyone claims they invented it. I am the only person apparently that did not invent it.”
The first record of nitro ice, though, goes back to the Victorian era when English culinary entrepreneur Agnes Bertha Marshall, who was dubbed the Queen of Ices, theorized that using liquid nitrogen would be the ideal way to freeze ice cream.
Nitro ice cream has been building momentum in southern and western parts of the county and has only recently reached New Hampshire.
Assembly Creamery, though, is not the first nitro ice cream shop in the state. That distinction goes to Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt.
The national chain has two locations in Nashua on Amherst Street and Daniel Webster Highway.
“We're basically a year old,” said Rita McCabe of Pelham.
She and her husband, Mark McCabe, not only own the locations, but are the franchise developers for all of New England.
Sub Zero has been around for 10 years, and these are the first locations in New England, she said.
In 2013, the McCabes saw Sub Zero owners Jerry and Naomi Hancock on the reality business investment show “Shark Tank” and knew they wanted a piece of the action.
Because Hancock is a military veteran, Sub Zero offers a 25 percent veteran discount on its franchise fee, McCabe said.
Sub Zero makes their ice cream — using a patented method — by hand with a spade and a bowl, McCabe said.
“We make it right in front of the customer, by hand,” McCabe said. “The whole thing just wows everybody, young and old alike.”
Sub Zero offers 49 proprietary flavors and a choice of eight different base creams, including low fat and no fat options to nondairy choices like coconut and soy. This allows Sub Zero to accommodate people with allergies. Customers can also mix in toppings.
“When you come into our store you can pick everything because it's all about the base cream that we start out,” McCabe said. “People absolutely love the ice cream. ... It's not going in and out of the freezer, there's no air getting whipped into it. ... Because it freezes so fast the ice crystals are so small.”
That makes nitro ice cream so much smoother, McCabe said.
“Everywhere we go people are skeptical at first, and they say, ‘Well what makes your ice cream different?'” McCabe said, “Then after trying it they say, “Oh my gosh this is the best ice cream I've ever had.'”
Together the couple also demonstrates and serves nitro ice cream at events from corporate retreats to science and technology fairs at schools.
“No matter where we go it's always well received. It's a big wow factor. Everybody is very interested in it,” she said.
Assembly Creamy in Marlborough is open daily, Mondays through Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sub Zero is open daily Mondays through Thursday from 1 pm. to 8 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.