The boundaries of ice cream are being redefined in a nondescript street of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, tucked between a pornographic art gallery and some closed down shops. If you take a taxi there, you’ll be tempted to keep going, thinking that the rumors you’ve heard and the articles you’ve read about a cutting-edge new way of making ice cream instantly were wrong. The storefront of Lulu and Mooky’s looks like nothing special, just another banal yogurt shop in Manhattan. But if you decide to skip it, you’ll be missing out on a truly unique experience.
Inside this tiny little shop, you’ll be able to choose from dozens of flavor combinations to create your own ice cream. The ice cream will be made in front of your eyes, in one of two tricked-out Kitchenaid mixers, amidst the billowing clouds of liquid nitrogen smoke.
The store manager has two ice cream bases to offer you: plain and chocolate. Once you’ve selected your palette, you can customize your ice cream with exotic fruit purees such as pear, apricot, or sour cherry, and with dozens of flavors such as honey, burnt sugar, and ginger. Once you’ve chosen your combination, he will pour the base in the mixer, add in the purees, ingredients or artificial flavor, and set it to mix for about a minute to get it frothy. Then comes the exciting part, the donning of the gloves, the retrieval of the containers of liquid nitrogen fro the vault, and the smoke that pours out of the Kitchenaid bowl as the ice cream base is instantly frozen by contact with the -195.8 degrees centrigrade liquid. After thirty more seconds of blending, the ice cream chunks will have thawed into a creamy mixture and your ice cream is ready to eat.
The important question is, beyond the theatrics and thrills, is the ice cream actually good? It depends on the falvor chosen. My sister, husband, and I sampled three: grape, peach with honey, and chocolate peanut butter. The grape falvor was not from a puree, it was an extract added to the base in a spray bottle and the ice cream tasted chemical and strange, with only a faint whiff of grape. I would stay away from the spray flavors. The honey peach was good, although the fruit was still a little weak for my taste. When opting for fruit, I would suggest requesting extra fruit to give it a bold fruity taste instead of creamy flavor with a hint of fruit. The honey which was poured straight into the bowl came across well and left a lovely aftertaste.
The chocolate was the clear winner as far as I was concerned. It had a strong, pleasant chocolate flavor, and the chunks of peanut butter were delicious. the ice cream was creamy, with no pockets of air or ice crystals. It was far smoother and more pleasant in the mouth than, a pint of Edy’s from the supermarket or a serving from Cold Stone Creamery.
A few bites into our respective ice creams, we suddenly looked up and wondered whether it was safe to eat. Without a scientific bone between the three of us, we couldn’t hazard a guess as to whether the liquid nitrogen had evaporated or whether we were ingesting it. Collectively we shrugged and decided to trust the powers that be that had granted Lulu and Mooky their license, and then we went back to spooning heaping creamy bites of futuristic ice cream in our mouths.
Depending on your flavor combinations, a small ice cream cup will run you between $4 and $6.
Lulu and Mooky, 129 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)