It may be the quintessential American dessert, but ice cream is not immune to innovation. Most of Long Island’s shops make it the old-fashioned way: pouring a custard “base” into a batch freezer that churns it while cooling it down — without the constant churn, the custard would just turn into a solid mass. The batch freezer empties the fresh ice cream into big tubs which, after a daylong sojourn in the deep freeze, are ready for scooping. In 2019, however, ice cream purveyors are deploying liquid nitrogen and super-cold “griddles” to freeze custard in seconds; using small-batch homestyle ice cream makers to allow customers to churn their own; even resorting to old-fashioned hand-cranked contraptions. Here are four new establishments testing the boundaries of ice cream.
CoolMess (1512 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn): Feel free to make a mess at CoolMess, Roslyn’s new DIY ice cream parlor; you are not responsible for clean-up. Each table is equipped with a personal ice cream maker. Pour in a chocolate or vanilla custard (both from Ronnybrook Dairy) or dairy-free strawberry sorbet and your choice of dozens of mix-ins (from chocolate chips and shredded coconut to gummy bears and pound cake), wait eight minutes and voilà: your own personalized ice cream. Each container is $29.99 and serves three to four kids. Also available: two dozen ready-made flavors of ice cream ($7 for two scoops, $8 for a shake, $12 for a sundae), a cereal bar and a small selection of salads, sandwiches and burgers. (Owner Marguerite Loucas also owns the venerable Manhattan mini-chain, Burger Heaven.) Watching the paddle go round and round can be pretty mesmerizing, but if the kids get bored, there’s an adjacent game room and atmosphere that tolerates — lo, encourages — sugar-fueled high jinks. The sprawling shop is a kid’s paradise, painted vanilla white with multicolored sprinkles. “Teach your children about taxes,” advises a legend printed overhead. “Eat half their ice cream.” More info: 516-801-2665, coolmess.com
A DIY ice cream bowl at CoolMess in Roslyn.
Texicana Grill (2713 Merrick Rd., Bellmore): Steven Scopelitis opened his Tex-Mex grill in 2006, but he stepped up his ice cream game about two years ago by adopting a centuries-old method: the hand-crank machine. Every day he (or his mother or his nine-year-old son) churns three gallons of ice cream, requiring about 40 minutes of sustained elbow grease. He relishes the connection to the past, and also believes that hand-cranking produces the creamiest ice cream. Scopelitis also sees a direct connection between his regular South of the Border menu and the ice cream. “The most popular flavors, chocolate and vanilla,” he noted “all come from Central America.” His “supremo” ice cream is made with a vanilla-bean base laced with bits of chocolate and homemade dulce de leche. Other flavors include cinnamon and avocado. An eight-ounce cup is $4.99. If you want to satisfy your savory tooth before diving into the ice cream, Texicana Grill serves tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and more. More info: 516-785-9200, texicanagrill.com
Texicana Grill in Bellmore serves up hand-cranked ice cream including, left to right: Cinnamon ice cream, egg yolks, cream, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar and molasses; Avocado Lime ice cream, avocado, agave nectar, cream, milk, sea salt, lime and vanilla bean and sea salt; and “Supremo” (vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate-dulce-de-leche swirl), egg yolks, cream, milk, dark chocolate, condensed milk, sugar, vanilla bean, evaporated milk and sea salt.
Bar a Dessert
Bar a Dessert (38 S. Ocean Ave., Patchogue): Ice cream rolled to order on a freezing griddle is the main event at Bar A Dessert, which brings “Thai stir-fried ice cream” to Patchogue. Though the process originated in Thailand, it’s been gaining popularity in the U.S., spurred, no doubt, by the many alluring videos posted on social media. Each dessert begins with morsels (Oreos, candy bars, berries, etc.) plopped onto a flat metal disc that has been cooled to minus 21 degrees. Then, the cook pours sweetened liquid cream over the morsels, blending everything via rapid, noisy chopping and scraping (thus the stir-fried label). Once this cools to a stiff paste, it is scraped into cylinders that resemble tiny rolled-up carpets, placed in a cup and topped with anything from mochi to whipped cream and salted caramel pearls. Bar A Dessert sells five flavors, including Oreo Hero (Oreo ice cream, chocolate sauce, toasted marshmallow topping) and Matcha Green (green tea ice cream, blueberry, coconut flakes and mint). Each is $7.95. There are also a handful of non-ice cream desserts (molten chocolate cake, yuzu cheesecake) as well as espresso drinks and bubble tea. More info: 631-730-8688, baradessert.com
The Dragon Punch, rolled ice cream made of passion jelly ball, fresh dragon fruit and mochi, created at Bar A Dessert in Patchogue
Nitro Space (22 Clinton Ave., Huntington): This snazzy Huntington shop serves “space-age” ice cream made to order in a matter of minutes using super-cold blasts of liquid nitrogen. (Nitrogen, which constitutes 78 percent of the air you breathe, is perfectly safe.) There are eight liquid ice cream bases — including vanilla, chocolate, matcha green tea and mango-yuzu — and your choice will be poured into a standing mixer and blended with nitrogen that instantly vaporizes and freezes the liquid into cold creaminess. Add in some extras (from rainbow sprinkles and peanut butter cups to Fruity Dyno-Bites and Oreos) or go for one of Nitro Space’s signature flavors such as Coffee Capacitor (coffee ice cream with chocolate-covered espresso beans) or Little Green Man (matcha ice cream with Kit Kat bars). Every signature flavor, $8.75, is topped by a “matching” cone, handmade in Brooklyn by The Konery. Cone flavors rotate but might include cinnamon, toasted coconut, gluten-free vanilla and black midnight. Dairy-free options abound. More info: 631-923-3056, thenitrospace.com