The metallic pump hisses as it pours fog into the mixing bowl. The overflowing white mist spills across the countertop, covering the floor in thick, curling strands. This may sound like a scientific experiment gone awry, but in actuality, it is the final step in ice cream’s latest twist that can be found in downtown’s Scoop Microcreamery. As the mist parts, the mixer is lifted from the bowl, revealing creamy, white, liquid nitrogen-made ice cream, the featured product of Scoop.
On Friday, Sept. 27, Scoop, an ice cream shop specializing in liquid nitrogen-made ice cream, moved into University Avenue in the former Häagen-Dazs location across from Pizza My Heart.
Before Dave Somasunderams and his wife, Cindy Somasunderams, became co-owners of Scoop microcreamery in Palo Alto, they were owners of a frozen yogurt shop in Princeton, N.J. After moving to California, the Somasunderams encountered liquid nitrogen-made ice cream when Dave Somasunderams, who has been in the food industry for over 30 years, saw an episode of Shark Tank, a reality show about entrepreneurs who pitch ideas to a panel of possible investors called “sharks.”
“He saw these people in Utah making ice cream with liquid nitrogen and the sharks loved it and Dave thought, ‘We should do something like that’,” Cindy Somasunderams says. “We wanted to do it in small batches so people could taste the flavors before they bought it.”
The rapid freezing process of this liquid nitrogen technique creates Scoop’s distinct smooth texture. According to Cindy Somasunderams, because the ice cream freezes so quickly, there is no time to pump air into it, as conventional ice cream has.
“By using the liquid nitrogen method, it [the ice cream] freezes instantly without forming large ice crystals as it goes from liquid to solid in less than five minutes,” Cindy Somasunderams says. “People say that they love the texture, that it’s so smooth.”
Pretty soon, the Somasunderams were experimenting with small amounts of liquid nitrogen supplied by their daughter, a scientist. After successful test runs, Scoop Microcreamery — “micro” referring to the small batches of 32 scoops of ice cream made daily — was born.
The resulting ice-cream parlor looks like any other, with the exception of twin vats of liquid nitrogen located in its center.
Scoop uses liquid nitrogen at -321 degrees Fahrenheit to make its ice cream. The resulting texture is a combination of normal ice cream and soft serve, making an incredibly rich treat.
Customers can enjoy their ice cream amid the the hiss of the liquid nitrogen pipes and the sweet smells, reminiscent of a pastry shop, inside the store.
According to Cindy Somasunderams, the ice cream’s distinct flavor is the result of high quality natural ingredients.
“We’re starting with a really good cream from Straus Creamery,” Cindy Somasunderams says. “It’s very fresh; it’s very rich.”
Scoop aims to use the best ingredients in its ice cream, such as organic cream and eggs.
Cindy Somasunderams also makes her own vanilla bean extract, aged with madagascar vanilla beans to achieve a deep taste.
She adds that to ensure the best quality ice cream, the menu follows the changing seasons, incorporating only seasonally available ingredients that are in season.
Scoop’s current fall flavor is the pumpkin ginger strudel. The pumpkin-flavored ice cream is rich with bits of crispy crumbled strudel swirled in.
According to Cindy Somasunderams, she’s working on a ginger-flavored ice cream that will appear during December. She hopes to create a strawberry ice cream sometime during spring.
Scoop offers a variety of flavors like maple bacon crunch, one of the store’s most popular ice creams. Ironically, it was the Somasunderams’s vegetarian daughter who suggested the flavor.
“She wouldn’t eat it, I’m sure, but she thought that it would be a good idea,” Cindy Somasunderams says.
The maple bacon ice cream has a delicious savory flavor with a balance of salty bacon and sweet maple. The bacon lacks a crunch, but even with this shortcoming, its roughness contrasts with the smooth consistency of the ice cream.
After public praise of Cindy Somasunderams’ bacon brittle bits, she decided to sell her bacon brittle by the bag in post-it-sized slabs for $4.95.
Another popular ice cream is bourbon vanilla with salty caramel swirl. Reminiscent of the bacon maple crunch, this flavor vacillates between complementary salty and sweet flavors.
Scoop’s recent debut, coffee ice cream, became a hit among customers, according to Cindy Somasunderams. The subtle hint of coffee is less powerful, richer and sweeter than traditional coffee ice cream, but the coffee flavor increases in strength after each spoonful.
The silky mango chili sherbert gives a punch of tartness while the chili appears only as a brief aftertaste.
Scoop also serves milkshakes made with any of their ice cream selections. The chocolate milkshake has a thick, rich, dark chocolate taste, however there were some small hard particles that threw off the consistency.
Scoop ice cream offers a distinct rich flavor along with a denser ice cream. As a result, a bowl of Scoop’s ice cream satisfies any sweet tooth at the affordable price of $4.50 for one scoop of ice cream, $4.95 for two scoops and $5.75 for three scoops.
Scoop is environmentally conscious, offering a dollar off for bringing in a mason jar to take home a pint of ice cream. Each pint holds up to two flavors for $9.95. Similarly, if a customer brings a bowl for their ice cream they get 25 cents off their purchase.
“We are focused on basically making the best ice cream possible along with the best ingredients,” Cindy Somasunderams says. “It’s a lot of fun and we just love making people happy with our ice cream.”