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You walk into the little bright-blue Beverly Hills shop and think, Well, here’s another trendy ice cream outlet. The menu board boasts organic apples, Straus Dairy cream, fresh-baked brownies--still, you expect nothing special. Until you notice the clouds of smoke.

Liquid nitrogen vapors are the trademark of Ice Cream Lab, the new enterprise that reinvents an old-fashioned treat using newfangled molecular gastronomy. Owners Joseph Lifschutz and Tommy Ngan designed special mixing bowls that recall witches’ cauldrons: To make a scoop of Angeles Apple Pie, for example, staffers throw in apple chunks, piecrust pieces and cream, then flip a frost-covered lever to squirt 321-degree liquid nitrogen, which flash-freezes it all.

We’d anticipated disappointment from this gimmick, but then we tasted a $5 scoop of Salt Lick Crunch, made with caramel, pretzels and cream. The rich yet vibrant flavors and crunchy mix-ins reminded us of fancy restaurant desserts. And that pile of apple chunks, piecrust and cream turned out even better. We’ll be going back to try the Brentwood Brownie (brownies in chocolate ice cream) and Blue Velvet Cupcake flavors (moist chocolate cake in vanilla ice cream) as happy converts to this new flash in the pan.

Ice Cream Lab, 9461 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-795-6505 or icecreamlab.com

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