With temperatures climbing into the 90s, our minds are on two things: outdoor happy hours and ice cream. For the more acceptable lunchtime indulgence of the two, stop by the Science Club patio, where Nicecream Factory owner Sandra Tran churns out freshly frozen flavors such as chocolate-peanut butter and strawberry-basil three times a week. And when we say fresh, we don’t mean a few hours in the making. Tran uses liquid nitrogen to churn ice cream to order, guaranteeing that those pesky freezer crystals get nowhere near your treat.
While the addition of liquid nitrogen sounds like something out of chemistry class—and quite appropriate for the pop-up’s venue—the process is actually pretty organic. Tran uses a base of Trickling Springs milk, heavy cream, and a touch of sugar, combined with natural flavorings like Valrhona chocolate, ground pistachios, fresh strawberry purée, and Thai basil, which she tears just before adding for maximum flavor. The nitrogen freezes the liquid mixture as it turns slowly in a stand mixer, and evaporates in the process. The result: a dense, creamy cup free of artificial coloring or preservatives. The crew also works the farmers market circuit in Glover Park, Georgetown, and the Palisades, where early risers line up for “breakfast ice cream”—a dairy-free frozen treat that simply involves whipping a very ripe banana or mango with agave into a fluffy snack. You’ll be able to grab a similar version at the downtown pop-up next week, though it’ll make for a late morning meal. The stand is open from 11 to 4:30 Wednesday through Friday, hopefully all summer long.
Check out the Nicecream Factory Facebook page for updates on daily rotating offerings. On any given day you might find flavors such as caramel-bacon, honey-lavender, or strawberry-rhubarb, as well as more exotic options like durian and red bean ice cream, a nod to Tran’s Vietnamese roots. And if you go at the later end of the opening hours, you could get your other warm-weather fix—Science Club starts happy hour at 5.
See a video of the ice-cream-making process below.