On a scorching summer day,there is nothing better than indulging in a silky smooth cup of your favorite ice cream. This year, there’s a new gig in town: Nitrogen Creamery, Jacksonville’s first handmade liquid nitrogen ice cream shop. Stop in for a cold one just a couple of blocks from the shore in Jax Beach and experience the magic.
In 2015, Bonny and Chad Abernathy launched Nitrogen Creamery from a customized food truck named Big Blue at Battle on the Island food truck competition fundraiser in Fleming Island. “The food truck scene was starting to blow up in town and brick-and-mortar [cost] too much,” said Chad. The couple’s ice cream created with liquid nitrogen was a hit: Big Blue sold 225 ice creams in three hours.
Throughout the next two years, they got in with some local food organizations and gained quite a following in the community, even working with the Jacksonville Jaguars. On May 17, the Nitrogen Creamery celebrated the grand opening of its own brick-and-mortar location.
Developing the perfect method for creating delicious frozen treats with liquid nitrogen was far from an overnight effort, though. Chad came up with the idea while working at bb’s Restaurant & Bar as a chef. From the initial concept it took months of trial and error to develop the technique.
Though they’ve transitioned from a food truck to a physical location, Bonny still works as a registered nurse, pitching in with Big Blue as needed and helping out with other business demands. Chad has since transitioned to work only at the Nitrogen Creamery shop.
Chad said the precautions necessary when working with liquid nitrogen are simple. “[It’s] negative 320 degrees. Don’t put your hand in it. It’s no different than cooking with hot grease. It hits you and rolls right off,” he said.
Fans say you can literally taste the difference between liquid nitrogen ice cream and slow-churned. Slow-churned ice cream has air whipped into it, which creates icy flakes that sometimes taste and feel like chunks of ice. Liquid nitrogen freezes the ice cream so fast that there isn’t enough time for those large flakes to form; instead microscopic ice crystals develop, allowing for a creamier and smoother consistency. Less air also means that the consumer fills up faster.
One of the biggest perks of ice cream created with nitrogen is that it allows customers to choose their flavor before the treat is made, ensuring maximum freshness. Chad said very few of their flavors are made ahead of time; instead each is handmade to order.
Honey Cinnamon is one of Nitrogen Creamery’s most popular flavors; Nutella and Orange Creamsicle are other fan favorites. Chad is always coming up with new flavors and told Folio Weekly he hopes to create a s’mores flavor next.
Customers can also choose from an assortment of fresh fruits, candy or cereal to mix into their ice cream. (Pro tip: Orange Creamsicle with Nerds. ’Nuff said.) After a customer chooses a flavor and toppings, the magic happens right in front of them. A large glass window covers the workstation, so people can watch their ice cream being made. Take it from FW: You’ll enjoy the show almost as much as the ice cream.
Nitrogen Creamery is the first of its kind in Jacksonville and the Abernathys are focused on making it the best ice cream parlor, period.
“[We] just want to establish a good client base by the beach and try to get Big Blue out at least five or six days a week. [We] want to better what we have,” said Chad.