How extreme are your tastebuds?

Are you into extreme things? If extreme isn’t your thing, then perhaps ice-cream is? Or in this case, Gelato!

The experience

N2 Extreme Gelato takes this to the next level. The Fitzroy restaurant uses liquid nitrogen to create unique and delicious flavours of gelato – all before your eyes!

I was dragged there for ‘dinner’ one night with friends, and while it didn’t quite meet my expectations for a meal, I was fascinated by the novel way of bringing science into the forefront of the public’s mind.

Walking into a simple, grey room, I was met by a vision of mad scientists operating behind a lab bench – white coats and chemistry goggles a midst a mist of dry ice, as the nitrogen boiled at a steamy -196°C. Eight mouth-watering flavours spelled out across chalkboards provide the menu, and the formula is given to those hungry for something more than just dessert.

The science

What is the science behind it? And for that matter, what is the appeal? For many, science is a foreign language, a land of reclusive intellects that are either forcibly (or willingly) ostracised from society as they study astrophysics and neuroscience. Many of us miss the very real, very tangible and in-your-face experience of science in our day-to-day lives. One of the most common science experiments we engage with daily is through the preparation of food. What N2 Extreme Gelato does is meld the distant and clichéd image of the mad scientist with the palpable experience of making gelato. This is then reinforced by the smoothness of the flavours that run away with your taste-buds!

Liquid nitrogen or dry ice as it is commonly known, molecularly consists of two nitrogen (N) atoms held happily together by the intense attraction of their electrons and protons: N + N = N2. A common misconception is that N2 is poisonous. The danger of liquid nitrogen is from the low boiling point. Even in Antarctica, the liquid would boil. As it turns to a gas, it expands rapidly, pushing the oxygen in the atmosphere around it out of the way. Party-goers at a Mexican pool party learnt this the hard way. Liquid nitrogen was poured into the pool to give the steamy affect characterised by the liquid boiling off. Swimmers heads bobbed in the water until the haze dissipated and people were pulled from the water as if they had suffocated!

The gelato

Back to the tasty stuff. It is this low boiling point that makes liquid nitrogen a sensation for creating gelato. The cream and sugar mixture freeze through ‘nucleation-dominated ice crystallisation’, a fancy ways ofsaying that lots of tiny ice crystals form really fast! It is this that creates the super smooth texture that has made N2 Extreme Gelato a gastronomical sensation.

Nic Currie

The directions

So for all those extreme junkies out there – or those food junkies, taste the science behind liquid nitrogen gelato!

N2 Extreme Gelato is open lunch and dinner at 329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

 The sites

3 Responses to “How extreme are your tastebuds?”

  1. Nikkita says:

    That’s fascinating – makes sense! There was a death reported at the pool party and a number of people ended up in a critical condition from asphyxiation. A number of reports blamed this on a chemical reaction between the chlorine and the nitrogen, however as nitrogen is an inert gas, it was purely from the nitrogen displacing the oxygen!

  2. Gabriel Bernasochi says:

    I’ve always wanted to try making ice-cream from N2 or from dry ice, especially because I have to use it in the lab a few times a week.

    For the same reason that liquid N2 pushes oxygen around it out of the way we aren’t allowed to transport it in the lifts. If one broke down (as they often do) and someone spilt some it could be fatal.

  3. anita says:

    it is very wonderful by looking at the liquid nitrogen to form an icecream and put into mouth!