Like many other businesses, Lulu's Nitrogen Ice Cream was born in a college dorm. The big difference in owner Luisa Santos' case is there was a tank of liquid nitrogen in her Georgetown University dorm that night. The Colombia-born, Miami-raised student was determined to make her own ice cream using liquid nitrogen after being captivated by seeing the technique demonstrated. By the end of the evening, she and her roommates were quite pleased with the results.
That was late 2013, and since then, Santos has been offering her frozen treats at farmers' markets and catering gigs. However, this spring, the 24-year-old will open her first brick-and-mortar location on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 20th Street.
"I decided Miami because I grew up here. Miami right now is growing and booming at an incredible rate, and the culture we’re developing is something I’d love to be a part of. Plus, it’s warm all year long," the entrepreneur says.
Unlike traditional shops where the ice-cream base must churn for hours while it freezes, using liquid nitrogen allows you to freeze ice cream in 20 to 30 seconds per serving. Santos explains this process guarantees freshness because you know your dessert hasn't been sitting around for hours or perhaps days. But more important, she says that as a result of the rapid freezing process, the ice particles are smaller and therefore the texture is far smoother than that of typical ice cream.
At Lulu's Nitrogen Ice Cream, your treat is made on the spot for a fresh and extra creamy taste, says owner Luisa Santos.
Photo by Vicky Gu
The way it will work is you choose your base, which Santos emphasizes has been made in-store from scratch. Then they'll freeze it right in front of you. Flavors will rotate frequently and according to what's in season at the farms in Homestead. But fear not — classics like chocolate, vanilla, and their most popular, Nutella, will always be available. More creative options might include strawberry-basil or honey-lavender, and there will always be at least one vegan choice such as avocado. Santos says all the dairy used is local and comes from the business's very own adopted cow. Her name: Lulu, of course.
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Thus far in Miami, you can find liquid nitrogen ice cream at Chill-N, which has locations in Pinecrest and Aventura. But if this approach makes such superior ice cream, why isn't it more prevalent? "I think people don't really know about it. I mean, why did cupcakes blow up yet they've been around forever?" Santos says. "I think this is the future of ice cream."
Right now, the young owner says Lulu's will sell only ice cream ($5 to $11 for a pint), but perhaps once the shop has that down pat, it can expand its offerings. That said, Santos wants the shop to be about more than frozen goodies and to contribute to the community. She's already teaming up with the National YoungArts Foundation for events and has plans to offer ice-cream-centric chemistry classes that she has already conducted in D.C. "It's way more than an ice-cream business. We care about sustainability — from our compostable cups to sourcing locally," she says.
Asked how she manages it all, Santos says, "It has been an incredible journey, and I’m beyond thrilled." Oh, and in case you're interested, Lulu's Nitrogen Ice Cream is hiring.