Santa Barbara is graced with incredibly fresh food, thanks to farmers’ markets, small-batch bakeries, and countless restaurants that embrace the farm-to-table mentality. Creamistry, the ice-cream shop that opened on State Street in late June, takes that concept of freshness to a new level, using liquid nitrogen to rapidly freeze each order individually.
“We don’t have anything prepared in the store,” said manager Mike Sengez. “We make the ice cream from scratch in front of the customer.”
A visit to the brightly lit shop conjures up science-fair memories. Ice-cream masterminds are hard at work, whipping together custom creations in big stainless-steel bowls as a cool fog wafts out into the line, enveloping customers as they wait and watch the entrancing experiment before them.
The ordering process also feels a bit like figuring out a chemistry equation. Customers start by choosing their size and one of four different bases: There’s the “premium” milk base, the smoothest, creamiest, and most popular; the organic milk base, which is lower calorie; coconut, which is nondairy; and vegan, a water-based sorbet.
Next comes the flavor selection, with 30 varieties organized into six categories. Cereals includes Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and so forth. Cookies and Cakes range from simple cookie dough to the more exotic tiramisu, while Nutty includes toasted pistachio and Nutella, among others. Fruity is self-explanatory, with black cherry, strawberry, and more; Coffee & Teas touch on matcha and Thai tea; and Classics span from caramel to the popular mint. And then you must pick from more than 35 toppings, ranging from rainbow sprinkles to Reese’s Cups to fresh banana, and even potentially opt for an upgrade, such as a freshly baked waffle, brownie, or edible chocolate bowl.
While a dizzying array of options is expected at Yogurtland, it’s a delectable novelty to see this range of customization — more than 4,200 combos are possible! — in the ice-cream department. “It’s unique because you can make your own ice cream,” said Sengez.
Once you’ve designed the recipe, leave the liquid nitrogen part to the pros. They quickly add the minus-321-degrees-Fahrenheit fluid to the mix, which causes the milk particles to stay very small and the ice cream to come out very smooth. “We rapidly freeze it, so it doesn’t have any chance to expand,” explained Sengez. “That’s why it’s creamier and denser.”
When ordering ice cream, I tend to channel my mom more than Willy Wonka, favoring simple pairings like coffee and almonds rather than birthday cake–cookie dough–chocolate swirl. But then Sengez divulged that his favorite, and one of the most popular items, was the Captain’s Breakfast from their Creations menu, which features inventive, pre-decided combinations of ice cream, sauce, and toppings.
Convinced by the excited look in his eyes and authority in his voice, I said, “Aye aye, captain” before I even knew what it was, delighted to walk on the wild side. The combination of creamy vanilla ice cream mixed with Cap’n Crunch tasted like the sweet end to a bowl of cereal. Swirled with Nutella and topped with bananas, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream, it tasted like the best of all sugary breakfast worlds: a fancy crepe somehow wrapped around a nostalgic bowl of cereal.
Creamistry’s ice-cream chemists also create custom-made ice-cream sandwiches, Nitroshakes in all flavors, NitroFloats with gourmet root beer, and an Affogato featuring espresso poured over vanilla-bean ice cream and topped with whipped cream and chocolate curls. And their sweetness extends to community engagement, both as a space for birthday parties and as a charitable partner. “We have fundraisers for schools, college clubs, kindergartens, and nonprofit organizations,” Sengez said, explaining that interested parties can apply via their website.
Santa Barbara’s new location is just one of more than 100 across the United States, and there are international locations from Dubai to China. With a wealth of options, friendly service, and an incredibly creamy final product, it’s clear that Creamistry’s approach to ice cream is a winning formula.
935 State St.; 253-7981; creamistry.com