Wicker Park's iCream is a 21st century parlor

April 15, 2009 Most ice cream shops give you options, but that's assuming the ice cream is already made. At the new iCream in Wicker Park, they take the ice cream parlor concept one step further.

They make instant ice cream, right before your eyes. It's a new concept, with thousands of possible combinations.

Ice cream stores keep a lot of ingredients on hand: cream, sugar, and of course all of those flavorings. But iCream is an entirely 21st century operation. Their biggest investment? Giant tanks of liquid nitrogen and intense flavor extracts. Once combined, they make instant ice cream that's created just for you.

"The deal with iCream is we're making your ice cream, the way you want it, fresh on the spot, from scratch. So rather than just taking ice cream that's already made and been waiting until you come in to add some toppings to, we're actually making it for you, right in front of you with liquid nitrogen," Cora Shaw, owner of iCream, said.

When you walk in, you choose ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet; I go with burnt sugar ice cream. The flavor extract is added to a large beaker with some sugar cane syrup. You can also add a color if you wish, so I chose pink. After the milk is added, the mixture is stirred up, then dumped into a stand-mixer. A series of commands is programmed into the machine. Then, as it starts to beat, a healthy dose of supercold liquid nitrogen is added, instantly freezing the flavored milk.

"It's very safe in terms of what it's made of and our bodies are used to it and the environment is used to it. It's just very very cold so it freezes really fast. You can't taste it, see it, smell it," Shaw said.

Sure enough, my pink, burnt sugar ice cream tastes just like I ordered it. They'll also make a hot pudding if you like, using the steamer from a high-end espresso machine. How about a pistachio pudding with graham crackers and bananas? There are dozens of potential flavor combinations at your fingertips.

The hardest part is making a decision on what to try first. In essence, it's instant ice cream or frozen yogurt, the exact way you want it.

"Really there are tons of combinations you can make and then you can add all your mix-ins and fruit; so there's a lot you can do," Shaw said.

They can also make frozen yogurt or hot pudding, if ice cream isn't your thing.

1537 N. Milwaukee Ave.

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