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Forest Hills gets Terminator in cup

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Forest Hills is in for a real treat.

Sean Pomper is a confectionery entrepreneur who makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen. He calls his frosty treats “Terminator in a cup,” and he hopes to gain some repeat customers on Austin Street at the beginning of next year, when he plans to open a store at 71st Street.

“It’s like Carvel on steroids,” he said. “It’s so thick and creamy you are just shocked.”

That consistency is a direct result of how it is prepared.

A liquid ice cream base — which the customer can select based on fat and sugar content — is mixed together with flavoring. Customers can order traditional standbys like vanilla and chocolate or less common flavors like wasabi or popcorn.

Then customers select a color for the dessert and any toppings they want mixed in.

If a customer wants neon blue, bacon-flavored ice cream with cookies and cream, that is what Pomper serves. The entire process takes about five minutes.

“People are beginning to realize it’s custom-made ice cream,” he said.

The mixture is then exposed to the liquid nitrogen using a device similar to a milk steamer that might be found in a coffee shop.

The chemical boils at -321 degrees ´╗┐Fahrenheit and is already in the process of becoming a gas when Pomper injects it into the mixture, which rapidly freezes it.

This rapid freezing makes the ice cream smoother than a traditionally prepared batch, which takes much longer to freeze, according to Harry Gafney, professor of chemistry at Queens College.

“If you lower the temperature slowly, the fats in the ice cream can sometimes separate,” he said.

And if water separates from the rest of the mixture, it can create ice crystals.

“By using liquid nitrogen they freeze the whole thing so rapidly that the fats and waters are evenly distributed,” Gafney said.

The process is safe, since the Earth’s atmosphere is composed of nearly 80 percent nitrogen, which is odorless and tasteless.

Pomper got the idea from watching a chef cook with liquid nitrogen on the Food Network in 2005, and spent the next year and a half tinkering with his own recipe.

That same year he made headlines with another invention of his called Flavor Spray, which allows gourmands to spray on flavors like butter without ingesting the fat and calories.

For this venture, Pomper caught the eye of NBA player Sebastian Telfair, who co-owns the restaurant.

Several other chefs have begun to combine chemistry with cooking as part of a movement called molecular gastronomy, where common kitchen instruments might be vats of liquid nitrogen, or vaccuum-sealed bags used to slow-cook cuts of meat.

Pomper is constantly inventing new flavors and combinations, such as “Fried Oreos and Cream.” An ice cream combination that houses a Twinkie caused him to veer off of his diet.

Pomper has also invented a way to make custom ice cream cakes in around five minutes.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by email at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:32 am, October 12, 2011
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