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Chilly Reception: New Liquid-Nitrogen Ice Cream Shop Gets a Cease and Desist

Liquid nitrogen infused ice cream from -321 Ice Cream Shop (Photo: Jaime Cone)

Liquid nitrogen infused ice cream from -321 Ice Cream Shop (Photo: Jaime Cone)

With liquid-nitrogen ice cream shops opening in Williamsburg, the Lower East Side, and now the East Village, it’s safe to say there’s an appetite for the sci-fi dessert. But while the trend sweeps New York, two ice cream shops specializing in the cutting-edge procedure have clashed, with accusations of plagiarism and blatant imitation flying around. The frozen treats may be ice cold, but tempers are heating up.

Just days after opening on St. Marks Place last Friday, Lab-321° is facing accusations from the Williamsburg-based -321° Ice Cream Shop (are you confused yet?) of stealing its logo and name.

Lab-321° on 27 St. Mark's Place (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Lab-321° on 27 St. Mark’s Place (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

“They know we’re a hot topic right now,” said Allen Ruan, co-founder of -321° Ice Cream Shop, which has been around since last year. He explained that the flask design, the logo, and the name “-321°” are in the process of being registered, but that “we have the right to first use in commerce,” meaning that whoever came up with an image or logo and used it within a specific context first has the right to lay claim on it and use it.

The storefront of -321° Ice Cream Shop in Williamsburg (Photo: Jaime Cone)

The storefront of -321° Ice Cream Shop in Williamsburg (Photo: Jaime Cone)

Ruan also said that the new shop is causing confusion among longtime customers. “We have customers asking us if [Lab-321°] is our second shop.”

However, Lab-321° insists their concept has nothing to do with Ruan’s. Shirley Tang, the co-manager at Lab-321°, said, “We have our own trademark, we don’t sell the same thing.”

The menu at Lab-321° (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

The menu at Lab-321° (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

The specialty of -321° Ice Cream Shop in liquid-nitrogen ice cream, a treat that’s more reminiscent of a laboratory experiment than a home-churned sweet treat straight from the a bucolic dairy farm. It’s made by adding liquid nitrogen to a liquid cream concoction (think melted ice cream) and churning it all together to create the familiar thick, creamy texture in minutes.

On the other hand, Tang explained that her shop’s specialties are marshmallow dips (marshmallows speared on a stick, covered in liquid ice cream, and then dipped in liquid ice cream), dragon’s breath (popcorn on a stick immersed in liquid nitrogen), and Thai-style rolled ice cream. “These are totally different things,” Tang said.

Tang making rolled ice cream (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Tang making rolled ice cream (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

She explained that the rolled treats are made by chopping up ingredients such as cookies, fruits, and chocolate into liquid ice cream, which is then spread on a cooling pan (cooled down to -13°C, or 8.6°F) and rolled into six individual rolls and then adorned with various toppings.

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Tang argued the use of the term “-321°” simply came from the fact that liquid nitrogen cooled at that temperature. The shop plans to expand its menu soon to offer more liquid nitrogen-based treats, such as liquid nitrogen-dipped ice cream egg rolls.

However, Ruan wasn’t satisfied with this explanation. “The actual temperature of liquid nitrogen is -320.44°F,” he said, explaining that he had rounded up for simplicity’s sake. “If Lab-321° said they are just using the temperature of liquid nitrogen, they should have just used -320.44 or -320.”

Regardless, he was already in the middle of taking legal action. “We sent them a cease and desist letter. I actually called them, but they just hung up on me,” he said. Ice cold indeed.

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Here’s How the Cotton Candy Bubble Tea Float Is Magically Made

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

By now, everyone and their mother has tried the candy-colored extravaganza that is the rainbow bagel. For your next sugar-induced fever dream, we suggest ordering up the Cotton Candy Bubble Tea Float at Vivi Lower East Side. Presented on a wooden board and served in a mason jar (of course), the awe-inspiring tower of cotton candy comes with a tiny jug of leftover slush topped by a cute swirl of whipped cream. Cookies-and-cream ice cream, Pop Rocks, and a color-changing spoon are also involved.

The insane calorie bomb was created by Connie Shan, manager of Vivi Lower East Side, who originally hails from Hong Kong. She sells hundreds of them each week. “We tried to conceive something completely different with bubble tea,” she said of her creation. “Hong Kong has all this stuff already. People are getting all kinds of different things with cotton candy, like coffee.”

So how does this Franken-beverage get made? And how does it taste? Check out our video to find out.