Behind the Scenes

Smitten Ice Cream — Made to Order with Liquid Nitrogen


Any San Francisco resident can tell you in a heartbeat what the city’s two greatest passions are: food and technology. Smitten Ice Cream, a small made-to-order ice cream stand in Hayes Valley, combines these two passions into one delicious dessert. Four patented Brrr™ machines make each scoop of ice cream to order. Fast-acting liquid nitrogen pumped into the machine creates smaller ice crystals in Smitten’s ice cream than traditional methods, giving it a smoother texture. “It’s like the opposite of freezer burn,” says Eliza Bennett of Smitten.


As a San Francisco-based brand, we knew we had to check it out. So we popped in to their stand on a sunny Friday to shoot some of their best flavors in our Caroline Cups and Saucers. Smitten always serves chocolate and vanilla, but they also alternate between other seasonal flavors and fan favorites. Here, we shot their infamous mint chip and a new blood orange ice cream with pistachio shortbread mixed in.


Why liquid nitrogen? Well, traditional ice cream uses emulsifiers and other additional ingredients to help the ice cream maintain a consistent texture over long periods of time. These ingredients help ice cream stay creamy after months in a grocery store freezer, but they don’t add anything to the taste and are full of preservatives. Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher realized that if she froze the ice cream per serving and gave it to the customer right away, she could eliminate those ingredients. “Robyn thought of the coldest thing she knew to freeze the ice cream quickly,” says Bennett. “And that was liquid nitrogen.”


Fisher worked with engineers to develop the Brrr™, a now patented machine that makes all of Smitten’s delectable scoops. Although Fisher first started out bringing the Brrr™ in a Radio Flyer wagon to street fairs, there are now several Brrr™ machines in two (soon to be four) Smitten locations. She was on the hunt for her first retail location when the brains behind Proxy (read more about the Proxy shipping container project here) asked her to be a part of their new shopping collective.


Now, in addition to the San Francisco location, Smitten has a shop in Los Altos, and two more opening in Rockridge and Lafayette, California. The team is always experimenting with new flavors, and relies on its loyal customer base to find the next great hit.

Learn more about Smitten. 

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