Smitten Ice Cream isn’t the first in L.A. to flash-freeze dairy via liquid nitrogen. But owner Robyn Sue Fisher might just be the first Stanford Business School alum and almost-FBI agent to build her own machine to make ice cream this way. And she’s definitely the first to have thrown that machine on top of a red Radio Flyer wagon and wheel it around San Francisco to sell the made-to-order flavors.
After opening several brick-and-mortar stores up north, Fisher opened her first Southern California shop at El Segundo’s tony new The Point complex, home of True Food Kitchen, Superba Food & Bread, and more. A certifiable dessert geek, no matter what Fisher was doing in life, ice cream was a constant. She ate it almost every day but wasn’t always happy with what was used to make the mass-produced stuff, so she set out to make it better.
First, she learned that freezing ice cream at super low temperatures would make a smoother product, thus the liquid nitrogen, which flash-freezes on the spot. But because she couldn’t find the right machine to create the frozen sweet stuff she desired, she worked with engineers to create the Brrr, a special mixer with two helices that constantly scrape the bowl. This ensures smaller ice crystals, and thus denser, creamier ice cream.
The next part was easy: Source really good ingredients, like organic milk and cream from Beretta Dairy in Sonoma, berries from local farms, and Berkeley-based TCHO chocolate. Then team up with a pastry chef to help make the flavors and toppings; in this case, Robyn Lenzi. And as fast as you can say, “Salted caramel with extra chocolate chips, please,” Smitten was born.
After pulling around the wagon, she transformed a shipping container in SF’s Hayes Valley into an ice cream shop, and it took off like wildfire. Now there are five Smitten locations around the Bay Area.
The idea is pretty simple at the new walk-up shop in El Segundo: Pick a base, maybe cookie dough with pretzel chips, earl grey with chocolate chips or classic vanilla, and add in things to be mixed in. Rainbow sprinkles, brown sugar caramel, toasted almonds or chocolate sauce, for instance. All of that gets whirred in Fisher’s patented Brrr machine (yes, that’s its trademarked name, and the ice cream makers are called Brrristas, fwiw) and voila! Super creamy ice cream.
There’s always one new seasonal ice cream flavor a month, like maple brown sugar pumpkin for December, and lemon gingersnap in January; for the spring, you’ll see things like blood orange with pistachio cookies, rhubarb crisps and strawberry white balsamic. Or go crazy with one of the sundaes, like the Hot Stuff, chocolate ice cream topped with toasted almonds, spicy brown sugar caramels and homemade whipped cream; or the Berry Crisp, vanilla ice cream topped with pie crisp topping, strawberry Prosecco sauce and whipped cream.
Fisher knew she would be making her way to the Southland at some point. After all, ice cream is huge here right now. She says she searched high and low for the perfect spot, ultimately landing on The Point for its laid-back atmosphere. “Plus, I loved how we could incorporate the look and feel of our very first shipping container shop into this shop’s design,” she adds. Next up: Silver Lake, right next to Knuckle & Claw, in 2016.
Smitten Ice Cream opens daily from noon to 10pm.
850 S. Sepulveda Blvd., El Segundo, 424-220-7100; smittenicecream.com