Trends in frozen desserts come and go in the balmy Southland (three words: charcoal ice cream), but new arrival on the scene Cauldron Ice Cream covers enough icy sweet trends under one roof to cater to anyone's passing fancy. After building a rabid fan base in Artesia and Santa Ana, Cauldron has set up its tanks of nitrogen and its puffle cone maker in Glendale, within walking distance of The Americana at Brand (already a pretty cool place to spend an afternoon with kids). Grown-ups with a taste for artisan ice cream may even want to do the responsible thing and try this place out alone first. Just to be fully informed, of course.
The first Instagrammable thing about Cauldron is the nitrogen ice cream. If you haven't yet tried this chemistry-inspired confection, you are in for a treat: Every serving of ice cream in the small storefront shop is made right in front of you, which makes for extra-creamy ice cream—and an extra-long wait. When I brought my kids and husband to buy a cup and a cone, it took about ten minutes for our orders to be created. The good news is that you get to watch the ice cream being made in the most dramatic way imaginable: when the liquid nitrogen hits the cream in the mixer, the resulting fog spills out and over the counter in an impressive, mad scientist sort of way. Kids love it.
The nitrogen does its magic. Photo by the author
The list of flavors is curated (there were just 14 on the day we went), but you'll probably find something to appeal to even picky eaters. In addition to classic vanilla (and, having taken a bite of my daughter's, I can say it's out of this world) and double shot chocolate, there were fun choices like Pineapple Express and Milk and Cereal, and more unexpected flavors like Earl Grey Lavender and Vietnamese Iced Coffee. The flavors change every month, so be sure to check the webpage before you go.
Once you've made your choice, be sure to ask your scoop be served up in a rose shape. This is ice cream trend number two: it looks like that Thai rolled ice cream that has been taking NYC by storm. Kids love the presentation, and it's fun to watch it being done, as the employees quickly cut into the ice cream to create leaves. It's a free extra, and if you've ordered sprinkles or honey as a topping, it looks even more special.
Vietnamese Coffee in a churro puffle cone. Photo courtesy of Cauldron Ice Cream
After you pick a flavor, it's time to decide if you want a cup, cone, or—wait for it—puffle cone. That's hip dessert feature #3. There are three flavors of Cauldron's famous puffle cone: original, red velvet, and churro—and the latter two add a welcome burst of flavor to something that got a lot of attention on Instagram but often tastes like flavorless cardboard elsewhere. The churro version is dusted with cinnamon sugar and tastes close to the real thing. If you can handle the sugar overload, it's worth it.
What may be harder to swallow is that a puffle cone costs $7. If you have little kids, a puffle cone is a lot to eat (and a lot of sugar) so you may want to lay down some ground rules before even walking in. Luckily, a small cup (sans puffle) is $5.20 and can still come with that all-important rose shape free upgrade.
And if you don't want ice cream? There is an array of Stumptown coffees available for purchase, too.
While the decadence of artisan ice cream may be lost on kids who beg for Dino Nuggets and popsicles, the thrill of trying nitrogen ice cream (it's science AND it's dessert!) can't be overlooked. Plus, that rose shape in your vanilla ice cream? Priceless.
Photos by author except as noted