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Levitating Bananas and Other Wonders at the Inventing Room

Chef Ian Kleinman's Inventing Room dessert shop is nearing its opening date, so he's cranked up his new kitchen to dial in recipes before the big day. Liquid nitrogen, which comes out of the tank at -321 degrees Fahrenheit, is the most eye-catching attraction behind the counter at the shop on Lawrence Street (right next to Lower48 Kitchen), but there's plenty of other magic — well, okay, science — on display and behind the scenes.

Ice cream and other frozen confections will be the focus once the doors open to the public, and the extreme cold of liquid nitrogen means that liquids freeze quickly before ice crystals can form, making for exceptionally smooth sorbets and frozen custards. Opening ice cream flavors will include cream cheese, lemon curd, maple, bananas foster and coconut-milk sorbet, all made to order and built into sandwiches, sundaes and other treats. Liquid nitrogen is also used to freeze popcorn for an extra-crunchy snack with big flavor and to make bite-sized crumbles of "exploding whipped cream."

Kleinman uses other modernist techniques to coax additional flavor and texture from ordinary ingredients: Seasonal fruits are compressed in a vacuum sealer to infuse flavors and create a denser, sweeter sensation, while pomegranate juice is mixed with powdered egg white and xanthan gum to become a tangy mound of bubbles atop frozen coconut milk.

The chef is keeping prices cheap at the Inventing Room; no item on the menu of a dozen desserts and snacks comes in at more than $5. And he's already scheming a few freebies to wow guests while they queue up to order — like fruit-flavored icicles that will form beneath the outdoor awning on cold days for passersby to snap off and sample; flavored "snow" that customers can catch on their tongues; and enticing aromas pumped from a machine that sends vapors of anything from real vanilla bean to Jolly Ranchers into the air. He's even got a tiny superconductor that can levitate on a track of magnets. It's only a couple of feet long, but he hopes to eventually build a track that will run the length of the service counter.

Keep reading for a few more photos of what's in store.

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