The development of Long Island City around Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue continues at an astonishing pace, with high-rise residential buildings soaring up above the once-industrial area faster than in any other neighborhood in the country. And, if the happy mob scene at the brand-new Four Winters last Friday is any indication, everyone in LIC is clearly desperate for ice cream.
Let's back up a bit first: Four Winters is one of those liquid-nitrogen parlors that makes each individual scoop of ice cream to order, insta-freezing either a vanilla or a chocolate liquid base into, ideally, a smooth and creamy frozen treat. Freshly-made mix-ins, syrups, and toppings give each of the nine flavors their character, from Cereal Crunch to Brown Sugar Speculoos to Mango Chili Sorbet. The made-to-order method has proven to be quite successful for the company, and the Vernon Boulevard shop is the fifth Four Winters, with other stores in Los Angeles, London, Cairo, and Amman, Jordan.
The thermal blast part of the process is dramatic and fun, with vapor clouds whooshing out from the four churning machines as co-founders Zaynab Abdullah and Zeid Zabian and their young staff try to keep up the crowds. But even at -196 degrees is does take a few minutes to turn the liquid cream into a more scoopable format.
Although the ordering line moves fast, you still have to wait for your scoop to be "cooked", and there was a lot of waiting around on opening day. Adding to the process, they also fry each waffle-like cone individually. In terms of logistics, it's probably best to think of Four Winters as a counter-service restaurant, rather than your typical ice cream parlor, where everything is ready to be eaten.
We tried four scoops last Friday, two specials from the seasonal menu—a nicely tart Key Lime Pie and a satisfyingly sticky and sweet S'mores—and two of the Four Winters signature flavors, the Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter and the Knafeh, which is made from kataifi (shredded filo dough) and simple syrup, topped with pistachios and the chain's most popular flavor worldwide, according to Abdullah. Some of the base ice cream scoops came out creamier than others, which is to be expected on opening day, but the mix-ins and toppings were well-balanced and the flavors were all good and true.
The parlor itself is narrow, with room for the ordering (and waiting) line to left, and semi-communal seating for about 15 at a series of connected tables and benches to the right. The only decor is a mural of the Manhattan skyline with everything out of place and tiny sailboats and giant ice cream cones floating in the East River.
Four Winters is located at 47-38 Vernon Boulevard, between 48th Avenue and 47th Road, ands is open daily from noon to 11 p.m. (718-433-4657; fourwinters.co)