Ground Zero Presents // Food Friday! :
One of my favorite books as a gluttonous kid of rotund proportions was Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I just couldn’t get over the wondrous notion of chocolate rivers, gum that never lost its flavor, or candy canes that grew out of the ground like flowers. What struck me most, however, was Willy Wonka’s genius – how could one man come up with so many ingenious delicacies?
After all these years, ladies and gentleman, I can proudly say that I believe I have found a real-life Willy Wonka. Her name is Sharlena Fong and she is the former pastry chef of the Nickel Diner, a downright gem on the edge of downtown’s Skid Row that serves dishes like perfectly fried catfish and melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork.
The desserts first pioneered by Fong and now championed by her successor, Koa Duncan are presented to diners on an old-school dessert trey. That dessert trey is the closest thing I have ever seen in real life to Willy Wonka’s factory. There are maple-glazed donuts scattered with crispy specks of fried bacon, a lemon merengue cake that looks like a fluffy slice of an edible cloud, and house-made pop tarts flaky enough to make one permanently ditch the boxed stuff. Fong and Duncan have created such a beautiful and whimsical dessert selection that eating dessert at the Nickel Diner feels closer to a thrill ride at a theme park than to the end of a delicious meal.
My personal favorite is the Peanut Butter Potato Chip Cake, a perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunch and velvet, and rich and delicate. The deep cocoa-flavor of the chocolate cake plays beautifully with the gentle sweetness of buttercream and the sassiness of peanut butter. Texturally one experiences every sensation, from the cool smoothness of frosting to the surprising crackle of potato chips, delicately strewn in the cake’s layers like pots of gold itching to be discovered.
But if the threat of the semester’s first midterms is making it too difficult to get to downtown, do not despair. Why not try to unleash some of your own creative whimsy with a visit to Ground Zero Performance Café? Not only do we have some crazy milkshake concoctions already on our menu like the Funfetti Cake Shake or the Fluffer Nutter (toasted marshmallow, peanut butter AND honey?!), but we also have a make-your-own-shake option. This is the perfect way to create some interesting flavor combinations of your own and see how explosively they pop on your palate. With over 25 Monin Syrup flavors, candies and cookies at your disposal, the possibilities are essentially endless. So take your inner Willy Wonka out for a stroll at Ground Zero Performance Café – we look forward to seeing oompa-loompa-do-ba-dee-YOU.