Monday, November 10, 2014

Funnel Cake from California's Great America

This past week, my group at work went on an offsite to ... California's Great America.  Now, Great America closed for the season a week or so before, but, somehow we were able to rent out the park just for us.  Only a handful of rides were open, and none of the arcade games or stands, but it was still pretty awesome having the park to ourselves.

But this is not Julie's Theme Park Review Club.  Of course while we were there, we had to eat, but the regular concession stands were also closed.  For lunch, they set up a buffet in a pavilion.  The food was horrible. I didn't bother take photos.

The lunch buffet included chicken, pulled pork, hot dogs, black bean burgers, baked beans, mac and cheese, and mixed salad.  I didn't try any of the meat, nor the salad as the lettuce looked incredibly wilted.  The baked beans were very watery (although fairly spicy), and the mac and cheese wasn't really cheesy.  The mac was the best part of the savory food, but it was mostly just mushy noodles in congealed cheese sauce.  Others recommended generously applying condiments to the food to make it taste like something.

Scattered around the park they also set up a few bars with beer and wine.  They required photo id to get wine, and, I didn't bring my wallet with me.  Sigh.   I wasn't actually able to get any beverages while out in the park, as they bars didn't even have water, even though it was a hot, sunny day.  Inside the picnic grounds they had regular soda fountains, way-too-sweet lemonade, and tap water.  I made do with the orange soda and Mello Yellow from the soda fountain, somewhat out of nostalgia more than actual desire to drink the stuff.

Also at the lunch buffet were mediocre brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  The cookies were really soft, and not bad, although, not really any better than a Soft Batch Chips Ahoy.  I also discovered ice cream freezers near the soda machines that ... yes, had frozen treats!  I'm pretty sure most of my co-workers never noticed this.  You know I can't resist ice cream, so I eagerly dug into the selections: Outshine Bars (just popsicles, I skipped these, they also looked freezer burned), Wonka Push Up Pops (icy, not really creamy, I have no idea if these are "ice cream" or "sorbet" or what, plus it was a really strange flavor ... I think it was supposed to be cherry?), and mini Drumsticks (Lil' Drums).  Now, I haven't been super impressed with Drumsticks in the past, but after all this fairly awful lunch, it was quite welcome.  Plus, the mini ones are adorable!  Sure, the ice cream wasn't that creamy, the cone a bit soggy, the scattering of nuts insufficient, but, I enjoyed it more than anything else in my meal.

But, I wasn't there for the lunch.  Or, perhaps, not even for the rides.  When I say all the concession stands were closed that is a slight lie.  They did have a single popcorn stand open, and really pushed the popcorn on us every single time we'd walk by.  They also brought it around whenever they saw groups standing around.  They really wanted us to eat that popcorn.  Of course we eventually tried it, even though Ojan scoffed at it as he took a box full, "it isn't even freshly popped!".  It was ridiculously salty, not exactly fresh, worse than mass-produced chain movie theater popcorn, yet ... addicting, due to the salt level I guess.  And recall how I had no water?  This didn't leave me the happiest person.

But there was one more stand open: the funnel cake stand.  Our event organizer made sure of it.  I may or may not have been there for the funnel cake alone.
Funnel Cake with "Everything".
Where I grew up, we had fried dough, not funnel cake.  Similar, but different in a few key ways: fried dough has much less surface area exposed to the oil, so you get less fried-ness.  It is also made with yeasted, risen dough rather than batter, so it is doughier.  Which I prefer.  But, a good funnel cake is still good (like the one our pastry chef makes at my office!).  I mean, it is still deep fried dough after all.

But sadly, this was not a good funnel cake.  It was impressive ... in its size.  But it was way too oily, way too fried, and the oil tasted stale.  I really, really did not like the funnel cake.  Luckily for me, there was much more to this funnel cake than just the funnel cake itself.

Where I grew up, fried dough was always topped with butter, cinnamon, and powdered sugar, or perhaps some bavarian cream if you were being crazy.  And at Great America, you can just get powdered sugar.  Or you can add chocolate sauce, caramel, whipped cream, strawberries, or ice cream.  Or all of it, which is how the server suggested it.  I have never heard of ice cream on funnel cake.  That is just ... odd.  But ... why not?

The ice cream was soft serve, offered in vanilla, chocolate, or swirl.  It was classic soft serve, pretty tasty, and my favorite part of this ridiculous creation.  The chocolate sauce was just regular Hershey syrup, from a squirt bottle, thin and watery.  The caramel was totally lost.  The whipped cream came from a can, standard.  And, the strawberries were mostly just gooey syrup, crazy sweet, but actually quite tasty with the whipped cream and ice cream.

Ojan and I shared a funnel cake with "everything", and didn't finish the funnel cake part since neither of us liked it.  But a few hours later, bored with the rides and popcorn, we returned for another ... sans the funnel cake.

I asked for just an ice cream sundae, and was told they didn't have them.  I explained, "just the ice cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce, caramel, and whipped cream", and was again told that they couldn't do that.  I persevered, and ordered "a funnel cake with everything ... except the funnel cake".  Now, that worked.  Our second sundae was less satisfying, I think just because we were a bit sugared out at that point.  But, if you go to Great America, I recommend it that way.  The funnel cake just isn't good on its own.


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