First Impressions: State Fair food comes to Rocklin with Fancy Funnel Cakes

10/11/2013 12:00 AM

10/09/2013 5:19 PM

How about a parade of sweets for lunch, making it possible to indulge in midway fare while waiting for the 2014 edition of the California State Fair?

We went wild and crowded our table with freshly made goodies at the 5-week-old Fancy Funnel Cakes in Rocklin.

Funnel cakes? Well, yeah. Traditionally, the cake is made by filling a funnel with batter and then drizzling the mixture into a metal ring sitting in hot oil. The result is a round, latticed pastry – with a texture that’s both crisp and chewy – most often covered in a dusting of powdered sugar.

The funnel cake has a surprising history, starting with the mistaken notion that it originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch. Blame that on its popularity at the yearly Kutztown Folk Festival, which brings in 150,000 hungry folks. Funnel cakes were a novelty item when they were served at the inaugural festival in 1950. As the fair continued over the years, it was assumed that funnel cakes must be Pennsylvania Dutch in origin. Actually, a recipe for the cake shows up in a 1390 Middle English cookbook, and likely it was a popular dessert in France even before that.

Fancy Funnel Cakes is under the guidance of Stanley J. Young and co-partner Rene Ellison. Young had to close his barbecue restaurants in Southern California and Nevada a few years ago, but recently wanted to return to the biz because of his “passion for cooking,” he said. “I didn’t want to do the whole restaurant thing again, though, so decided to specialize in carnival-style desserts.”

Most items at Fancy Funnel Cakes are from his restaurants’ former dessert menu.

Menu: It’s to the point: funnel cakes topped with powdered sugar and a choice of six toppings (whipped cream, strawberry, caramel and the like), along with pan-fried pound cake, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, deep-fried Oreo cookies and brownies, crisped-rice squares and ice-cream floats.

Three funnel-cake specials mix combinations of toppings and giant scoops of ice cream. They’re named after roller coasters – ride them if you dare.

Young plans to add another special to the menu. “We crumble real bacon on top of a funnel cake and add a light dash of maple syrup,” he said.

For the record, Young uses a giant plastic squirt bottle instead of a funnel for a more controlled pour. Also: On Sundays, buy one powdered-sugar-topped funnel cake and get one free.

Price point: Given the quality and size of the desserts, the prices are in line at $1.50 to $12.74.

Ambiance: The refurbished former pizza parlor now feels like a clean and neat ice cream parlor, with walls decorated with framed photos of roller coasters and superheroes (Iron Man, Superman, Green Lantern).

Drinks: Two scoops of ice cream go into the float with a choice of eight sodas, including raspberry cream ($3.74).

Service: My lunch pal and I were the only customers at noon on a weekday. Young was informative, friendly and fast.

First impressions: The desserts are tops, especially the pan-fried pound cake, which resembles french toast, and the peach cobbler, rich with cinnamon. As for the funnel cakes, we’ve had our share at fairs and carnivals and these are the best we’ve tasted. Part of the lunch spread was the Oblivion, a funnel cake topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, cherry sauce, chocolate and whipped cream – ideal for sharing.

Fancy Funnel Cakes sources its batter mixture from the family-owned Funnel Cake Co. of Gatlinburg, Tenn., which opened in 1989 ( www.funnelcake.com).

“It’s a recipe developed by my husband,” said co-owner Bonnie Goolsby. “We use a specialty wheat flour flavored with vanilla, and the taste and aroma are unique.”

Try it if: You have a sweet tooth and want to indulge, or if the children have earned a special treat.

Forget it if: You don’t need the fat and calories.

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