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Exclusive first look at the food at Intuit Dome, including Steph Curry’s favorite popcorn

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It was the pretzel that left all others in a pile of stale dust. Light glinted off the golden brown crust, its curves radiant with a light sheen. Tiny nodes of salt littered the surface. It was perfectly chewy, with crunchy pops of salt giving way to a warm, soft center.

The twisty masterpiece is the culmination of a week of training with a chef in Salzburg, Austria, followed by six months of development in the United States. It’s a level of dedication and care to detail one might expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant. All the airline miles and effort were spent so that there will be fresh pretzels waiting for you at the food concession stands at the new Intuit Dome in Inglewood.

Large twisted pretzels resting on napkins.
Pretzels will be available at Intuit Dome.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)
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“Very few arenas have taken this approach to move forward with doing a handmade product like this until now,” said Steven Maak, senior vice president for 310 Provisions, the group behind the food at Intuit Dome.

Maak, along with CEO of Halo Sports and Entertainment Gillian Zucker, 310 Provisions executive chef Hagan Whelchel and senior executive chef Adam Brown, recently walked me through the food items at the new stadium, scheduled to open Aug. 15.

A dedicated team of 10 people is responsible for mixing, rolling, shaping, proofing, baking and topping the pretzels by hand. Every detail at the stadium, from the pretzel rolling to the maximum amount of time it takes to travel the route from your seat to the bathroom to the snack bar and return (it’s 123 seconds, according to pedestrian modeling), has been studied and debated.

Two women in safety vests and hard hats inside a stadium
Gillian Zucker leads a tour of the new Intuit Dome. Behind her is one of the concession stands.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

When the Intuit Dome opens its doors, there will be 21 food and beverage markets; 31 kitchens; 26 pizza ovens; 140 fryers; six clubs with individual menus; 24 food entrees (excluding packaged food); 14,000 square feet of completely electric prep kitchen space; and a food and beverage staff of 850 people.

All the concession stands will feature a touchless payment system. You download an app on your phone, walk into any stand and walk out with whatever you want.

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“The goal for the dome from a food and beverage perspective is to focus on speed, quality and consistency, so we prided our selves on every single detail,” said Jessica Cesta, 310 Provisions vice president of hospitality strategy. “Every sauce. The packaging. It’s all for the ultimate, best experience for every fan in the building.”

The following is a breakdown of the food items at the new venue, in addition to the stellar pretzel mentioned above:

Buttered popcorn and butter toffee popcorn

Popcorn for the new Intuit Dome.
Steph Curry helped choose the popcorn for the new Intuit Dome.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

When it came time to choose a popcorn, Zucker turned out to Golden State point guard and popcorn expert Steph Curry for help.

“Steph Curry has actually ranked every single facility for their popcorn,“ Zucker said. “And we’re like, we want our popcorn to be the best so maybe he’d come and try it. We asked him and he said he would.”

She presented him with 10 varieties. Curry chose a butterfly popcorn from Nebraska. It’s crunchy, butterfly in shape and with a texture that melts on your tongue.

The flavored popcorn went through an even more rigorous selection process, incorporating feedback from the entire Halo Sports and Entertainment organization, which includes Clippers basketball operations crews, Intuit Dome, Kia Forum and San Diego Clippers (the G league team). The group decided on a butter toffee popcorn with a sweet, crunchy coating that’s as addictive as your favorite potato chip.

Hot dog and street dog

Two hot dogs in buns, side by side, laden with toppings
The new Intuit Dome will serve hot dogs and street dogs, both using Niman Ranch franks.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

Zucker and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer attended a tasting of 11 hot dogs before deciding on the right one.

“Then before we’re leaving, the chef who put together the tasting said, ‘Hey, before you go, I just want you to try my favorite hot dog.’ ”

The chef presented a sausage from Niman Ranch, one of the best-known meat purveyors for high-end restaurants around the country. It was an all-beef frank smoked over hickorywood with no added nitrates or nitrites.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a really good hot dog,’” Zucker said. “Steve Ballmer gets up to leave and he says, ‘You make the decision. Whatever you want is fine with me.’ And he starts walking out the door yelling, ‘Niman! Niman!’”

The dogs will come plain to dress as you like, or as an iteration of the late-night dogs you find outside concert venues and nightclubs. The latter is wrapped in bacon and overflowing with sautéed peppers and onions and zigzags of garlic aioli. Even buried under all the toppings, there’s a distinguishable snap.

Detroit-style pizza

A rectangular slice of pepperoni pizza
Detroit-style pizza will be on the menu at the new Intuit Dome.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)
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It’s the sort of pizza you can find at pizzerias all over Detroit, rectangular in shape with a crunchy cheese crown around the perimeter of all four edges. There’s “The Meats,” cheese and pepperoni. The Meats is sheathed in a blanket of proteins, the bits of bacon, sausage and pepperoni so plentiful it’s impossible to see the cheese underneath.

Double cheeseburger

Three double cheeseburgers, each on a square plate, at Intuit Dome
The Intuit Dome double cheeseburger will feature a signature meat blend of brisket, short rib and prime chuck.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

The double cheeseburger falls somewhere between a backyard smashburger and the more refined option from your favorite steakhouse. The patties are a blend of coarsely ground brisket, short rib and prime chuck. They’re thin but not smashed, covered in melted New School American cheese. The burger is dressed with Clippers sauce, a close cousin to Thousand Island, and topped with dill pickle chips on a Martin’s potato bun.

Vegan cauliflower wrap

The Buffalo cauliflower wrap from Intuit Dome.
The Buffalo cauliflower wrap is a vegetarian and vegan offering from the new Intuit Dome.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

The stadium’s main vegetarian and vegan option is presented as a wrap stuffed with crispy breaded and fried cauliflower tossed in a tangy Buffalo sauce with a slaw of romaine, kale, quinoa, tomato, red pepper and vegan ranch vinaigrette, all tucked into a spinach tortilla. There’s an extra side of ranch for dipping. If they ever decide to offer a basket of the fried cauliflower on its own, I’ll order that too.

Chicken tenders and waffle fries

Chicken tenders and waffle fries in a cardboard with a cup of yellow dipping sauce
Chicken tenders and waffle fries will be served at the New Intuit Dome. Waffle fries will be the only style of fries on the property.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

The tenders are lightly breaded and fried until completely encased in a crunchy, golden shell. They’re served alongside a mountain of waffle fries, the only style of fry you’ll find on the property. Even at room temperature, the fries were crispy. Instead of ketchup or ranch, there’s a small cup of barbecue sauce on the side.

“It’s an homage to the South by way of California,” chef Whelchel said.

It’s a tad sweet but with a powerful tang of mustard.

“We needed to go with a sauce that kind of held and still maintained its integrity,” Whelchel said. “That’s why we went with a barbecue sauce base rather than a cream base.”

If you insist on ranch, get your friends to order one of the vegan cauliflower wraps, then steal their vegan ranch.

Churros

Short churros served with cups of caramel sauce
The churros will be served with caramel at the new Intuit Dome in Inglewood.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

The churros will rival the ones from your go-to vendor in Los Angeles or Mexico City. They’re the smaller, snack-sized churros, about 4 to 5 inches in length. The extruder creates defined ridges for maximum, supernal crunch and surface area to trap the cinnamon and sugar coating. The middle is soft, almost custardy, but fully cooked. On the side is La Zagala dulce de leche that’s more like a hot glob of fresh caramel than a loose sauce. It’s a churro you’ll be thinking about long after you leave the parking lot.

Sushi dog

Sushi dogs will be available at Intuit Dome
The sushi dogs will be filled with spicy tuna or a California roll at the new Intuit Dome.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

Imagine a nearly foot-long sushi hand roll wrapped in paper you can peel away with each bite. There’s a California roll with imitation crab or a spicy tuna roll that actually packs a punch of heat. Both feature rice that’s seasoned well and neither hard nor overcooked. There’s soy sauce for dipping, but the culinary team has a more efficient condiment in the works.

“Chef Hagan is working on a bespoke soy sauce flake,” Zucker said, referring to a soy sauce seasoning that you sprinkle onto your hand roll.

Of course there will be a proprietary soy sauce flake that will save your Clippers jersey from a possible stain. With the Steph Curry-approved popcorn, gourmet hot dogs and the pretzels that required 12,000 miles of travel, I’d expect nothing less.

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