The tiny ice cream stand inside the Block, a must-visit food hall in Annandale, makes the gorgeous dessert by slicing pillowy doughnuts and loading them with Willy Wonka-worthy ice cream flavors like matcha Oreo, Vietnamese coffee and ube, a purple yam popular in Filipino cooking. After going into a panini press, each sandwich gets drizzled with a glaze (Nutella, green tea, sesame) and topped with Oreos, sprinkles, Fruity Pebbles or Frosted Flakes.
“Everything is homemade,” says Arturo Mei, founder of both Munch and the Block. “Except the cereal.”
The result is a bright, cheery explosion of color that's perfect for Instagramming, and even more so as a sweet treat.
The stand can also load scoops of ice cream onto brightly colored, intensely flavored waffle cones, available in varieties like red velvet, vanilla and ube. For an even more over-the-top touch, a mini glazed doughnut can be propped on top for an eye-catching, teetering tower of sugar.
The inspiration for Munch's desserts came from Mei's time in Los Angeles. When he moved there from Virginia nine years ago, he put on what he calls his “L.A. 25,” thanks in part to all the over-the-top ice cream concoctions — think Afters Ice Cream, Coolhaus and Salt & Straw. “All I did in California was eat,” he says. “Food [in the Washington area] was lacking, and a lot of what I saw, I thought we could use here.”
After moving back to the Washington area a few years ago, Mei wanted to find a way to diversify the dining scene. That's what eventually led him to create Munch's sensory-overloading desserts. They're a sweet addition to the Block's eclectic offerings, which include a poke shop, a Taiwanese shaved-ice stall (both owned by Mei) and a Thai street food stand.
Regulars in particular swear by the black-on-black ice cream cone, one of Munch’s off-menu items made with a waffle cone infused with coconut milk and activated charcoal, a pitch-black powder made from carbon that has a subtle smoky taste. The cone is topped with scoops of similarly flavored coconut ash ice cream. A note to shutterbugs and social-media stars: The subtly sweet black dessert stains the tongue for about 20 minutes - but it's worth it.
Munch Ice Cream at the Block, 4221 John Marr Dr., Annandale.