A new ice cream shop that dishes out cookie dough by the scoop (and real Ice cream too) has opened its doors in Downtown Tampa. It's called Dough Nation, and aside from its unique offerings, it touts an unusual business model. 

Dough Nation serves as a vocational training facility for students from Metropolitan Ministries Culinary Arts Program. The program gives men and women transitioning out of poverty the skills and work ethic they need to find employment and a life of self-sufficiency. Best of all, proceeds from all purchases go straight towards Metropolitan Ministries efforts to feed the hungry in Tampa Bay.

I had the chance to visit Dough Nation earlier this week. Located on Tampa Street right next to SPAIN Restaurant & TOMA Bar, the scoop shop is easy to find, look for a pink and white wonderland. 

Inside, there's ample seating surrounded by cotton candy colored-walls and floor-to-ceiling portraits of their luscious offerings. Arriving at 5 p.m., the line was not bad, despite reports of lines out the door at times. 

Ordering at Dough Nation is pretty straightforward - you choose a single, double, or triple serving, then pick your dough flavors. I went for the double with one scoop of classic chocolate clip and another of rainbow-flecked sugar cookie. For pure gluttony, I paid the extra dollar for a fudge topping, making my total around 9 dollars and some change with a tip.

"Double sounds good. It's not too big, not too small; I can get a sampling of more than one flavor. Perfect," I thought to myself before ordering. But as this sweet lady kept scooping and plopping globs of dough into my cup, I realized I didn't just order a mere "double." I ordered a mountain of cookie dough with an avalanche of hot fudge cascading down its slopes.

With my cup o' dough in hand, I felt like I could dent a car hood, or wrap it in a bandana and use it as a defense weapon with its pure weight. When I sat down and dove in, it was pure bliss.

The taste? I mean, it's cookie dough. I'm no connoisseur, but it tasted sweet and savory with that fudgy texture you'd expect from refrigerated cookie dough. Naturally, it isn't nearly as cold as ice cream, but that's good. Instead of numbing your mouth to the flavor, you get a full blast of sugar cookie goodness straight to the palate. The little crystals of sugar crunched between my teeth as I scooped spoonful upon spoonful into my face. The fudge topping just seemed like slightly-thicker chocolate sauce but was a nice touch. 

By the time I'd reached the top of the cup (the base of the mountain, if you will), I was full. This is the blessing and the curse of a place like Dough Nation - little to negative nutritional value, but undeniably satisfying. Some may complain it's too "rich" or flat-out unnecessary, but I wholeheartedly disagree. If it's too rich, eat less. If you think it's unnecessary, don't go. 

As Oscar Wilde once said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." Dough Nation embodies this phrase to the fullest and does it all for a good cause - not to enrich a single person or group, but the Tampa Bay community as a whole.

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