Autumn is nearly upon us. There’s a chill in the air, leaves on the ground and Cranky, Whiny and Punch are already thinking about Halloween costumes. The other thing that comes around this time of year happens to be some of the greatest culinary events the world has ever known. These grand institutions are responsible for some of the most subtle delicacies to be found on menus around the world. I am, of course, referring to, the state fair.
State fairs have always been on the culinary cutting edge. In the early days we credited the fair for making corn dogs and funnel cakes household names. About a decade ago something magical happened at a State Fair: the deep fried Twinkie. It’s a Twinkie, dipped in batter, placed on a stick and deep fried. Now this may seem like just a delicious way to top off your chili brat and onion blossom, but oh, it is so much more. The deep fried Twinkie sent three important messages to the purveyors of state fair fare: 1) the line between sweet and savory can be blurred, 2) anything can go on a stick, and 3), perhaps most importantly, there is no food that cannot be battered and deep fried.
Sweet Meets Savory
Master Chefs throughout the world have been tearing down the wall that separates sweet and savory flavors for years. The Barefoot Contessa bastes her bacon with maple syrup. Iron Chef Morimoto once made smoked trout ice cream. All that pales in comparison. Forget what you think you know about elite flavor combinations and read on. The Florida State Fair offers a fried ice cream burger. It’s a complete bacon cheeseburger topped with a scoop of deep fried ice cream.
The Orange County State Fair serves a chocolate covered corn dog with sprinkles no less. Have it with a Kool-Aid cured dill pickle on the side. Another treat out of the sunshine state: the Krispy Kreme barbeque chicken sandwich, and finally there’s the hot beef sundae. Now the hot beef sundae is actually all savory with a scoop of mashed potatoes, shredded beef, gravy and a cherry tomato, but, and here’s the genius, it looks like an ice cream sundae. If your senses weren’t confused before…
Now I know what you’re thinking: how hard is it to put something on a stick? Can you put spaghetti and meatballs on stick, because the folks at the Minnesota state fair can. They take the meat ball mixture, combine pieces of cooked spaghetti, dip it in a garlic batter and, of course, deep fry it, and voila. Most of the other stuff is just the food with a stick in it.
Into the Deep
Again there’s no great genius to dropping something into a deep fryer. That is unless you’re the folks at the Texas State Fair deep frying Coke. It’s Coca-Cola flavored batter deep fried in balls topped with Coke syrup, cinnamon sugar and whipped cream. Sounds like the perfect palate cleanser after a donkey tail. What’s that you say? It’s only a foot long beef sausage pumped full of cheese, battered, deep fried and topped with chili, nacho cheese and salsa. I think I found the one item that they can’t put on a stick, but I may be eating my words, among other things.