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kayb

Fair Fare

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It's the time of the year for state fairs, and the Arkansas State Fair, opening this week in Little Rock, is no exception. Food writer Kat Robinson always does a detailed run-down of the assorted culinary treats available at the state fair: Here's this year's.

 

I have fond memories of going to the old Mid-South Fair, a four- or five-state affair held annually in Memphis each fall, and eating my way across the fairgrounds. That was back in the day the fair was about the only place you could get a gyro, and I looked forward to them anxiously every year, along with roasted corn, funnel cakes, and multitudes of other wonderful stuff.

 

Reading Kat's piece made me want to go to Little Rock and try eating my way across the state fairgrounds. Deep-fried bacon-wrapped Oreos? Yes, please!

 

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Me too! the gyros were my most eagerly awaited item. My second favorite was a corn dog. The mustard was in a bucket with a paint brush and you could slather it all over and it would absorb into that hot crispy crust! (And Liberty Land was there all season,  not just at fair time.)  None of us had ever conceived of all the deep fried sweets available today.

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@kayb,

 

Thanks for that link to Kat's great review of the Arkansas State Fair. She's a really good food writer, and I wish we had at least one of her caliber around here.

 

I have good memories of the Mid South Fair in Memphis as well. Great food and an unforgettable diving mule jump into an above ground pool I saw there. That is most likely illegal now, but the mules (two of them, but separately) trotted up a ramp and dived of their own volition, and didn't seem abused or distressed that I could see, and I would have noticed, believe me. Incredible, unless you saw it, like I did.

 

Our NC State Fair is going on now too, and the local TV station from Raleigh has a tent out there and tries to cover the food. The operative word is tries, because none of their reporters are good food writers. Somebody like Kat could move in here and make money covering our food scene well. There's just no competition currently.

 

I put smoked turkey legs on my shopping list, but mine won't cost $12 a piece. :)

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I well remember the diving horse from Atlantic City Steel Pier but as I recall none of the concessions were serving horse meat.

 

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First thing I am reading Friday morning and my mouth is open and twisted in a sort of an "eww" position, as I go through the list from A to T.   Chocolate coated French Fries?  With marshmallows too?  Deep fried pickles?  Why?  Or OTOH, why not?

 

Is this solely an American phenomenon?  Are these unusual food items available in Canada at fairs also and I just haven't seen them?

 

I do remember with great fondness having a pumpkin funnel cake two years ago in Ohio at a gourd fair.  It was delicious.  Oh, without the added confectioner's sugar, thank you.  But then I am a Canadian.  :S

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51 minutes ago, Darienne said:

First thing I am reading Friday morning and my mouth is open and twisted in a sort of an "eww" position, as I go through the list from A to T.   Chocolate coated French Fries?  With marshmallows too?  Deep fried pickles?  Why?  Or OTOH, why not?

 

Is this solely an American phenomenon?  Are these unusual food items available in Canada at fairs also and I just haven't seen them?

 

I do remember with great fondness having a pumpkin funnel cake two years ago in Ohio at a gourd fair.  It was delicious.  Oh, without the added confectioner's sugar, thank you.  But then I am a Canadian.  :S

 

@Darienne  OTOH, all our fairs ever seem to offer up in the way of food are French fries, with or without gravy and hot dogs. O.o

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52 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

 

@Darienne  OTOH, all our fairs ever seem to offer up in the way of food are French fries, with or without gravy and hot dogs. O.o

That's what I thought, Elsie, but then my fair going days in Canada are long over and so I didn't think I dared say anything.  We have an outdoor food trailer on the way to our local library and it sells the usual, as you noted, but also a funnel cake.  $8 and it's very small.  No way I said and went home and had such fun making them.  

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The real trick to eating at the Fair and not worrying about calories is to go with a small group of friends. When it's time to eat, everyone goes off and gets their favorite food and all meet back at one location to share their bounty. For example, one vendor at the San Diego County Fair had a Double Patty Hamburger with pastrami, cheese and bacon. It sounds like a heart attack on a bun. But when you're with a group of people, by the time you cut it all up into bite size pieces, you only get a small portion which is enough to taste and enjoy but without giving you a guilt complex of eating the entire thing yourself.

There's a local diner that has a yearly booth at the Fair serving falafel burgers. which are very good. They also sell a skewer of delicious garlic-battered artichoke hearts. I can't imagine eating all of that myself but when we share it, it turns out to be just enough to satisfy my cravings..

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I have yet to be a state fair - any state fair.  The writeup in @kayb's link makes me think I could eat myself silly, day after day there.  Some of it I could pass by: call me unadventuresome, but the cricket pizza isn't something I'd jump at.  Bacon-wrapped deep-fried oreos seems a bit much, too.  OTOH I have had deep-fried Snickers bars and been surprised at their over-the-top deliciousness, and the offerings listed from Fried What? make me think I'd spend far too much time and money there.

 

The Minnesota State Fair has come and gone, but it seems from radio reports that their food schtick is food-on-a-stick.  (The logging and forest products industry must love this trend. ;)) Deep fried candy bars or chicken or pickles on a stick, anyone? This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10 foods on a stick you have to try at the Minnesota State Fair, lists some intriguing options like fried olives on a stick.  There's hand food and plate food too, according to this listing of the 2017 new food offerings. (Warning to future readers: it looks like this updates yearly.) Perhaps I'll get there some year.

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It is Tulsa State Fair time again for the next 10 days.  I will be there this weekend working the Oklahoma State Sugar Arts Show  with Kerry Vincent.  Channel 2 did a review of all the Fair Food appearing at the fair this year.   Which one shall I try first?  Channel 2's listing of New Foods at the 2018 Tulsa State Fair.  

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I'd try the pecan pie with peanut butter, bacon, and salted caramel.  That funnel cake with pink glaze is terrifying.

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DOUBLE CHOCOLATE FUNNEL CAKE  Deep fried double chocolate funnel cake topped with chocolate icing and chocolate chips.

I would just hope that it would be Belgian chocolate.  That might be a little much to ask for at a fair.

 

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30 minutes ago, pastrygirl said:

 That funnel cake with pink glaze is terrifying.

Looks like Easter Bunny intestines. Ewww

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Deep fried olives on a stick, those need a beer to go with, could be tasty.

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17 hours ago, BeeZee said:

Deep fried olives on a stick, those need a beer to go with, could be tasty.

And as luck would have it, the liquor laws change here on Oct 1st.   Cold high strength beer can now be sold in Oklahoma at liquor stores and grocers. Wine also.  I bet the beer garden at the fair will be busy this next week.  

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NC State Fair is coming.  I've yet to visit in 12 years.  Maybe this year is when I will.....

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2 hours ago, Kim Shook said:

Damn, I wanna move to Arkansas! 

We eat well at Fair time. Though honestly, there's nothing out there any better than the roasted corn. Dude shucks it back, twists the shuck into a handle, dips the ear into a gallon can of melted butter and hands it to you. ***swoon***

The barbecued bologna is not to be dissed, either.

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On 9/28/2018 at 2:51 PM, blbst36 said:

NC State Fair is coming.  I've yet to visit in 12 years.  Maybe this year is when I will.....

 

I didn't realize you'd been in this area that long! If you go to the fair be prepared for parking problems that are so bad that they actually have a bus shuttle service from a mall here in Cary near my home that is less of a hassle than trying to park at the fair. I used to go when I was younger. The last time I went was with my late brother. He actually managed to wedge his Tahoe into a space near Gate 1. I never could figure his luck, but it finally ran out. It's crowded and very expensive for everything, and this State Fair does not seem to offer any free displays of consequence like the one at the Memphis State Fair.

 

You have to pay a lot for the NC State Fair, including admission. If you like crowds and standing in lines for very expensive stuff, I highly recommend it. Oh and if you bring a girlfriend, she could stand in line to pee for an hour. They can keep this very poorly served up piece of entertainment, as far as I am concerned, and it only gets worse and more expensive each year, from what I hear. Student admissions are $6 this year and seniors are $8, I'd guess adult admission is at least $10. A day pass for rides is $38 and that is before you touch any of the overpriced food in the overcrowded venue. 

 

I can actually be happy in the farm displays, watching the dairy cows being milked, or the goat barn, the chicken barn or the rabbits. They were free last time I went, but since the fair has been so severely monetized, I cannot speak to that now. They also used to have displays where cooks would put their best pies, preserves, cakes, breads and so on up for judgement, and that was all free after admission too. As a farm girl, all the free stuff was interesting to me, but I'm not even sure that's even available anymore, and I am quite certain that the character of the State Fair has changed from the last time it interested me. It is just a money grab now.

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@Thanks for the Crepes - tell us how you really feel ;) 

 

Basically, my only interest is the food, not really the rides.  I hear too much about them collapsing.  I miss funnel cakes and corn dogs.  I wouldn't mind something fun, too, like a fried something.  My anxiety can't handle parking like that which has been a huge deterrent in going by myself.  I would definitely take a bus without hesitation.  I've actually never been to a state fair, period.  We used to go to a rib fest near where I lived when I was growing up, so I am very familiar with expensive food and large crowds.  They did include a lot in the tickets like live music and pig races and farm animals.  It's more about just the experience.  I am not working next week as I transition to a new job, so I was actually thinking of trying to get out there in the middle of the day, hoping the crowds wouldn't be as bad in the middle of the week.

 

Also, yep!  I couldn't believe I'd been here that long, either!  I'm just newer to egullet :$  I remember when I was travelling to Raleigh from Key West last year, the counter/check in agent was from the same area.  He asked how long I'd lived there and I said about 10 years.  He looked at me and said that I wasn't new, but wasn't a local just yet.  xD  He was hilarious.


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@blbst36,

 

I'm not trying to discourage your from going to the State Fair if you want to. I enjoyed it when I was younger, but it wasn't as pricey as it is now. Here's a link to an article from WRAL (one of our local news stations) that has was to save $$ at the fair. If you are only interested in the food, you might be interested in the lunch pass where you can get free admission to eat lunch on weekdays by paying $10 cash at Gate 1 or Gate 9 after 11:30 AM. You then have two hours to cruise the fair and buy your fair food for lunch. Vendors only accept cash, so bring plenty. The article says they have ATM's but there will be lines and hefty fees, so get your cash for free from your bank before venturing out. Then if you get back to the same gate you entered by before 1:30 PM, your admission of $10 will be refunded. I can understand how it would not be too PC to take an extended lunch especially with a new job, but that is a way to get free admission for the food only. There are other money saving tips in the article.

 

I remember reading somewhere else that the shuttle bus from Cary Town Center costs $5 for a round trip ticket and the buses run every thirty minutes until midnight. Can't remember when they start running.

 

If you go, enjoy, but there are not enough bathroom facilities for women, who take longer than men, so I do not recommend bringing a female. :)

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There's still a lot I enjoy about a fair, though I haven't been to one in a while. The animals are always fun to see, so I walk through the barns. The baking and canning competition displays are fun to view. There are usually a couple of buildings worth of business displays and such. Around here, there are still usually several musical acts that are free with admission (others require an extra charge). The food is pricy, but it's worth it for a once-a-year splurge. 

 

And there is no better place to people-watch.

 

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@Thanks for the Crepes - two hours might be just enough time for me to do what I want.  There's a lumberjack event I wouldn't mind seeing.  And it looks like the animals are still there for free.  Good to know about cash only.  Since moving down here, I rarely carry cash.  It's more prevalent back home than here, although I do know of some places that are cash only or it's just easier with cash.  Yep - all of the buses are $5 and it looks like the Cary one starts at 8:30am.  I don't need to worry about the job because I am not starting until the 30th.  Next week is my own time!  :D  Also, I am a woman, so I will just have to suffer the bathrooms. :$

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16 hours ago, blbst36 said:

@Thanks for the Crepes - two hours might be just enough time for me to do what I want.  There's a lumberjack event I wouldn't mind seeing.  And it looks like the animals are still there for free.  Good to know about cash only.  Since moving down here, I rarely carry cash.  It's more prevalent back home than here, although I do know of some places that are cash only or it's just easier with cash.  Yep - all of the buses are $5 and it looks like the Cary one starts at 8:30am.  I don't need to worry about the job because I am not starting until the 30th.  Next week is my own time!  :D  Also, I am a woman, so I will just have to suffer the bathrooms. :$

 

Well have fun if you decide to go, and it would be great to hear about the food you enjoy there along with prices you paid if you have the time. Take a look at the food maps on WRAL before you go too, so you have an idea where on the fairgrounds what you want to eat is located.

 

Sorry that I didn't realize you were female! Good luck with the bathroom situation. I hope it's better for ladies than it was the last time I attended.

 

I just read an article today on WRAL that said they had razed the rabbit barn to make way for more picnic tables and food vendors. This is what I mean about the Fair being monetized. The rabbit barn was free and held so many rare and interesting cute bunnies, but wasn't producing any income, so it had to go. We had harness racing at the VT State Fair and so many farming displays. Nowadays, it seems to be all about the midway and overpriced food. But things change. I don't seem very able to get on board with that, but it seems to be my problem, because the new generation doesn't care about farming as long as the grocery stores are stocked. One day everyone is going to realize that when farmers don't do well the rest of don't either. Everyone has to eat and farmers are the backbone of that. Farmers in NC and GA have been devastated by the back to back hurricanes during harvest season. That is so not good for all of us.

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