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phaelon56

2004 NY State Fair food

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Late August and early September in the Syracuse area always means one thing - a summer wrap up food orgy at the NY State Fair. If it's unhealthy it's there - count on it. More significant is the fact that most of it tastes good, some tastes great and one can always expect to find a new item or two. I went twice this year and finally followed up on a promise I'd made to myself to document both my intake and some of what others were eating. I left out a few obvious suspects like roasted corn and the ubiquitous Agriculture Building baked potato (still only $1!!!).

Here are some highlights. No, I didn't eat all of it but I made a valiant effort. It's the least I can do for eGullet.

Gianelli's sausage sandwich with peppers, onions and sauce (Tryska take note - jealous huh?). They also make the only really good Italian style turkey sausage that I've ever tried. But this is the Fair. Pork is must. It has to be pork.

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Soul food from Tunura's - a local Muslim family. I love this stuff. Pictured starting at the top going clockwise are salmon patties, bean pie and a vegetable fritter - all good.

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The NY State Maple Producers Association booth - my favorite! I scored a solid 1 lb block of maple sugar candy for $6, had a maple sugar snow cone and bought a big jar of maple cream. I passed on the maple sugar cotton candy 'cause it made my teeth hurt just thinking about it (okay - I did have a sample). They have a little motorized curly-cue style whipping device and use it to cook down and churn the syrup into maple sugar candy on site. The girl pictured is releasing some fresh candy from the molds.

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The Villa Pizze Frite. It's just a two foot long stick of fried dough rolled in granulated sugar but aficionado's seem to think there's something mystical about it. At $2.50 per stick I just can't imagine how they make any profit :wink: Some people take entire bags full of this home at the end of the day. Yeah... I had one. You have to.

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Norman's Salt Water Taffy. I never buy any but I'll eat it if you give me some. Any flavor - I don't care. When I was a little boy I used to stare at the taffy stretching machine with slack jawed fascination. Now I've learned to keep my mouth shut. Except when you give me taffy.

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The SPAM-mobile. People were very disappointed when it wasn't there last year. They're so happy it's back. My sandwich tasted suspiciously like SPAM and the recipe card was.... a waste of a good tree. But the food was free. I like free food.

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Mexican shrimp cocktail. Boom Boom Burrito, sister company of Boom Boom BBQ, has the only real Mexican food at the Fair and it rocks. Lupe Bryant makes great food and this new item has potential. It includes diced tomatoes, hot sauce, onion, fresh lime juice, cilantro, parsley and shrimp. Kind of like a Bloody Mary with no horseradish. It was really good but I'd like to try it with better shrimp and perhaps a dash of horseradish. I didn't have any of the BBQ but her husband Tom does a good job. They spend their summers in Lafayette NY and their winters in Lafayette LA. Tom used to be the director of the French Cultural festival in Lafayette LA but he just does the food gig now.

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Shea butter. It comes from Africa and is derived from a legume similar to a peanut (so I'm told). It's great for your skin, hair etc but I'm wondering.... can you cook with this stuff? I didn't taste it. It doesn't really grow inside the giant gourd - they just ship it that way. In NYC there's a guy who sells it right from the gourd on the Houston Street sidewalk. Scoops it into old butter dishes. Mmmmm.

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Most of the prize winning veggies on display had been sitting on display in a hot room for days and looked very sad.

These gourds were an obvious exception.

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I was taking one for the team when I tried the deep fried Oreo's. I'm here to report that they may have potential but you must get them when they're just out of the fryer. Mine were a bit on the rubbery side but uhhh.... interesting. This particular booth is deep-fried headquarters.

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Here's the "stuff-on-a-stick" section - coated marshmallows, chocolate dipped frozen cheesecake and the master stroke of marketing: beef pops!

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On to the Beekeeper's & Honey Association booth. I bought a pound each of Buckwheat honey and Blueberry honey. This guy works the booth every year and really looks the part. At least to me. He should be in some kind of creepy, scary movie about beekeepers. But he's not really creepy and scary - he just loves honey.

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Everybody loves pork. It's all about the pork. Dennis Morgan and his wife own Mountain View Restaurant and Hog Wild Catering in Preble NY. They have a pig roast stand here every year. He insisted that I had to show you all his new sign: "Have you been porked lately?" [edited to add: my spellchecker didn't recognize the word "porked" and suggested "poked" as the replacement for "porked". What's up with that?]

That's one hell of a pig roaster - it sure ain't your grandfather's Caja China and it could probably kick the ass of a Cajun Microwave (all due respect to Mayhaw Man). By the way.... their phone number is (607)749-PIGS. Figures.

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He strips the pig of the skin and the excess fat, chops the meat and then mixes with a BBQ sauce that is a combination of a commercial base and his own proprietary additions. Let's face it - it's all about the pig.... sauce is just sauce :laugh: Dennis gives away the skin for free and people line up for it. This guy insisted that it's better than sex. Well it is free and you can have it in public at the Fair. I'm talking about pig skins of course.

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Speaking of people named Morgan.... I ran into another one a few minutes later. I've never cared for "fair fudge". It's always had a gummy and chewy quality that lacked the fine crystalline structure and texture of good home made fudge. Spotted these guys making "Mackinaw Island style fudge" and decided to try some because it looked like the real thing. It is. It's all done in the traditional manner - cooked down on site in big copper kettles, cooled on 300 lb marble slabs and then whipped to the right consistency by expert hands. In this case the hands belong to none other than Brian Morgan, the owner of Morgan's Fudge. It's good - really, really good. He had a couple retail stores but sold them off and does a handful of state fairs every year plus a bunch of corporate conventions such as Proctor & Gamble et al. I wish I worked for a big company with a sweet tooth - I'd go to the convention every year. Apologies for the lack of clarity in some of the fudge photo's - wrong setting on the camera but it does give you the overall idea of how it's done. Did I mention that it tastes really, really good? That's because it's made from all natural ingredients. It must be good for you :laugh:

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More fried dough. It's a staple and people love it. Some call 'em zeppoles and some call 'em elephant ears but it looks like a flat round Pizze Frite to me. But these are served naked and you chose your own topping. Powdered sugar seem to be the most popular.

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Let's move on to blatantly false and or at least somewhat misleading advertising. "The Salad Boys" serve just a few salads every now and then but they shovel up big mounds of London Broil all day long. Shouldn't they just be "The Broil Boys"?

And about "Cafe Cappucino".... guess what they don't serve? You got that right - cappuccino! The guy gave me a blank look when I asked for one. I think he wasn't even sure what a cappuccino is. But the name is catchy, huh?

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Next up is Dinosaur Barbecue. Many folks who've lived in or near Syracuse or Rochester know of them and they'll soon have an outpost in NYC. They partner with Gianelli for this absolutely massive booth. The row of smokers is a sight to behold. I think they go through about twenty face cords of hardwood every day at the fair to fuel the smokers. That's a stack 18" wide by 4 feet high by 160 feet long. It's a lot of wood. Have to hand to these guys - they know how to handle volume. The counter has about 30 people working it on the two open sides to accommodate orders. It's fast and efficient. The pulled pork was not quite up to the same high standard as what I eat in their restaurant but decent enough for the fair. It is a tasty looking sandwich, huh?

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At 25 cents per 8 oz cup, milk in the dairy building remains one of the great bargains at the fair. They pump directly from those giant stainless steel tanks up on top. Two glasses of chocolate for me please. I believe in tradition - the Fair is not the fair without a sausage sandwich and two glasses of chocolate milk.

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I was excited when I heard that there was a crawdad stand this year. The only thing that could possibly top that would be a fried okra stand, right?. Wrong. They use frozen crawdad tails (supposedly crawdad) which are breaded, fried and served in a stingy portion size on top of some curly fries. All for only $6. Did I mention that they will sell it without the fries? Same portion size but only $6. Whoopee. Can't tell you how it tasted 'cause I just took pictures. I saved my money for pork.

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There's even a giant Centauri 68000 computer that does handwriting analysis and tells you all about your personality. I was afraid to try it lest something about gluttony should appear on my print-out. Those Centauri's must have been really advanced for their time - they've had this same model here for the past 40 years or so. Impressive. :laugh:

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I suppose after-dinner cigars are food related if they're smoked after a meal, right? This guy hand rolls cigars from real Connecticut tobacco. He's really amazing - doesn't even need to use a knife to de-vein the wrapper leaf the way most people do. He wraps the leaves around his wrist, pulls the vein out and unfurls the leaf off his wrist on one motion. I think he's been doing this for awhile. Connecticut is one of the leading tobacco growing states. Who knew? I didn't.

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Saw this place on my way out and couldn't resist snapping a few pics. It's sort of a Monster Garage merges with the Sopranos to sell "butterfly chips" at the Fair. That really is a big power drill he's using to shave the potatoes into the butterflied strands. At $4 per plate it looks like a bargain but it's really just one big potato that takes up a lot of space on the plate. Just when you thought nothing could yield a higher profit than fried dough - along comes butterfly chips. By the way.... his shirt says "Guilty" on the back. He told me I owed him $100 for taking the first picture and $1,000 for the second one. All I had left was bus money home so we'll have to settle up next year. Unless they break my legs first.

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Always saving the best for last.... I present the 2004 Butter Sculpture. It's not as impressive as the Dwight Gooden they had one year or my all-time favorite of the Cow Jumping Over The Moon but it is a neat little farm scene with amazing detail. And it's made of butter.

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I think I'm hungry again.

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Great job, Owen! Nice pics and nice reporting. I may actually have to get there one of these years. It looks like a lot of fun. If I get a chance I'll post some pictures from the recent Washington County Fair later on.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Did that sign really indicate "deep fried chocolate covered key lime pie"? 

Yes it did. I'm really wishing I'd tried that instead of the deep fried Oreo's but there's always next year.....

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Yes it did. I'm really wishing I'd tried that instead of the deep fried Oreo's but there's always next year.....

Yes, good reporting and even better pictures. About the deep-fried oreos, there's a barbecue restaurant over on this side of the Hudson that sells them, and well I must say they induced eye-rolling and happy sighs from all who partook. I loved them--a funnel-cake wrapped oreo. What could be better?! Fresh from the fryer is the only way to have them--but isn't that the case with anything deep-fried. Timing (and the ability to endure extremely hot food) are key! YUM!


"After all, these are supposed to be gutsy spuds, not white tablecloth social climbers."

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Gianelli's sausage sandwich with peppers, onions and sauce (Tryska take note - jealous huh?). They also make the only really good Italian style turkey sausage that I've ever tried. But this is the Fair. Pork is  must. It has to be pork.

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I have such fond memories of Gianelli turkey sausage - the Davises are family friends, so we would visit their booth every year. It just wouldn't be the fair unless you "put some Gianelli in your belly"!


allison

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beef pops

I thought I knew every bit of fair food there was to know, but this is new to me :laugh::raz:

Excellent report. I had deep fried cheesecake in Berks Co., PA this summer by the way--much, much better than deep fried Oreos.

:smile:

Jamie


See! Antony, that revels long o' nights,

Is notwithstanding up.

Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene ii

biowebsite

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Owen, I still can't get over this fantastic post. Everything looks so good! I wanna try the deep fried chocolate covered key lime pie!

When & where's your next expedition?

:wink:

Yetty


Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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Excellent report.  I had deep fried cheesecake in Berks Co., PA this summer by the way--much, much better than deep fried Oreos.

:smile:

Jamie

Where? I'll talk someone into a road trip.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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When & where's your next expedition?

:wink:

Yetty

The next real food expedition probably won't be until January, when my GF and I visit Paris for a week to celebrate our birthday together (I'm so lucky we were born on the same day - now I just have to marry her on that day and remembering important dates will a cinch! :biggrin: ). She humors me and tolerates my food interests but I don't think a detailed photo report on food will be forthcoming from that trip (at least not from the more upscale places).

That said.... here's a plug for the Coffee & Tea forum: starting sometime next week I'll begin posting text and photos periodically on a thread about my migration into the world of commercial coffee and espresso. It's been a serious hobby of mine for the past several years. A confluence of events has now given me a chance to try out the commercial aspects of it. I recently began doing machine servicing and maintenance for a local cafe owner and also started doing their commercial roasting (about 500 pounds of beans per week). As of early October I'll also be working FOH for a new location they're opening. It will by far be our grandest location yet and they're not scrimping on this project. We'll have a state-of-the-art espresso machine that is probably one of only a handful like it on the East coast, are featuring Stickley furniture in our seating and lounging area (Stickley headquarters is nearby so we get a bit of a discount but it's still a huge furniture investment) and.... a full size pastry kitchen and walk-in freezer.

It may be a number of months before we have a pastry chef on board but plans are already being formulated. I think that's pretty cool and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

Edited to add: I'm not giving up my day job - just shifting my starting and finishing time by an hour each. It will make for a busy schedule for awhile but it fits well with my current long term plans so off I go.

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Best of luck, Owen!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What!?!

No spiedies!?!


If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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What!?!

No spiedies!?!

My body ain't no temple but it is generally a "no spiedie zone". There are just too many other foods I need to focus on at the fair. But next year I'll try one.

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