Cafe Reviews

Chocolate-Covered Scorpions, Fried Butter, and Other State Fair Eats

What's a diaper derby, a seven-foot pig with tusks, and a wolf T-shirt on every fifth person got to do with fast food? Everything — when you're at the Arizona State Fair. 'Cause when you're surrounded by freakiness, the food should be as weird as the scene.

Like the fair's midway games, some of the food has "sucker" written all over it. So, I sacrificed my stomach to bring you the first-class and the flimflam of this year's most exotic, deep-fried, and just plain peculiar foodstuffs at the Arizona State Fair, which runs through November 7.

Chocolate-covered bugs: Yes, they're novelties and not for the squeamish. And if the kiddies want you to pay two bucks for a single mealworm (like a Rice Krispie) or cricket (crunchy, tastes like dust) dipped in chocolate, who am I to shatter their dreams? But the scorpion? Avoid at all costs. It’s important to note that this clawed creature is served up fresh, not fried, before it’s dipped in chocolate. Now, eating a crispy-fried creepy is one thing -- at least there’s a wall of breading to minimize the impact -- but chomping down on a uncooked predatory arthropod is quite another, and very, very, wrong. The scorpion's bitter taste (somewhere between poison and gasoline?) is gag-worthy. The chocolate? Not helping. And once you’ve choked down or spat up the last, spindly body part poking the inside of your mouth, the realization that you just paid five bucks to eat something most Valley residents find in their shoes every day stings almost as much as the real thing.

Exotic animal meat on a stick: For $7.25, you can be told that the tiny and tough piece of tasteless grilled meat on a stick you're holding is python, alligator, lion, or unicorn. For two dollars less, you can get a cheeseburger on a stick that tastes like a cheeseburger on a stick. You decide.

Deep-fried delights: Deep-fried Twinkies are so three years ago. This year, it's all about butter, s'mores, salami, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches dunked in the fryer. Though the deep-fried PB & J concept is interesting, the payoff just isn't there -- too much bread-on-bread, and the jelly and peanut butter are the cheap stuff and make for a sad fried sandwich Your best bets? The butter, the S'more, and the "salami sucker." Available in cinnamon and garlic flavor (go with the garlic), the deep-fried butter nuggets are crazy-addictive (C'mon, it's fat fried in fat. What's not to love?) and taste like soft, warm bites of beautifully buttered bread. The s'more's chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker innards are made all the sweeter and gooier when deep-fried — and let me extend a greasy hand to congratulate whoever deep-fried a piece of cured meat, put it on a stick, and called it a salami lollipop. Genius.

The Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger: If there were a freak-food king of the Arizona State Fair, the crown would belong to this doughnut-and-burger mash-up miracle. Featuring a beef patty, lettuce, cheese, onion, and bacon between two glazed Krispy Kreme donuts, the result is a sweet-meets-salty-meets-dear-God-what-am-I-doing-meets-who-cares-when's-the-next time-I'm-ever gonna-have-one-of-these-anyway-so-get-off-my-ass flavor that requires several napkins, a hand-washing, and, yeah, a cholesterol check.

Consider my gut busted.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld