I had a lot of fun last week covering wacky food at the Arizona State Fair. However, there were a few things I missed out on for one reason or another. Some things weren't yet ready to serve on opening day. On other dishes, my grease quota for the day had already been met.
So, over the weekend I went back to try even more stuff. It was difficult to not make a beeline for the deep-fried lasagna and deep-fried Nutella I loved so much last time. But for all of you, I persevered. Here's what I got to try this time around.
Onion Ring Corn Dog What is there not to like about the combination of two of my favorite deep-fried treats? I was trying to figure out how the vendor was going to combine the two. The decal on the stand showed me their plan: Deep-fry the two separately, then thread the onion rings on the corn dog. Brilliant!
At least, that was the plan. The creator of this mash-up didn't take into account that onion rings have a wide range of sizes, and only a few of them from any given onion would fit on a corn dog the way they intended. So, what I got was a jumbo corn dog with onion rings on the side. Speaking of the jumbo dog, they ain't whistling Dixie about the jumbo part. That sucker was almost as long as my forearm.
The corn dog was exemplary. Alas, I still have yet to find an onion ring I like at the Fair. They were better than the doughy toruses I sampled last year, but they were overcooked to the point that they were getting a little tough.
On the bright side, the same folks make the amazing sweet potato corn dog that I adored last year. I'll be back over there in short order to have one or two more of those before they go away again.
Cheesy Bacon Bombs The Bacon A-Fair stand operates on the theory that too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Militant vegans would be wise to steer clear of the giant lime green stand, as I'm pretty sure just breathing the surrounding air counts as eating a strip of bacon.
There's all manner of bacon-wrapped decadence on display. Most noteworthy are the turkey legs wrapped with a full pound of bacon before cooking. They also seem to be quite proud of their Porkabello Kabobs, a stick of mushrooms stuffed with Gouda cheese and wrapped in bacon. The item that amused me the most when I read through the full menu was the Cheesy Bacon Bombs. It's the kind of name that makes you want to say "Who cares what it is, I'll take two!"
It turns out that a Cheesy Bacon Bomb is a chunk of cheese that's dipped in batter and fried. Then, it's wrapped in bacon and fried again. Finally, it gets doused in a couple of tablespoons of garlic butter just in case the whole thing wasn't yet far enough over the top.
It should have been the penultimate Fair food offering. For me, it missed the mark. I think that the breading was the weak link. I've had friends make similar noshes for parties, and they used biscuit dough to great success. I think I have the answer: Wrap the cheese in frybread dough, and have Cheesy Frybread Bacon Bombs! Adding on the frybread would also help justify the steep price tag of $7.50 for four pieces about as big as ping-pong balls.
Deep-Fried Watermelon I almost didn't try deep-fried watermelon. It's not that I wasn't intrigued. It's that it was on offer right next to the stand that serves deep-fried Nutella, which is so good it should probably be a controlled substance. However, in the effort of journalistic integrity, I suppressed my primal urge to go for the Nutella, and I tried something new. You're welcome.
The deep-fried watermelon is a sight to behold. It's a generous deep-fried wedge, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with a little strawberry glaze, complete with a cherry skewered on top, served on a stick. While I walked around with it, it was hilarious to see people stop and stare. More than a few people stopped me to ask what it was and where they could get one. The wackiness of the concept and the size combined made it quintessential Fair food.
But how is it? I'll admit, it's better than I thought it would be. The little bit of warmth the watermelon picked up seemed to heighten the watermelon's flavor, but that may have been the drizzle of strawberry glaze talking. Further, the frying made the watermelon slice especially juicy. It's a wonder I didn't end up wearing any of it.
To be honest, I'd still rather have a big plain slice of cold watermelon, but it was an enjoyable dish for the sheer novelty. The same people also sell deep-fried pineapple, which I'll bet is a much better option.
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Ghost Pepper Ice Cream While I stood in line for deep-fried watermelon, I noticed that the folks who sell it also sell a number of insanely spicy foods. The most novel of them was ice cream flavored with one of the spiciest peppers in existence: Bhut Jolokia, better known as the Ghost Pepper. I figured what the hell, why not give it a try?
They have it available by the scoop for about $5, in take-home pints for $12, or a generous spoonful for $1.01. After trying the spoonful, I have come to the conclusion that anyone who could power through an entire scoop is worthy of praise. At first, it tastes like plain sweet cream ice cream. Then... FIRE! It's intense, bright, sinus-clearing heat. I was tasting it for a good five minutes after I tried just the one spoonful.
This is the kind of thing that you don't normally order for yourself. You order it on a dare. Or if you have a mean streak, order it for someone else and don't tell them what it is. But it's actually kind of tasty, in an odd masochistic sense. I might even willingly order a spoonful again just for the endorphin rush that comes with the chile heat. Be glad the cold, cream, and sugar all work to temper the intense heat, or it would be even more fierce. Take out the cream and there's no stopping the Ghost Pepper. Maybe Ghost Pepper sorbet next year? The mind reels.