It's time again for the high holy days of Guilty Pleasures: the Arizona State Fair. Everywhere you look, there's some random foodstuff getting dipped in batter and deep-fried. This year, it seems like the food vendors held back a little bit. Gone were the chocolate-dipped scorpions and mealworm sandwiches that were (figuratively) on everyone's tongues last year. There was only one place selling deep-fried butter. Still, there's all manner of incredibly fattening delicious things to be had. Here's a sampling of what we found at the Fair on opening day:
See Also: - State Fair Gone Wrong: The Bad, The Worse ... And Something That Could Kill You - Keeping Fair Food Safe (If Not Healthy) To Eat - Opening Day at the Arizona State Fair (Slideshow) - Food of the Arizona State Fair (Slideshow)
Maple Bacon Donut: I know, maple bacon donuts themselves are nothing new, Voodoo Doughnut up in Portland has been selling them for years (and local doughnut shop Rainbow Donuts is in on the action). But where else are you going to get one that's A) hot and fresh, and B) obscenely oversized? Every time I look at the picture, my brain keeps trying to tell me that it's a normal-sized donut and a very tiny fork. That donut had to be at least nine inches, I swear.
Red Velvet Funnel Cake: I wanted to like this one more. Come on, red velvet cake and funnel cake together at last, how could you go wrong? Turns out that after deep-frying, red velvet batter tastes like plain ol' funnel cake. I saw a couple of stands making them, maybe one of the other ones does it better than the one I had.
Deep-Fried Cinnamon Rolls: Just when I thought I'd seen deep-fried everything, I found this carb-aholic's dream come true from a pink kiosk at the south end of the grandstand. It seems like the kind of thing that must have been around for ages, but this is the first I've ever seen such a thing. In addition to the hot, gooey cinnamon rolls, the stand offered seemingly scores of items that you wouldn't expect deep-fried, including deep-fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Pop Tarts, cheesecake, even Fruity Pebbles.
The BIG [sic] Rib: Too much dubious deep-fried food for you? Save the smoked turkey legs for the Renaissance Festival and get the BIG Rib, also pretty close to the grandstand. It's the vendor's idea to use all caps on "big", but in this case, it's entirely warranted. The stand serves up primal two-pound beef ribs that look like something right out of The Flintstones. If it's too much food for you and your friends (let's be honest, that thing could serve six easily), doggie bags are included with every purchase. And, I'm pretty sure that once you're done with the meat, the empty bone can double as a souvenir baseball bat.
Pineapple Lemonade: When wandering the State Fair, the drink of choice is fresh-squeezed lemonade. It's readily available from a great deal of food stands, and often comes in cherry or strawberry flavor. One flavor that was new to me this year is pineapple, and it is utterly delicious. There's only a handful of places that offer it, but they're worth seeking out.
There were two items that I excitedly combed the fair to find, to no avail. According to the handy-dandy map, there are sweet potato corn dogs somewhere. I'm curious just how those intersect, and if it is indeed possible to improve on that most revered guilty pleasure food, the corn dog. And, even better, and when I say "better" I mean "so much worse it has to be amazing", apparently there are Cap'n Crunch burgers available. Yes, sugary cereal and a hamburger together in unholy union. If you find either of those at the Fair, let me know where they are so I can go back and try them. The fair runs through November 4 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays, more info at azstatefair.com) so there's plenty of time to pig out. Even if you don't find them, say hello if you see me out there. I'll be the one holding a corn dog the size of my forearm.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.