In the last Guilty Pleasures column, I was talking about going back to the Arizona State Fair to find a couple of tantalizing oddball items. I couldn't stop thinking about the sweet potato corn dog. And then there's that Cap'n Crunch Burger I saw on the map's food list. Just what the hell would it entail? It sounded like something so incredibly out there that it couldn't possibly be any good... which, with fair food, meant it's probably crazy-like-a-fox delicious. I absolutely had to try it.
I emailed the friendly marketing person for the State Fair to find out the locations for my targets. I wandered the area that was supposed to house the Cap'n Crunch burger, only to come up empty-handed for the time being. I was getting hungry, so I went off in the direction of the sweet potato corn dog. It was harder to find than it should have been for me. I walked past the stand three times before I noticed the extra signage hanging on it. Hint: It's right next to the Tilt-A-Whirl. Six bucks later, I had myself a piping hot foot-long hot dog swaddled in corn batter mixed with sweet potato purée.
It looked like a regular corn dog, just a little darker. The sweet potato teamed well with the corn, giving a hint of sweetness and a subtle earthy bass note. A squirt of yellow mustard was, like on a regular corn dog, a welcome accoutrement. I think the sweet potato corn dog would have been better with a smoked sausage (like the Polish sausage corn dogs available at some stands), but I wasn't complaining. The sweet potato dog is just different enough from a regular corn dog that it doesn't fully scratch a corn dog itch. But, it's good enough that I'll likely crave one after the fair pulls up stakes for the year.
Now that one target was out of the way, it was time to find that damn burger. I combed the whole fair to no avail. I checked the map again for the place that was supposed to have it. I metaphorically surrendered my Man Card, and flat-out asked the people at the stand listed if they knew anything about it. Of course, they had no idea what I was talking about. As I walked away, I saw a stand operated by the same company offering deep-fried Cap'n Crunch. I started to put two and two together.
I fired off an email to the marketing person to figure out if something went amiss. A phone call (and several days) later, I had the answer. The information from the vendors had a mix-up in it. The Cap'n Crunch burger never existed, at least not at the State Fair this year. Who knows, maybe some crazed food vendor will be inspired by all of this to create one for the fair next year.
As I sulked off without a Cap'n Crunch burger, I noticed something that looked out of place.
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Right next to the place with my nonexistent burger, there was this tiny yellow trailer offering Thai food. I have a feeling they usually do arts festivals and the like, leaving them out of their league against the huge stands at the fair. I figured I might as well try their $5 pad thai plate. After all, what could be more oddball at the State Fair than a food item that is neither deep-fried nor on a stick?
The pad thai was basic, but it was competently prepared, and delicious. Rice noodles were chewy, eggs were soft, veggies and peanuts provided mild crunch. The sauce was perfectly salty/tangy/sweet balanced, with a good hit of fish sauce funk (and better still, not reeking of Skippy peanut butter). They made it mild, but that was easily corrected with a convenient shaker jar full of dried chiles. The sauce level was just right, a far cry from gloppy messes that I've paid a lot more for. All told, I think that by trying this little Thai stand, I may have stumbled upon the best food value at the Arizona State Fair.
Remember, the end of the fair on November 4 is coming up sooner than you think, and the fair is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. See you out there!