Going to a state fair, any state fair, is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. Sampling the food there is a great way to get a sluggish kitchen muse back on track.
State fair foods are notoriously weird, and the weirder the better. Every year the food vendors all over the United States push the boundaries of how we think of food until those boundaries snap. Most of what they offer is fried, or on a stick, or both. Cheeseburgers served on a sliced doughnut, Red Velvet funnel cakes, fried Snicker’s bars, and deep fried beer are all possible treats depending on which state fair you show up at.
Vendors compete to be on the top ten new foods lists and gain more attention that others who may be serving boring, old corn dogs.
State Fair Foods from This Year
This year there were a number of new treats at the Texas State Fair. It seems that here in Texas if you fry it they will eat it.
- Deep Fried Spaghetti and Meatballs –A meatball with spaghetti wrapped around it, and deep fried is surprisingly good.
- Deep Fried Bubble Gum – One can only imagine what the inventors of this dish were smoking when they came up with it.
- Deep Fried Nutella – This was not nearly as good as it sounds because it was basically puff pastry spread with Nutella folded over and then deep fried. The worst thing about it was that the oil was rancid.
- Deep Fried Thanksgiving Dinner – A ball of bread stuffing mixed with turkey is dipped into creamed corn and finished off by rolling in cornmeal before deep frying and serving with gravy.
- Pig Toes on a Stick – Iconic tater tots wrapped in bacon and a slice of jalapeno are then fried and served with a chili dipping sauce.
- Fried Millionaire Pie – Millionaire pie is a cream cheese, pineapple, and pecan creation that is very popular in Texas. Now it comes deep fried, but despite how that might sound it is really good. Rich, but good.
- Deep Fried Frito Pie – Frito pie is another Texas staple made of Fritos corn chips with chili poured over them, very popular at football games. Now you can get that same dish dipped in batter and deep fried.
Other State Fair Foods
Texas is not the only place to get strange combinations during state fair season, although they do tend to fry everything. Other states have some unique foods as well.
- Candied Bacon Cannoli – Candied bacon mixed with sweet ricotta cheese in a pastry shell.
- Bourbonwurst – A pork sausage infused with bourbon. Why not? At least it’s not deep fried.
- Fried Pickles and Chocolate – Yes, really. Deep fried dill pickles, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with rich chocolate sauce. Bring your pregnant friends.
- Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes – Yes, yes it is. A Krispy Kreme Doughnut with sloppy joe filling.
- Deep Fried Lemonade -Somewhat like a lemon flavored funnel cake this seems to have been a real hit.
California seems to have maintained sanity and served mostly healthy looking items with the exception of deep fried macaroni and cheese on a stick. Iowa, on the other hand, seems to compete with Texas in unique foods except that in Iowa they put everything on a stick. Smoothie on a stick and shrimp corn-dogs were two of many examples.
Using Fair Food as Inspiration
There is no way you are going to want to serve shrimp corn-dogs or fried Nutella to your guests but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a look at some of the more popular items at the local state fairs and get some inspiration for your own unique (and gourmet) twist. Actually, the candied bacon cannoli sound pretty good and they could turn into a signature dessert. There are hundreds of possibilities just as close as your favorite search engine.
It’s easy to get into a rut with foods, especially appetizers and desserts, and have the same thing on the menu forever. By familiarizing yourself with popular fair foods you can get an idea of what people are eating and you can create something upscale using the same flavor profile. Fair food, whether it is deep fried or on a stick, forces you to think outside the box.
Thinking outside the box is a requirement if you want your restaurant to stand out from the crowd.
image credit: Deep Fried Nutella, Texas State Fair, Marye Audet