Sunday, June 28, 2009

TBG Eats: The 2009 San Diego Fair

I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thang III

2007 San Diego Fair

2008 San Diego Fair

I'd guess we were halfway between Stately Bootleg Manor and the Del Mar Fairgrounds when I casually glanced into the side mirror and noticed I was making
this face. Perhaps I was taking my own personal food Super Bowl a little too seriously. Did the anticipation of six hours of nonstop eating really deserve the infamous Kobe Bryant "accused-of-rape press conference" grimace?

The San Diego Fair is supposed to be about fun and frivolity. Yet, while riding shotgun in the Mrs. Bootleg-mobile, I was deep into the eighth or ninth draft of mental notes outlining my grand gastronomic attack.

"Will I be able to fit in the fried avocado for the first time? And, what about the funnel cake? I missed out on the funnel cake last year."

The only thing I was certain of was that my first stop – for the third straight year – would be Charlie's Chicken. In '07, they served me an 11:00 AM Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich for breakfast. Last year, I kicked things off with their deep-fried White Castle slider. Continuing the tradition of ridiculous sandwiches…

Oatmeal Cookie Chicken Sandwich - A great oatmeal cookie should be a bit dense, pleasingly chewy and not overly sweet. Admittedly, my expectations for the dessert standards at Charlie's Chicken weren't exactly off the charts. For $6.00, I was served a surprisingly well-seasoned grilled chicken fillet nestled between two oatmeal cookies with a light spread of cream cheese and a drizzling of raspberry sauce. After two bites, Mrs. Bootleg observed my reaction and wistfully stated, "That's how you used to look at me." Each ingredient complimented the others, never overwhelming the chicken. The sweetness was cut with the cream cheese and the oatmeal cookies were incredible. I so hate to give in to trite hyperbole, so we'll just let the modest grade stand alone. Grade: 5,000 (out of 5)

Fried Catfish - As we've previously covered, there are some dishes out there that African-Americans simply make better than white folk. This list includes, but is not limited to: macaroni and cheese, any fruit cobbler and catfish. [TBG Note: Don't look at me like that. Like rock and roll, white folk took barbecued ribs from us and made it better. Sociologically, it all evens out over time.] And, this was a basket of abomination. Served with cocktail sauce(!) and tartar sauce(!!), the catfish was batter(!!!) dipped and then cut into strips like fried calamari. I'm all out of indignant italics and exclamation points.
This is what catfish should look like. Is the state of California all out of corn meal?! Grade: 1

Chocolate Covered Bacon - The weather was a bit unusual on this afternoon. Although the skies were cloudy – typical for this time of year – the sun would occasionally poke out and reflect off of the solar panel that is my enormous forehead. By the time I found the one stand selling this confectionary cured pork, I was a sweaty mess. Thankfully, bacon makes everything better. I ordered three pieces. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised to see the cashier just reach into a small refrigerator and hand me a small box with a thin metal handle. Think "take out Thai food".

The three pieces of bacon inside had been broken up into six or seven smaller shards. The bacon was coated in dark chocolate and was served with a packet of salt. My first bite was stiff and tough to chew. I'm not a huge fan of dark chocolate and it was overpowering the overcooked bacon. I sprinkled the salt on the remaining pieces and that made things a bit better by reducing the chocolate's bitterness. I took the rest back to Mrs. Bootleg and the boy, who were on the other side of the fairgrounds by now. The 10-minute walk took the chill off the bacon and softened the chocolate, making my final three pieces the best of the batch. An inoffensive food novelty. Grade: 2.5

Fried Macaroni & Cheese - This was on last year's short list of "must eats", but I couldn't find the stand that sold it. As a personal consolation prize, I reviewed the
deep-fried inedible bile that Jack in the Box briefly served. But, I wasn't about to write off fried mac n' cheese forever just because of one bad experience. This time around, I was handed a kabob stick with three breaded balls impaled upon it. It looked a lot like falafel and came with a cup of ranch dressing from a surplus drum. This was better than the JitB version, but still unexceptional. If you've had the standard grade-school cafeteria version of this ubiquitous side dish, you've had this. Anyone know why fried cheese = "phenomenal", but fried macaroni and cheese = "meh"…? I'm willing to fund a grant for the answer. Grade: 2

Zucchini Weeni - In hindsight, I'm not sure what I was
so damn excited about. Last year's 14-inch corn dog was a colossal disappointment – thanks to the 800 inches of batter and government-assistance quality of the hot dog. Not surprisingly, the addition of a hollowed-out zucchini can't save this one. The hot dog is crammed inside the middle of my favorite phallic squash and then given the standard corn dog treatment. After two bites, mine had devolved into a soggy mess of breading, zucchini seeds and assorted condiments. I am giving this the worst food score in the short-lived history of this lightly-read blog. -500 of those points are part of the TBG gimmick. The other -4,500 are for the absurd name. Grade: -5,000


thatnicka said...

You're claiming mac-n-cheese for black folk?

Did we trade that for using 'izzle' 15 years too late?

That Bootleg Guy said...

'Fraid so, Nicka. But, I'll give y'all the nod for baking cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches and egg creams, too.

daedalus said...

re: catfish -

uncle al's closed its door about 2 years ago.

i cried.

That Bootleg Guy said...

You're kidding me, Thai?!

I remember going there in the early '80s with my mom.

"You buy, we fry!"


daedalus said...

'tis not something i could joke about.

RIP, uncle al's restaurant.

oh. FYI, michael symon's version of chocolate covered bacon (from his dinner: impossible episode, looked far more successful than what you had.

SHough610 said...

My theory about why fried cheese is better than fried mac and cheese is thus: fried cheese has not already been cooked. Fried cheese you just take some mozzarella, throw it in some egg wash, bread it, fry it (trapping all the melted oil goodness). Fried mac and cheese has mac and cheese cooked then egg washed, then fried, losing some of that.