Friday, June 25, 2010

TBG Eats: The 2010 San Diego Fair

I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing IV

Current Weight: 168.6 lbs.

2007 SD Fair Food -- 2008 SD Fair Food -- 2009 SD Fair Food

That Bootleg Family achieved a personal best with our longest single-day visit to the San Diego Fair. We reached the main gate at 11:30 AM and didn't leave until after 8:00 PM. In the previous three years, we arrived when the gates opened (11:00 AM) and left around 4:30 – 5:00 PM. There are three reasons for yesterday's extended adventure.

(1) Mrs. Bootleg: We were already running late when my wife practically broke down the bathroom door to ask my opinion on the outfit she'd chosen to wear – to a county fair. I suppose the alternative would be a wife who doesn't give a damn how she looks, but why does Mrs. Bootleg pull out the "black Carrie Bradshaw" bit for ballgames and amusement parks? And, once we were on the road, she must've waved over 25 other drivers to cut in front of us as we inched towards the off ramp to the fair. To MY credit, I held my tongue until we were almost off the freeway.

(2) Spinning Rides: As I tweeted from the fair, "I've officially reached the point in my life when I absolutely HAVE to keep my eyes closed on the spinniest fair rides". Jalen and I rode some sort of "human kite" contraption that held us in separate harnesses – laying flat on our stomachs – and took us on a circular journey high above the fairgrounds. I felt crazy dizzy and nauseated during the one or two times I opened my eyes to look over and make sure my son hadn't fallen hundreds of feet towards earth. Consequently, it took some time for my stomach to settle down.

(3) Hula!: Much to my surprise, there's more to the fair than deep-fried crimes against humanity, disinterested carnies and kiddie rides. One of Mrs. Bootleg's girlfriends is part of a Polynesian dance troupe that's been performing at the fair since the malevolent reign of
this guy. We spent an hour watching them rock the house and Jalen's assortment of innocent comments ("I can see their belly buttons!"…"Do they shake their booties in every song?"…"I thought they were going to be naked.") was the perfect accompaniment.

The additional hours afforded me the opportunity to take down six of the items that I covered in my
pre-show piece earlier this month – starting with the most delicious and working our way down.

Deep Fried Pop-Tart - I'd wanted to begin with the hash brown fry dog, but the Chicken Charlie's stand closest to the main entrance wasn't selling it. Mildly disappointed, I went with the Pop-Tart. The ubiquitous breakfast treat – strawberry flavor – is batter-dipped and golden-fried, then topped with strawberry jam, powdered sugar and confetti sprinkles. The traditionally chalky Pop-Tart crust soaked up the grease, turning spongy while remaining sturdy. The heat from frying intensified the fruit flavor, raising the sweetness a bit, but not to an overwhelming level. Imagine one of those Toaster Strudel pastries as an especially decadent dessert. Grade: 500 (out of 5)

Hash Brown Fry Dog - Having been burned in back-to-back years with the 14-inch "colossal" corn dog and the inedible "Zucchini Weeni", I was a wee bit leery about jumping back into yet another corn dog derivative. Even by the over-the-top standards of county fair marketing, the gimmicks ("It's BIG!"…"It's a hot dog wedged into a vegetable!") had lapped the product. Here, though? It works. Crispy, salty shards of potato envelope a just-barely decent dog. There was a crunchy, chewy texture from the spuds that passed along some additional substance to the meat. Who says the ingredients in these Frankenstein fair foods can't work together? Grade: 4

Buffalo Chicken Indian Fry Bread - I stumbled upon the nondescript shack that served these up only after I was unable to retrace my steps back to the Italian sandwich stand that was selling meatball sliders. The fry bread seemed like it was just flour, water and some baking powder – like a slightly denser, unsweetened "elephant ear" pastry. It's topped with diced chicken and then flooded with Frank's Red Hot Sauce and two kinds of shredded cheese. There was a comical over-simplicity to the final product that reminded me of the "nachos" I made in the microwave with slices of American cheese during my college days. The hot sauce lends a little heat, but this one couldn't rise above its mostly pedestrian ingredients. Grade: 2.5

Deep Fried Klondike Bar - For the dessert-uninitiated, Klondike bars are dense squares of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate (and part of an especially egregious
lyrical groaner from Kanye West). Batter-dipped, deep fried and then covered in chocolate sauce and powered sugar, it's at least aesthetically appetizing. The problem is once you fork your way past the toppings and crust, all you're left with is a Klondike Bar. Like the Fried Twinkie and Fried Oreos, the grease and heat do nothing to differentiate the flavors from the traditional version. Grade: 2.5

Chocolate-Dipped Pickle - I've eaten the fair's fried frog legs, fried rattlesnake, chocolate-covered bacon and Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich…yet, I'd never had people walk up to me while I was eating and gawk like they did for the chocolate-dipped pickle. The small, skeptical audience seemed to be rooting for my revulsion, but this was actually…okay. The pickle would be considered "sour" by the delicatessen-free standards of California and the mild sweetness from the chocolate sauce neatly weaves with the pickle's saltiness. Unfortunately, the pickle is too damn big and there's not enough chocolate. A smaller, truly sour pickle completely coated in chocolate might – MIGHT – ascend to 2.5 or 3 territory. For this… Grade: 2

Deep Fried Butter - In the moments after I tweeted
this photo, I started receiving text messages from friends practically begging me not to indulge in the deep fried butter. Understandably, I can't imagine there are too many people who can wrap their head around a food concept that's essentially "fried grease". Well, here's what you might not know: the fair's deep fried butter comes in two "flavors" – cinnamon/sugar and garlic. Also, the breading-to-butter ratio is about 80/20.

I ordered the garlic, since I'd just gulped down a sickeningly sweet strawberry lemonade. I received two small churro-shaped sticks served on a basket of fried dough with a side of generic marinara sauce. The first bite nearly blew my mouth off my face. The little bit of butter tasted like six cups of Country Crock on my tongue. And, worse, the "garlic" flavor didn't come from real garlic. Instead, the sticks are smothered in so much garlic salt that the only three flavors here are: salty, buttery and artificial garlic stank. I can guarantee my readers THIS much – next year, I'm sticking with cinnamon/sugar. Grade: -500


that mexican guy said...

First thing my wife said to me this morning: "Aaron ATE the butter!"

Not "good morning" or "how'd you sleep" but "Aaron ATE the butter".

Between the blog and your "Mexico" Adiddas soccer t-shirts you're slowly capturing our ethnic demographic.

acctg.sean said...

Six meals that will shave years off your life expectancy, references to Kanye West and King Haku and a 1:23 AM timestamp for this post.

*slow dramatic clap*

SHough610 said...

Aaron to fair vender: Is this one of those food items that crosses a line man was not meant to cross? :Fair vendor holds his thumb and pinky close together, laughs like Professor Farnsworth:
Aaron: I'll take the fried pop tart then.

Rereading this I realized everything you ate was either fried or dipped in chocolate. Kudos to you, sir.

Elena said...

The chocolate-dipped pickle is intriguing, but I reckon the way to go would be a cinnamon-sugar-sprinkled deep-fried pickle. Maybe even a hit of chili flakes. That covers the magic four of southeast Asian cooking (sweet, sour, spicy, and salty), while adding the crunch of deep-fry.

I finally know how I'll be making my millions.

nicka said...

i wish you could go to the fair every weekend

Melissa said...

Elena's recipe sounds absolutely DELECTABLE! If you're looking for investors is "Southeast Asian Fried Pickles, LLC" let me know ;)

(Or just put me down for a baker's dozen when you open.)

Aaron C. said...

@Mex: Si, se puede!

@SHough: I have zero respect for anyone who goes to the fair and orders meatless marinara, corn on the cob or veggie kabobs. I mean, COME ON...!

@Elena: I, too, would like investor's information in your entreprenurial enterprise. Or, the same 13-pickle order as Melissa - whatever's cheaper :)