Monday, June 6, 2011
My 2011 San Diego Fair Food Pre-Game Show
Late last month, the San Diego Fair officially released its deep-fried, freak show menu for 2011. Next to any Jalen-related post, my annual Fair food review is my absolute favorite thing to write. This will be my fifth consecutive year of gratuitous intestinal abuse:
2007 -- Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich, Garlic Fries, Funnel Cake, Foot-long Hot Dog, Fried Twinkie, Fried Rattlesnake.
2008 -- Deep-Fried White Castle Slider, 14-inch Corn Dog, Fried Oreos, Street Tacos, Frog Legs.
2009 -- Oatmeal Cookie Chicken Sandwich, Fried Catfish, Chocolate-Covered Bacon, Fried Macaroni and Cheese, "Zucchini Weeni".
2010 -- Deep-Fried Pop Tart, Hash Brown Fry Dog, Buffalo Chicken Indian Fry Bread, Deep-Fried Klondike Bar, Chocolate-Dipped Pickle, Deep-Fried Butter.
In a few weeks, these will be my options:
Blue Mussels -- I love how this item is included under "healthier fare". Native to the North Atlantic Coast, blue mussels – like all edible mollusks – are extremely sensitive to improper food handling. For me, the end result of their cross-country adventure could be more painful than THIS cross-country adventure. (As an aside, the orangutan's cameo in Cannonball Run II is widely recognized as the merciful end to modern cinema's "simian era" (1980-1984)).
Oven-Baked Sandwiches -- The Quizno's chain turned me off on toasted sandwiches. Aside from their ruinous effect on the roof of one's mouth; the toasted bread that supports these sandwiches doesn't sop up sloppy sauces as well as softer, untoasted bread. Just to be clear, this position does NOT apply to the timeless grilled cheese sandwich or the short-lived Panini sandwich fad (1998-1999). "Crispy" sandwiches will always trump oven-toasted "crusty" sandwiches. It's science.
Deep-Fried Beer-Battered Bacon Bliss -- I cannot cosign on the use of "bliss" here. The deep-fried beer-battered bacon is served with ranch and barbecue sauce -- the two most clichéd condiments known to man. With a side of, say, blue cheese dressing or apricot preserves, I'd affix "bliss" to the end of this description. For now, let's call this "Deep-Fried Beer-Battered Bacon Boring. Eh? EH?!
Deep-Fried, Chocolate-Covered Bacon -- I tried the San Diego Fair's heart-healthier, non-deep fried chocolate-covered bacon in 2009. It was an average and unspectacular food novelty. Dipping these candy-coated pig strips into the Fry Daddy will assuredly soften up the chocolate – resolving one of my problems with the original version. However, it will still be dark chocolate (I prefer it closer in color to my own delicate cocoa-butter complexion) and the already-overcooked bacon (so that it can hold the chocolate) will be even further obliterated. Oh, I'm in. But, expectations will be tempered.
Deep-Fried, Pigs in a Blanket -- Let's be clear: the ONLY "pigs in a blanket" worthy of such an adorable appellation are breakfast sausages enveloped within a pancake comforter and served with copious amounts of ethnocentric maple syrup. The kid-friendly "hot dogs in a crescent roll wrapper" are an acceptably edible finger food, but are NOT "pigs in a blanket". I'm guessing that the Fair is going with deep-fried, breaded or battered hot dog bites. Don't think I won't ask BEFORE ordering, though. And, don't think I WON'T make an embarrassingly demonstrative scene if pancakes and breakfast sausage are not involved. (Consider that your only warning, Mrs. Bootleg.) [UPDATE: The Fair's website has been updated and clarifies that this will be "thick-cut bacon, dipped in pancake batter, then deep fried and served covered in butter and syrup." AIEEEEEE!]
Chocolate-Covered Corn Dog -- This is where I draw the line. Chocolate CAN work with unusual components, if they're salty or sour or especially savory. But, chocolate and cooked corn batter sounds like a culinary car wreck. Keep in mind, as well, that the Fair's hot dog quality – historically – is pretty much the epitome of the longstanding "fillers and mystery meat" stereotype. Chocolate-covered pickle? Yes. Ate one last year. Chocolate-covered corn dog? Nope.
Fry BBQ Ribs -- I'm assuming it's deep-fried barbecued ribs. If so, I'm decidedly on the fence. Barbecued ribs are one of those foods where the quality is as much in the texture and cooking technique as the taste. The high heat of frying grease could be disastrous when paired with meat that benefits from longer cooking times and lower heat. The onus will be on this item to disprove my theory that deep-frying ruins foods that have already been perfected by black people. This is why fried macaroni and cheese NEVER works.
Deep-Fried Kool-Aid -- See above theory.
Deep-Fried Brownie -- I've previously eaten the Fair's deep-fried Twinkie, Oreo cookies and Klondike Bar. Aside from the heavy batter; there was nothing that distinguished the deep-fried varieties from their not-fried convenience store counterparts. On top of that, plain ol' mass-produced and/or box-mix brownies rank way down the list of my preferred desserts. (My top three, for those of you who'd like to test-bake between now and next March 30: oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips and walnuts; key lime pie; anything that begins with "warm apple…").
Deep-Fried Girl Scout Cookies -- So, they're really going with Thin Mints? Maybe – MAYBE – this works with Samoas and improves upon their negligible ooey-gooey quality. But, Thin Mints? I have my doubts.
Deep-Fried Corn on the Cob -- Mrs. Bootleg used to make a mean fried corn – a deliciously rich dish that simmered in a heavy skillet and made the whole house feel as warm as a big ol' Southern hug. Deep frying corn on the cob seems more like an abomination than a gastronomic token of affection. I'm a proud purist when it comes to corn on the cob: preferably cooked on a grill and sweet enough to be eaten without butter or salt. What's that, you say? Wrapped in bacon? I'm listening…
Tasty Sweet Potato Corn Dog -- Sweet potatoes are a versatile food, but I don't think they can carry a corn dog. I assume some sort of sweet potato puree will replace the traditional corn batter here. And, while I enjoy sweet potato fries and chips, I find that I can only eat a few at a time before my tongue turns on the taste and texture.*
* -- For me, the best example of this is Red Vines. After two or three ropes, the inside of my mouth is coated with a gummy, chewed residue and lingering aftertaste. I've never finished one of those packs of six in a single sitting.
Deep-Fried Beef Jerky -- Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single food that my wife and I disagree on more vehemently than beef jerky. Mrs. Bootleg LOVES that heavily-peppered, inedible shoe leather. The concept of introducing dehydrated meat into a basket of bubbling grease is, admittedly, intriguing, but this sounds like "exhibit A" in the case against deep frying everything.
Deep-Fried Candy Kabob -- I've already argued against deep-fried desserts, but I'm sure the candy kabob will make for an interesting visual.
Deep-Fried, Baby-Ruth-Filled Jalapeños -- YES! My favorite bite-sized candy bar crammed into my favorite mildly-spicy pepper?! We've officially identified my annual "white whale" of eatin' at the San Diego Fair! If this works, I propose it replace the always-mediocre, cream-cheese-filled jalapeño popper appetizer on every casual dining restaurant menu in America. (If the Baby Ruth jalapeños don't work, I'm willing to settle on switching out the cream cheese in poppers for cubed sharp cheddar. In fact, let's do this anyway, restaurant industry.)