The San Diego Fair is in town, and with it, an opportunity to taste foods that in a more sane setting would exist as nothing more than an outlandish idea. Something about the fair causes these ideas to not only take form, but somehow to not just tempt but to dare one to sample them. And sample I would. I organized an adventuring party and set out on a gastronomic odyssey.
We started with the Deep Fried Kool-Aid, which had captured the fascination of Twitter shortly after the fair opened.
Basically, these are balls of dough flavored with red Kool-Aid. Although their appearance borders on the gruesome, the flavor and texture was actually quite nice. Imagine a doughnut hole crossed with an intensely cherry-flavored birthday cake.
We continued with deep-fried Girl Scout cookies. After all, I tried the deep-fried Oreos last year, and those were delicious, right?
Okay, these weren’t bad. I could taste the chocolatey mintiness of the Thin Mints, though the cookies themselves seemed kind of dry compared to the fluffy batter surrounding them. I preferred the Kool-Aid balls, though.
Our next stop was the International Beer Festival, which was entirely too crowded for my taste. I’d have changed my mind and snuck out, but they’d already taken a hefty admission fee, so I had no choice but to attempt to sample enough beers to make it worthwhile. It really could have been better organized. It was hard to tell just who in the writhing, beer-thirsty mob was still waiting for a sample and who was just standing around yapping.
The good news was that the Beer Festival Bistro, an eatery set up at the far end of the festival, had excellent snacks. There were some very nice deviled eggs that came paired with a stout beer, and a taco trio that came paired with another delicious brew.
We didn’t accomplish much more adventuring that day, partly because we had gotten off to a late start, and partly because someone insisted on stopping for burgers before heading out to the fair, and partly because the crowds were getting on my nerves.
So a recess was somewhat reluctantly called, and we reconvened at the fair yesterday. I started out with a favorite from last year, mini-doughnuts.
When fresh off the machine, these bear little resemblance to the cellophane-wrapped, mockolate-coated offerings of Hostess. Oh, no, these are little bites of warm, fluffy goodness, of which the room-temperature wares of the supermarket bakery are but an imitation.
Soon, it was time for dinner, and we eventually settled on a booth selling hot dogs named after celebrities. I ordered us a Martha Stewart (bacon, kraut, tomatoes, and sour cream) and a Rosie O’Donnell (chili, kraut, onions, etc.)
The Martha tasted as one would expect, a bit on the sour side and decidedly old-fashioned. The Rosie tasted exactly as I imagined. The chili was of the earthier sort rather than being the acidic tomatoey kind, which I thought worked well.
Eventually, it was time for dessert. What could possibly top the outrageous foods I’d already tried? Suddenly, the answer was before me.
A giant maple-glazed doughnut covered in bacon confetti! Truly, I’d found the ultimate fair food. Deep fried? Check. Unexpected ingredient? Check. Sugar? Loads. And it was also supersized. Look, there’s a coffee cup next to it for scale. It had to have been at least seven inches, and I vowed to gobble down the entire thing. I got about three-quarters of the way there before having to back off.
Ahem. The doughnut was actually pretty tasty. The bacon was the thin, chewy kind that often comes on fast-food burgers, so there wasn’t the clash of textures that there could have been if it were the crunchy sort of bacon.
This brings me to the last item on the menu that night… an Alka-Seltzer.