As Paul Lynde sang in the 1973 animated version of Charlotte's Web, "The fair is a veritable smorgasbord orgasbord, orgasbord."...okay, Cole Porter it ain't, but as far as the LA County Fair goes, it's hard to disagree, at least with respect to fried foods. This weekend, like a rat after garbage, I made my annual trip in pursuit of the best deep fried junk imaginable.
Every year at the fair, there is something new dumped into the frier, and this year it was s'mores. The deep fried s'mores, available at the same food hut offering deep fried Twinkies, Oreos, frogs' legs, artichokes and Coke (??), probably win the award for worst presentation. The s'mores looked more like deep fried cow pattie, something which may be in the works for next year's fair.
From what I could tell, rather than a true s'more, this was pretty much a single marshmallow, battered, fried and topped with chocolate. Unfortunately, the batter to marshmallow rating was out of balance; it needed more gooey marshmallow. The bites that picked up a lot of goo, some batter and some chocolate in the right proportions, though, were an oozy bite of heaven. Still, they should have included a full chocolate bar and graham cracker...then it would have been a s'more.
From the same stand, we had deep fried artichokes, which were nice. Usually we get them from the other purveyor (Jeannes?) which are also good, but these had a better ranch dressing accompaniment.
I usually pick up some deep fried Oreos, which I can never resist, but are never as good as they sound. This year I passed. (And don't even get me started on the vomit-inducing monstrosity that is the Krispy Kreme Fried Chicken Sandwich).
Moving around the fair, we picked up some excellent apple fries. Apple fries are french fry cut apple slices, battered and fried and served with whipped cream. When done right, as these were, they taste like little bits of apple pie. The whipped cream was not only real, but impressively thick and rich.
But for me, the piece de resistance of fried fair food is still that old standby, now approaching its fourth or fifth year, the deep fried Snickers Bar. Available at the Texas Donut Stand, the Snickers bar is everything fried junkfood should be. The puffy batter encases and then soaks up the oozing, melting beauty of a warm Snickers. Oddly, the Snickers advertising is pretty low key for the fair...you really need to know where to find it. Served on a stick, looking like a smallish corn dog with powdered sugar, the fried Snickers is the perfect fried fair food. These things are so rich and excessive that even I can't eat one of these on my own, but split two or three ways, it's just right.
Given the perfection of the Fried Snickers, I can't fathom why there aren't more fried candy bars at the fair? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways...all of these should be shoved on a stick and fried, post haste!
Now, even I can't live on fried food alone, so we did venture into the world of non-fried fair food.
King Taco, the legendary East LA taco chain that has fair booths, is one of our regular stops. It may not be quite as good as their stands, but I don't get real King Taco enough, so this does it for me.
Then it was off to Dr. Bob's famous Inland Empire ice cream. I've never been to the Dr. Bob's scoop shop in Upland, so the fair is as close as I come to fresh scooped Bob's. I usually stick to his Scharffen-Berger chocolate flavors, which are the best chocolate ice cream anywhere, ever, but I couldn't resist the novelty of his delicious, creamy licorice ice cream...very licorishy.
...and then I saw it, or maybe I felt it, the tractor beam like pull of an enormous sign picturing the Giant Western Sausage. I knew immediately that this Giant Western Sausage was my destiny. I was nervous, anxious even; could a food whose major selling point was its size actually be good? I straddled up to the booth and watched people order corn dogs the size of baseball bats. Well, the sausage was modest, tiny really, compared to those...not really all that excessive. Then it came, an enormous sausage...it could have been 18 inches long, covered with peppers and onions, served on a warm, buttered bun. I sized it up and met its forlorn stare with my own. I bit. Shockingly, this was a pretty decent sausage. It had some spice, some garlic, some zest, some zing, and, size wise, it was the sausage that kept on giving.
Did the Giant Western Sausage change me? Was it a turning point in my life, infusing me with a new found respect for ground meats? I'll never be sure of that, but I'm pretty sure that I'll be thinking about it come next fall, when I saunter over to Pomona and wade through the pigs, pottery, table settings, home made jams and tapestries, looking for sustenance, and plenty of it.