Each year, the fair's food purveyors engage in a game of one-upsmanship with the previous year’s offerings, and 2012 was no exception. In the off-season these guys must sit around, probably drink a lot, and laugh about how to trump last year’s food combinations. My guess is there are at least three rules for a new menu invention:
It must be an odd combination that no one has ever (publicly) offered.
It must create curiosity — even if people don’t want to eat it. They will come by the booth and look with disgust as others pig out.
And it must be fried or have an astonishing fat content.
This year’s offerings did not disappoint.
Chicken Fried Bacon sign
My first stop (literally the first food oddity I saw) was Chicken Fried Bacon. Being raised in the south, I knew chicken-fried meant coated with batter and pan-fried. That’s all I needed to know. “Gimme one!”
The dish was crispy and not all that greasy, but it was also pretty bland. What stood out most was how salty it was, but it had no real bacon flavor. It was OK, but I probably would not go back for seconds. The owner of the stand mentioned that someone was offering chocolate-covered fried bacon, but I was unable to find that booth.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts on the grill
At the freaky burger stand (that's my term for it), the crowd was thick. Krispy Kreme doughnuts covered the grill waiting for their hamburger, bacon and cheese counterparts.
Peanut Butter burger. It was like a mediocre cheeseburger with some peanut flavoring.
Here's where I took one for the team. “I’ll have a peanut butter bacon cheeseburger all the way," I said with a lump in my throat. Eight bucks later I had what looked like a normal cheeseburger. As I bit into it I got a hint of the familiar peanut butter flavor and thought to myself, “Not bad.” The peanut butter gives the cheeseburger a new dimension (much needed for the salty low-flavor burgers). I don’t know that I will be grilling up any PBCB’s this weekend, but it was a pleasant surprise.
Chandler Phillips and Morgan Melatt sample fried bubblegum. They say it reminds them of bubble gum cake.
I had to find the fried bubble gum, and it happened to be in the very next booth. Was somebody really going to take a piece of double bubble and deep-fry it? Turns out it's a marshmallow on a stick, coated with bubble gum flavoring, dipped in batter and then deep-fried.
Lynn Meyers of Ruskin tries fried butter for the first time. She said it tastes like a cinnamon roll.
Last year I got fried butter in this same booth. It reminded me of toast with cinnamon and sugar on it. It’s a ball of butter about the size of a large marble, mixed with cinnamon and sugar, frozen and then dipped in batter and deep-fried.
Diamond Botton is eating fried Oreos at the recommendation of her friend.
Deep-Fried Twinkies booth.
Everywhere I turned there was more fried food. Any candy bar you’ve ever heard of was available battered up and fried. I found this place that sold deep-fried Twinkies but couldn’t find anyone who had ordered some. I’d hit my limit with the PBCB and fried bacon with no room to try a greasy Twinkie. Maybe next visit. I gotta go work out for a few days.
Lines at the deep-fried everything booth were steady.
I wonder if the people who create such edible oddities take their cues from the freak show on the midway called the World of Wonders. It has been a part of the fair for decades and attracts people curious about the human anomalies inside. Even people who would never consider trying a fat-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich still come by to gawk and watch the freaks that will. All in all, it was another good fair food outing. I look forward to seeing what the midway menu looks like next year.
The Florida State Fair runs through February 20th.