|Overwhelmed by choices!
For four hours straight, we focused on sampling the greatest variety of fair foods we could, including many suggestions we got from our readers who shared tips here on the blog and by email, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. We tried a few of the fried fantasy crazy foods that get a lot of buzz, but we also made an effort to try some of the classic award-winners from vendors who have been at the fair for years, even generations. And considering that this was the NY State Fair's 170th anniversary, there were plenty of classics to choose from.
Here are some thoughts from both of us on our first-ever Fair Food adventure:
DAVID: I grew up in a rural NH town that is home to the "oldest and largest agricultural fair" in New England. It was something we went to every year when I was a kid, so I know what big fairs are like, but I'd never been to an official State Fair before and this was at least 30% larger than size of what I am used to. It was a little intimidating at first, but the mood is very family friendly and the smells of frying and grilling foods were just like the fair I grew up with. I was ready to eat the first fried thing that looked good because clearly we'd be walking some of the calories off in the hours ahead.
|"Pizze Fritte" or "Pizza Frite" - who cares? It was perfect.
D: That place was crazy busy! I'd never seen fried dough like that, and I love places that are so established in their little niche that they're kinda famous and get long lines like that. Anyplace that has a real building and not just a trailer has got to be doing something right. Two feet of fried dough? Yes please! It was a delicious way to get started on the fried goods, and a fun novelty treat.
|Emmi's eggplant sub "with balls"
D: That eggplant was really good and original. But of course I couldn't wait to try the food that was getting all the buzz this year, the Donut Burger from Big Kahuna. A quarter-pound beef patty with your choice of bacon, lettuce, onion and tomato, all served on a sliced and grilled glazed donut "bun" from Harrison's Bakery in Syracuse. In fact, not long after we got to the Fair, there were already Twitter followers asking if we'd tried it yet. Turned out the vendor was only a few steps away from the gate where we entered so it wasn't long before I ordered one with all the toppings (no condiments though so the original flavors wouldn't be obscured) and I was pleasantly surprised by the result. It turned out to be the most tasty "over-the-top" food I had the whole day.
It sounded crazier that it actually was -- not very different from a regular burger in terms of size or toppings. In fact, a "quarter-pound" burger (4 oz.) is small compared to the popular "gourmet" burgers you might get in Ithaca. The donut is the only real difference, but the sweetness of that sugar glaze really added a lot of flavor along with the calories. The biggest downside was the sticky donut glaze that got all over my fingers. A wet-wipe would have been very handy there.
A: That doesn't mean it wasn't still kind of gross. Have you seen the look on your face in the video of you eating that thing? I think you were a little embarrassed that you liked it as much as you did:
D: Well, just wait until I try to re-create my own version at home!
|Not actual spiedies!
D: I love how loyal you are to the food of your homeland! We really cruised through sampling a bunch of different foods the rest of the day, but this will become the longest blog post ever if we wrote more it all here: marinated kangaroo meat, fried alligator, fried pickles, handmade apple dumplings, maple cotton candy. Stay tuned for our next podcast to hear us talk about those more.
|The Rainbow Milk Bar
A: I'd heard about "wine slushies" earlier in the summer… I don't know how long these have been offered by the area wineries, I just knew I wanted to try one! The slushy I had made with "Diamond" blend from Montezuma Winery really hit the spot for me, and this may become something I crave every summer!
|NY Wine Bar and Brew Pub in the International Pavilion
A: I wish we'd better understood the food layout before we got there, but maybe that only comes with experience. The "Restaurant Row" area of established food vendors like Baker's would have been a drawn had we not wound our way around to it at the END of our time there… and would be the sort of spot I think we'd want to hit first next time.
|Madness: the Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Snickers Bar
A: It probably does depend on your mood at the time: go for the latest crazy fair food, or the old favorites.
D: Yeah, in the end I think the lemonade we got on the way back to our car was the most refreshing thing I had all day. We'll probably be more sensible when we go back again, but the variety of options for every whim definitely make it a great eating experience.
Slideshow: Highlights from the NY State Fair
So that's our NY State Fair wrap up. We'll be talking about the experience some more in our next podcast coming in October so be sure you're subscribed for updates. We'll also be posting more photos on our flickr page.
A *big thank you* to Chris at the NY State Fair publicity office for sending us the free passes to be guest bloggers this year. Even though the 2011 Fair has ended, there are still lots of fun events going on at the Fairgrounds throughout the year so be sure to visit NYSFair.org to sign up for updates and, of course, to start planning your own visit to the next Great New York State Fair in 2012!
Thanks also to all of you who sent in your suggestions for our visit -- it was a big help! We look forward to bringing you all new updates on the Ithaca dining scene and more when we return to a regular schedule in October.
Until then, keep healthy, keep cooking, and keep Eating Ithaca!