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Every year, I take time to share the really cool things coming at the Arkansas State Fair, and follow those really cool things up with a report from the fair itself. I've seen the trends (including the year of BACON LEMONADE) and I've sampled the crazy (fried watermelon, anyone?).
This year is no exception. Here's a sneak peek at the best, the rest, and the things you'll be daring your friends to try at the 2014 Arkansas State Fair's 75th Anniversary Celebration.
First: This year's Tasty Tom winner
Fried Peaches and Cream
from the folks at Fried What?
Unusual, but true -- members of the Arkansas media voting in this year's competition to determine both the best tasting and most creative new state fair food went firmly with this one -- a half a peach on a stick, battered and deep fried, dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. As far as deep fried things go, here's something that makes sense.
Strangest: The Elvis Dog
from the Center Stage concession stand
Come Friday, I'll have a photo of the entire thing. This is the sampling size for the contest. The Elvis Dog is a peanut butter and banana topped hot dog. Now, I can understand how some folks might find that incredible... and yes, it is incredible. But because the dog is beef and pork and there's banana, allergies kept Grav and I both from trying it.
The new meat of the fair: Quail
Lollipop Battered Fried Quail on a Stick
L & M Concessions
Well, why not? Previous Arkansas State Fairs have happily introduced goat and rabbit meat. This time around, two versions of quail are offered at L & M Concessions -- the lightly cornmeal-battered and fried quail on a stick with cherry tomatoes, and
-- this version, which we preferred, marvelously grilled quail bites with bell peppers. Congratulations on a particularly wonderful way to serve Arkansas poultry.
Now, this one here has potential. It's a boneless chicken breast piece topped with bacon bits, nacho cheese and jalapenos, served up in a hot dog bun. Different, but easy to understand.
from Pat's Kitchen
A weiner, wrapped in bacon, deep fried, topped with chili and cheese and deep fried slices of jalapenos and onions. Not oversized but big on flavor, I'm expecting this one to hit all the right notes.
Grav's favorite: Pork Roast
from the Center State concession
I kid you not -- succulent chunks of slowly roasted pork, mildly spiced. No bells, no whistles, all right.
Best beverage pairing at the fair: Stone's Throw Brewery's Barton Bitter
Full bodied, full flavored, perfectly balanced to match a beer butt chicken or Pig Licker, this is the brew to do on the Midway this year. 21 and older only, please.
Best non-fried delightful dessert: Chocolate covered strawberry shortcake on a stick.
From Ozark Candies and Nuts
Hey, it's on a stick, it's covered in chocolate, but it's fresh strawberries and light shortcake. Where could you go wrong? You'll find this one at the Ozark Candies and Nuts stand inside the Hall of Industry.
from Chicken Shack Express
Barbecue, honey mustard, searing hot, Buffalo or Cajun spiced, these are substantial wings to gnaw on. The sauces get laid on thick! Don't like the bones? They have chicken tenders, too.
from Pat's Kitchen
Just for those who think you can't batter and deep fry everything...
well, guess what... yes, indeed, this is a meatball and pasta battered, deep fried
From the "Why Hasn't Someone Put These Two Things Together Yet?" department: Cheesecake Funnel Cake
from State Fair Funnel Cakes
Yes, it's a cheesecake-battered funnel cake with
powdered sugar and cream cheese frosting. I'd say more, but I really don't have to say more, do I?
Headscratcher: Deep fried meatball-stuffed avocado
from L & M Concessions
Two things I never thought I'd see together. But avocado's hot right now -- and this avocado is ESPECIALLY hot when you get it. Eat it before it cools.
from Fried What?
Get this -- this is a S'more, which is basically a graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate, stuffed with a Reeces Peanut Butter Cup, battered and deep fried. Impossibly sweet.
Hot stuff: Cajun ribs
from Boss Hogg
What can make pork ribs better? Barbecue sauce. And that's even better when packed with cayenne pepper and other
great Cajun flavors. Don't forget your Wet Naps for this delight. Boss Hogg also does hand-cut Cajun fries.
We're happiest to see: Chicken and fruit kebabs
from Nana Delicacies
There are lots of folks out there who think fair food is all battered and deep fried. Au contraire. This dinner-on-a-stick features roasted chunks of chicken along with fresh pineapple chunks and strawberry halves. Bonus -- kids will LOVE this.
More great items this year:
|Fried Pickles from Connie's|
|Fried Gator on a Stick from L&M Concessions|
|Deep Fried Apple Rings A La Mode from Fried What?|
|Deep Fried Breakfast Dog (pancake|
battered sausage link with syrup)
|Arkansas State Fair|
Tropical Punch (get yours
at the Big Show Diner)
|Steak Kebabs from Ormic Concessions|
|Chicken Kebabs from Ormic Concessions|
|Grater Taters from Connie's Concessions|
|Deep Fried Cheeseburger on a Stick from L&M Concessions|
|Pineapple Deluxe Pie from Chetos.|
|Barbecue Stuffed Baked Potatoes from Harold Jones|
|Authentic tacos in corn tortillas from Chetos|
|Gratzi Dog (special Italian sausage with marinara and|
mozarella cheese) from Margia Mia.
|Chicken Parm from Margia Mia.|
|Fried chicken wings from Chicken Shack Express.|
|Barbecue chicken wings from Chicken Shack Express.|
|Cajun Spiced Chicken Wings from Chicken Shack Express.|
Want to see some of the craziest foods ever served at the Arkansas State Fair? Check out this month's Arkansas Living Magazine.
Follow @GravWeldon on Twitter or the Gravagram for more Arkansas State Fair food photos!