When you think of state fair food, you probably think of things that are deep-fried, sugar-dusted, perched on a stick or served in a cone: You’ve got your corn dogs, funnel cakes, ice cream — with which you can fortify yourself as you gaze upon your wall of blue-ribbon pies and, especially in the Midwest, your life-size cows carved out of butter.
But, of course, those fairground staples are only the beginning. State fairs are also famous for debuting foods that are new and different — innovative, imaginative, exotic and often deliberately excessive. Who can forget the deep-fried stick of butter on a stick that made its debut at the Iowa State Fair a few years back?
This year’s Iowa State Fair (August 7-17) also offers ample opportunity to fill your belly, thrill your taste buds and clog your arteries. While you’re in line for the Double Ferris Wheel, looking at prize livestock, or participating in one of some 45 fair contests (from beard growing and cow-chip tossing to yodeling and youth rooster crowing), you can enjoy new value-priced options both decadent — Funnel Cake Sticks (“vanilla, chocolate or strawberry funnel cake batter, served on-a-stick and topped with icing”), Red Velvet Flurry (“chunks of red velvet cake mixed with vanilla ice cream and cream cheese frosting”) and Jumbo Toasted Marshmallow On-a-Stick (“homemade jumbo marshmallows in vanilla bean, caramel, chocolate or maple bacon flavors, toasted to perfection and served on-a-stick”) — and … uh … less decadent: Caprese Salad On-a-Stick (“a mouthwatering skewer of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinaigrette”).
While strolling the Iowa midway, you can also dig into Chocolate Covered Chunky Bacon Maple Nougat On-a-Stick, Chicken Fried Bacon, Tater Dog On-a-Stick, Chocolate-Covered Cookies ‘N’ Cream On-a-Stick or Pineapple Inside-Out Funnel Cake — because, diet-shmiet, the state fair comes only once a year.
The Ohio State Fair (July 23-August 3) is also offering interesting new items for adventurous eaters — and making them easier to locate by launching a new Food Finder mobile app. Creative options include a Sloppy Donut (“a donut sandwich stacked high with BBQ pork, deep-fried pickle chips, bacon and cheese”), a Funnel Cake Sundae (bowl or cup — it’s your choice), both a Chicken Dog and a Banana Dog (the latter is battered, deep-fried and served with peanut butter and chocolate sauce — paging Elvis Presley), Kettle Corn Dippin’ Dots, and Chocolate-Covered Bacon, Bacon Popcorn and a 1/4 pound Bacon on a Stick.
You can also find new culinary musings on a bacon theme at this year’s Wisconsin State Fair (July 31-August 10). Fairgoers can pig out on Deep-Fried Maple Bacon Cookie Dough (cinnamon and oat cookie dough “tossed with Bacon” then “deep fried in a Pastry Wrapper and topped with a Maple Glaze and dusted with Powdered Sugar and sprinkled with more Bacon!”), Bacon-Wrapped Cherrywood Smoked Pork Belly (“glazed with Maple BBQ Sauce … deep fried and served on a stick”), and Peanut Butter Bacon Bison Burger (“1/3 pound Bison Patty topped with pit smoked bacon and creamy peanut butter, served on Texas Toast”), not to mention Bacon Caramel Corn and Maple Bacon Funnel Cake.
Peckish Wisconsin fairgoers can also snack on things in cones (BBQ Chicken Pizza Cone, Chicken-n-Waffle Cone, Mac-n-Cheese Pizza Cone), things on sticks (Cajun Shark On-a-Stick, Fish & Chips On-a-Stick, Gator On-a-Stick, Shepherd’s Pie On-a-Stick, Sriracha Chicken Bits On-a-Stick, Pancake and Sausage On-a-Stick), and deep-fried items (Cajun dumplings, chocolate chip cookie bites, ice cream candy bars). And then there’s the Cheesy Nutella Melt (“Two slices of American Cheese with Nutella spread in between Grilled White Bread”). Only in Wisconsin, right?
Meanwhile, the Minnesota State Fair (Aug. 21-Sept. 1) will offer fun-loving, food-minded fairgoers a few fine new tweaks on Midwestern classics. You can nibble on Pizza Tots (forget “taters” — these handmade tots “combine sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, seasonings and hash browns” and are “dusted with Parmesan cheese and served with a side of pizza sauce”), Pretzel Curds (“real Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds coated in a batter made from crushed pretzels, bread crumbs and American Pilsner beer; deep-fried and served with a zesty dipping sauce”) and Schnitzel Strips (“Pork tenderloin coated with a seasoned breading, then fried, cut into strips and served with a lemon, garlic and mayonnaise dipping sauce”).
You can also enjoy a bevy of on-a-stick options, including Deep-Fried Breakfast On-a-Stick (“American and Swiss cheeses, a sausage patty, one egg and Canadian bacon all sandwiched between two pancakes, then dipped in a light, sweet batter and deep-fried on-a-stick”) and, in keeping with current eating trends, Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Brat (“A locally-made gluten- and nitrate-free brat, dipped in a homemade beer batter and deep-fried on-a-stick”).
For dessert, you can dig into unusual delights like the potluck-dessert-inspired Jell-O Salad Ice Cream (“a sweet cream base flavored with fresh lime juice, swirled with cranberry sauce and blended with marshmallows dipped in marshmallow creme”), Chocolate Dessert Salami (“Chocolate, butter, almonds and walnuts all blended and rolled into a distinctive salami shape, dusted with powdered sugar, then sliced and served on specialty crackers for a unique Italian dessert”) and SnoRibbons (a “colorful, gluten-free treat” in “exotic flavor combinations,” like “strawberry pretzel cream cheese” and “coffee & donuts,” that’s purported to melt in your mouth “like a fusion of feathery light cotton candy, flaky shaved ice and creamy layered snow”).
Sounds like it’s time for a road trip. Who’s with me?