Kim and I enjoy going to the fair every year, mostly to eat, but also to browse the photo submissions, cruise the new products pavilion and catch a concert or two.
The OC Fair did something new this year that was a lot of fun. Not only did they invite Southern California gourmet food trucks to be inside the Fair grounds on Thursdays but they also kicked off weekly Chowdowns. A Chowdown is a friendly competition between one of the weekly, guest gourmet food trucks and one of the Fair food vendors. I was asked to emcee the Fried Potato Chowdown and Kim was one of the judges. It was between Tornado Potato and Tasti Chips. Both brought out their best dishes but Tasti Chips won. This was the first Chowdown where a fair vendor beat out a gourmet food truck. Tasti Chips’ fresh sliced potatoes were fried to perfection and covered in a spicy, cheesy, jalapeno sauce. I was lucky enough to get a batch of my own. These definitely made my must-get-again next year list! Other Truck vs. Fair Food Chowdowns included: the Hamburger Chowdown – The Burnt Truck vs. The Burger Joint; the Hot Dog Chowdown – The Greasy Wiener vs. Pink’s; the Bacon Chowdown – Chocolate-Covered Bacon vs. Bacon Mania and the Deep-Fried Dessert Chowdown – Chicken Charlie vs. The OC Food Truck.
In addition to the Chowdown and in full support of this year’s theme, “Let’s Eat”, we had an opportunity to try a lot of other food. The biggest surprise was Deep Fried Butter. It was introduced last year but I chickened out trying it then and have been kicking myself ever since. The butter is mixed with cream cheese, some sugar and a touch of cinnamon. It is put in the middle of what I would describe as a very wide hollow churro. The whole thing is fried and topped with whipped cream. It had a nice crunch with a buttery, sweet flavor. If you get a chance and are brave enough, you should also check out their Jumbo Mexican Churro. It is piled about 10” high and topped with fresh made whipped cream and strawberries. The vendor has a competition where if you can eat this within 20 minutes, you get it for free! Less than 30 people, over the last 4 years, have been able to do it. I couldn’t do it, however it was hard for me to give up…oh, and did I mention I was defeated even with the help of three other people? Kim says this vendor’s churros take the place of her funnel cake craving (a smaller version of course!). They make AWESOME churros, some of the best and crispiest we’ve ever tasted.
The best dish at the fair for me was the Bacon Maple Donut from Texas Donuts. This thing was a monster but it was not all about shock and awe, as it was prepared perfectly! I have tried a few of these over the last couple of years and most are terrible. I think people like them because hey it is bacon and we are supposed to love anything that uses bacon. However, this donut was incredible, soft and chewy, the maple was almost creamy and the bacon was crispy and served slightly warm. Perfect! Another item added to our must have next year list!
One of the long time vendors “Chicken Charlie,” adds new fried concoctions that are whimsical and sometimes a little over the top. Previous years they had fried White Castle burgers and a chicken sandwich with Krispy Crème donuts as buns. This year, the two we tried were the Fried Kool-Aid and the Fried Girl Scout Cookies (Thin Mint). The fried Kool-Aid was very good, like a fresh strawberry donut that was both sweet and sour. The fried Thin Mint was good when dipped in the chocolate syrup. The syrup added some much needed flavor to the batter that the cookie was fried in. My vote, they should keep the Fried Kool-Aid.
One of the friendliest and coolest vendors was Legendairy Gelato. It is family run and the staff appeared to be having a great time with customers. We were given the rare opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour, meet the team and sample some amazing, made-fresh-daily, gelato. In addition to producing a delicious, quality product, they give much of their profits to help people in need. What started as a senior college paper for one of the owner’s sons has turned into a big focus for the company. That is pretty cool! If you have a chance, go check them out!
We went to the fair twice so we had a chance to try a lot of different things. We even opted for some healthier options. Here are some photos from the other dishes we tried, including one of my childhood favorites, the cinnamon roll from the vendor in the new products pavilion.
What did you like? What didn’t you like? What do you think they should have next year?