The 2015 State Fair of Texas has come and gone and if you didn’t go,
you’re stupid, you missed out. This year’s Fair was full of great new food items, plus all the favorites of past years. The Lady Gator and I were able to squeeze in two trips to eat all the things we could for the sake of family home economics. You can read about our first trip here, but let’s get to the artery clogging sticking point:
CHICKEN FRIED LOBSTER.
Yes. Chicken fried lobster—that 60-ticket, $30 opulent nemesis from Abel Gonzales. On our first trip to the Fair, we abstained from the costly crustacean on principle (and the fact they were out of tail meat). Food should be OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people. Not just the 1%ers and their Chicken Fried Lobster-powered Teslas. The Lady Gator (who is MY lobster) had limited funds and we had other fish to fry that day (but not literally…you go to the Fair for stuff that’s already fried). So, we left our first round of Fair Foodventures with awkward almost-full stomachs. Almost. Full. Stomachs. If you were to make puzzles out of our gut bags, you would be missing a lobster-shaped piece and you would be frustrated. And YOU, The Gator-files were frustrated. Frustrated, incorporated. So frustrated that you came to The Gator’s aid with the best care package any Eatvestigator could hope for: an envelope full of emotional and monetary support. Like a Mario eating a mushroom, I was powered up! Abel Gonzales was King Bowser Koopa and the Chicken Fried Lobster was Princess Toadstool (or peach…your preference). With Lady Gator as my Luigi (or perhaps me as Luigi to her Mario), we had to storm the castle and bring that breaded princess home. Hopefully via some sweet warp tubes. OK. Enough NES talk.
The Chicken Fried Lobster, a breaded and fried lobster tail served on the shell “with a rich sauce combining lemon butter and champagne gravy.” It comes with a cup of something that I think is supposed to be a corn salsa of corn, beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Oh, and french fries.
Chicken fried lobster can be found on menus all across DFW (*note – I don’t necessarily agree with the op-ed, but it gives a bit of insight to the regular availability). Some places prepare it better than others, but all essentially taste the same. Lobster is typically steamed because the sweet meat is so tender and easy to overcook. Once overcooked it becomes tough, chewy and not great. When you fry it, it’s very difficult to get the batter to the crispiness level it demands without overcooking the insides. I should note that I think is lobster is rather overrated. Such a typically expensive menu item that is fussy to prepare and rarely delivers to the level of its fuss. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would never turn down lobster, but rarely does it win out when I’m making a decision for dinner. So, how would a State Fair preparation fare?
We arrived at The Fair early enough to avoid a line at Gonzales’ booth. We ordered and were quickly handed our paper vessel of lobster and fries. The moment of truth was here. We took our first bites and…were neither surprised nor disappointed. I guess that in itself is disappointing? The first thing you meet is salt. Then, the definite mouthfeel and taste of fried batter. Then, a chew. And then, more chew. The lobster flavor was there, though. It tasted quite good. However, that salt and the toughness weren’t terribly pleasant. It was kind of a turnoff. There was zest and zip from the lemony Champagne gravy. That was quite good. (Was it actual Champagne? Man. I don’t know.)
The verdict of it all combined together? Salty. I realize we are tasting something that has been deep-fried at the State Fair so, Michelin-star quality isn’t to be expected, but yeah…lots of salt. The portion size was great! But, given the saltiness and toughness, $30 great? Definitely not.
I haven’t even addressed the presentation or taste of the fries or the corn salsa. Compare this photo from Eater:
No cup. Two beans. TWO! What’s that amateur bullsh?! I paid $30! I want, like, at least, like, SIX beans!
And, apparently all the salt had been used on the lobster because there was NONE on the fries or in the corn. Or on my two beans!
Look. All-in-all? The Chicken Fried Lobster was definitely not the worst item I’ve experienced at The Fair. It was far from it. It was quite good overall. I think adjusting the salt and making sure I got some more damn beans would really help. But when facing a $30 price tag? I’ll have to say you should pass.
Now, Abel Gonzales?! Fried Jesus! …You keep up the great work. Keep up the creativity. Keep bringing the deliciousness. You push the envelope and it’s awesome. Just remember where you came from and who got you there. The common man Fairgoer. You keep it real and we’ll keep giving you our ticket-moneys.
While Lady Gator and I were there, we had enough ticket-moneys and time to sample some more goodness. Check it out and hope and pray that you have the opportunity to try a couple of these.
Peticolas Come and Take It (15 tickets) – Michael Peticolas brews some of my very favorite beers. Royal Scandal (English Pale Ale) and Alfred Brown (English Brown Ale) are just dynamite and my very favorites of those particular styles. Everyone knows about the deliciousness of Velvet Hammer (Imperial Red Ale) and Peticolas’ fearless creativity and collaborations. The Come and Take It, a Cascadian Kolsch brewed to celebrate Texas especially for the State Fair, is one hoppy Kolsch and it is delicious. It drinks almost like a modern American craft Pilsner with the heavy flavor and bitterness. It’s just light enough to remind you that, yes, it is a Kolsch. I would love for this to stick around for year round enjoyment. If you find this at your local bar, drink it down! DRINK UP!
Deep-fried Tailgate Party (14 tickets) – What do you like to eat at your tailgate party? It doesn’t matter because anything you’ve ever associated with tailgating (baby back ribs, pulled pork, chicken wings, grilled burger, and cheese stuffed with jalapeno wrapped in bacon, grilled sausage) has been stuffed inside biscuit dough and fried. That’s a lot going on. Theoretically, this will either be amazing or an effing disaster. Well, let’s just say that it’s not amazing. The best word I can use to describe the first bite? Gummy. That’s not a good way to describe something with all those meats that’s supposed to have been fried to a crispy crunch. The overriding flavor once you get over the gumminess? A jalapeño BBQ sauce. No particular meat stands out. Just gummy, tangy, spiciness. Plus, it was supposed to have been “served in your favorite teams’ colored paper, stuck with toothpicks of their emblem.” Yeah. There was none of that. Just a generic football napkin and a drizzle of gravy in the design of football laces. This was a football shaped failure. Lady Gator put it best: “wasted food name opportunity.” Like my good friends, 311, say: F*** THE BULL****! and skip.
Texas Bull Horn (14 tickets) – What do you get when you take a beef and pork jalapeño and cheese sausage that’s been stuffed into a hollowed-out potato and deep fried? AWESOMENESS! Underrated awesomeness. That’s what! This is the no-brainer Fair treat that we’ve been missing. It’s succulent, it’s juicy, it’s fatty, it’s meat and potatoes! The quality of the sausage is great! The pairing with the creamy fried potato is perfect. Dipping cups of chili and mustard come on the side and each heighten the experience but aren’t necessary at all. We only wished that the potato had been crisper and crunchier. The order we were served, while hot, appeared to have been sitting for a while. That may have affected the quality of the potato.
Found in the Tower Building Food Court, the owner of the stall came out to shake The Gator’s hand, watch me take my first bite and asked if I could post it on social media to spread the word. Anyone who mentioned the post when ordering received a discount. Unfortunately, this was the last day of The Fair so not much impact was made or word spread. However, The Gator very much appreciated the gesture. Look for this at the 2016 Fair. You will not regret it. Like my good friends, 311, say: “EAT THE BULLHORN!”
So, there you have it, my friends. Again, thank you for your support and love. I couldn’t do it without you, or without my mouth, or without my stomach, or without my Lady Gator wife, or without my multi-million dollar account supervisor management executive job. (Check out my Maybach.) I definitely couldn’t do it without the most amazing Fair in the land, the GREAT STATE FAIR OF TEXAS. Until next year. Stay hungry and protect yourselves.