**SMOKE MACHINE SMOKE**
**SWEET LAZER EFFECTS**
**SUPER LOUD, HIGH-ENERGY MUSIC THAT SOUNDS REALLY CLOSE TO SOMETHING OFF OF THE 1997 ALBUM “THE FAT OF THE LAND” BY THE PRODIGY BUT DIFFERENT ENOUGH TO AVOID LEGAL ACTION BY THE AFOREMENTIONED THE PRODIGY**
**CUE THE GATOR’S ENTRANCE VIA A FLOOR ELEVATOR**
That’s how you make an entrance! You hear that 2016 State Fair of Texas?! That’s how you do it!
The State Fair of Texas arrived without much fanfare this year — at least the new foods did. What was there to be excited about? Maybe the Cookie Fries? Maybe? In a year without a Fried Butter, Fried Beer or Chicken Fried Lobster, we were left in a deep fried void. What is there to be excited about? What should we save up our quarters, dime and nickels for? What should we take a third mortgage out on our house for?
Well, that’s why I’m here. I’m The Gator. And I — along with the beautiful Lady Gator — eat fair food for breakfast. And a snack between breakfast and lunch. And lunch. And an after-lunch snack. And a snack after that. And a mid-afternoon snack. And a snack after that. And a pre-dinner snack. And dinner. And post-dinner snack. And a pre-dessert snack. And dessert. And so on. And so on.
When was the last time you tasted-ate 24 things in one day? Yeah. That’s what I thought. Now, shut up and read. For THIS is the only guidance you need to choose and make the most optimal choices and makes at this year’s 2016 State Fair of Texas. After doing this for eight straight years now (including one year while on my honeymoon), we’ve spent the money and tasted everything there is to taste. EVERYTHING. And I thoughtfully think about it and rank it all without anyone here to sway my opinion. Just straight fact from doing the research.
That’s why you can trust The Gator. When that steel basket is lowered into and then raised out of that hot ass grease, filled with battered creativity, and when the concessionaire takes that piping hot molten edible and plates it up, maybe puts some garnish on it, and looks you crooked in the eye and he asks if you paid your
tickets dues, you just stare that sucker right back in the eye and you remember what ol’ The Gator always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your tickets dues, The Gator?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.” THAT’S why I do what I do.
So, let’s get started. Just like the 1991 Atlanta Braves, let’s go worst to first:
Deep Fried Pulled Pork “Funyun®” Dings (18 tickets) – When my sisters and I were kids, my family would set out on road trip vacations in the back of our big family vehicle. With my sisters and I packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the backseat, across the country we would travel. We had various activities and music devices to help keep us entertained while we drove for hours. We also had snacks. Fun, delicious kids’ snacks like chips and candy. Our family vacations would weave across and climb up and down the terrain of our great country. And for a motion sickness-prone person in the back of a large family vehicle, tucked between two other humans and staring down at handheld video games, this can cause problems.
Often, the weaving and climbing would leave my little Gator stomach queazy. Often, my sisters would choose extremely aromatic snacks to enjoy, like Doritos, Cheetos and…Funyuns. Often, Funyuns. Often, I would sit between my sisters while queazy and while they ate these extremely aromatic snacks and breathed their aromatic snack breath on my smelling nose. Queasiness would turn to full-on car sickness that was scented with the perfume of Funyuns. These aromas imprinted on my brain as strongly as the car sickness. An imprint that lasts to this day. To this day, Funyuns = need to puke (and it always will).
So, now, here we are with this disgusting food item that reminds me of nothing more than car sickness. And we stuff it full of pulled pork, pineapple, bacon and pepper jack cheese, batter it and fry it up. The result? Let’s just say it looks like something I yacked up and tastes worse. All personal tragedy aside for one moment, I have no idea what’s going on with this turd-yun. I have no idea what I’m tasting. What the hell am I even looking at? Pineapple wedge?! Who the hell invited that guy to this shit party? I had to eat him just to put him out of his damn misery and to hopefully rid my mouth of the flavor. If it’s a sweet and sour thing you’re going for, congratulations! You found it! Sweet and sour hodge podge of mushy shit with occasional harder/solid bits of shit. This is probably the worst thing I’ve EVER tasted at the Fair…and I’m not lying. I ain’t frontin’ no games. This is gross. And I don’t care who knows. I’ll own this criticism. Someone call Jamiroquai, because this is some vitriol insanity I’m spitting. And I don’t care. Why? Because YOU need to know. Because we Fair-mericans deserve the truth! So, avoid this ridiculous piece of ass-tasting ass. If you’re looking for gross, try the Fried Beer. NOPE.
Rant. Over. Gator. Out.
Oh. We still…we still have more? Oh. Um. Oh-OK.
Like Jay-Z: “On to the next one”
Caribbean Pineapple Korn-a-Copia (40 tickets) – What?! No. I should’ve brought my own pineapple. I didn’t order this because it’s stupid to pay that much for half a pineapple filled with shrimp fried rice at the GREAT State Fair of Texas.
And I’m not looking to actually try this one, like with last year’s Chicken Fried Lobster. This one isn’t creative enough. Keep the hollowed-out pineapple whole and fill it with rum. (All that to say, I’ll still leave the Funyun in last place.) NOPE.
Fried Cajun Crisp (8 tickets) – Look. I don’t even know what the hell this was. Was it a pork rind? Was it a rice cracker? Not sure. It would dissolve into air as soon as I put it into my mouth and really tasted of nothing. It was dusted with some good spice that had some flavor but was dominated by the flavor of air…and that’s really weird! NOPE.
Berry Cotton Candy Edible Glass with Cotton Candy Soda (12 tickets) – Fascinating invention! It’s more or less, a Fruit Roll-Up filled with the Maine Root Soda of your choice. But this is no ordinary Fruit Roll-Up. No a brightly colored pliable sheet of fruity flavor is where the similarities stop. THIS Fruit Roll-Up has the strength of a million Fruit Rollups! A malleable and edible cup that as soon as it’s filled, kicks of a mental stopwatch. “So, how long before this just disintegrates in my hand and I’m covered in soda? Knowing that this cup is meant to dissolve, should I hurry?” So, you anxiously and hurriedly sip the soda — which is great soda. Then, you finish the delicious soda and you’re left with a squishy, hella strong Fruit Roll-Up-like cup. Then, like a dog pulling on a ragbone, you take a bite and pull and pull and pull and pull. All the while, you’re stretching out your once nice little cup into a Picasso. Finally, you are able to rip a piece free. You bite down on the cup and…”Oh, no. My fillings.” (is what someone with fillings might say.) What you’re definitely thinking is “I’ll never get this out of my teeth.” And, there’s really no flavor. At all.
So, while this is a cool idea. Don’t be an early adapter. In fact, skip Edible Glass 2.0 and wait for 3.0. Trust me. NOPE.
Shrimp fritter (18 tickets) – Here’s another hot ball of caloric regret. Take some cafeteria vegetable medley, some little skrimps and some interesting batter. Fry it up and you’d really expect…something. I’d be hoping that there’d be so much skrimp, I’d get iodine poisoning. But no. This thing didn’t even taste of salt. It was just weird. I’m also eyeballing you, suspect mayonaise tartar sauce. I have no clue how long you’ve been sitting out. (Still better than that Funyun bullshit.) NOPE.
Fried Smoked Salmon Croquettes (18 tickets) – You know, I bet that someone who likes smoked salmon would like this. But not The Gator. Keep your canned smoked salmon in the can and keep it away from me. (The Shrimp Fritter could learn a thing or two about how this was seasoned, though. Perfectly seasoned.) NOPE.
Doritos Bacon Cheese Stick (16 tickets) – You all guys remember that story I told you about family road trips, stanky ass breath and pukin? That applies to Doritos as well. (This was a rough year for The Gator.) However, I pressed on. And I tried this item as well. Why is it ranked so much higher than the Funyon? Because they managed to fry away all the Doritos — which is awesome. And the bacon was nice and salty and crispy. However, it merely hid a frozen mozzarella stick that had good stretch to it but nothing more. NOPE.
Fried Jell-O (16 tickets) – The 2016 Big Tex Choice Award Winner for Best Taste. I was interested in this one. How would they keep the Jell-O solid enough to still be Jell-O? Would it taste like anything? (Between you and me, I LOVE Jell-O.) Well, upon finding the stand for it, we were shocked and amazed to find no line. It was strange. Since when does the Best Taste Winner have NO line. Literally NONE. Everyone else had lines. So. What was I missing. I ordered up my Fried Jell-O. It was freshly fried. Sprayed with whipped cream. Topped with a cherry and voila! I gave it a minute to cool down. Took a bite. And…! …Undercooked. Criminally undercooked. Like. Health-danger-scare undercooked. Like, I could die from Jell-O undercooked. I don’t care how many times I watch the trailer for “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, Julianne Moore can’t completely convince me that Jell-O won’t kill me. (Of course, It’s actually the batter of questionable origins that would kill me, but I have to take every chance I can get to work in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.) The would be death gelatin was still solid, though. Cold and solid. So. Fried Jell-O? Unfortunately, H-E-L-L no. (If I can get back, I’ll try it again.) This could be the lowest ranking for something that’s won “Best Taste” ever. MAYBE. (Failed execution and over-hyped award leaves this item with a low ranking, but it still has some potential.)
Piña-a Lot-ta – 16 – Do you like really hot pineapple that tastes like burnt mouth? You’ll love this. Rum-soaked pineapple rings in a panko/coconut crust that’s “artfully deep fried” is what they claim. Alls I tasted was a sweet ring of fire…and not sweet as in “cool”…or ring of fire as in Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Being a fiend for sugar, I did enjoy the whipped cream. NOPE.
Chocolate Cookie Fries (14 tickets) – OH boy. The Lady Gator was REALLY excited for these. Advertised as a large Wendy’s-sized box of sweet, fries made of cookies, these were actually a toddler-sized box of dry, overcooked…things. The winner of the Big Tex Choice Awards Most Creative, these come in either Chocolate or Confetti flavor. And, they both kind of suck. Chocolate is served with hot Hershey’s Syrup dipping sauce and is just dry and overcooked…and dry and overcooked. NOPE.
Confetti Cookie Fries (14 tickets) – Again. Overcooked and dry. Served with a medicinal, canned fruit sauce. NOPE.
Yes. That’s right the Big Tex winners are both “NOPES.” This is the first time ever. Don’t waste your money. Shame on you judges. Shame on you.
Chocolate Wine Teaser (15 tickets) – Quoth the concessionaire upon ordering “Y’all do much drankin’? Ee-it’s strawng.” And with that, we were handed a little ball of what looked like — and tasted like — a mudslide. A mix of orange wine with chocolate and dairy(?), it’s really not that bad. Weighing in at 17% ABV. Ee-it’s strong! If you’re looking to get blitzed on sugar and alcohol. Give it a shot. Pun intended. WHY NOT?
BACON WRAPPED TOT DOG (14 tickets) – I hope Luscher’s is paying attention. Or Sonic. There ain’t nothing wrong with a little bit of bump and grind between a hot dog, bacon, tator tots, chili, cheese and jalapeño ranch. Smells like heartburn, looks like heartburn, tastes like heartburn. Only thing is the bacon gets soggy. If they can find a way to make edible Scotchgard (maybe just some Scotch), this could be one awesome Fair edible. And weighing in at 14 tickets, it’s a good bargain. SURE.
Pecan pie poppers (12 tickets) Just like those mini brownie bite muffins but pecan pie flavored. These have the perfect ratio of crust to soft, chewy center. The only thing missing is the syrupy pecan pie filling. SURE.
Fernie’s Down Home Chicken Pot Pie Pocket with Mac and Cheese Dip (16 tickets) – Oh. What could have been. All you needed to do was cook it longer. There’s great crust and good flavor. Good meaty chicken, big chunky potatoes, vegetable medley and peppery sauce. But…cold in middle. And a long, disorganized line. Not cool. However, the “Mac and Cheese Dip”? Not elbow or shells, but couscous! Balls of cheesy-sauced pasta. It was like the Dippin Dots of mac and cheese — “mac and cheese of the future.” (Coined by the Lady Gator.) And it was pretty good. SURE. (Ask for it extra cooked…if anyone actually talks to you.)
Dallas’ Fried Bacon-Tilla (22 tickets) – Who needs a taco shell when you have bacon?! A crispy bacon taco. Awesome. Just awesome. Plus, it’s Dallas’! DO IT.
Deep Fried Bacon Burger Dog Slider on a Stick (18 tickets) – Take the individual elements of a tricked-up slider and deep fry them all and you have this sweet little tasty treat. The fried pickle seals the deal. It looks like it’s been frozen in time. Plus, there’s bacon in the burger. So, unhinge your jaw like Scooby Doo and yummy down on this. (Make sure you have good insurance because you’ll probably have TMJ after you’re done.) The fries could use some work, though. YES. (Maybe add some mustard.)
Deep Fried Cannoli Bites (12 tickets) – Probably the best tasting new sweet creation this year. Crispy, creamy, tangy, bit of zing and chocolate. Just like Beverly Gelfand said: “Ravioli? Holy cannoli!” I’m not sure how, but that fits here. YES.
Injectable Great Balls of BBQ (16 tickets) – Are you a meat-loving aichmophiliac? You’ll LOVE this clever concept. I enjoy the gimmick of taking a plastic plunger/syringe (plungeringe), filling it with BBQ sauce and injecting a fried ball of sauced beef brisket. Plus, it tastes really good. The sauce is sweet and spicy and the meat is good — especially for State Fair brisket. Only complaint is that it’s hard to get BBQ in the plungeringe and hard to prick the balls. (…that’s what she said…which is terrifying….stay away from my balls!) But, it’s damn tasty and should have won “Most Creative.” YES.
Crunchy Fried Oinkers (16 tickets) – A name so interesting that even Gator fans across the Atlantic sit up and take notice, especially when they learn that it’s substantially sized and full of pork, cheese and pickles. It’s simultaneously crunchy and doughy. It’s got spicy sweetness. It’s got pickles. To all people looking for a way to survive Brexit. May I suggest: Crunchy Fried Oinkers! YEP.
Fried Clam Chowda Bites (10 tickets) – Perhaps the most dangerous thing you could eat at the State Fair? No. That would be the ceviche. This is a close 2nd, though. It’s also a dark sea horse in the race for delicious seafood. Decent, chunky clam chowder, deep fried into little bites. Plus, like the little crunchies you get at Long John Silvers, it comes on a bed of small, crispy-fried clams! Scary? You bet. Good? Oh yeah. A bit of spice and just generally lots of good things going on. The Sriracha remoulade is good, too!
So, if you’re on a date at the State Fair, you just take your sweetie on over to the Fried Clam Chowda booth (make sure you say it right), put your hand on the small of their back, look up at the menu and say “You get whatever you want…” (Just make sure it’s the Fried Clam Chowda Bites. Plus, it’s a freakin’ deal at 10 tickets. YEP.
Southern Fried Chicken & Dumplins. (16 tickets) – So, I’ll just get right to it and say this should have won “Best Tasting.” You hear me, “expert panel of judges”? You really screwed up on this one. Man, is this really good. The generous amount of shredded chicken is actually juicy and seasoned well. There’s lots of pepper and the perfect amount of salt. It’s chewy and doughy in all the good ways. Plus, it’s served on a bed of “biscuit bites” which are like tasty, pillowy little spätzle. It’s served with cheap gravy, which is good, too. YES. OH. HELL. YES.
Root beer (6 tickets) – It’s not new, but it’s tradition and it’s my blog and I do WHAT I WANT!!! Just the best root beer you will EVER have. Ice cold but still full of vanilla and root beer goodness. You CANNOT go to the Fair without having a root beer (or four). YES.
Fletcher’s Corn Dog – Still the best. The absolute best and most perfect fair food ever created. The day that something topples a Fletcher’s Corny Dog from the top position, will be the day that Fletcher’s either disappears from the Fair or you have died and are in Heaven. Which is false because in Heaven, Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are served as hors d’oeuvre AND dessert, and they’re served in all-you-can-eat quantities and you’re never miserable…no matter how many you eat. YES. DUH. (ARE YOU DUMB?)
So, there you go. Use this as your guide to Fair enlightenment and to cast your mouth vote upon the most delicious of all new treats. For other treats from past years, check out my previous posts. And, as always, eat responsibly and share the hell out of this post. It’s for the good of America.
Special thanks to the love of my deep fried life, the beautiful Lady Gator, for accompanying me, enduring my insanity and snapping some bad ass photos!
- 2015 (pt. 2)
- 2015 (pt. 1)
- 2011 (I can’t find it…to hell with it.)
- 2009 (The Internet gobbled it up.)