Thursday, October 4, 2012
Ranking the new fried foods at the State Fair of Texas
Indulge in the Bacon Cinnamon Roll. Skip the Mac-N-Cheese Sliders.
FAIR PARK Those who attend the State Fair of Texas are accustomed to trying new, mind-blowing fried foods, and this year is no disappointment. From toasty desserts to battered entrees, the 2012 fried food finalists bend the boundaries of taste and culinary style.
We tried all eight State Fair delicacies. Here's our review, from best to worst:
Amid the cultural bacon obsession, it was only a matter of time before more fried bacon hit the fair stands. The Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll is a handmade pastry soaked in sweet icing and stuffed with bacon bites, then fried and served on a stick. As 2012’s “most creative” fried food, it is also the most delicious. The roll is perfectly moist from the heavy dousing of glaze, which ultimately turns this treat-on-a-stick into a finger food. The bacon is subtle yet tasty and gives the roll extra flavor to balance the sweetness. Don’t pass up an opportunity to try this one.
The same vendor, Butch Benavides, sells another fried finalist, the Chicken Fried Cactus Bites, which are also top notch. The cactus was juicy like a conventional bell pepper, finished with mild spice. Once deep-fried, the bites resemble vegetarian chicken nuggets. Unlike many of the other batters, this one crisped up to the perfect texture that provided a resounding crunch in every bite. If you like more spice, do not hold out on the jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. This tent is a one-stop shop for fried foods, so we recommend starting your journey here.
If thick layers of fry aren’t your thing, there is one finalist you must check out. The Fried Pork Wing does not sound appetizing at first, but once we saw the thick, juicy cut of pork basted in a smoked bacon chipotle glaze and served atop a mound of potato chips, preconceived notions flew out the window. As far as quality goes, the Pork Wing is probably the best at the entire fair. The meat is extremely tender from six hours in the smoker. The glaze is finger-licking good. Plus, the pork is only lightly fried, so you don't have to fight to get to the heart of the meal.
Rounding out our list of favorites is the Deep-Fried Divine Chocolate Tres Leches Cake. Though it sounds heavy, the cake is fluffy and moist, and served with fruit, which provides a nice change of pace for the palette. This was the last fried food we tried, and it didn’t leave us feeling weighed down. The bottom of the cake is crispy, similar to a pie crust. Be sure to get a bite with whipped cream and peach for full-blown flavor.
Naturally, many of the heartier deep fried meals fell to the bottom of our list. Picnic on a Stick, for example, is good, but outshined by the sweet concoctions also in the running. Picnic on a Stick tastes like a Chick-fil-A sandwich as it alternates pieces of chicken, pickles, and tater tots on a skewer. We tried it with creamy ranch, which was fine, but it couldn't compare to the better frieds above.
The Fried Mexican Firecrackers lay somewhere in between fried tamales and taquitos. At first it was unclear what exactly was inside them because of the milky and gooey texture. Upon further investigation, we discovered bits of chicken in the mushy mess. The spice of this dish was spot on, but the soup-like interior and lack of creativity was off-putting.
Deep Fried Jambalaya, this year's winner of "best taste," sounds like an innovative Cajun treat. But much to the surprise of our taste buds, the fried ball of rice and shrimp lacked flavor. The amount of starch in this dish was unsettling and overwhelming, making for an uncomfortable chewing experience. The dish’s saving grace was the spicy ranch sauce, which gave the smoky essence of everything we expected the jambalaya to be.
Lastly are the Deep Fried Mac-N-Cheese Sliders, which come two to an order. The sliders layer a fried mac-n-cheese square on top of a beef patty in between two slices of bun. Biting into the tower is a confusing experience because of the consistency of the layers. The beef and the mac-n-cheese are adequate in taste alone; together, they're too much. The additional bread on the outside dries the mouth even further, making it hard to chew. Skip this one.
Which frieds have you tried?
Fried utopia will cost you $46, so get your wallet ready.Deep Fried Jambalaya: 8 coupons ($4)
Deep-Fried Divine Chocolate Tres Leches Cake: 10 coupons ($5)
Fried Pork Wing: 12 coupons ($6)
Chicken Fried Cactus Bites: 12 coupons ($6)
Picnic on a Stick: 12 coupons ($6)
Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll: 12 coupons ($6)
Fried Mexican Fire Crackers: 12 coupons ($6)
Deep Fried Mac-N-Cheese Sliders: 14 coupons ($7)
Total price to try all eight fried foods: 92 coupons or $46
- Get to know Deep Ellum: The eats, beats and neighborhood culture
- It's National "Something On a Stick" Day: Here are our 5 faves
- New carnival rides will give tourists a reason to visit Fair Park in State Fair offseason
- Restaurant review: Whiskey Cake's signature dessert redeems the disastrous new brunch menu
- UPDATED: Man v. Food dude at State Fair on Saturday: "Yes -- some of my exes do live in Texas"
- Video: Dirk honored in NBA Finals commercial
- Dogged pursuit of fun leads pet owners to Deep Ellum's Bark Park
- Theater review: DSM's glittering production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert never "drags"
- Did you know Mary Suhm was a high school beauty queen in Beaumont? 10 things about her:
- Dallas-based Pecan Lodge is Texas Monthly's second-best barbecue joint, sort of