How good are the new fair foods?

How good is the new food at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair?
Posted on July 20, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

You can be creative with batter and oil.

You can add new ingredients to carnival food favorites.

But not all of them work. And not all of them deserve your hard-earned money.

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair, which started Friday, July 19, has plenty of new items this year. Most of them were outlined in last week's column.

But until Thursday, at a preview event the night before the fair, I couldn't have told you how they tasted.

Some of them are worth your money if you have a hankering for fried food or for bacon. On others I'd take a pass and head for a pile of calories somewhere else.

Maple Bacon Funnel Cake

Where: Best Around Concessions near the grandstand and on Food Row

How is it? Surprisingly good. A funnel cake isn't that different from a pancake and so it works with maple icing and bacon in the batter and on top.

Cost: $7

Rating: Blue ribbon

Deep-fried jelly bean

Where: Pence's concession booth near the Ferris wheel

How is it? Pretty good. It's a giant cinnamon jelly bean dipped in batter and fried. The Wakarusa Dime Store jelly bean holds up well in the heat and the cinnamon flavor works well with the bit of batter.

Cost: Five pieces for $5

Rating: Blue ribbon

Deep-fried peanut butter

Where: Pence's near the Ferris wheel

How is it? Very nice. Etta Pence and her staff freeze cream JIF and fry it in batter. It works. The Pence booth fries about a dozen items. They're good at it and should be. The family has been in the concession business since 1902, Pence said.

Cost: Three pieces for $5

Rating: Blue ribbon

Bacon caramel corn sundae

Where: Pence's

How is it? OK, as a sundae goes, but I wouldn't choose it over the Dairy Bar soft serve. The ice cream isn't as good and the bacon, bacon caramel corn and chocolate syrup don't make up enough flavor.

Cost: $5

Rating: Red ribbon

Fried vegetables

Where: You can get them various places, but the new booth is Dr. Vegetable between Food Row and Kiddie Land near the Ferris wheel.

How are they? The batter is pretty good and the vegetables include pickles, green tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms and other items. The pickles are probably the best spears I've ever had in a fried form.

Cost: $6 to $7 an order or $12 for a bucket

Rating: Blue ribbon

Flavored corn dogs

Where: Giant Corn Dog booths near main gate and Gate G

How are they? The jalapeño was OK, but the Fruity Pebble version wasn't good and didn't work. Cap'n Crunch may have, but this didn't. The booths will have a flavor of the day, including Doritos, bacon and others, every day of the fair, according to Aaron Pacifico, whose family operates the booths.

Cost: $5 for a flavored corn dog

Rating: White ribbon for Fruity Pebbles, red ribbon for jalapeño, blue ribbon for plain. You can read more at blogs.etruth.com.

Loaded tater tots

Where: Giant Corn Dog booths

How are they? These are good tots with a variety of toppings. They're bar food, but served at the fair. The broasted potatoes at the Joe's Gyros booth (blue ribbon) are far superior.

Cost: $4 to $6

Rating: Red ribbon

Dole Pineapple Whip

Where: Bunny Hut along Food Row

How is it? It's pineapple-flavored soft-serve that's light and refreshing. It has a legion of fans but it didn't wow me.

Cost: $2 for a serving of around 7 ounces

Rating: Red ribbon

Tacos and burritos

Where: Ricky's Taqueria truck between Building A and Heritage Park

How is it? As always, Ricky's delivers great flavor. I ate a ground beef taco that would beat any made by that taco place that has a bell in its name.

Cost: Varies by item

Rating: Blue ribbon

Lemonade Freeze

Where: Teakwood Gourmet at the north end of Food Row by the main gate

How is it? It's a wonderful blend of lemonade, ice and strawberries, peaches or mixed berries. When it's hot, it rivals the Lamb Club's lemon shake-up on the refreshing scale. It's not a new item, but was new to me and I'm now a fan.

Cost: $5 for 16-plus ounces

Rating: Blue ribbon

I have other blue-ribbon items at the fair, including:

Ÿ Pork burgers or chops from the Elkhart County Pork Producers

Ÿ Ice cream and the grilled cheese sandwiches from the Dairy Bar

But I'm surprised how good the new funnel cake is and the fried vegetables. I couldn't eat that much fried food often, but these two are nice additions if that's what you're looking for.

What are your must-haves? What are your favorites?

Enjoy the fair. Eat well and remember that we shouldn't eat this much sugar and fat all the time.

I'm hungry. Let's eat fair food.

Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at mking@etruth.com, 574-296-5805, via Twitter and Instagram @hungrymarshall or the [URL]Dining A La King Facebook pag;http://facebook.com/diningalaking[URL]e. His blog is at blogs.etruth.com/diningalaking.[/URL]


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