San Diego County Fair: It’s Like Deja-vu, All Over Again
It’s that same time of the year again: fair season. San Diego County Fair officially starts on June 11 running until July 5 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The theme of this year’s fair is Taste the Fun with guest food-lebrities the likes of Guy Fieri (June 19). Since my full time-job is in journalism, I had the opportunity to attend their media party and try the food. I’ve attended a few times in the past. It’s been several years since I’ve been to the San Diego Fair. Nothing much has changed over the years except the name in 2002 when the name changed from the Del Mar Fair. I catch myself calling it the Del Mar Fair still. It will always be the Del Mar Fair to me but I guess changing it to the San Diego County Fair encompasses the entire region. Makes sense since according to Wikipedia,it was the fifth largest fair in the country in 2007 with an average of 50,000 people passing through every day. In 2009, it broke attendance records with 1.3 million people. Impressive.
When you first enter the grounds, there is an archway of two chefs just in case you forgot or didn’t know what the theme was. It’s pretty hard to see the words “Taste the Fun” with all the food images scattered about.
Since this was a media party, there were no kids running into you with sticky hands from cotton candy. Instead, grownups with alcohol. A good thing the rides were closed.
As for the theme, Taste the Fun, they had several fair mascots running around during the party wearing chefs hats asking you to try their imaginary food. There was also a booth of people doing food cooking challenges ala Top Chef.
The food itself is regular fair offerings. A lot of deep-fried stuff. It’s only lately that I’m discovering that county fairs are trying to outdo themselves year after year regarding the outrageousness of the food — usually what can be deep-fried. This night did not disappoint.
They had the usual suspects: corn dogs, Australian battered potatoes, fish and chips, cheese curds, etc. And some new ones, at least to me: deep-fried hamburgers and pork chop on a stick. They didn’t have any to try at the party so I can’t report.
What I did try fell into the realm of the Oil food group. Charlie Chickens was very popular, offering an array of deep-fried “delights:” frog legs, chicken, avocados, Twinkies and Pop Tarts. In addition, they advertise that it’s “totally fried.”
I tried the deep-fried Klondike ice cream bar. I was told to eat it before my grilled chicken kabob. I wasn’t ready for deep-fried ice cream and didn’t listen to him — I actually needed to eat something non-fried first before digging into an oil-packed dessert. I thought I was powering through the kabob fast but apparently not quite fast enough. Biting into the Klondike bar was a melty mess. They should have really named it a deep-fried milkshake.
The Klondike bar was still slightly chilled but melted the entire way through — there was no ice cream in sight. I suspect the Klondike bar was fried in the same batter as the rest of the food items because some bites were salty. I can’t imagine this being a refreshing dessert on a sweltering fair day. Give me a shave ice any day.
Apparently in direct competition with Chicken Charlies is the Heart Attack Cafe. Look! A photo of a nurse with defibrillator paddles and a heart falling into a deep fryer! We must be at the right place. Some of the menu items: deep-fried butter in both garlic and cinnamon sugar flavor, chocolate covered bacon and the “Widow Maker” garlic fries (fried in oil with bacon drippings). While Charlie Chicken touted all their things are totally fried, Heart Attack Cafe’s mantra is “fortified with butter.” I’m actually surprised they didn’t make you sign a waiver at the time of purchase.
There were some non-fried foods for a healthier alternative — a little difficult to find amidst the tanks of oil. Aside from the grilled chicken kabob from Chicken Charlies, there were also various stations selling grilled corn and peppers. Most food items run under $10 but can quickly add up. The San Diego County Fair is offering a Taste the Fair pass every Tuesday where fairgoers can purchase sample-sized portions for only $2. A pretty good deal without overdosing on one item.
The San Diego County Fair starts up this Friday and is closed Mondays except for July 5. Happy fair season!
Related: Orange County Fair