Fair season is here. And starting off the season nationwide is the San Diego County Fair — also known as the Del Mar Fair to us long-time natives.
This year’s theme is Out of This World. I was expecting to see astronauts. No such luck. Greeting us at the door for this year’s media preview party was a green furry alien, followed by a pair of “aliens” parading around a go-cart decorated with planet stickers. Oh, and some Star Wars coplayers. It seemed like a stretch and many costumes relating to the theme looked to have been put together half-heartedly with no real imagination. (I suggest the organizers go to comic-con to steal themes for next year’s event.) Previous themes have included Race to the Fair, a homage to race cars last year, and Taste the Fun, a culinary take on the fair scene.
The most obvious thing about this fair is the abundance of food and how each vendor tries to outdo themselves from the previous year. A prime example is Chicken Charlie’s that made headlines last year with their deep-fried Kool-Aid. For those who may have missed it, the cherry-flavored mound of oil-soaked batter is available again this year, along with their new additions: deep-fried cereal and deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The cereal, either Trix or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, was available for the media party this year. A handful of what appears to be Fruity Pebbles is battered, tossed into the fryer and topped with a bit of syrup and cereal garnish. While it one was step away from being a cereal sandwich, it really didn’t leave as much as impression as last year’s items.
Another debut to Chicken Charlie’s line-up this year is naked shrimp — lightly seasoned and grilled shrimp served with steamed rice with pineapple chunks, served in a pineapple half with a side of sweet chili sauce. Grilled chicken or beef can be substituted for the shrimp. While a bit bland, it’s a nice alternative to the fried stuff they usually offer. It’s pretty impressive to carry around half a chunk of pineapple, though it does seem like a bit of a waste.
The bacon frenzy hasn’t gone away — yet. The renamed Heart Attack Cafe is now Bacon A-Fair. Get it? While I didn’t spot any deep-fried butter, almost everything on their menu incorporates that infamous pork product: bacon.
Bacon A-Fair touted their Caveman BLT, a 2-3 lb. bacon-wrapped turkey leg. While I didn’t try that, I really enjoyed their bacon-wrapped mushrooms filled with cheese. If that’s a wee bit too healthy for your tastes and you’re looking for that heart-stopping meal, fear not— they have a Coronary Combo: deep-fried chocolate covered bacon.
Word soon got out about freshly steamed lobster and lines formed. While the samples were small, it was refreshing to see something simply prepared at the fair. I didn’t catch the name of this vendor but they will also be selling lobster rolls and other lobster-based dishes when the fair officially opens.
No fair is complete without funnel cakes. Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel cakes serves the usual powered sugar-topped variety. They also offer a red velvet with cream cheese frosting version, a peanut butter and banana cream funnel cake and a hot fudge sundae funnel cake. Carrying a plate of red velvet illicted some stares from the crowd of hungry journalists, but it was lackluster without a true red velvet taste, even with a cream cheese topping. Stick to the peanut butter and banana cream and you won’t go wrong.
What’s a fair without going into diabetic shock? A trip to the The Gingerbread Shop is in order. Along with last year’s Eaton Mess and ginger bread cakes, they serve butterbeer from Harry Potter fame and cookie dough pops with a choice of either nuts or sprinkles. The small fry may will get an immediate kick from the intoxicating sweet butter beer but sensible adults will stop at one sip. (I watched several people take one sip with the same reaction as mine.) Why they decided to add whipped cream topped with syrup is beyond me. Unfortunately, the cookie dough pop did not impress.
This is only a sampling of what to expect from this year’s San Diego County Fair. I’m hoping a vendor takes initiative and sells astronaut food to tie in with the theme.
The event officially opens up to the public June 8 and runs until July 4.
Related posts: San Diego Fair 2011, San Diego Fair 2010
So cool that you got to see a preview of the fair! Man, that is total bacon overload – all that bacon on a huge turkey leg! I liked the Eton Mess so much last year that I made my own version of it and it was a decent rendition. I want to try that red velvet funnel cake!
With the exception of the Tuskan Raider and the Storm Trooper, those “costumes” looked pretty lame!
Going to the media preview night is one of the few benefits of my day job and I look forward to it every year. I still think about how amazing the Eton Mess was at last year’s fair.
PB and banana funnel cakes may be worth actually getting a funnel cake this year. The problem I have is that it’s usually just the two of us at the fair – hard to sample all the fried foods when there are just two stomachs! Those cheese stuffed mushrooms sound good, too.
I love funnel cakes! When you think about it, it’s actually another form of donut. We have the same problem with only two stomachs. Too much food, too little stomach space.
There is deep fried Tang- to go with the outer space theme- this year.
Tuesdays are $2 sample days. Each booth will offer something, in a small size, for $2. But it may not be the main thing their booth offers. Even the Snow Cone/Icee booth offered a teensy cone of ice but with only one flavor (on the larger bowl they sell, you could add as many flavors as you’d like). If the funnel cake booth offers a small funnel cake…I’m there.
Thanks for the deep fried Tang hint. I do love Tang for nostalgic reasons. Small sized samples for $2 seems really reasonable.
I think I felt my arteries clogging up when I looked at the all-bacon booth. It looks good, but damn. That’s a lot of bacon. My eyes did widen when I read there will be butterbeer, but the whipped cream does seem like overkill. I’m sure I’ll try it anyway though. A few years ago my friends and I had a “deep-fry” party and actually made deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – they were the surprise hit of the night!
Yeah, it was a lot of bacon! I love the idea for a “deep fry” party.
I thought this year’s theme was pretty lame, too. But, what are you going to do? They can’t all be awesome, I suppose.
Thanks for the preview of all the yummy food — I’m trying to get my husband to go on a Tuesday so we don’t overdo it fried food-wise this year (I’m doing the “Biggest Loser” team-building competition at work this year and don’t want to blow it). It sounds like Chicken Charlie’s/Pineapple Express and the steamed lobster will be my best bets this year, although I do love roasted corn and artichokes, and always grab a frozen banana on my way out of the fair.
Anyway, this will be our second year with Lou (yes, we brought a newborn to the fair last year and, thankfully, it went well), so I’m really excited to see what he thinks of the petting zoo and all the farm animals!
I agree that choices at the fair, especially when you’re watching your weight, is a challenge. But with the walking around AND carrying Lou should work off some calories.
I’m happy to report that we were successful in finding some healthier eats this time around! Of course, it also helped that we wanted to try things we hadn’t had before, that weren’t easy to find outside the fair and only if it looked good.
For example, the porkabello kebab (bacon-wrapped, gouda-stuffed baby bella mushrooms) was good, but the fries it came with weren’t (a few were sampled by us and Lou, but then the rest were tossed). Otherwise, we enjoyed pineapple shrimp cocktail, sweet potato tater tots (Lou’s favorite by far), duck tacos and dessert (a frozen banana for me and Lou, and a “taste” of cheesecake for Tony — in reality, a normal slice of cheesecake that was dipped in chocolate and coated in peanuts).
Also, I highly recommend going on Tuesdays for the Taste of the Fair $2 deals at each booth. You can either get a sample size of something — like half a corndog or a small funnel cake — or one of something — like one fish taco or Australian battered potato. Lastly, the info booths have full color maps showing where all the food booths are, so you don’t have to waste your time wandering around and can see all the exhibits and animals you please!
Good to hear! Those sweet potato tots sound amazing. Lou has great taste! 🙂 It seems like I need to make it down just for the $2 Tuesdays. Thanks for the update.
Lobster? I’m there and I’ll definitely have to get a funnel cake.
The lobster sample was so small that I want to go back and get more.
Definitely peanut butter and banana cream funnel cake and lobster! Man, that look like some real good and fresh lobster! Might try the bacon turkey leg, can’t go to a fair without trying some fatty fair food. Thanks for the preview! =)
Fair food is fit for a king! Especially anyone that loves deep fried specialties.
The food at county fairs tend to be on the ridiculous side lately. Deep fried everything! But I’m glad to see that lobster is making an appearance. Nice goat photo!
I agree. I’m tired of seeing all the fried food at the fairs too.
Great review. But what is this amazing Eaton Mess you write about? A must try it seems since so many have posted on it.
Thanks. An Eaton Mess is a dessert consisting of crushed meringues, strawberries, ice cream and whipped cream that was served at Prince William’s wedding last year. SO GOOD. I mentioned it in last year’s post about the fair. (Link here and scroll towards the bottom.)
My daughter and boyfriend took me to the fair, I’m from Indiana and have never seen anything quite like it! For one thing it was so clean!and the choices of food was crazy, we have red velvet funnel cake, it was to die for! Tri-tip steak sandwich, so so and fried Twinkie it was yummy too!
Thanks for leaving a comment comparing San Diego fairs to the ones in Indiana! I hope you enjoyed the rest of the fair.