James Beard journalism award-winning authors Jane and Michael Stern have made a career driving around America looking for good food. Now, they’re sharing with us the best of America’s State Fairs.
Are you looking for maximum ambience while you dine? How about eating on the stroll along a state fair midway? You’ll hear children screaming on roller coasters and water slides, farmers revving muscular tractor engines to tug slabs of concrete farther than anyone else, and sharpshooters firing barrages at tin critters from gallery rifles in hopes of winning a stuffed toy or varnished cedar cuss box. Country, blues, rock or pop music, yodeling or hog calling blare from speakers at an open-air stage. The perfume of fried everything, usually served on sticks, wafts through the air. We believe the happy commotion is why state fair food is so much more delicious than the dishes would be if tasted anywhere else at any other time.
Here are some of the most delicious upcoming events along with their must-eat specialties.
Minnesota State Fair (8/25-9/5, St. Paul)
A fine-textured, milky-white walleye filet is impaled on a skewer, lightly breaded and fried to a nice golden crisp. Known to fans as a fishsicle, it is actually an elegant edible, best accompanied by the fair’s magnificent French fries.
Vermont State Fair (9/2-11, Rutland)
Sap is harvested in the spring, but the taste of maple rules at Vermont’s fall fair, where maple cotton is the star.
New Mexico State Fair (9/9-25, Albuquerque)
Green chile cheeseburgers are not to be missed, but the signature dish at this fair is a circle of hot fry bread, either sugared or as the foundation of an Indian taco. For the latter, knife, fork, napkins, and picnic table are mandatory.
Puyallup Fair (9/9-25) (Washington State)
Since 1915, the essential snack at Puyallup (say Pew-al-up) is a flaky scone served almost too hot to handle loaded with butter melting into the soft biscuit and a dollop of raspberry jam. A million are served each year.
Eastern States Exposition (9/16-10/2, Springfield, MA)
A Big E cream puff is the size of a softball, sliced horizontally and piled with fluffy white filling that is lighter than custard but thicker than whipped cream.
State Fair of Virginia (9/29-10/9, Doswell)
Not to slight the excellent Virginia peanuts and traditional Brunswick stew, but what sends us into orbit are the crab cakes, fried shrimp, and soft-shell crab.
State Fair of Texas (9/30-10/23, Dallas)
Frankfurter historians debate whether the State Fair Corny Dog, invented in 1942 by Texan Neil Fletcher, was the first corn dog. While all kinds of other eats on sticks are available, it behooves all wiener lovers to savor Fletcher’s original-recipe cornmeal-crusted, deep fried pup.
North Carolina State Fair (10/13-23)
Of the several states that claim to be America’s barbecue capital, North Carolina just might be the most convincing. Have doubts? Go to the fair’s Pork Chop Shop and dig into a plate of smoke-laced pork loin sided by hushpuppies. A convincing meal!
Looking for more delicious road food? Check out Jane and Michael’s website RoadFood.com.
You Might Also Like