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Fair & carnival food

Any Hounds like fair & carnival food?

My fav is the skinny fries made from fresh potatoes.

What are your picks?

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  1. I do love a tasty corndawg. With lots of mustard, natch.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Perilagu Khan

      The thing I like the most at our fair are called "Vikings", batter fried swedish meatballs on a stick. Some Gooood!

      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        Definitely a corndog with mustard, and some deef-fried zucchini w/ ranch dressing, and an ear of butter-dipped barbequed corn. Dessert would definitely be Mackinac Island fudge, and a lemonade slushy with a pulled-pork sammidge later. (We tend to spend all day at the fair, so it's not as horrible as it sounds. ) thank goodness it comes but once a year And let me not forget the poutine, and the mini-cinnamon doughnuts. Oh, and the Pesto spaghetti and a deep-fried Oreo cookie.

        1. re: mamachef

          Now that's what I call livin' large. ;)

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            Hah. Tell it to my butt and hand me the prilosec. : )

            1. re: mamachef

              Don't you wish it would go to your boobs instead? Alas, no. The butt.

              1. re: suzigirl

                Oh, I dunno. An ample--within reason--bottom can be just the thing.

                1. re: suzigirl

                  suzigirl, if that were to happen I would know for sure that the gods love me and want me to be happy. : )

        2. Oh my my....where to begin? Onion ring stacks, soft pretzles with mustard, turkey legs, Italian sausages w/ peppers and onions,chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick, funnel cakes,snow cones.... I could keep this up all day. I think I just gained two pounds writing this

          2 Replies
          1. re: suzigirl

            And I gained four reading it. Thanksalot!

          2. Churros! Oh those fluffy, crunchy-on-the-outside cinnamon-sugar coated delights...

            Also hot links that have been cooked on a big smokey BBQ :D

            1 Reply
            1. At least in New England - fried dough with a little powered suger. To die for, and I'm sure many have.

              9 Replies
              1. re: bobbert

                YES--you beat me to it--LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pizza fritte! And I don't mind a hit of the brush with melted butter, either, before sprinkling the sugar on. Mmmmmmmmm. I didn't realize this was a New England thing. If so, lemme tell ya, rest of the country and world, you're missin' out! ;)

                My old favorite from the Big E was beer battered apple slices--appelflappen--also dusted with powdered sugar (see a theme beginning to emerge here?). They used to hand out stickers "I only came for the appelflappen" and I would wear mine proudly ALL DAY. They look like this:

                And cotton candy. A little goes a long way these days, but what's not to like about spun sugar?!

                1. re: bobbert

                  Where I grew up in Jersey, my mother would stop at the Fair "entrance", which was a good 5 minute walk from the actual fair itself (all that parking), drop me off, have me walk to the Funnel Cake stand and get 2 helpings.

                  That stuff is amazing.

                  1. re: DougRisk

                    i remember the first time i had a funnel cake... i was 9 or 10. my friend kept reminding (begging) her dad that we had to get them on the way out of the park... i wasn't too much into sweets, and kept thinking, 'what the heck is the big deal?' then when she got one, after much prodding, i finally took a piece... oh goodness gracious. the way it melted in my mouth, the coating of powdered sugar melting harmoniously in my mouth and onto the fried dough... it was just... mmyeah..

                  2. re: bobbert

                    We call them elephant ears where I live. Yum. We can get them powdered, cinnamon sugar or fruit.

                    1. re: suzigirl

                      I've had elephant ears that were huge rolled fried dough, and funnel cakes that were batter poured through a funnel into the oil. That's how I've always known them each to be.
                      When I did a google image search for elephant ears to show hubby the difference, I got photos of both, captioned as elephant ears!

                    2. re: bobbert

                      At the CT fairs they would top the fried dough with tomato sauce and good quality shaker Parmesan cheese. Like fried dough pizza almost. So amazing.

                        1. re: melpy

                          Yep, you could either get the sauce and cheese combo, or the powdered sugar. Ours were just the big pieces of dough thrown in the fryer

                      1. Well, German fair foods are rather different -- not everything's deep-fried or contains enough sugar to kill a village '-)

                        Some of my personal faves are:

                        - garlicky sautéed mushrooms in a white wine-cream sauce
                        - roasted chestnuts
                        - fish fry (Backfisch)
                        - pork chops from this one particular stand grilled over a massive fire.... (out of this world, i tells ya.)
                        - chocolate fruit on a skewer
                        - dampfnudeln (steamed yeast dumplings), often served with vanilla sauce and plum jam

                        Yep, all very, very healthy eats :-D

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: linguafood

                          I want to go to your fair. You're making mine suck. ;-p

                          1. re: suzigirl

                            If it's any consolation, most of those foods -- the backfisch and the shrooms in particular come to mind -- aren't generally the best possible renditions of the dish.... think oil that's been used a few times too many. Guess that makes it so charmingly delicious '-)

                            The pork chop (Idar-Obersteiner Spießbraten), tho, is pretty amazing.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Been there and agree on the Spiessbraten. Also Schashliche (Pig and onions on a stick), Pea soup from the Rotes Kruz, Currywurst, Leberkase mit senf, and a half liter glass of wine at Bad Durkheim. Or a Mass of local Export bier.

                            2. re: linguafood

                              <<not everything's deep-fried or contains enough sugar to kill a village>> Then where's the appeal?! ;P See my post above, HA HA HA. Plus, you've gotta save room/calories for all the beer at German fests, right? :)

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                I haven't had cotton candy in 30 years, probably. Loved it as a kid, but can't abide it now. Ick.

                                And there is *always* room for German beer calories :-)

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I agree with the ick factor on cotton candy. I did it to myself though I was little and my school was having a.fund raiser fair and I wanted to go. BUT I was getting over a nasty bout of the flu and my parents said no. When they left for work I walked to the school fair anyway. With the little bit of allowance money I had I played a ring toss game and then I saw it.... the giant puffy marvelous pinkspun sugar on the paper cone. Should have been a lifelong love affair,but alas it was not. I ate the whole thing and was soooo sick. Don't know if it was being less then stellar feeling or the ten pounds of sugar but to this day I cannot even stand the smell. My mom said I got what I deserved. She was right.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    HA HA re German beer calories! ;) I can't remember the last time I had cotton candy, but whenever I see it, I want just a little. Probably the nostalgia factor, plus the texture is so damned cool and fluffy. I could probably go many miles on one "cone" of it.

                                2. re: linguafood

                                  I'm in the USA but love to be reminded of the chow at German fests. One of my favorite memories is griddled brats and onions with bread and mustard at a Wiesbaden wine festival. Also the mulled wine (Glühwein) and pastries at the Freiburg Christmas markets. But I guess it's always about atmosphere and company, too.

                                  I gather that you're in Berlin. I would DIE for some more Berlin-Turkish street foods, esp. the Döner kebabs....

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    Ha. The mulled wine always sounds better than it is, in the end. I've now given up on it -- sometimes you can get mead, which I actually prefer, but I'm generally not to hip to hot booze.

                                    I *will* be in Berlin in a mere 6 days, and you can bet your sweet bada bing that I'll be having some döner rather soon :-)

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      Ha. The mulled wine always sounds better than it is, in the end

                                      so true, so true......

                                    2. re: Bada Bing

                                      Ahh, the hazy memories of blowing my last 5DM at the doner stand in the banhoff before catching the last train....

                                    3. re: linguafood

                                      Some more German fair food:

                                      --Potato pancakes with apple sauce
                                      --roasted chestnuts (yum, just had to mention them again)
                                      --Schmalzgebäck (fried dough, lard cakes?)

                                      In the US, the only one I can think of is corndogs. I've never been to a state fair.

                                    4. Funnel cakes
                                      Kettle corn
                                      Italian sausage

                                      1. My experience of fair and carnival food is that most of the fried carbs sound awesome in theory, but turn out mushy and greasy once you get to them. Nowadays I only indulge myself at fairs catering to ethnic communities where I know I'm going to get some great manakeesh, longanizas or tacos. I save corn dogs for when I know I can get them crunchy, preferably with some spicy mustard on the side.

                                          1. A Gianelli's sausage sandwich with peppers and onions at the NY State Fair.

                                            Oh, Dippin Dots are fun too. :)

                                            1. Lemon Shake-ups.
                                              On a hot summer day, nothin's better!

                                              At the local downtown street fair this past weekend, the funnel cake guy had 'Red Velvet Funnel Cakes'. It sounds wonderful, but I was afraid JungMann's critique is correct, and didn't try one. Instead, I got a strawberry-yogurt smoothie from the farmer's market stand for $2, and it was just what I needed.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                Food terminology and geography are interesting. What you refer to as 'Lemon Shake-ups' I have only known as lemonade. (Minnesota and surrounding states).

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  John E, the Lemon Shake-ups have a halved lemon squeezed and mixed in a big cocktail shaker with ice, sugar and water, shaken up real good and then dumped into a big paper cup.
                                                  Those were a big treat on a hot day at the Ohio State Fair when I lived in Ohio, and at the LaPorte County fair when I lived in Northwest Indiana.
                                                  The flavor of the rind in there made that nice bitter tang that is so good when you're hot and drippy.

                                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                    That's the same way they do it in Minnesota except they just call it fresh lemonade. I hope they wash those lemons first, but I wouldn't count on it.

                                              2. Pickles, the mushrooms simmered in amazing sauce all day long served in a styro bowl with a toothpick, hot sweet pecans, and fried green tomatoes. YUMMMMMM!

                                                1. Calimari.. calimari. .calimari.. calimari

                                                  1. Definitely the corn dawgs with mustard, gooey hamburgers, and I love corn on the cob dipped in the vat of butter.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                      Roasted corn on the cob can be very good too.

                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                        Oh yes! I can't believe I forgot the roasted corn.

                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                          The roasted corn is one of the fair foods I have never figured out. There is a roasted corn stand at the Minnesota State Fair that sells probably hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of roast sweet corn at $3.75 each. My question has always been why would the people of Minnesota pay that much for an ear of corn? During sweet corn season we roast the corn on the grill at home all the time for about 50 cents an ear and it pains me to pay that much for it since we used to grow (when I was a kid) about 8 acres of sweet corn every year.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            Well, folks tend to be a bit addled coming off the Tilt-a-Whirl, and the hucksters (or shucksters) take advantage.

                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                              Sweet corn season here in Florida. Currently 6 ears to the dollar. Google up Zellwood festival to see how to celebrate all things sweet corn.

                                                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                I just googled Zellwood festival and got a message "We're sorry to announce that there will be no 2012 Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival. Please check back for plans for 2013 Festival" Now I'm sad :(

                                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                  Lucky you. Five for two dollars here in Sarasota.

                                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                    We used to have prices like that here in Minnesota in August when the local corn is ready. Now it seems the best price we get is 12 ears for $5.

                                                          2. Crawfish Monica, the best festival food around. shrimp of crawfish pistolettes are a close second.

                                                            1. Lots of yummy picks. I want to visit some of your fairs. Thanks for sharing!

                                                              1. went to my first county fair a couple years ago and had chilli cheese fries (yum) and my first funnel cake (double yum). Not things you get at English fairs.

                                                                But in England it's the fried doughnuts hot out of the frier dusted in caster sugar they are just amazing, they taste like funnel cakes in a way but are doughier.

                                                                1. Zeppoli from the Italian carnival. Hot, not greasy, dusted with powdered sugar. So light and delicious, they were like eating sweet balloons. Oh how I miss them

                                                                  1. Fourth the roasted corn on the cob.
                                                                    Also love the frozen lemonade, the turkey leg, and and the calamari.

                                                                    Never really went in for cotton candy or funnel cake. Too sweet and gloppy.

                                                                    1. Fried dough with butter & cinnamon (in NH)
                                                                      Italian sausage w/onions & peppers
                                                                      Fresh french fries
                                                                      Apple cider donuts
                                                                      Apple cider (I mostly visit the fall fairs)
                                                                      Made to order lemonade
                                                                      For something different, almost anything at the Common Ground Fair in Maine

                                                                      1. The fairs in my local city usually have the curry stall where you can get a tub of vegetable masala and three chappatis. You balance the very hot tub on top of the hot chappatis in a paper napkin in one hand, and juggle to break off bits of bread to scoop up the curry with the other hand. The precarious situation is part of the experience. I'll usually get a tub of onion bhajias to wander round with at first, then go back for some curry. Trying to manage everything would be impossible.

                                                                        And I love Winter fairs because the roast chestnut guy will be there with his handcart / oven. Chestnuts are just about the only truly seasonal street food I've found and I gorge myself for a month or so every year. I don't really have a good set-up at home for roasting chestnuts so I grab my chance.

                                                                        1. Sausage and peppers (from the San Gennaro feast in NYC and the feast in Boston's East End)
                                                                          Aracini with mozzarella in the middle (deep fried rice balls)
                                                                          Zeppolis with powdered sugar
                                                                          Deep fried Oreos (had them at the Montgomery County Fair in MD and OMG!)
                                                                          Italian Ices

                                                                          1. Cactus fries. They put a potato on a spiral slicer and turn it around and around and around until it's one long, thin spiral strip. Then they deep-fry it like a potato chip. I always ask for it extra-crispy. You can top it with ketchup (boring) or vinegar (traditional) or they always have shakers with different spices. I usually just go for salt and pepper.

                                                                            Potato cakes and pierogies

                                                                            Apple dumplings with cinnamon ice cream

                                                                            Blue birch beer

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: lisavf

                                                                              Wow, now I *really* want some cactus fries. Is it regional? Have never seen here in the mid-Atlantic.

                                                                            2. I usually go to our state fair 2-3 times during the 10 day run each year. My normal routine is a ham biscuit for breakfast, or sometimes mini donuts with cinnamon sugar, fresh from the oil. Lunch is an Italian sausage with peppers and onions. If I stay long enough, I'll get icecream from the local agriculture school or a garlic pretzel, then a bag of cotton candy on the way out. There are also tons of samples from food producers in the state - hush puppies, pickles, peanuts, fudge...

                                                                              My friends and I often do a "potluck" where we split up and everyone buys the crazy fried food of their choice, then we reconvene and share the spoils. There have been hits (fried mac and cheese, fried cookie dough) and misses (fried twinkie).

                                                                              1. The fair food from my western NY childhood was chicken marinated in Chiavetta's and grilled over big fires, vats of chicken chowder at the local volunteer fireman's field days, peach shortcake at the local peach festival, grilled sausage and pepper sandwiches and sugar waffles. Since moving away to SE PA decades ago, I've tried to make my peace with funnel cake, but still really want a sugar waffle instead.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: lsmutko

                                                                                  Are you talking about the Lewiston Peach Festival? I still think fondly of the peach shortcake and funnel cakes there, not to mention the Peach Queen competition. (PS off topic - if you are from the area, I think your mom may have been my beloved violin teacher).

                                                                                  1. re: nancy1

                                                                                    That was most certainly my mom -- the benefit(?) of having an unusual last name is there aren't many of us! And to bring back to topic, peach pop from the Kiwanis tent. I grew up there and am old enough to remember sneaking into the beer tent (when they had it). With a drinking age of 18, if you could see over the table, you could get served.

                                                                                2. Tiny Tom's Donuts at the CNE. I don't really like donuts and haven't been to the CNE for years, but whenever someone mentions them, I drool.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                    I have fond memories of the best fair food at the CNE. Tiny Tim donuts (were they like .10 a piece or something?), some fried chicken balls with sweet and sour sauce, pierogis all come to mind.

                                                                                  2. The Tennessee State Fair is maybe one-tenth the size of the L.A. County Fair, but the range of available REAL food (as opposed to deep-fried Twinkies and all that ilk) at the former puts the latter to shame in quality, if not quantity - flat-grilled sausage with peppers and onions and at least two big sit-down woodfired barbecue places, both cheaper and better than anything of the sort here, and then a barn-sized room with food counters run by various church and service organizations. My favorite was always the Daughters of Isis, a sort of African-American Masonic Ladies Auxiliary selling plates of pig knuckles, fried chicken, fried fish and even chit'lins (although the year after I tried them for the first time I was saddened to see them off the menu), all with sides like mashed potatoes and real gravy and green beans cooked with onion and bacon. But aside from such exotic fare and thinking of what's at any American fair, any sausage is better than no sausage, the consumption of one corndog is I think required by law, and some form of ice cream (we do have an excellent handmade kind that beats Tennessee's all hollow) is a given. As for cotton candy, I tried it once as a kid and hated it the instant the novelty wore off.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                      You're making me want to go to the TN State Fair! I've lived in TN for 5+ years now and have never made it. Might need a road trip and spend a couple days doing some exploring.....link to the TN State Fair website for others who may be interested


                                                                                    2. Give me a turkey drumstick and a bloomin' onion and I'm happy for a day. Totally bummed that the VA State Fair has gone bankrupt.

                                                                                      1. Hand dipped corn dogs is a must. It has to be hand-dipped. However, I've noticed that many of the food booths now use the boxed premade corned dogs.

                                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: dave_c

                                                                                          Wow, a boxed, frozen corn dog at the state fair in Minnesota would go over like a lead balloon. There are two major vendors here, one that sells corndogs and the other vendor sells pronto pups. There is always some debate about which one is better. I have yet to decide.

                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                            What is a pronto pup? Is that just another name for a corndog?

                                                                                            1. re: kubasd

                                                                                              Sounds like the name of a drive-thru pet store.

                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                *like!* I let out a barking laugh at this that disturbed my sleeping dogs....

                                                                                                1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                  Please pass along my apologies to your hounds.

                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                    They stood up, barked confusedly, turned in a circle, and promptly laid back down and fell back asleep. Pretty sure they forgot all about it :) hehe

                                                                                                    1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                      Exactly my behavior when the doorbell rings while I'm sleeping off a bender. ;)

                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                        You too? I thought it was just me. Hehehe.

                                                                                              2. re: kubasd

                                                                                                It's basically another name for a corn dog, but they would really get angry if they heard someone say that. The batter coating has flour in it instead of mostly cornmeal. The pronto pup stands at the Minnesota State Fair have been there since just after WWII. I have not eaten one for a few years now. Since the corn dogs and pronto pups are priced the same I would usually just buy from whatever vendor I happened to walk by when I got a hankering for a deep-fried, batter-covered hotdog on a stick.


                                                                                                The Minnesota State Fair is second only to the Texas State Fair in attendance (MN fair is 12 days, TX is 30 days) so each of these vendors go through thousands of pounds of hotdogs for each fair. I believe they each have contracts with their own meat markets that make them just for their booths.

                                                                                              3. re: John E.

                                                                                                I'm partial to corn dogs. The coating seems to have a better crunch and a firmer texture than the Pronto Pup.

                                                                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                  I think you're right. Another factor is to get one right out of the fryer and not one that has been under the heat lamp for a while. I have not been to the fair for a few years. All this talk might get me to go back this year.

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    Good point! Freshly made is the key. No heat lamp..

                                                                                                    1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                      "Freshly made is the key. No heat lamp.."

                                                                                                      I think that applies to all fried foods.

                                                                                            2. Chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick! Sooooo bad, but so good!

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: arashall

                                                                                                Similarly, chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick, but never had it at a fair--only in Key West and I remember it oh so fondly!

                                                                                                1. re: arashall

                                                                                                  I recently froze a ripe banana; cut it in half; melted dark chocolate; dipped each half and replaced in freezer; ate both halves :(

                                                                                                  1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                    I do that with chunks of banana in the summer. Try adding toppings like coconut, peanuts, whatever you like. I amazed my nephew with this summer treat :-)

                                                                                                    1. re: arashall

                                                                                                      mmm . . . chocolate, coconut and peanuts. Genius!

                                                                                                2. At the WI State Fair, there's an entire building at the fair dedicated to locally produced food products:fresh grilled cheese, honey-spiked lemonade, maple cotton candy, etc. The winner far and away though is the duck fajitas. Cheesy and delicious. Best followed by a dollar's-worth of $.25/each flavored milk cups (root beer and /or strawberry, preferably)

                                                                                                  At Summerfest, the Saz's Sampler: a plate of sour cream and chive fries, 2 huge wonton mozzarella sticks and a giant pile of deep-fried cheese curds. Marinara and ranch on the side.

                                                                                                  Honestly, I'm pretty much a sucker for anything that involves deep-frying or cheese.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: mse924

                                                                                                    Skirt steak from a duck must be tiny. ;)

                                                                                                  2. fried dough w/ powdered sugar first fair food; never got over it!

                                                                                                    1. NC State Fair is famous for it's sausage and ham biscuits in the morning and I LOVE the roasted corn and it ain't the fair without the fried bologna sandwich...OMG! The fried banana pudding was a winner a couple of years ago....tomato salad is a favorite too. Corn dogs, sausage and peppers, country ham on sweet potato biscuits, fish and chips...love it all. Dang, I'm starving now and it's only 10 am!

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: SweetPhyl

                                                                                                        Yum. I'm jealous and have a case of fair envy.

                                                                                                      2. Grebble. (Also spelled grebel, greble, and grebbel, variously.) Yeasted, unsweetened dough, fermented until slightly sour, then cut into rectangles, notched in the center and flipped through, fried, and shaken in a bag with cinnamon sugar (or powdered sugar or plain sugar), eaten while still hot enough to burn your fingers. Perfectly crisp exterior, perfectly light, feathery interior.

                                                                                                        There are two grebble operations in my hometown, each run by a different local sorority, each using a different fiercely-guarded recipe, each inspiring strong loyalties from the locals. When I was a kid you could only get them twice a year: at Sugar Beet Days in the fall, and during the Logan County Fair in the summer. Now they set up shop practically every weekend for one thing or another! Glad I don't live there any more or I'd weigh 300 pounds!

                                                                                                        1. From New Orleans: cochon de lait poboys, grilled chicken livers with pepper jelly, fried catfish, braised pig cheeks, various types of crawfish pies, etc.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: CampStreet

                                                                                                            Lucky Bum. Have they got a Macque Choux stand?

                                                                                                          2. Oh, I love the food at the Renaissance Fairs - the turkey legs, smoked sausages, the grilled artichokes, the fresh Irish soda bread w/ good butter. Soooo different from county fair foods, but so yum.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. Something about fair/carnival foods......Nothing beats a ital. sausage,pepper & onion sandwich,just was talking about this actually,is it the outdoor cooking? the large grill with all the sausage ,peppers & onions cooking all day ? better sausage,and peepers???? No matter what Never tastes the same elsewhere it seems,same goes for the deep fried zeppoles,my 2 favorite fair/carnival foods.....

                                                                                                              1. Also those super large pretzels salted,cooked over charcoal,that smell of the charcoal cooking always gets me !