OC Fair Food Showcase
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Unless you have been living under a rock, and have not seen the massive coverage, the OC Fair opened last Friday, (July 11th), and runs until August 10th. That's 23 days, (the OC Fair is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), of rides, music, demonstrations, carnival games, shopping, exhibits, farm animals, and of course food. All of the other stuff is great, but if you know me, I am excited by the food at the fair. It seems like every year the vendors top themselves. I was very excited to see what they had in store for us this year.
We got to the OC Fair early last Sunday for the OC Fair Food Showcase, where the vendors show off their latest and greatest food concoctions to the OC food media. I had never been to the fair this early in the day, and man it was nice beating the crowds here. Parking was a breeze, the food smelled great, and as an added bonus, when you come to the OC Fair by 11AM on weekends, you get in for a much reduced price of $3, which is a great deal.
Both Katie and I did not eat before this event, and we also had a light dinner the night before, so I was more than ready to eat a lot at this food showcase. First up is Pink's, which is a Hollywood legend since 1939. I have yet to make it to their iconic location in LA, but if these hot dogs are any indication, I'll have to make it their soon. They had three dogs for us to choose from. Their famous Pink's Chili Cheese Snoop Dog, Emeril Bam Dog, (mustard, bacon, jalapenos, onion, cheese, and coleslaw), and the Colonel Klink Kraut Dog, (mustard, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and pastrami). Quite honestly, all of these were very good, but if I had to choose the best one to have, it was the Emeril Dog, which had a lot going on with it. The hot dogs above proclaim that, "Pink's Loves OC", and I think the feeling is definitely mutual.
Anyone can have a regular turkey leg at the fair. There are even bacon wrapped turkey legs to gnaw on, but if you are going to go that far, you might as well go all the way and have a Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Turkey Leg from the Bacon A-Fair booth. This was pretty awesome. I loved the crunchy outside, the bacon added big time flavor, and the turkey was surprisingly moist. Unpredictably, Katie's favorite item of the showcase was the Deep Fried Jack Daniels Churro. No need to be 21 to order this, as the whiskey gets cooked off in the fryer, but the Jack Daniels flavor lingers in this nicely fried churro. Topped with a syrup and whipped cream, this made Katie a very happy girl.
The fantastic Lori Southerland represented two booths at the OC Fair, the first of which was Grantsburgers, and their famous Chile Relleno Pretzel Burger. It was hard limiting myself to just a half of this burger, as it was so good. This double patty burger was blanketed with cheese, plenty of avocado, and a mild chile relleno. A burger that was not dry, and had plenty of big time flavors going on here. If you gotta have a burger at the OC Fair, this is the one to get.
The other booth Lori was promoting was the Tasti Chips booth, which I had never experienced before. Judging from the applause that this booth received, I could only guess that I'm probably the last person to try these chips. I'll not make that mistake again. These Garlic Parmesan Shakers were fried perfectly, and with my love of kettle chips, they were right up my alley.
Now this is fair food to the max. Chicken Charlie's is probably the most prolific booth at the OC Fair. When you hear about crazy, over the top fried creations, it's usually offered at Chicken Charlie's. New this year are the Deep Fried Chicken Skin and the Deep Fried Doritos. I've never been too fond of Doritos, but these were really tasty. Served with a ranch dressing, these were kind of addictive. As for the chicken skin, this is a natural, because the best part of fried chicken is the skin, so why not do away with the chicken? Genius. Probably so bad for you, but the OC Fair only goes on for 23 days, so that leaves 342 days that I won't be eating this fried skin. Pretty good reasoning, huh?
I'd argue that pickles are one of the most polarizing food items around. I had a friend that if there was a pickle on his plate, he would send back the entire plate, because he detested even the pickle juice that much. I like pickles, but could see how they can overpower foods. Pickle lovers will have to hit up the Pickle O' Pete's booth to get their fill of these pickled cucumbers. We tried the Pickle Dog, which can best be described as a hot dog, encased inside a pickle, and then fired in a corn dog batter. This actually worked for me. I liked the contrasting layers, the sweet corn batter, the briny pickle taste, and the beefy hot dog inside. Also from Pickle O' Pete's, we tried the Pickle Chips. These were paired nicely with ranch dressing, which is my favorite way to eat fried pickles.
The charismatic Dominic Palmieri was also showcasing two booths on this day, the first one being the iconic Biggy's Meat Market. The Big Daddy Corndog and the Big Garlic Herbed Chicken on a Sick were spotlighted on this afternoon. This corndog uses a nice sausage inside of it, and they were nice enough to have smaller samples for us to try, even though I ate two of these. The chicken on a stick was very tender, and was probably one of the healthiest things we ate on this day. Dominic was so nice to hold the chicken up, so you could get a feel for how big it really is. I also think he just wanted to be in the picture also.
The other booth Dominic was representing was the Fair Fix and Fried A Fair booth, with gave us another of Katie's favorite items from this afternoon, the Pecan Pie on a Stick. This actually tasted just like you would imagine. The pecan pie filling is sweet and nutty at the same time, then held together by a sweeter than a corn dog batter, then it is dusted lightly with powdered sugar. Not too bad, and I'd really like to see this filling used in a real pecan pie.
This is what I envision heaven to look like. Texas Donuts would get the nod from me, if I had to pick a favorite from this OC Fair Food Showcase. To anyone that knows me, they know I am a donut freak, and these were pretty tasty. The new one this year is the Cherry Pop Rocks Donut, which was overly sweet, but I liked the novelty of eating the Pop Rocks, which I haven't done in about 35 plus years. The Reese's Peanut Butter Donut combined two of my favorite items into one, which is never a bad thing. My favorite donut though was, the Banana Chocolate Cream Donut. This one was topped with sliced bananas, whipped cream, and chocolate, then there was also a Bavarian cream inside. Wow, this blew me away. So good. Texas Donut representative, Vicky Hohnbaum says that the Maple Bacon Donut is their best seller, but I will guess that this banana cream one will give it a run for its money this year.
After our OC Fair Food Showcase was done, we were lead to the center of the fair, and allowed to enter the Legendary Gelato booth. There we were given a cup of some great gelato. It was getting hot, so going inside the booth was great, but was made even better by all the sample tastes we were given. It was hard to pick just one, but I liked the Chocolate Mint the best. Very nice to have something sweet and cool after all that fried food.
After our gelato, we cruised around the OC Fair a bit, trying to walk off the effects of all the food we had just consumed. We always like checking out the animals. Plenty of little piglets running around, or as is the case when we were here, they were napping. Also liked checking out the cows, goats and sheep too.
On our way out of the OC Fair, we walked into the Parade of Products Building, so I could get some Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast the next day. These are my favorite cinnamon rolls at the fair, although I am told that I need to try the ones that are outside as well. Luckily, this will not be my last time at the OC Fair this year.
We would like to thank all of the vendors for providing us with so much great food to sample. Everything was fantastic, and you all were so nice to answer all of our goofy questions. I would also like to thank all of our fellow food media friends that went on this culinary journey with us. You all make going to these events so much fun. Lastly, we would like to thank the wonderful Robin Wachner, Communications Director for the OC Fair and Event Center. She put together this OC Fair Food Showcase, and we could not have been happier to attend. Thanks for the invite Robin, it was an awesome day.
The OC Fair runs through August 10th, and for more information, go to their website here: http://ocfair.com/2014/index.asp