Another season has come and gone, dear readers. This past weekend, the 2014 State Fair of Texas closed up shop after its nearly month-long run and set some new records, both in ticket/concession sales and overall attendance. The weather was beautiful, the live music offerings were quirky and varied, and the newest food temptations were both as ridiculous as always and strangely tasty.
So, now our cholesterol is a little higher; the scale is tipping a couple of pounds in the wrong direction, and we've consumed enough fried dough to last us until...
Well, until Thanksgiving anyway, right?
Regardless, let's take a look at some of the weirdest, and most tantalizing, food choices that the fair had to offer this season (as sampled by yours truly):
- The Original State Fair Brew - Funnel Cake Ale - This was one of the best newbies of the season, if we're being honest. Upon ordering, I thought I was going to get a sickly sweet, dessert variation of the fried favorite in a cup. Instead, what hit my taste buds was an IPA inspired bitter that wasn't sweet at all, but had a refreshing, yeasty taste. Compliment that with the powdered sugar-lined rim and you got a beer that tasted like Texas Beer. Imagine that. Nicely done, folks. Nicely done.
- Chicken Fried Bacon - Okay, this one I could have lived without. While the actual product was exactly what was promised, it lacked any seasoning, spice or Texas flair that would have made it a tasty new favorite. Instead, I got a greasy paper bowl with four or five pieces of relatively flavorless bacon strips in a personality-free batter. A valid attempt at taking something fattening, and making it more fattening. But it wasn't worth the calories this time around.
- Twisted Texas Tacos - Holy crap, now we're talking. What looked like it was going to be a doughy mess of too-much-fried-foodness, instead emerged as one of the best dishes this side of the corn dog. The taco was filled with slightly fried pieces of barbecued brisket and topped with fried okra, cheese, poblano corn and slaw. Oh. My. Goodness. My taste buds are still doing the happy dance after downing this bad boy. I'm currently working on re-creating this one at home.
Top off those three choices with some adult beverages a roasted corn stalk or two and a LOT of walking, and you have another rockin' season this year.
Sometimes it's easy to ask ourselves as we sit in traffic for 20 minutes on I-30, brave the shady parking lot attendants, and walk a mile and a half into the fair grounds, why we're doing this exactly. What is it about this event that keeps us coming back each and every year? It's frustrating. It's expensive. It can be a pain in the ass, frankly.
Well, that's easy folks. It's home. The State Fair of Texas reminds us of why we live here. Wrapped in all of the excess, you find a bunch of really good people setting up shop to entice us with uniquely Southern items and trinkets. You have fantastic food and familiar music that sets the tone for this region; and you have a bunch of friends and families that want nothing more than to get out there with the people closest to them and have a good time. The smell of barbecue and beer are everywhere. People are smiling and riding rides while Big Tex looms large overhead with that oddly shaped hand, beckoning us into the grounds.
Opinions may vary, but for this State Fair fan, that's reason enough. See you next year.
- Richard Dennis