Corn dogs? Shake-ups? Pretty much anything that comes fried and on a stick?
What's your favorite fair food? Because I'll try it, no matter how disgusting!
I'll be eating my way through the Kane County Fair at lunchtime Thursday -- a repeat of last year's "Tasty Sampling of the Kane County Fair." To do this, I'll be drawing on nearly 20 years of experience eating fair food at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, where I grew up.
But I already ate a corndog last year. And a shake-up. And both a deep-fried Snickers and deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And a marinated steak sandwich. I'm not sure what's left to try.
So far suggestions include:
- Chocolate-covered frozen banana (@nellnee)
- Salt and vinegar fries (@jmschlau)
- Strawberry shake-up (@jmschlau)
And @bobandenid tweeted:
we expect a full fair foodie report since the website is lacking in details ;-)
Leave me your ideas in the comments, or tweet me at @mcemilywrites.
And read last year's fair food reviews from former Courier colleague Julia Doyle and myself, after the jump.
A tasty sampling of the Kane County Fair
By Emily McFarlan and Julia Doyle, Staff Writers
Thursday, July 15, 2010
ST. CHARLES TWP. - Opening day of the 142nd Kane County Fair and Festival was a day of firsts for Mary Holland of Elgin.
"It's my first real county fair as an adult, and I'm having an absolute blast," Holland said.
It also was Holland's first time trying a funnel cake. She shared the sugar-topped fried dough with her daughter Melissa, while her grandson Connor and husband Mel raced to eat their snow cones before they melted in the heat.
"Obviously, since my mouth is full of it, I love it," she said.
Meantime, Richie George, of the seven George's Fun Foods booths lined up near Gate 2, said he's been at fairs since he was born. He'll be at a different fair every week through November with his Florida-based vendor company, which his grandfather started more than 50 years ago.
But, George said, "Seeing a little kid eat a candy apple for the first time - it's exciting. It doesn't get old. Not to me."
Larry Breon, president of the Kane County Fair board, said he expects 140,000 to 160,000 people to visit the fairgrounds before it ends Sunday.
Some come for the 4-H exhibitions, which will show and judge about 600 animals this year, Breon said. Others come for the rides. Fantasy Amusement Co. President Bill Johnson pointed to the Nemesis 360, coming to the Chicago area for the first time at the Kane County Fair . It's the only one in North America, he said.
But the fair's marketing director, Floyd Brown, said he takes a survey every year, and every year "the fair food is one of the top reasons people come to the fair."
This year, the Kane County Fair features 30 to 35 food vendors, Johnson said.
That includes traditional fair foods - corn dogs, funnel cakes and elephant ears, which always are the most popular, he said. It also includes five new vendor offerings, including vegetable tempura, Thai food, Italian food and a marinated steak sandwich.
And it wouldn't be a fair without food on a stick. Those kinds of fair foods can count at least one fan from among the visiting state and local officials at the fair's grand opening.
At the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, "they have a pork chop on a stick that's unbelievable," Secretary of State Jesse White said.
Of those stick foods, though, the corn dog is king, George said.
"Our corn dogs are the biggest," he said. "People love a corn dog and they love their cotton candy at the fair. You come to the fair and that's what you gotta eat."
So how does the fair food fare?
Staff Writer Emily McFarlan and Community News Editor Julia Doyle, and their stomachs, braved Wednesday's heat to taste test traditional fair food as well as some delicacies new to the festival this year. Here's their take on what they tried.
George said at a fair like Kane County's, his booths can sell 25,000 pounds of the battered, deep-fried hot dogs on a stick.
Where to find them: Just about everywhere at the fair. We tried them at a George's Fun Foods booth near Gate 2.
Cost: $4 for a small/$5 for a foot-long
Emily says: I grew up in Springfield, home to both the corn dog and the Illinois State Fair, so no corn dog ever will hold a candle to the original at Cozy Dog. But I'm not going to complain - like George said, when you're at the fair, you eat a corn dog.
Julia says: It's one of those traditional must-haves when you go to the fair. They're easy to eat while you explore the fair and best when paired with a lemon shake-up.
Freshly-squeezed lemons, sugar, water and crushed ice, shaken together into a refreshing beverage.
Where to find them: Also just about everywhere at the fair. We tried ours at a George's Fun Foods booth near Gate 2.
Cost: $3 for a small/$5 for 32 oz. plastic container (refillable for $3 throughout the fair)
Emily says: I've had my share of lemon shake-ups, good and bad. These were among the best: Not too watery, but you're not chewing the sugar either.
Julia says: Forget soda or milk shakes. When it's 90 degrees in the shade and the heat index is pushing 100, there is no better way to cool off at the fair than with a lemon shake-up. These were good - the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and not too watered down.
Anthony Kahl of Elk Grove said he's tried deep-frying a lot of different things - Pop-Tarts, a hot dog, even a cheeseburger, bun and all. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a hit, battered, deep fried and then sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Where to find them: On the midway, across from the dining hall entrance to the exhibition hall
Emily says: Photographer Andrew Nelles has braved Afghanistan, but he wouldn't brave this sandwich. It does sound like something you'd try on a dare. See if you can't get someone to dare you to do it, though: It's actually pretty good - not as greasy or sweet as you might think.
Julia says: I'm a grown adult and a good ol' PB&J is still one of my all-time favorite foods, so I had to try this. I'm skeptical of anything fried at fairs, but I loved this low-brow version of a Monte Cristo.
A frozen Snickers candy bar on a stick that is battered, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. You see them at a lot of fairs, but what's the appeal of the deep-fried candy bar?
"Not a lot of people have a commercial deep fryer at home, so they can't whip up a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich and try frying it," Kahl said.
Where to find them: Same booth as the fried PB&J
Emily says: This was the Holy Grail of fair foods for me - the one thing I had never tried at the Illinois State Fair, and, given this opportunity, definitely wanted to find at the Kane County Fair . Fried, on a stick and over the top, it's the quintessential fair food experience.
Julia says: Whoa! This sugary, fried nightmare is sure to wake you (and your dentist) up. Emily and I split this, and even half the bar was way too much sugar for me. I can say I tried it, but next time I'll pass.
Marinated steak sandwich
Chicago Prime Meat Market in Glen Ellyn is a butcher, caterer and take-out deli, and this year is its first on the fair circuit, according to Kristin Becker, working at its booth. The meat is marinated in a mix of burgundy wine and peppercorn, grilled and then put on Italian bread, where it is topped with grilled balsamic vinaigrette, glazed onions and a horseradish sour cream sauce - "all sorts of good," Becker said.
Todd Klein, cooking up the meat in back of the booth, said, "We've had people call it 'real food' before."
Where to find them: On the midway, across from the dining hall entrance to the exhibition hall.
Emily says: Crisp bread, juicy meat, a little bit of spice from the horseradish. If you're high-brow city folk, and you've taken the step to come to the fair but you're not ready to commit to eating fair food, this is your sandwich.
Julia says: This was our first stop in our culinary tour of the fair. Emily and I split the sandwich, but I could have easily conquered this on my own. It had all my favorite things - beef, Italian bread, onions and horseradish. Definitely a must-try if you consider yourself a steak sandwich connoisseur or if you're tired of traditional fair food.
Copyright 2010, The Courier-News. All rights reserved.
-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter