-3 Snaps! Try it. You might like it.
A Southern Fried Catfish Sundae would probably be good... if you can find it
As I was walking in to the Florida Sate Fair the announcer said that I could get just about anything I wanted there including a haircut, a ride on a camel, or to renew my driver’s license. I was there for one thing - fried fair goodies. Every year fair food offerings become more and more an exercise in absurdity, verifying the assumption that if it is edible and you fry it,
someone will eat it. Annually I anticipate what could possibly top deep-fried butter or a Krispy Kreme bacon cheddar cheese burger.Recently officials have developed a contest allowing the public to weigh in on what new funky fried feast to feature at the festival. The list gets longer and more absurd every year. inevitably the dishes involve something fried or barbecued, and certainly greasy.
My plan was simple. After toiling over the list of 2018 fair offerings, I picked a Southern Catfish Sundae- a stack of hand cut french fries with Southern fried catfish on top and drizzled with a spicy Southern remoulade sauce. For dessert I would move on to Deep-fried Strawberry Shortcake. My assumption was that they deep-fry a little round shortcake cups(like the ones you buy at the grocery store) and stack it with fresh berries and whipped cream. In years past, I have had that Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger and fried butter. As crazy as it sounds, fried butter is really good (think warm toast with butter, cinnamon, and sugar). BTW, I am a pretty healthy in-shape guy. I just need my annual grease fix. My plan seemed reasonable and I did not eat all day in anticipation.
I pass the dozens of vendors offering everything from corn-dogs to elephant ears. I cruise by the stacks of French fries, chicken tenders, turkey legs, and several stops offering dishes either covered in or stuffed with bacon. All fair food is really expensive, but I have learned to anticipate that.
I walk up and down the rows looking in vain for the vendors selling Southern Catfish Sundaes. I scour the food trailers in a huge circle two or three times. Then I stop by another information trailer next to the Midway and they point me in the general direction (where I just came from) they thought the fried goodness might be, but no dice. I spend 45 minutes walking up and down the rows of food vendors, but could not find my target. So much food but no Catfish Sundae! How disappointing! Same disappointment with The Deep-Fried Strawberry Shortcake. It was nowhere to be found and no one to tell me where to go.
Really?! After all of the contests, publicity, and work by fair officials no one can tell me where to find the good stuff?. Are you kidding me? What a rip!
Fried Oreos are just that. Oreo cookies dipped in batter and deep-fried. It’s not a high score on my palette. I get where they are going with it, but the finished product is hot and soggy. The Oreo flavor is familiar, and if they found a way to keep the cookie crispy inside it would be spectacular. But, as is, I wouldn’t get them again.
I love the fact that they address what a guilty pleasure this is offering the "I'm single combo". I suppose the sentiment is what the hell, I'm alone, I'm at the fair, I'm having some guilty food fun for $11.
Traditionally food vendors have been spread throughout the Midway and there's no need to change. You need to be able to find a corn dog if you upchuck lunch after the Ferris wheel ride. But when they elect me king of the fair (campaign fund and PAC already established), I'm going to command them to open a winner's circle area where contest winners and unique eats are all put in one place so hungry foodies can find them. What a disappointment.
By the time I found Chompers Crunchy Fried Balls of Goodness I was tired of looking. They offer Bacon Cheeseburger balls and Chicken Parm balls at $10 for 5 meatballs. They told me curtly that they would not mix an order (I wanted to try both) and I wasn't in the mood to pay $20 for 10 fried meatballs after an hour and a half search
The Florida State Fair runs through February 19 and features rides, food, dance and art/photography competitions, concerts, and lots of family fun.
Chip Weiner is a Tampa food blogger and an award winning freelance photographer specializing in portraiture, food photography and photojournalism . He has been a photography instructor for over 10 years and teaches Tampa photography classes throughout the year. Have a suggestion for a food event or restaurant? Contact him here
For information on photography classes and workshops, feel free to call me or look under the Tampa Photography Classes section of my website. Photo 101 is by far the most popular! I also give private individual lessons on camera operation and making better photographs and would love to work with you one on one to make you a better photographer. Photography instruction gift certificates are also available. They make great gifts for the photo enthusiast in your life. Let's talk about what you need! 813-786-7780. See you in class!
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