When Texas Twisted
received word that officials at the State Fair of Texas had chosen "Taste and See" as the theme for 2003, I knew I would have to answer their challenge.
What I discovered in my gastronomical journey were not only mainstays slathered with tradition, but new concoctions dipped in innovation and sprinkled with audacity. These are the 10 that, having recovered from my post-fair food coma, I can accurately recall ...
Fletcher's Corny Dog
Despite my predisposition for saying I'm a "horndog for a corn dog," I generally insist on the more accurate term "corny dog" when referring to what is the icon of state fair edibles. After all, it was invented here in Texas and dubbed with that title more than 60 years ago. Any other is a second-rate wiener.
Typically consumed with generous amounts of yellow mustard, the Fletcher's dog is the quintessential food on a stick. In fact, it's long overdo to receive its very own page here at Texas Twisted.
Special thanks to Greg True and Fletcher's Corny Dogs
Thought the Twinkie couldn't be improved upon? You haven't had it deep-fried.
Brought to the fair in 2002 by Katie's Cafe, it was an immediate hit. It's your traditional cream-filled sponge cake, battered, deep-fried and covered with powdered sugar. Have it with chocolate sauce, or my favorite, raspberry. Be sure to let it cool a minute or two to experience the full flavor. This is one you shouldn't miss.
Special thanks to Katie Maher and Katie's Cafe
Says Michael Terrazas, the man responsible for the little treats, "We considered the Chips Ahoy ... we considered the Nutter Butter ... and the Oreo seemed to be the top choice because it's such a popular cookie."
Once battered and deep-fried, the cookie softens, making these morsels a surprising delight. Shed your disbelief and try them. Just be careful not to breathe in when taking a bite, lest your lungs, like mine, become coated with powdered sugar.
Special thanks to Michael Terrazas and Country Cravings
Don't act surprised that nearly everything on this list is fried. Rarely will you find a food at the fair that isn't. But I will admit that frying cheesecake is a little unusual.
It's New York cheesecake, encased in a pastry wrap like a burrito, fried and — once again — sprinkled with powdered sugar. The result is surprisingly delicious. Said the concessionaire with the intermittently toothed smile, even those who don't like cheesecake have said they like the fried cheesecake.
Special thanks to Bert's Concessions
Fried Ice Cream
I know what you're thinking. But it is indeed possible. In fact, this comestible paradox is a must-try when you need something to cool you down after a heated game of ring toss.
They take a delicious scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream, which is coated in a crust of secret composition — vendors tend to protect their recipes like a culinary mafia — then dip it in a sweet batter and fry it for 5 to 7 seconds. As one server clarified, "It's got to be real quick or else it'll melt." No kidding.
Special thanks to Melda Marcus and Puff Palace Concessions
If you're not from Louisiana, odds are you've never tried alligator. But the whole idea was to "taste and see," so I had to give it a shot.
Until then, I didn't even know alligator farms existed, but apparently that's where all the scrumptious tail comes from. And good tail it is, too — a welcome change from all the sweets. Of course, the jackass next to me had to joke that it tastes just like chicken, but admittedly, he was right.
Special thanks to Freddy Beodus
Fried Cheese Curds
Sold under the name "Wisconsin Cheese Curds," these seemingly dreadful morsels aren't as unusual as they sound.
Before cheese makers ship their product off for consumption, they shave off the edges to smooth their creations into the appropriate geometric shapes. Not to be wasted, those shavings — in this case, white and yellow cheddar — are battered and frozen, later to be fried and served with a side of dipping sauce.
Special thanks to Bert's Concessions
Take a hot dog, replace the bun with sponge cake, the weenie with ice cream, and the mustard and relish with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles, and you've got a Cool Dog.
It's a yummy invention, though fairly difficult to eat since it refuses to slide forward in its little box and is impossible to pick up without obliterating the entire thing. Just think of it as a little puzzle.
Special thanks to Hawaiian Shave Ice
Pie on a Stick
After decades of research and development, food-service physicists have finally devised a way to fuse pie and stick to concoct what has long been rejected as impossible. Sadly, it came out pretty much like a triangular ice-cream bar.
Still, it's wonderfully delicious. Rather than elaborate, however, I'll let the man with the gold, dollar-sign tooth explain it:
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Special thanks to the Man With the Gold, Dollar-Sign Tooth
Two words: Eat this. Even though I was already bulging with fried treats, I couldn't get enough of this one. It's a Snickers bar — itself a delightful confection — frozen, rolled in a secretly enhanced pancake batter and quickly fried to a golden brown.
According to the geniuses behind this treat, the British have been doing something similar for years with Mars and Three Musketeers bars, but the Snickers substitution is sure to make it an international hit.
Special thanks to Shirley London and Sons