California State Fair 2013
There are ten days left to make your way to Sacramento for the California State Fair. At the first fair in 1854, the main attractions were 72-lb beets and a 10-lb carrot. It began as a celebration and promotion of the state’s agriculture in an effort to bring upstarting and pioneering people out West. Well, it worked, and now we are the most populated state in the country.
Almost 160 years after its inception, we were amazed by the fair’s immense variety of family-friendly activities and attractions. County pride exhibits, the bug museum, an expansive water park, a new 3D experience, live music, carnival rides and games, and so much more entertain all ages. To hike around the 356 acres in blistering heat, though, you need fuel. Some people wait for the fair to get their corn dog fix, or satisfy their funnel cake cravings for the year, but we were on a mission to find what’s new and different. If you’re coming to the California fair, or if you’re attending a fair in another state, we hope you have the chance to find these kinds of items.
If you’re going to drink and be your family’s driver, please be smart about it. Pick one beer from the draft station hosted by Ovations, sit in the misters, and enjoy it at least two to three hours before you drive. There are around twenty beers to choose from, like this 7.3% ABV/95 IBU IPA from Green Flash of San Diego. Crispy, hoppy, and floral, it was very refreshing on this hot California day.
Walking between the exhibition buildings, we spotted a nameless kiosk advertising chocolate covered bacon. That caught our eye, but when we got closer we saw something more enticing: bacon cheesecake on a stick and dipped in chocolate. August hadn’t had cheesecake in a few years, and this was better than she had remembered it. A frozen slice of creamy and rich cheesecake is rolled in three slices of chopped, salty, crispy bacon, then dipped in milk chocolate. This is perfect for the bacon and dessert lover on a hot day. Steve, who was running this kiosk, told us where to find the main truck with loads of bacony items, and he actually beat us there so we got to chat with him further.
The Bacon Habit is also known as the traveling Mecca for lovers of bacon (August made that up, it’s not actually known as that [but it should be]). The sights and smells from this food truck were intoxicating. Lots of stands have giant turkey legs, but only The Bacon Habit had bacon-wrapped “caveman” turkey legs. Its location this year is not in the main food court area, so walk past all those other legs and make your way here if you really want a leg.
Steve explained that they might go through about 90 caveman turkey legs in a day, making fresh batches every three hours. This was the first batch today, glistening and beautiful. We did not try one at this point standing here, but rather Steve wrapped up a leg for us to-go at the end of the day (now that’s customer service!). Tender and moist, this is a huge mass of meat that can make any carnivore feel a little primal. It’s hard to put down once you start, too, it’s so tasty, so you will definitely look a little primal gnawing on a giant bone. And don’t be concerned about greasiness – even with all that bacon, it left little grease on your fingers.
A large crew of many family members and close friends runs The Bacon Habit’s truck and multiple kiosks throughout the fair. Adept and friendly, everything they churned out was fresh and delicious.
The Bacon Habit’s kabob had thick, meaty mushrooms skewered with Gouda cheese, wrapped in bacon. The cheese was gooey and the right choice of flavor to complement the mushrooms and bacon.
Bacon is usually fried to be prepared, but beer-battered and then fried? It added an extra layer of crunch to already crispy bacon, and surprisingly it wasn’t greasy at all.
Like the caveman turkey leg, the bacon-wrapped chicken was moist and juicy. A light batter gives just a bit of extra crunch. We picture this to be ideal for the little kids who are envious of their parents’ caveman turkey legs, so they can have their own mini version of a bacon-wrapped bird.
Cheesy bacon bombs are The Bacon Habit’s bites of bacon heaven. Fried mini sticks of pepper jack cheese have a nice kick, making these morsels zingy as well as gooey. Wrap the fried cheese in bacon, and it doesn’t get much better.
Okay, it gets better if you’re a dessert lover. Chocolate covered bacon is not new to us but we understand that it’s completely foreign to some readers, so please trust us, this actually works and it is good! The Bacon Habit does it very well, using a rich chocolate to coat salty bacon pieces. We couldn’t finish all of it, so we shared it with a sixteen-month old girl who devoured it and became our new best friend.
After parting ways with The Bacon Habit, we found ourselves confronted with more dessert but zero chocolate (or bacon). Cardinali Pizza is known for its woodfire pizza, but we had to try the different dessert delights. We spoke extensively with Tamee, and she started us off a wedge of deep fried watermelon. It had a lightly sweet and buttery batter with the perfect amount of crispiness enveloping the juicy melon. It was striped with strawberry syrup, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with a cherry like a sundae. It’s unlike any sundae in the world, but it’s good competition! For those who doubt us, don’t be timid; it’s not a gut buster, it’s fairly light for what it is.
Tamee walked us from the outdoor truck to the exhibition hall where Cardinali had another station with different items. Here, Zach tried a bite of ghost pepper ice cream. It was smooth and creamy with a mild vanilla flavor behind the strong pepper taste. He described it as hot, but “the ice cream cools it quickly.” If you’re adventurous, give this a try and let us know what you think! Would you make a sundae with it?
Then we had one of the most creative presentations of a sundae we’ve ever seen, Cardinali’s spaghetti ice cream. It was as much of a treat as it was a show to watch it be made!
Vanilla ice cream was pressed and extruded to make “pasta.” A dollop of strawberry syrup with real fruit chunks represented marinara, and white chocolate was shaved just like Parmesan cheese. To complete the motif, a mint leaf replaced basil for this
pasta dish ice cream item like no other.
For anyone who loves sweets, this is the year to hit the fair. There seemed to be an endless variety of dessert items, from the standard caramel apples and funnel cakes to the deep fried assortment from Sweet Cheeks Concessions. We’ve seen deep fried Oreos and Twinkies before, but it was a first to see deep fried strawberry Pop Tarts. Imagine the dough of the Pop Tart being coated in batter and then fried – yes, this is a lot of dough. Most of the mass is dough. But if you love strawberry Pop Tarts, we don’t blame you at all for giving this a go.
Our final stop on our tour of diverse fair food was at Hot Dog On A Stick. We didn’t know it until today, but the famous mall food court franchise has catering services based out of Los Angeles that travel up to the Bay Area and even as far east as Utah, allowing them to post here for the state fair. We almost walked by the truck, until we saw the cheese on a stick. Pepper jack cheese was coated with a sweet corn batter just before getting dipped in the fryer, fresh to order. The batter came out slightly crispy, sheltering the gooey warm cheese. Zach says that if you love cheese, this is “an absolute must-try.”
Summer is fair season, and we hope you can make it to your local ones. At county as well as state levels, these are the events where everyone comes to sport their pride, including the restauranteurs and caterers with their flavorful and fanciful food. There aren’t many opportunities better than fairs to find palate-pleasing plates, and since they come once a year, go ahead and splurge!