Have Deep Fryer, Will Travel—Find Your Deep-Fried Bliss at Central Florida Fair
The best thing about late February isn’t that funky extra day every four years—it’s that we’ve forgotten all about our New Year’s resolutions. Gone are the visions of two-a-day fitness classes and kale smoothies; the world as we know it has returned to normal with a few curly fries and perhaps a little dessert dip into an éclair funnel cake.
Another great element of this time of year is the Central Florida Fair. Coincidence? Not a chance. There’s no better culinary destination around when you want to send a selfie of you wagging your corn dog to that vegan officemate who leaves his squash concoction in the lunchroom fridge until it turns green as Atlantic algae. Come out to the Central Florida Fair Wednesday thru Sunday beginning February 28th and see what all the belly rubbing is about!
Central Florida Fair food turns haute cuisine on its head, starting with the age-old order of the menu. Who says you can’t imbibe in a deep-fried smore before digging into your turducken sandwich? Why not nosh on cookie dough spaghetti for breakfast and nibble on cheesy bacon pork rinds on a stick into the afternoon? C’mon, you’re at the fair, which means whatever you find in the food court is fair game, right? And oh, what an appetizing alley! Italian sausages, steak sandwiches, and slushies abound, and those are just the sumptuous choices that begin with the letter S. The vendors change every year, so there are always some great surprises to be found, often served on a stick.
The Central Florida Fair doesn’t take palates prisoner; rather, it rounds up food vendors with an outlaw attitude. Who else but a bandit baker would construct a Chicken and Waffles Pizza—savory flatbread topped with fried chicken, waffle bits, bacon, mozzarella, and, naturally, maple syrup? It may not be July 4th but that doesn’t mean you can’t light off a Firecracker Corn on the Cob—roasted corn submerged in queso cheese then slathered with hot and spicy cheese puffs. Talk about a taste explosion!
Central Florida Fair foodies waiting for the annual gastronomic gala spend the rest of the year trolling Instagram for their favorite foods of fantasy. Fortunately, many fair cooks have become celebrity chefs in their own right thanks to social media. You might get treated to the Surf-N-Turf Sundae, named Best Fair Entrée at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair.This delectable doozy melds French fries, warm cheese, sour cream, and thick-cut bacon and—wait for it—tops the mélange with sirloin steak and sautéed Cajun shrimp. Now that’s food fusion.
Sundaes of all sorts are trending in 2019. Check out the Southern Catfish Sundae, made up of French fries, southern-fried catfish, and a spicy southern remoulade sauce. Remoulade sauce at a fair? This is not your grandparents’ midway. Traditionalists needn’t worry, though; there’ll always be strawberry shortcake. Only now, the fresh strawberries are blended into a cheesecake filling, which is frozen, dipped in batter, and deep fried then topped with whipped cream and, because strawberry shortcake should be sweet, strawberry frosting. Watching the pastry maker fit the whole thing on a stick is worth the purchase price alone.
Remember when deep-fried Oreos seemed outrageous? Well, the alchemy never ends. Deep-fried Velvet Oreos were a hit a couple of years ago. Perhaps this year will bring deep-fried Coke, deep-fried pizza, deep-fried ice cream, deep-fried Snickers bars and, of course, deep-fried pickles. (These cured cukes are hardly the first fair fare to graduate onto gastropub menus.) Then, when you think you’ve tasted it all, dip into some deep-fried butter. Seriously!
One of the most fun parts of tripping down the fair food lane is to see what some genius of the deep fryer will create next. It’s like living next door to a cross between Dr. Frankenstein and Martha Stewart. Recent “discoveries” have included deep-fried jelly beans, bubblegum, Kool-Aid, and beer. Deep-fried sugar cubes? Sure, in Texas. Deep-fried scorpion? Where else but Arizona? (They’re served plain or dipped in chocolate.) One recent deep-fried experiment you won’t want to miss: deep-fried ice cream sandwich. Just kidding. Really, though, take a look at the deep-fried ice cream cheeseburger, a burger with all the toppings covered with a slice of ice cream that’s covered with cinnamon and cornflakes (?) then dunked in the deep fryer.
Of course, folks have been fryin’ alligator for centuries, but this is the Central Florida Fair, so be on the lookout for blackened gator burgers, the perfect complement to a bowl of gator gumbo. You can always go traditional with fried gator on a stick, if you prefer. Whether you prefer steak sundaes, cheesy enchilada funnel cake, or both, make a date to see what’s on the menu at the 2019 Central Florida Fair in Orlando, February 28–March 17. No reservations required.