Sunday, September 18, 2011

If it's fried, it must be at the Big E

Today we made the pilgrimage to The Big E, the multi-state state fair in Western Mass, to do two things:

1) Eat disgusting fried food
2) Check out the farm animals

Let's take them in reverse order.

Cows!

Cows at the Big E 2011

Sheep!

Sheep at the Big E 2011

Woolly and naked sheep!

Before and after

Mexican wrestler sheep!

Mexican wrestler sheep

Just-back-from-jazzercise sheep!

Stylin' sheeps at the Big E 2011

Real Sheep of Beverly Hills!

Stylin' sheeps at the Big E 2011

Okay, enough of that. Now to the food.

One of my goals was to find a place selling deep-fried butter, which debuted at the Texas State Fair in 2009, hit Iowa earlier this year and finally (finally!) showed up on the East Coast.

Butter? Meh! How about this?

The Big E 2011

It was a tough decision, but we opted for the butter and the Kool-Aid.

Deep-fried butter and Kool-Aid at the Big E 2011

The latter, it turned out, would be easy to replicate at home: the secret ingredient is Kool-Aid powder in the batter, with a generous amount shaken like sugar over the dough while it's still hot. Inside, they're a stunning color not found in nature.

Deep-fried Kool-Aid at the Big E 2011

And they were pretty good; the slightly tart flavor of the drink powder gave a nice contrast to the sweet dough.

And then to the other. The secret is to freeze the pats of butter so that they don't immediately soak into the dough. There's a pool of hot, cinnamon-sugary butter inside each ball, which means you have to eat them very carefully.

Deep-fried butter at the Big E 2011

I liked the butter better; The Boy had expected a more salty, savory taste, so preferred the hot pink variety. Neither of us felt the need to eat anything else for a while.

After a couple of hours of sheep/cow/piglet/chicken/goat-gazing, however, we were ready for more. In particular, I had my eye on something I'd seen advertised in previous years but never tried: the Craz-E Burger.

All I knew was that you could buy t-shirts that said something like, "I finished the Craz-E burger!" which led me to assume it was either so huge, or so rich, or so labor-intensive to devour that the few who did so were hailed as champions.

Now I realize that it's because the Craz-E burger is crap.

Thing is, when I think "bacon-cheeseburger inside a doughnut," I imagine a hot, fragrant Krispy Kreme, fresh out of the oven, glistening with melted sugar, enveloping a patty of sirloin, cooked medium. The cheese is melting onto the meat; the bacon is crisp. The flavors dance together, varying levels of sweetness and saltiness playing off each other, creating a perfectly balanced whole.

This is what we got.

The Big E's Craz-E burger. It was awful.

The Big E's Craz-E burger. It was awful.

The doughnut was cold, the meat was gray, the cheese probably didn't even possess the capacity to melt. And yes, maybe I shouldn't have expected more from something served up at a state fair, but still. It was sad.

Thank goodness happiness was close by.

The Big E 2011

Fried cheese curds

Hot, salty, with a crisp batter and perfectly soft cheese.

Then, as we have on previous visits, we headed to the houses of the individual New England states for dessert: rich, eggy Finnish pancakes with blueberry sauce;

Finnish pancakes with blueberry sauce

and fresh raspberries.

Raspberries

And then, just because: a piece of bacon covered in dark chocolate. That's how you do the sweet-salty thing.

Chocolate-covered bacon

All in all, a fun trip, though not one we need to make again for another couple of years. The attractions were pretty much the same as on our previous visit (we later realized we'd taken photos of the exact same food stalls in 2009 as we did in 2011), and state-fair-food trends move so gradually that we're not likely to miss out on the next deep-fried delicacy if we skip a season.

Though I can't say the same about the spring line of sheep fashion ...

Stylin' sheeps at the Big E 2011

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