County fairs are not for the faint of heart. They take stamina, sunscreen, a willingness to be a serious gourmand and, for those determined to plunge into a deep fried food-induced coma, plenty of antacid.
The Orange County Fair opened Friday with massive crowds and vats of hot oil. Each year the food vendors do their best to out-fry and out-hype one another, providing fair-goers with some truly innovative gut-busting treats. A deep-fried avocado or churro filled with butter may sound like an overindulgence, but at the fair it's just lunch.
Here are three of the wackiest new fried foods you'll want to look out for this year. The fair runs until Aug. 10, so you'll have plenty of time for summer gluttony. You can also check them out in the video above.
Bacon-wrapped Jack Daniel's
Mike Peterson, owner of Bacon A-Fair, the bacon-centric fair vendor, wanted to push the limit this year, so he created the bacon-wrapped Jack Daniel's. No, it's not a bottle of Jack Daniel's wrapped in bacon, although that would be fun. Peterson hollows out a churro with a wooden stick, then injects it with a half shot of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey. The churro is then rolled in sugar, wrapped in bacon, then put on the grill to render the bacon fat. Each churro is $6.50 and comes with a dollop of whipped cream and syrup.
When you bite into the churro, the first thing you taste is the bacon, which gets just caramelized enough with the sugar from the churro. And the churro itself could easily double as thick slabs of French toast. The Jack Daniel's is subtle in some bites and almost pungent in others, depending on where the churro received its alcohol injection. With the syrup, it almost tastes like breakfast. And about the alcohol, it cooks out, so Peterson says it's safe to feed to the kids.
He's also added a beer-battered, fried bacon-wrapped turkey leg to the menu this year. You know, in case you're hungry after your whiskey churro.
Chicken Charlie's owner Charlie Boghosian and his brother Tony are known for deep-frying everything. And when we say everything, we mean anything from cookie dough to frogs' legs. This year, in their quest for the next great deep-fried food, Tony says he and his brother tried frying Fig Newtons, Rice Krispie treats and a slew of other foods before deciding on Doritos. Yes, they took already-fried Nacho Cheese-Flavored Doritos, tossed them in a fish-and-chips-style batter and fried them. A basket of fried, fried chips is $8.75 and comes with a cup of ranch dressing. Well, you need something to dip them in, don't you?
The batter is almost translucent, allowing the chips to retain their signature orange hue. Depending on how much batter ends up on your chips, some of them can taste like a doughnut, with a Doritos surprise inside. I think we just found Homer Simpson's dream snack.
Pop Rocks Doughnuts
There's a reason why the doughnuts at the Texas Donuts booths are called Texas doughnuts. Just one of these monstrous, deep fried rings of dough is enough to feed four. And this year, owner Rich Brander is looking to elicit even more oohs and aahs then ever. He's introduced three new flavors, but the one that takes the cake is the Pop Rocks doughnut. Revert to your 12-year-old self and order this classic glazed doughnut topped with enough pink cherry icing to satisfy the most severe of sweet tooths and what appears to be at least a package or two of Pop Rocks candy.
Each bite is a time machine back to the schoolyard. That nostalgic sensation of crackling, sparkling candy on your tongue? It's there with every bite. Couple that with the fluffy glazed doughnut underneath and you'll be lost in a sugar-filled daze until you lick the last bits of frosting off your sticky fingers.
And if you're game to try the other flavors, there's a doughnut with chocolate frosting and chunks of Reese's cups, and another filled with Bavarian cream and topped with chocolate frosting, slices of banana and crushed peanuts.
88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, (714) 708-1500, www.ocfair.com.
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