In the deep-fried world of county fair cuisine, Veronica Ferencz of San Clemente knows it is better to have nibbled than not to have nibbled at all.
On Sunday, Ferencz joined daughter Katie, 16, for a trip down "Maalox aisle" at the Orange County Fair. They had money to burn and food to buy.
First on their list was the chicken-Krispy Kreme sandwich -- honest, that's what it's called. It's a concoction developed not in test kitchens but in the minds of two burly dudes over at Chicken Charlie's.
"We just came up with the idea when we were in line at Krispy Kreme," said owner Charlie Boghosian, who works the county fair circuit with manager Jerald Smith.
The $4.95 dish is "sort of a marriage," Smith said. It combines a chicken breast and Swiss cheese inside two slices of a glazed doughnut. It's served with a packet of sweet honey.
"It's a lot like eating sweet chicken," said Jacob Slaughter, 22, of Costa Mesa. Slaughter's buddy Seal McCarter, 21, said, "It's why I come to the fair."
OK, so you won't find it in Gourmet magazine. But Smith and Boghosian had to come up with a headliner this year after Bill Birkhead over at Baja Blues restaurant raised the bar with last year's deep-fried avocado.
He took half an avocado, stuffed it with carne asada and cheese, dipped it in a thin batter and deep-fried the whole thing.
After all, it's fair fare -- America's gastronomic clearinghouse, a pageant for everything edible from kielbasa to cotton candy.
In fact, the concoctions are no longer relegated to the margins of the food world. Fried Snickers bars, fried Twinkies and deep-fried Oreos are devoured at county fairs nationwide, said veteran food service worker Tommie Fomby.
"I think part of it is the atmosphere. A corn dog tastes just so much better at the fair," she said.
Usually, people are watching their waistlines and cholesterol, Fomby said. "But at the fair, you let yourself have that privilege."
For fairgoers like Ferencz and her daughter, being there is seriously fun business. "We came to eat our way through the fair," Ferencz said.
In unison, they quickly checked off the day's fare ahead: "We're going to get corn dogs, then funnel cake and swing by for some Texas barbecue."
The fair runs through Sunday.