New culinary creations debut at fairgrounds

Some people historically come to the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa to taste the newest deep-fried cuisine. This year was no exception as thousands crowded the fairgrounds on Saturday, searching for the latest culinary offerings.

New to the fair is the "Bacon A-Fair" stand, which stands on the site of the former the Deep Fried Butter Stand. The re imagined stand now attracts foodies and fair goers alike who come for their favorite bacon-inspired dishes.

In addition to crowd favorites like chocolate covered bacon, owners Mike and Brittney Peterson have added more unique items to their menu.

First off, their deep-fried, beer-battered, bacon-wrapped hot dog comes in regular and jumbo sizes. The dish is 100% beef, beer-battered, wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and then served with nacho cheese sauce.

"I thought it was going to be a lot greasier, but it's not. It's really good," Kimberly Peterson, manager of the Bacon A-Fair stand said. "I was surprised."

The stand also touts the "Smokey Porkabello," which is a bacon-wrapped mushroom stuffed with smoked Gouda cheese and grilled to perfection.

"I picked it, because I like bacon and a mushroom seems healthier than other stuff," Lake Forest resident Grace Kane said. "The outside is this smoky, crispy bacon, but the inside is the juicy mushroom. But, you don't feel as guilty as eating something with lots of meat and fries. It's a healthy choice."

Fair goers Andy Tuy and Lessley Negrete decided to try the new 2-pound bacon-wrapped turkey leg, dubbed The Caveman Club, that is smoked for hours and served with fries.

"It's super juicy," Negrete said. "The bacon is really good. The flavors blend together really well. I didn't think that was possible. I'm not a fan of turkey leg, but this just changed my mind."

"Actually the bacon is really crispy," Tuy added. "I expected it to be soggy, but it had a really great texture all around. Because usually when you wrap something, it will be soggy on the bottom and crispy on the top."

Chicken Charlie's has been at Southern California fairs for over twenty years and is famous for its outrageous deep-fried dishes. Fair favorites include deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, Klondike bars, and Kool-Aid, according to manager Arturo Aldama.

New items feature deep-fried peanut butter and jelly, Trix candy bars and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal bars.

The bars are dipped in Charlie's secret sweet pancake batter, fried in oil for one minute, and then coated in syrup and powdered sugar, Aldama said.

"I try the newest thing at the fair every year, Anaheim resident Jinsun Le said. It [the deep-fried cereal] tastes like a crunchy, cinnamon doughnut."

However, her fair companion Fullerton resident Joel Kim found the concoction rather unappetizing, calling it "nasty, oily, and greasy."

Santa Ana resident and admitted PB&J-lover; Adanari Zarate ordered a deep-fried Smucker's strawberry Uncrustable topped with strawberry jelly and powdered sugar.

"It's okay," Zarate said. "The peanut butter is like cookie dough. It's really good."

This year, Chicken Charlie's opened up its' fourth stand, Pineapple Express, which serves half pineapples filled with shrimp cocktail, grilled shrimp, chicken, and more. The bowl prices range from $13-$14 each.

"We've expanded a lot." said Tony Boghosian, manager and brother of owner Charlie Boghosian. "We love to invent and we love to come up with new food, but we always do all of the fried stuff.

"But, we wanted to do something a little different. We wanted to do something a little healthier, like dinner meals."

Another item making its debut at the new Pineapple Express cart is deep fried pineapple with chocolate, shredded dried coconut and pineapple covered and fried in Chicken Charlie's sweet batter. The taste is reminiscent of a macaroon or pineapple upside-down cake.

There's also deep-fried spam, which is dipped in a savory batter, fried, and then topped with a pineapple garnish. It sounds horrid, but the taste is pleasantly surprising.

New fair vendor Biggy's Meat Market has a new item on their menu, as well — The Big Rib, a two-pound beef rib on a 17-inch bone with a choice of smoky, zesty garlic, or spicy homemade barbecue sauce.

According to creator and owner Dominic Palmieri, the meat is slow smoked in a rotisserie pit, finished over a mesquite grill, and then marinated.

"Women come up and they'll order it and they just love it," supervisor Kelly Bishop said. "We were surprised, because we thought it would be more of a man thing."

Orange County residents Mark Achten and Jim Wright tackled the gigantic rib smothered in smoky barbecue sauce.

"It's nice and moist, has a very good flavor, [and its] tender," Achten said. "It's very good — Lordy, lordy."

With so many new food offerings debuting at the OC Fair this year, the 2012 season could go down as the tastiest in history.

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