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State Fair of Texas 2023: Let's power-rank the fair foods!
Line your stomach and make sure you know where the nearest Port-A-Potty is, it's time to eat some fair food
Big ol’ welcome to the waves of you who found us through last week’s Jimmy Buffett story. Glad you’re here!
The state fair exists in a world outside space and time, a world where calories and common sense don’t matter. If, in your normal workweek day, someone came up to you and offered you bacon-fried Gummi bears glazed with a sriracha mayo-red wine reduction, you’d edge away from them slowly and avoid making eye contact. But at a state fair, with radiant heat, jangling carnival music and faint suspicious smells all around, that sounds not only delicious, but mandatory.
The State Fair of Texas is an entire month-long array of unwise food choices, a cascade of fried dough and unholy combinations. I’m sure there are crazy bastards who eat every one of the three dozen new foods introduced every year — and if you are one of those, by all means, let us know — but the rest of us can only look on and marvel from a distance. Two years ago, we sized up the 2021 fair’s brilliance, which included Bacon Jam Corn Bombs and Deep Fried Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls. Last year, we ranked 2022 offerings that included a Deep Fried Lasagna Roll and a Fried Charcuterie Board.
This year’s State Fair features 33 taste-tempting, gut-annihilating new foods, and you can read about every single one of them right here. (Warning: Just reading that will add two inches to your waistline.) I’m going to run down my snap-judgment favorites, derived from a highly scientific rating system that ranges from “Hell yeah, I’d eat that” to “I would trade away my children for more of that.” Let’s ride.
First, in the “Also receiving votes” section, we have Deep Fried Candy Pecan Bacon Bread Pudding, Deep Fried Sushi Bombs, and Churreos. Now, your top 10:
Deep Fried Texas Oatmeal Pie: From the “too much is never enough” school: An oatmeal cream pie dipped into Dr. Pepper-flavored pancake batter, fried, drizzled with red soda reduction, covered with marshmallow sauce, dusted with powdered sugar. Good lord.
Fruity Pebble Pickle: It’s a pickle wrapped in a fruit roll-up and coated with Fruity Pebbles. If you are craving this, you are pregnant and/or insane.
Big Texan: Big mess. Fries or tots covered with cheese sauce, brisket, bacon and barbecue sauce. You’ll be licking the wrapper here, guaranteed.
Deep Fried Birria Bomb: Birria, cheese and mashed potatoes battered, fried and topped with ranch dressing and cilantro. Wait, cilantro is green, right? That counts as a vegetable!
Fried Texas BBQ Shotgun Shells: Brisket and Velveeta wrapped in pasta and bacon and slathered with jalapeño breadcrumbs. Protected by the Second Amendment, but possibly not the Geneva Convention.
Creole Étouffée Beignets: Onions, bell peppers, celery, shrimp, sausage, steamed rice, balled up and fried in beignet batter. So New Orleans, you’ll be lecturing outsiders on how to pronounce “étouffée” after you eat it.
Cornbread Sausage Bombs: The State Fair notes that this dish represents “the four major Texas food groups: cornbread, smoked sausage, pimento cheese, and jalapeño.” Can’t argue with that. Sometimes you just run it straight up the gut.
Fried Cacio E Pepe: Earlier this year, I had the good fortune of dining in the Roman restaurant Anthony Bourdain proclaimed as the home of the greatest cacio e pepe in the world. It’s now officially the second-greatest.
Fried Fireball Shot: Angel food cake dunked in Fireball. Serve this at your next kid’s birthday party for guaranteed hilarity.
Butcher’s Block: The meat singularity! Atop a bed of mac and cheese, this beauty includes smoked brisket, fried chicken, candied bacon, jalapeño peppers and sausage, drizzled with brown sugar chipotle sauce. Mother of God.
You’d have to eat salad right up until next year’s State Fair if you tried all these, but it’d be so worth it. Bravo, Texas.
Your turn: Which one of these would you devour like a last meal? Make your case.
Song of the Week: ‘A Cat in the Rain,’ Turnpike Troubadours
After spending so much time in Texas above, let’s jump across the border to Oklahoma, home of the Americana-rockin’ Turnpike Troubadours. One of my qualifications for good music is that it must sound good played from a car stereo on an open road, and this hits that mark dead-center. Evocative, spiraling lyrics — “You can try to put the past behind / It’s on your clothes like burning pine” — plus aching fiddle plus chugging grove make for a damn fine tune. Stream it above, and check out the ever-growing F&AB Spotify playlist.
What’s your favorite song these days? Old or new, don’t matter. Hit us up here with some new listening.
Menu of the Week
Back by popular request, it’s Menu of the Week! Here’s one from back when I went to China for the 2022 Winter Olympics. This was the “Winners’ Menu” from the Pizza Hut inside the Secret Garden Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou. The pizza was unremarkable, and I didn’t try the “Spaghetti Bolognase/Baked Rice With Goulash.” But what I wish to draw your attention to is the “New Orleans Wings.” You’ll note that they are all perfectly symmetrical, uniform little cylinders. Moreover, there is no identification of exactly what animal these wings came from. Chicken? Pigeon? Bat? Some horrific crime-against-nature lab creation? My bet’s on that last one.
As Alabama as it gets
I’ve discussed in this space before the great joy that comes from reading one-star Yelp reviews on a long road trip. Here’s a beauty from a Burger King in Alabama. I’m not even going to prime you, just read it:
Holy crap! Where do we even begin? In this one tiny graf, we have:
Rat in salad
Rat was groggy from getting shaken in salad
THIS GUY ATE THE SALAD ANYWAY
AGAIN, HE ATE RAT-LADEN SALAD
That last line might be the greatest tag line in history
Love you, Alabama.
That’ll do it for this week, my friends. Enjoy the fall weather, wherever you are, and we’ll see you back here next week. Plan is to do something a touch more serious, but plans always change.
Get the rats outta that thang,
Land Cat, Georgia
This is issue #106 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. If you’re new around here, jump right to our most-read stories, or check out some of our recent hits:
Jimmy Buffett: The partygoers leave, but the party goes on
I tried Chick-Fil-A’s Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich and lived to tell the tale
The spooky tale of The Witch Girl of Crittenden County
What does “Flashlight & A Biscuit” mean, anyway?
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Not gonna lie, I nailed the spelling from memory. That trip is burned into my brain.