Best of the Worst of the Fair
Flavors that linger
By Ty Bannerman
The 2012 State Fair has come and gone. Noisy throngs of families and teenagers, thugs and senior citizens have fled the exhibition grounds. The lights of the midway are dark, and the prostitute population has plummeted to its pre-fair levels. And yet, something of the fair remains deep inside many of us who traversed its carnival chaos.
Or maybe that's just me. A crack team of iron-stomached eating enthusiasts and I spent a Sunday night scouring the fair's booths for the most grotesque and oddball foodstuffs we could find. Sure, anyone can sample a donut burger once at the fair, but we did our damnedest to try a bit of everything. At least until the reflux set in. Here’s the best, and the worst, of what you may have missed:
Let this item stand in for a whole genre of fair fare: the seemingly endless buffet of deep fried junk food that runs the gamut from Twinkies to Fruity Pebbles to Mars Bars.
The Experience: I admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the fried Oreo. It was warm and soft and more like a morsel of chocolate cake than a battered-up sandwich cookie has any right to be. It actually tasted wholesome, like something your incredibly large grandmother might make.
And yet, something of the fair remains deep inside many of us who traversed its carnival chaos.
Nausea Factor: 0
Chile Relleno Dog
This is the New Mexico State Fair so, of course, some grotesqueries feature our beloved green chile. I opted to try one of my favorite dishes, chile rellenos, in hot dog form.
The Experience: I had hoped for a chile’s fire and flavor nestled around the tried-and-true goodness of an American hot dog. Instead, the chile was bland and heatless, and the batter was soggy and chewy.
Nausea Factor: 3
Donut Bacon Burger
According to legend, R&B singer Luther Vandross unleashed this horror on the world. It is exactly what it sounds like: a beef patty and two slices of bacon smushed between a glazed donut bun. According to the cashier, it's a popular item, although repeat customers are rare.
The Experience: Oh god, oh no, oh god. I had one bite of this monstrosity, and for a split second, the world went dark. The salt of the bacon and the sweet of the donut combined with the beef and the sticky cheese to send urgent contradictory taste information to my brain. I didn't take a second bite. Nor will I. Ever.
Nausea Factor: 5
I lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation for a time, and my go-to association for the words "rez dog" is one of the mangy, boney curs that I often found in my backyard. When I saw this item listed on the menu in the Indian Village, I swallowed hard, paid my money and visualized the worst.
The Experience: To my delight, the Rez Dog was a high-quality hot dog served with lettuce and tomato and red or green chile on a pillow of fry bread. And it was everything I wanted a New Mexico State Fair meal to be. So much so, in fact, that it's hardly fair to put it in the same column as the Donut Burger.
Nausea Factor: 1 (due to name)
And so, the 236 acres of Expo New Mexico return to their quiet emptiness, autumn deepens over our city, and slowly, surely, our stomachs will settle.
Until next year, when the fair returns. Look for me in the Indian Village with a Rez Dog on my lap.
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