I joked with Alibi reviewer Ari LeVaux once that I don't know how he comes up with so many words about food each week. If you ask me to evaluate a restaurant, I will probably mention three criteria, the only benchmarks by which I evaluate the edible.
-Cheap or expensive
-Spicy or not spicy
-Soggy or crispy (This last one is optional, but when it matters, it matters a lot.)
Still, I'm going to try my hand at describing in lurid detail my favorite genre of all cuisine—State Fair fare.
When I enter the grounds, I'm on a mission. I need to get to that Casa de Fruta stand, and I need to order a chile relleno dog. This is such a longstanding tradition for me, that though I've tried to eat mostly vegan this year, I buy this cheese and meat speared by a skinny popsicle stick anyway. It's a heat gamble. Some C.R. dogs clear out my sinuses, and some I would feed to an infant, if that infant were good about not killing itself with popsicle sticks.
2010's annual fair fav is medium hot, with just the right amount of melted cheese inside and a plump dog in the middle. All of this is encased in deep-fried corn batter, which is crispy and a little nutty. You would expect heavy grease, but it's actually not so bad. I could eat 10 more, but I'm a lady.
As soon as I'm done with my chile relleno dog, I can turn right back around and leave the damn fair; that seems a waste of a multi-dollar parking fee. But truly, this is the fair's masterwork. It's perfect. I'm glad I don't know where they sell the chile relleno dog in town. Though childless, I'd be the brunt of the next decade's yo mama jokes.
I move on to experience various flavors of physics, my own personal self strapped into life-threatening machines by distracted, sunburned carneys.
Fear works up an appetite, so I go in for another round. Today is the great green chile cheeseburger contest (champion: ABQ Brew Pub), so I have ground beef on the brain. I make a mistake though, my friends—I buy my hamburger from a midway stand. The crinkled patty is about half the size of the bread, a small, dark circle in a large droopy bun the color of sateen coffin-liner. These cooks must have studied with the same kitchen legends who created APS' salisbury steak.
But I eat it because it cost $7. No amount of ketchup will save this thing. Have you ever noticed that the foods with the most brilliant color are used to salvage the foods with no color?
I am super bummed. My midway error, more than digging a black hole into my wallet, also means I have less body space for real fair grub.
I try three flavors of aguas frescas. Judging the relative fullness of the serving jugs, it would appear that most consumers foolishly avoid my favorites. Nevermind your sweet tea and lemonade. You've got to go for the cantaloup and pineapple juices, and horchata. The cantaloup is the clear victor, a mellow, semi-sweet tone that hits you just right. The homespun horchata is nothing to sneeze at, silky and rich. And the pineapple juice ... just ... damn. Tangy, not too acidic, and it tastes like a slice of pineapple cut fresh. No artificial whatever. Beautiful gold color, too.
Make sure you ask the aquas frescas stand for their smaller $3 version if you don't want to pay $5 for a plastic take-home cup with a bendy straw. It's not advertised, but it's there.
I make my way to the Moriarty sweet corn booth. Roasted corn is gorgeous, and with a little parmesan and garlic powder and seasoning salt, forget it. Watch out with that seasoning salt though. It looks all orange, like a spice you can use a lot of, but it is damn salty. (I may have just made all the people who cook on a regular basis chuckle. Some of us primarily consume food that's birthed by a microwave. You skilled snobs, you. Now make me an egg.)
Since I'm in the neighborhood, I polish the night off with a red chile brisket burrito, adding in sour cream. The fantastic service and well-cooked eats don't make up for the fact that this is sloppy Joe's first cousin. It's harsh to make judgments based on family. But the resemblance, well ...
Since I can't afford to eat until next week after spending literally tens of dollars at the fair, I'm going on a fast, after which I will resume my veganity. And I'm going to take up ultra-marathoning. And I'm going to be a better person generally.