Fun Foods of the LA County Fair!
By Mike Anderson
“Did you take your heartburn medicine?” my wife knowingly asked as I left to indulge in the LA County Fair food preview. As a born-and-raised Midwesterner my veins run (slowly) with fryer oil and cheese sauce, so I was dubious that Los Angeles, home of the “Quinoa-and-Air salad” would satisfy me. After a quick zip down the 210, I arrived at the Pomona Fairplex, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Los Angeles State Fair was every bit of gluttonously glorious as the fairs of my youth.
Ah the decadent cornucopia of the Fair. U-S-A! U-S-A!!
Frankly, I don’t know why they call it a “Fair.” It’s way better than “fair.” They should call it the “LA County Super-Duper-Amazing-Put-On-Your-Loose-Pants-and-Stuff-Your-Face-With-Awesomeness-Celebration” But I suppose that wouldn’t fit on a billboard…. And yes, luckily I had taken my heartburn medicine.
Yes, that is a light-up neon board. Chicken Charlie’s is hard to miss…
I was first greeted by the, er, subtle booth of Chicken Charlie’s.
It’s a mecca for zany food experiments as loud as the booth itself (i.e the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger).
Chicken Charlie “The Mad Genius” on the left, Chicken Gerald on the right.
But they‘re more than gimmicks; everything was perfectly fried, coated in light, fluffy, crisp batter by Chicken Charlie, whom his brother, Chicken Gerald, referred to as a “Mad Genius.” Think: a blue collar José Andrés.
That mad genius has come up with some unusual combinations- like the divisive deep-fried peanut-butter pickle.
That’s right. No typo…. PEANUT BUTTER FRIED PICKLE!
I’ll say it again: PEANUT BUTTER FRIED PICKLE!!!
I joked that it sounded like a maternity craving, and Charlie laughed, “Well, yeah. I got the idea from my pregnant wife.”
Mike Vs. Peanut Butter Fried Pickle!
The salty-sweet peanut butter actually played well with the briny pickle. I loved it for all its weirdness.
The whole lineup: (Left to Right) Deep Fried Avocado (With Ranch of course) Deep Fried Slim-Fast Bar, Bacon-Fried Chicken and Waffles, and the infamous Peanut Butter Fried Pickle
The rest of their tasting menu was equally playful: fried chicken and waffles with bacon, fried guacamole, and even a fried Slim-Fast bar. At first I thought that was just clever whimsy, but the bar is crunchy like a Rice Krispie, so buried inside the warm pillow of breading makes for a satisfying texture.
Like a tropical vacation in your mouth!
However, their most popular new item isn’t fried: the pineapple chicken bowl. They halve a pineapple, chunk the insides, then fill it with their spicy-sweet Maui chicken and rice.
From Right to Left: Regular, Jalapeño Cheese, Parmesan Garlic, and Bacon Cheese
Then I waddled on to Tasti Chips and Tasti Burger from Lori’s Concessions. Sure, fried potatoes aren’t necessarily rocket science. But I can’t tell you how many times I get a plate of greasy, soggy fries. Not at Tasti Chips! They nail it! Freshly fried crisps drenched in your choice of topping: including Parmesan Garlic and Bacon Cheese. I chose the spicy Jalapeño Cheese.
I paired the chips with the new Tasti burger offering- the Cuban Fusion. If you’re like me and have trouble choosing between a Cuban sandwich and a burger- NOW YOU DON’T HAVE TO BECAUSE AMERICA IS A MAGICAL PLACE WHERE YOU CAN PUT THEM BOTH ON A BUN!
The Cuban Fusion Burger: Toasted Talera Roll Chipotle Mayo, Patty, Swiss Cheese, Ham, Tomato and Pickle. What’s not to like?!
I loosened a belt loop and moved on to the LA institution Pink’s Hot Dogs.
And I do mean BIG on flavor. 1/4 pound big. And that’s before you add your fixin’s…
First up was the new 1/4 pound jalapeño dog, mild on heat but big on flavor.
More dogs than that Disney movie with the Dalmatians.
I perused the wall of celebrity photos and managed to make room for the Emeril inspired “Bam” dog, with spicy mustard, onions, American cheese, jalapenos, bacon & coleslaw, and the German “Colonel Klink” with a mountain of sauerkraut and pastrami. All of it was delectable, but my favorite part was the simple beef link itself, with its famously crisp casing.
By this point I had the meat-sweats in the September sun, so it was time for some libations. I stopped by the Michelagua truck, which is just what it sounds like: An Agua Fresca meets a Michelada, because life is amazing. Upon the recommendation of Rudy, the gentleman working, I tried Spinach Pineapple.
Rudy: the man, the myth, the Michelagua purveyor.
Don’t worry, the spinach is just there for nutritional value (And the cool color) it’s totally overpowered by refreshing pineapple and the spicy chili rim!
I resisted dunking my whole face in the ice bath, because I’m classy like that.
Now I was ready for grown up fun at the LA wine festival booth. I opted for Fancy Pants Sauvignon Blanc. (“Fancy Pants” is the brand name, though I also felt pretty fancy pants having wine at the fair.) It had pleasant grapefruit and melon notes balanced by the crisp tartness that cut all the heavy food nicely.
Look, Ma! Vegetables! Left: Curried Chicken Salad on Croisssant, Right: Goat Cheese Pecan Salad with House-Made Apple Chips.
However, as I quickly learned after turning 30, one sadly cannot live on fried meat and cheese alone. That’s why this year there’s a new addition, The Twisted Sage Café. They’re focused on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. My tummy thanked me for including some vegetables before I headed home for a nap.
The Tron Lightcycle in Popnology Exhibit
Doc Brown’s DeLorean: The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?
Overall it was a successful first, but definitely not last day at the fair. I’m looking forward to the non-gastronomical attractions, like Popnology.
It’s a hands-on exhibit showcasing how pop culture has impacted technology: Star Trek communicators and smart phones, Doc Brown’s Delorean, the Batmobile, an Oculus rift, and more!
I’m also curious about Luminasia, a breath-taking celebration of enormous Chinese lantern art. The preview photos look unbelievably stunning:
This looks like a real HIGHLIGHT… get it?!
Yes, that’s the sound of my jaw dropping.
So treat yourself and head on down to Pomona and the LA County Fair September 4-27th. I highly recommend drinking plenty of water and bringing friends and family to split some of these delicious gut-busters with you!
You’ll love it!
Opens today in Pamona, CA, through September 27, 2015.
EncinoMom is proud to be an official LA County Fair Ambassador!