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Thursday, June 6, 2013

The BEST and WORST Things to Eat at the San Diego Fair 2013

Some people spend their Spring dieting and working out so they look good at the beach.  Not me.  I work out so I can blow it all in one day eating everything I want at the San Diego Fair.  Cholesterol?  Calories?  Deep Fried?  Forgetaboutit!  For one day the foodie demons take a vacation and I'm eating like John Candy on vacation.  Some of it was good, some of it excellent, so let me guide you to the best and worst things to eat at the San Diego Fair 2013.

MONEY SAVING TIP:  On Tuesdays from 11am to 5pm you can get tasting portions for only $2.  Now you can try it all and pig out without breaking the piggy bank!

But before we dive into the food (and I mean really dive in), check out all the ticket and event promotions before you go.  And don't forget to check out the concerts and shows, most of them free with admission.  With acts as varied as The Beach Boys to Train, David Cassidy to Colbie Caillat to The Steve Miller Band, there's plenty of entertainment to please everyone in the family.  But you came here for the food so let's eat.

Who can resist stopping at one of the first food booths to pick up an ear of BBQ'd corn?  Cooking corn on a grill is harder than it looks so you have to give props to these guys who nail it year after year.  Add some hot sauce and seasoning salt and you have one of the best "no-guilt" eats, a winner year after year and a good way to start your San Diego Fair culinary adventure.

This year bacon is huge at the fair - there's even a Bacon Festival for those of you who can't get enough belly in your belly.  That's good news for the popular Bacon A-fair folks who know a thing or two about bacon.  This year there's BBQ'd boar wrapped in bacon kebobs with fresh pineapple and veggies.  Though the idea of boar might sound scarey to some, the flavor isn't much different from beef and the kebob as good as if you did it yourself in your backyard.  A winner!

From the same folks who brought you the killer bacon wrapped boar comes this strange but true creation - Bacon Root Beer!  People were standing in line for this but after one sip I'm not sure why.  Some claimed that their root beer had real bacon flavoring to it but mine was like, well, a root beer where the school bully tossed in some crumbled bacon in it when I wasn't looking.  This proves that bacon does not make everything better.  Try it at your own risk!

Since we're on the topic of weird bacon edibles, The Candy Factory in the infield has - wait for it - Bacon Cotton Candy!  It's such an insane idea that you might think it could work but the jury is still out.  I actually liked it but my wife pretty much made noises like she was being choked by Homer Simpson so I suggest you buy it for the kids ("it's all they had, sorry son") and taste it for yourself.  Mmmmm, bacon??  You decide.

Let's get back to the land of deliciousness with some Australian Battered Potatoes.  I avoided these for years as the idea of a battered deep fried potato seemed redundant but man was I wrong.  With its crispy exterior and cooked to perfection potato-y goodness, it's one of the best things to get at the San Diego Fair.  Top it with some ranch dressing and bacon (why not?) and it's deep fat heaven.  Incredible, don't miss! 

If you need more fried foods then head over to Totally Fried (aka Chicken Charlies).  The bacon wrapped pickle gets mixed reviews (it's good, just not as good as you think it should be) but the deep fried pineapple was the bomb.  These guys pretty much deep fry anything (check to make sure the chef has all fingers when ordering) and if your blood pressure needs a little lift, this is the place.  I make it an essential stop every time and so should you.

Every year someone goes over the top creating something so odd that you have to at least try it and Totally Fried has a Krispy  Kreme donut filled with sloppy joe filling.  You do this on Chopped and you get chopped but let's be honest, it wasn't bad!  OK, it got a bit sweet (it could have used some bacon - seriously!) but I liked it and it goes beyond the freak out factor and actually becomes a pretty good snack.  Wife hated it, of course, but I think it's worth considering. 

If you like your veggies deep fried then go no further than Reno's fish and chips. Nice crisp exterior and a perfectly cooked interior, the fried zucchini is a good way to check the veggie box while not feeling like you missed out on the fat.  On the other hand their fish taco is just OK, sort of like what passes as Rubio's at Petco Park - meaning a bit soggy and overdressed. Skip that but get the veggies or fish and chips.

Amazingly, Country Fair has been making cinnamon rolls for something like 30 years and they never once thought it would be better deep fried or wrapped in bacon, which is a good thing!  This is about as close as you're going to get to grandma's cooking (unless your grandma is from Totally Fried) and every year a stop to the County Fair Cinnamon Rolls is a blast to the past - and it's oh so delicious!  Split one if you dare, or just go for it and I guarantee you won't regret it.

As much as I love the cinnamon rolls, there's just something about a deep fried dessert that gets me every time which is why Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cake wins the Best Dessert award.  Don't mess it up with the fruit toppings and God forbid that you put chocolate on it.  No, go with the basics and stick with a dusting of cinnamon sugar and life in the fat lane doesn't get much better.

There are a lot of corn dog options but my favorite are the ones from this stand - and it's not Hot Dog on a Stick.  Nothing wrong with HDOS but you can get those at any mall so I go with the real deal, the independent hot dogger who came up with the Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog on a Stick!  Brilliant!  

Dang, I had high hopes for the Gingerbread House this year.  Last year they won my favorite bite, the cookie dough on a stick.  It was deliciously simple and addictive.  This year they did a Pina Colada Parfait which is basically pineapple with coconut in a cup.  Too simple, though I would imagine with a super fresh pineapple it might fly.  They make plenty of other good stuff so don't avoid the gingerbread man, but skip the parfait.

The guy next to me said "this is the best enchilada I have ever had" so my expectations were high.  But one bite told me that Rose's Mexican Food is no Fidel's.  It's not even Taco Bell!  It's good enough if you're at the fair and have a hankering for a burrito but there's better food at the Fish Taco Palapa down the way.

I'm starting to feel a bit like Gordon Ramsey kicking people out of Hell's Kitchen but I have to call out The Ranch for their wimpy pulled pork sandwich.  Last year I loved it, a huge helping of pork with a great flavor but this year I got the recession version with the skimpiest of meat, so skimpy that I can't even remember if I liked the flavor or not.  These guys normally make great stuff and the Santa Maria tri-tip looked great so go that route if you want BBQ and you won't be disappointed.

I was expecting run of the mill sausage at Austriano's but instead got a great sausage with wonderful grilled onions.  Man oh man, this place gets my vote.  You serve this up in a hip urban setting and you'll have all the hipster foodies Yelping about how these are the best sausages in town.  Great stuff and a super nice staff.

Can you really go to the fair and not get an order of Tasti-Chips, the super fresh homemade potato chips?  I don't want to get all foodie on you but some of these things were puffed up like a pommes soufflees - I mean, really, a French restaurant would serve these up as part of a $40 entree.  Light, crisp, don't mess with them by putting Nacho sauce on them and go basic with a touch of salt.  Essential.

I know what you're thinking  - can the people responsible for frying everything from Kool-Aid to SPAM actually make a credible non-fried entree that could win Best of the Fair?  Chicken Charlies' Pineapple Express did just that with their Teriyaki Chicken and pineapple served in a pineapple.  The teriyaki chicken was as good as Surf Bros Teriyaki and that's saying a lot - moist, nicely charred, tastes like something you'd get in Hawaii.  The sauce was served on the side (Whaaa - restraint??  At the fair???) and the sticky rice was perfectly cooked.  Add chunks of grilled fresh pineapple and you have a meal and presentation worthy of your next Rancho Santa Fe luau party.  Wife gave it two thumbs up and nearly ate the entire thing and even the most clogged artery fried food lover will have to admit that this is the entree that doesn't need the fair atmosphere to be a winner.  They also have shrimp and beef versions for non-chicken eaters.  Sure it's a bit pricey but for the money you get an entree that would not be out of place at the Hula Grill on Maui - it's that good.

So that's the Best and Worst of the things to eat at the San Diego Fair, 2013.  Now it's your turn to get yourself to Del Mar and pig out.  And if you happen to see this mascot, let me know.  He was last seen running down Highway 101 after being chased by a group of men wanting to wrap him in bacon and stuff him in a smoker.  Need.  More.  Bacon.  Now!

Bon Appetit!

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