Eating your way through the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair: a minute-by-artery-clogging-minute report
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This is the time of year when Wisconsinites, unfazed by heat and hurtling down fiberglass tubes full of water, add another slice to the Wheel of Death. That slice is deep-fried, of course, and comes courtesy of the Wisconsin State Fair. Because we care, The A.V. Club sent a crack team of carny food connoisseurs to track down the best items amongst the new fair food contenders.
10:30 a.m.: Deep-fried brownie on a stick
The perfect way to start a morning? Being carted off the field in a Bell ambulance. Warm brownies are hard to say no to even on a hot summer day. The deep-fried batter doubles down on the sin, drawing out the terrible feeling of not walking in order to enjoy more food, but feeling like walking is necessary to counter the gooey sweetness.
11:01 a.m.: Pretzel bites
This staple of movie-theater food gets a bump from being made out of Miller bakery pretzel buns. Wander the Wisconsin Products Expo along with brown mustard in a jug to get carbo-loaded for the rest of the fair.
11:43 a.m.: Hand-battered corn dog
Corn dog vendors are as numerous as exposed leathery tattoos on the grounds. However, the difference between a frozen/fried corn dog and one that’s hand-battered is like the difference between a Styx cassette and hearing “Mr. Roboto” live. Hand battering is worth the wait.
12:08 p.m.: Sprecher sorbet
Last year, Sprecher seemed to be trying for the Bubba Gump Variety Award. This year, it’s slimmed down its menu to delicious drinks and a frozen treat made from its most popular flavors. The portion and the name seem a little dainty for a fair built on leather vendors and American flag apparel, but that doesn’t discount it as a refreshing choice in between heavier foods.
1:21 p.m.: Red velvet funnel cake
Funnel cakes are one of the Hall of Fame entries of carny food, but there’s still room for variations on a gold standard. Adding the mysterious red velvet to the mix makes the first bite familiar yet exotic. The only downside? Between the deep red pile of goo on the plate, the mouth discoloration, and the hungry moans made during eating it, this selection may trigger the State Fair’s zombie warning system.
1:33 p.m.: Beer float
Removing the “root” from this classic recipe turns it into a perfect example of State Fair food: initial kneejerk revulsion followed by piqued curiosity, and finally guilty enjoyment. This treat is one of the easiest to replicate outside of the fair, and doesn’t even need a Slushy Magic or Salsa Buster from the Expo Center to do so.
2:11 p.m.: Butter and sea-salt pretzel twist
Another way to turn something mundane into an exotic choice is adding new flavors. Garlic Parmesan is a good choice, but the butter and sea-salt add some deadly flavors to the classic doughy pretzel. It’s also on a stick, which seems superfluous at best, like this vendor did it to qualify for a food-on-a-stick tax credit.
3:18 p.m.: Pork donut
This is one of the big contenders for the State Fair’s “Stunt Food Of The Year” award. It’s a glazed donut cut in half, with BBQ pork slopped in between. In this case, the BBQ overpowers the sweetness of the donut, and just seems like a pulled pork sandwich that’s a tad overpriced. At least it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach by Orville Redenbacher.
3:41 p.m.: Reuben on a stick
This item immediately fell off the stick after leaving the vendor’s hands. Between the inherent heaviness and goopy 1000 Island dipping sauce, the stick seemed more useful fending off interlopers wanting to sneak a bite.
4:12 p.m.: Fat Elvis
This is the other big-name food this year, served on a commemorative Elvis Presley stick. Just kidding about the stick, Elvis collectors, but it does come in skinny and fat versions. The difference between the two is whether bacon sprinkled over deep-fried peanut butter drizzled in chocolate sauce sounds like a good idea. If it doesn’t sound like a good idea, it’s probably best to leave eating at the State Fair to the professionals.