I have a real fondness for outdoor festival cuisine and I’m not afraid to admit it. There is nothing like the pungent smell of smoke coming off a fresh hot grill, the sizzle of frying oil and the delicious mix of sweet and savory that permeates the festive air. I find it all simply impossible to resist.
The size of my stomach requires that I maintain some measure of self-control, so through the years I’ve narrowed down my criteria to a few basics. A festival food must be something I do not make at home or order elsewhere, indulgent in calories and taste, appealing any time of day (or night), easily portable and very light on the pocketbook. Here are my top five favorites:
1) Funnel Cakes – I love them served fresh from the skillet, crisp, slightly warm and just powdered with a bit of sugar. I also won’t turn down a dressing of juicy strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream over the top.
2) Roasted Corn – Mildly charred and smoky, there is nothing like one of these sweet little ears drizzled in butter with a smidgen of salt and pepper tossed in. Napkins required.
3) Caramel Apples – Fair vendors just seem to know how to pick ’em and dunk ’em just right – the rich, creamy caramel just melts in my mouth. When it comes to a topping, I’m a purist at heart. Save the fancy sprinkles and just give me a thick spray of chopped nuts to give it that extra bit of crunch.
4) Fresh Squeezed Lemonade – Real lemon juice, water, sugar and ice – just the way Mother Nature intended. It’s the perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer’s day and you can count me in for a king size cup.
5) Corn Dogs – These plump, savory treats simply never go out of style and no one fries them up better than a good fair vendor. At their best, they are hand dipped in sweet corn breading, fresh from an oil bath and almost hot to the touch. The meat inside is tender, juicy and mild tasting. Bring on the mustard.
This coming season, I will surely make the rounds to many of the wonderful festivals in my community and, to be honest, the food is a big part of the attraction. Judging from the long line-ups at my favorite stands, I know that others agree.