Everything, and we mean everything, gets fried at the Orange County Fair
The Orange County Fair is a gluttonous playground where if it fits in the deep-fryer it’s probably going in. If you’re on a diet or like to count calories, prepare to be bombarded by oversized, golden-brown, crispy, grease-glistening, fried everything -- yes everything ... even Kool-Aid.
This year’s theme is, appropriately, Let’s Eat, and in truth the fair really is all about the food, with a concession stand at the ready no matter which way you turn. It seems there is something for everyone in a moderate price range ($2.50-$15), with a variety that included Hawaiian chicken, fried clams, Italian meatball sliders and even sushi.
It was a venerable smorgasboard of gastronomic delights. But one booth, located just inside the main entrance, emerged as the clear crowd favorite: the fried butter stand. Decorated with a photo of a nurse with two defibrillator paddles ready, the stand features larger-than-life photos of its menu offerings: battered and fried bacon; bacon dipped in chocolate, then battered and fried; fried bacon sandwiches; fried grilled cheese; fried quesadilla strips; and something called the coronary combo that included the fried butter and chocolate covered bacon for $10.50.
Hushed whispers could be heard among fairgoers as they walked around the grounds. "What is the fried butter? How was it? And who in their right mind would eat such a thing?"
“A lot of people order it,” said Ashton P. from Irvine, who mans the cash register at the stand. “You can taste the heart attack, but it’s worth it.”
That heart attack isn’t just a fried stick of butter. It’s a churro that’s been split in two, its inner cavity filled with butter, then placed in the deep fryer until a crunchy coating has formed. As if that weren’t enough to get your heart pumping, it’s served on a bed of deep-fried chips, covered with cinnamon sugar and topped with whipped cream. The bottom of the red-and-white checkered paper box the concoction is served in turns almost translucent with grease.
Around the corner from the fried butter stand was a sweet vendor offering a cavity-inducing array of sugary snacks -- brownies, Oreos, Klondike ice cream bars and avocados -- all battered and deep-fried. The oddest sweet, even for adherents of the “deep-fry everything” motto, was the fried Kool-Aid balls. The small nubs were a burnt pink color and tasted like a cakey version of the drink powder mix.
Also a crowd favorite were the Australian battered potatoes ($9.25), smothered in ranch dressing and nacho cheese or served with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. The potatoes are sliced thick then hand-battered in a coating that the stand boasts is “uniquely Australian.” Not sure what made it Australian other than the small flags the potatoes were served with, but the coating was ultra crisp and salty.
With all the salty, sweet goodness offered at the fair it was nice to have something refreshing to wash it down. Fairgoers can get their fix of slush drinks, lemonade and soda and, for the grown-ups, makeshift cocktail stands and a "beers of the world" pop-up brewery.
The fair runs until Aug. 14. Come ravenous, and prepare to experience a caloric drowning. For more information on the fair and the food vendors, including food truck Thursdays, visit www.ocfair.com.
-- Jenn Harris
Photos, from top: The fried sweet offerings at the Chicken Charlie's stand; barbecue from Juicy's BBQ stand; people wait in line at the fried butter stand; a look inside a serving of fried butter (a churro split in two); a poster advertises fried Kool-Aid; the Australian battered potatoes. Credit: Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times