In a world where deep-fried cauliflower and deep-fried Oreos exist together in the same plexiglass display case, the North Carolina Mountain State Fair brings folks together to sample all sorts of (often deep-fried) culinary experiments.
Ride the rides? Sure. But maybe wait a bit after trying a deep-fried cheeseburger-on-a-stick from D&J Consessions.
“We have a lot of crazy fried food,” says Matthew Varnadoe, manager of the D&J tent at the fair. “We do everything from deep-fried PB&J sandwiches to cookie dough to deep-fried cheesecake.
“This year we brought deep-fried cheeseburgers, which will hopefully be a hit,” he continues. “What we do is, we take cheeseburgers and, instead of using the bun, we take corndog batter and kind of use that as the bread.”
And fairs are well-known for their creativity when it comes to fried food. Want deep-fried batter smothered in confectioners sugar and topped with chocolate? The fair has got you covered.
“A lot of these ideas come to us when we have bad weather or shows that are slow,” Varnadoe says. “We’re just kind of sitting around kind of knocking ideas around. I think we’re just always looking for something different. We’re always coming up with ideas, like the Krispy Kreme burger, adding the sweet doughnut with the salty bacon. People just try to see what we come up with, and I think they just enjoy different things — not the same old steak and cheese (though it’s very good) and funnel cakes.
“But, I mean, a deep-fried Reese’s is amazing. You put it in the cake batter, and the chocolate and the peanut butter just kind of all melt together and collide.”
But if you’re looking for an alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth — something other than fried candy bars or the tried-and-true fairground funnel cakes, try out a kürtőskalács.
Sweet Spiral Cakes sells a Hungarian dish that rivals the doughy sweetness of the American fairground staple. Standing upright and baked around a wooden rolling pin-like rod, the sweet cakes let off heat when separated from the utensil that gives them their shape, giving them the nickname “chimney cakes.”
“A spiral cake is a Hungarian traditional cake,” says Mihaly Pollak, who was busy rolling out dough in a long, skinny line before spiraling it around a wooden rolling pin and letting it bake. “Inside, it’s soft and outside it’s soft — like bread. And the tastes are very complex but not the same as sweet bread, not the same as funnel cake. It’s a special taste, and it’s very good — sweet but not too sweet.”
And, he says, the cakes come in five different flavors, sugar-glazed, coconut, pecan, almond and a mix.
“The mix is every five tastes all together,” he says, mentioning the Hungarian dish was traditionally used just for weddings. And when you pull the dough, it releases in a spiral, with the soft, doughy interior melting in your mouth.
From turkey legs to ribs, funnel cakes to kürtőskalács, deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to “waffle dogs,” the Mountain State Fair satisfies the culinary curiosities of the 9-year-old in all of us.
The fair opened Friday, Sept. 5, at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center and runs through Sunday, Sept. 14. For more information, visit mountainfair.org/mountain-state-fair.html.
Take a look at our photos of the Mountain State Fair here:
(Hayley Benton/Mountain Xpress)