Grease-soaked funnel cakes, 3-pound turkey legs, gooey meatball pretzels and deep-fried anything.
You can eat ’em all at the fair, if you dare.
The Teton County Fair’s long operating hours and variety of cuisines invite an all-day eating affair, so this year the News&Guide tasked one of its staffers with making the rounds. An environmental reporter with a lack of food-writing chops but a hefty appetite and indiscriminate palate (me) was the chosen one.
The eating day started in the late-morning hours, with the closest thing I could find to a suitable breakfast: a funnel cake. It was a first for me, and perhaps best described as a delightful $8 grease bomb pummeled with powdered sugar. Putting the whole thing down would have been plenty possible, but I set aside half the sugary, deep-fried cake as an investment in the rest of the day and as needed nourishment for my journalist colleagues, some of whom barely manage to feed themselves.
Although hunger pangs never materialized on this day, I ventured back to the fair to continue the eating tour in the early afternoon. A slightly desiccated bacon-wrapped hot dog and order of funnel fries was the selection. The dog was what it sounds like — fatty pulverized encased pork bits wrapped in another layer of cured pig — and was moist and savory, despite its unappealing exterior. The funnel fries were essentially an infant-size heap of chips tied together, and they were agreeably salty, crispy and tasty. Again, I held off on devouring the whole log of deep-fried potatoes to save some stomach space and provide sustenance for starving scribes at the News&Guide’s home base.
The fair’s fare can be broken into two categories. Foods at the stands in the area around the rides are more traditional: popcorn, deep-fried Twinkies, hot dogs, turkey legs. The fenced, grassy area to the east, however, is lined by booths that serve lots of non-traditional fair grub, including an array of Hispanic eats and just about anything that comes off a grill.
Late enough into the evening that the crowds had thinned, I opted for an order of deep-fried cheese sticks and a meatball pretzel to get a better sampling of the standard fair grub. My stomach yearned for neither, but there was an important job to do. If I’m being honest, both dishes disappointed. The cheese sticks were a far cry from the crispy, delectable cheese curds I’d learned to love in my childhood years attending the Great Minnesota Get Together (aka, the Minnesota State Fair). The meatball pretzel, selected for the novelty, was a subpar amalgamation of a standard rotisserie concession pretzel, middling marinara sauce, packaged meatballs and a pile of melted cheese.
The last meal of the day was a rebound.
I indulged in two tlacoyos, which are oval-shaped doughy pre-Spanish Mexican dishes filled with a variety of goods. I went with pork and beans and tripe fillings, and both were delicious. Finishing off the fair food day was a skewer of strawberries drizzled in melted chocolate and caramel. This nightcap was equally scrumptious, and, like a good many desserts, was gobbled up on a crammed stomach that was crying a distinctive “no.”
I’ll admit, it was the name of the treat that drew me in. “Chocolate freedom kabobs” is some damn good marketing.