The Piggy Burger did me in.
Note to self: Big burgers should be eaten at the beginning of a fair tour, not the end.
I took one for Team Readers when I grazed my way through the Sprawling Campus of Deep Fried Gluttony — otherwise known as the Washington State Fair.
My mission was to try everything new that I could. I made it through 15 new items — plus beer — and lived to write about it.
Here’s what I ate with the tastiest items at the top and the things you can skip at the bottom.
As is true with most fair items, value dining just isn’t a thing at the fair. Go there knowing you’re going to spend more than you want. Even the scones were a quarter more this year ($1.75 each).
I leave you with this bring-along list of things to make your food tour more enjoyable: Hand wipes, hand sanitizer, Tums, a bib and possibly a trough.
Hot tip: That camera crew you saw at the fair? It’s for an upcoming episode of Season 5 of Carnival Eats on The Cooking Channel.
TRY THESE TASTY ITEMS
Raspberry Scone Ice Cream
Where: Fisher Scone booths all over the fairgrounds.
If you were born during — ahem — a certain era, you might remember the little plastic cups of ice cream with disposable wooden spoons. That’s exactly how the new raspberry-scone ice cream is served at the Fisher Scone wagons. Vanilla ice cream held sticky swirls of raspberry preserves, plus little bits of scone. Delicious.
Mac and Tots
Where: Fleischkuechle Truck, near Gold gate.
This meat pie trailer has been a fair regular for more than 20 years (inside/outside the fairgrounds). In 2013, Ben Vrieze bought the truck from its longtime operators and has been adding to the menu of fleischkuechle meat pies (pronounced flissh-koosh-lay) and fruit pies. New this year is a dish fit for fair dining: Mac and Tots. The deeper I dug, the more gluttony I excavated: Golden brown tater tots, a creamy layer of macaroni and cheese; more cheddar cheese and bacon. Burp.
Where: Near the south Skyride entrance.
I’m still feeling the pain of this one and it was worth every bit of the heartburn. This burger was stacked six inches deep, so the only sane strategy was to tackle it with a fork to eat away some of those layers. It started with a meatloaf-like burger patty made with ground beef and bacon. Next was a layer of pulled pork with a tangy sauce, a snappy layer of coleslaw and two onion rings. This one will satisfy your inner gorger who loves sloppy burgers.
Where: Fiesta Mexicana inside the International Village Food Court.
When my dining partner cradled the burrito as if it were a baby, I knew we had hit the Big Eater Jackpot. The mondo burrito was advertised as three pounds, but I bet it was more, making it a good value because it’s so big, you have to share it.
Made with two giant overlapping tortillas, the stuffings included slow-cooked shredded chicken, garlic-licked whole pinto beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, olives, jalapenos, onions and sour cream. It was hot throughout, not an easy task for something so giant. Big kudos to the staffer who rolled it perfectly, too.
Where: Deano’s Grill, near the animal barns.
Take the idea of a waffle cone and swap it for a cone made of bread and that’s the basis for half the menu at Deano’s Grill, a new food stand. Fill that cone with gyro meat, mac and cheese or other gut-busting combos. I went with the chili-cheese, which was something similar to a walking taco. The bread cone held hot beef-and-bean chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream and crunchy Fritos corn chips. The edible container was handy and delicious.
Where: Original House of Donut Truck, near Lost Children booth.
The Lakewood-based bakery brought its truck again to the fairgrounds, this time with a new lineup of cake doughnuts designed for the fair. Don’t miss the chocolate-caramel-coconut cake doughnut. The flavors were inspired by everyone’s favorite Girl Scouts cookie, Samoas. The chocolate cake doughnut was airier than a typical dense cake doughnut, with thick zigzags of icing and toasted coconut.
Cost: $11 bowl.
Where: Paella Pro, near International Village.
This is the first time cooking at the fair for the Olympia-based company. Paella is a Spanish dish of rice cooked with assorted meats and vegetables. There’s a vegan or lamb version. I opted for the mixed version, which was built with the real-deal Spanish Bomba rice, saffron strands (in the rice stock) deep and tangy spicing, plus big pieces of chorizo sausage, chicken thigh and snappy shrimp. The $11 bowl was built for two teenagers. Normal eaters should get the $8 cup.
Kimchi Spam Fried Rice
Where: Hawaiian Grindz, inside International Village.
Yes, that was punchy kimchi, the Korean fermented cabbage, mixed into the fried rice. And, yes, those were grilled Spam wedges on top. For the price, it should have been twice the size, but the flavors were tasty.
Adobo Sliders Duo
Where: Hawaiian Grindz, inside International Village.
With puckery pickled shredded carrots atop the pork, the flavor tasted more Vietnamese than Filipino, but I can find no fault in slow-cooked, shredded pork on sweet Hawaiian rolls. Warning: The salty pork was flavored with whole black peppercorns. One bite and my mouth was burning.
Chicken and Waffle Bites
Where: Chicken and Waffles stand, near International Village.
Tasty, juicy chicken dunked in a crunchy batter, fried and then soaked in gravy — what’s not to love? It was a bit weird with the bottom layer of syrup-coated waffle bites, but it all worked together in one big gluttonous mass. Usually it’s served in a waffle bowl, but they were out.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING FROSTY
Puyallup River’s Raspberry Scone Golden Ale.
Where: Beer gardens.
Puyallup River Brewing owner Eric Akeson came up with this genius invention: beer flavored with raspberry concentrate and a plethora of malts to give it a flavor similar to a biscuit or scone. The result was a light-and-refreshing raspberry beer that tasted ultra tart.
Where: Exotic Meats book, inside International Village.
Yes, it’s novelty food. The crunchy grasshoppers tasted bland and were not exactly riveting in their culinary prowess, but sometimes it’s fun to eat bugs and gross out your family members. A small cone comes with chile or barbecue flavoring.
Where: Exotic Meat booth.
The gamey tasting sausage was somewhat unpleasant, but the squishy bun with limp lettuce and anemic tomato was worse. There was no saving this with ketchup, mustard and ranch dressing at the condiment station, either.
Where: Big Mama’s Meat Shack.
The bratwurst itself tasted delicious — it was from Seattle’s Uli’s Famous Sausage. The cook committed a sausage travesty, though, when he cut the brat to fit the oddly small hot dog bun. The condiments were missing in action. Only yellow mustard. No spicy brown mustard? No ‘kraut, onions or peppers? How much did I pay for this? Geesh.
Deep-Fried Pop Tart
Where: Totally Fried booth, near Blue Gate.
It even came with an extra puddle of grease at no extra charge. I can’t believe how much I paid for that little square of deep-fried misery.
Deep-Fried Cinnamon Rolls
Where: Totally Fried.
We nicknamed this one “cinnamon leather.” Even the watery icing on the side was a disaster. Take a hard pass on this one, my food friends.