By G. Michael Dobbs
WEST SPRINGFIELD – For a foodie, the assignment was a bit of risk: Sample the new fair foods that will be featured at this year’s Eastern States Exposition.
Fair foods are often part comfort food, part dare and this year’s assortment was no exception: deep fried strawberry shortcake, a breakfast sandwich with a glazed doughnut as the bun and a frozen chocolate covered banana rolled in bacon.
The management of The Big E recruited a number of the area’s press to serve as tasters and to offer their evaluations. We all were given a judging form on a clipboard, so it felt pretty official.
Anthony Marone of Westfield, who developed the fried strawberry shortcake, explained he has been successfully dropping other items into the fryer at The Big E such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, various candy bars and the Girl Scout’s Samoa cookies.
He said he had been thinking about strawberry shortcake for several years, but explained there is a problem with deep frying fruit: the process draws the moisture out of the fruit leaving something fairly tasteless.
Marone’s solution was to take several strawberries, add a slice of a Little Debbie strawberry roll and wrap it all in a wonton wrapper. Then comes a quick dip into the hot oil, followed by a dollop of whipped cream.
The result was actually quite good. When asked if adding a squirt of chocolate sauce would be a good idea, my reply was “Don’t gild the lily.”
He will be serving the item at the Coffee Break in the Food Court.
Other deep fried items available this year at various vendors include deep fried brownie bits, Oreos, Kool-Aid and Shepard’s pie.
Marone couldn’t really explain why he had a fascination with the deep fryer. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just like doing it.”
Mary Ann Brick of Granby has a business called The Veggie Patch and her contribution to Fair cuisine is a version of an established favorite, the frozen chocolate covered banana.
Usually, the item is served with the option of peanuts or not, but Brick has taken away the nuts and substituted real bacon morsels instead.
I’ve had chocolate covered bacon before and was not impressed, but brick’s creation is a winner. The banana complements the salty bacon and the sweet chocolate.
You will find the “chocolate baconana” at the Veggie Patch on Commonwealth Avenue on the fairgrounds.
Finally, I faced something I just knew I couldn’t handle: a breakfast sandwich with bacon and egg on a grilled glazed doughnut.
I was honest with Maureen Jordan, who developed the sandwich based on her success of a hamburger served on a glazed doughnut. I told her I didn’t think I would like it.
I took a bite and I did swallow it, but I didn’t return for another. My problem is that I don’t care for the sweet taste of the donut mixed with the flavor of a fried egg.
Buy what do I know? Jordan said she sold 17,000 “Craz-E-Burgers” last year at the Big EZ Café.
Big E officials reminded members of the press the Fair does offer healthy options from salads to bakes potatoes stuffed with vegetables to smoothies.