Sunday, October 2, 2016

The State Fair of Texas 2016 Fried Food Report!

Howdy folks!

Welcome to this years State Fair Fried Food Report.

Last year there was no report, because on the first day of the Fair, Kraftwerk was playing in Austin, so we had to use our prescheduled day off to go see them.  Because PRIORITIES.

This year, we decided to take the Dart Rail to the Fair. Mostly because I would have had to drive otherwise.  And there is a train station just a little over a mile from the Casa De Munchkin.   Also, I wouldn't be able to drink as many Tasty Beverages if I were driving. So the train it is!

It's really not that bad.  Every stop is in the worst part of town, and I'm fairly sure that several people who rode it were homeless, but the train stopped right by the front gate of the fairgrounds, so whatevs.   Also:  DRINKING.

The train lets off at the ASS END of the fair, by the Women's Museum and the DAR house or whatever, basically where no one goes.  And I was used to parking at the other end of the fair and walking through the Midway to have the State Fair Initiation Corn Dog.  So our entire State Fair Kickoff Walk was backwards.  Which really annoyed my OCD.  And so after the  Corn Dog thing, we started at the CORRECT LOCATION and took the CORRECT PATH through the Fairgrounds...

So we get off the train, walk into a giant crowd of people in line for corn dogs, decide that it's really not that bad, and wait for our corn dogs.  (They have Veggie corn dogs now!)

...And this is Johnny with his breakfast:

Isn't he adorable?

No flat Dr Pepper.  AGAIN.  So we got lemonade.  AGAIN.  Ugh.

To compensate for the lack of beverage of choice, we made our way over to the nearest beer garden to start the festivities.

This year, there is a brand new beer garden near the Colosseum (the blue building) and it is AWESOME.  Lots of huge, mature Live Oak trees to sit under, tons of seating, and several choices of craft beer flights to enjoy!  (We went back later that day, and they had the Christmas lights on.  I love outdoor seating areas with Christmas lights!)

Anyway, the place is called TRIO, and I highly recommend it.  They even have food!

The one on the right is the Alaskan Coffee Ale.  It is AMAZING.  
This year's State Fair Beer is a Pumpkin Spice ale or something.  It's actually really good!  It tastes a LOT like pumpkin pie.

The Franziskaner Oktoberfest dispenser was not working, so I subbed the Real Ale version instead.  Not bad.  Kinda desserty.  

The best beer in the flight was the Alaskan Coffee Brown Ale. It is what would happen if espresso and a stout had a delicious baby.  Made of beer.  And you could drink it.

Oh food?  Sorry, almost forgot.

The first thing we tried was the

Fried Jell-O

For the first time in Big Tex Choice Awards history, America’s favorite childhood dessert is given a State Fair of Texas twist! A classic cherry-flavored Jell-O in a panko-crusted breading, flash-fried to perfection, and then dusted with powdered sugar. Prepared with a tasty topping of whipped cream and a cherry garnish, this dish has the perfect amount of crunch to compliment the jiggle.

I don't know who decides  who wins the Best Taste award, but this one was a huge mistake.  Maybe I shouldn't trust minimum wage-earning troglodytes to recreate the work of an actual chef/recipe creator, but there was definitely something missing here.  Like the Jell-O.  

The dough/crust/whatever had the texture and taste of white cornbread.  A little gritty, not really sweet, and probably not conducive to deep frying.

The filling did not in any way resemble Jell-O, and was more like what would happen if Kool-Aid were injected into a hush puppy.

You have been warned.

Next up:  


It looks like they have changed the  look of the Frito Pie bites.   This does not make me happy.

For the previous version, see the photo here

For the new version, it looks like instead of having a Frito dipped into chili, battered, then deep fried, they have created a Frito Flauta.  THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

Frito Flautas.  You have been warned.

I must say that although I prefer the texture and flavor of the previous version, these really weren't too bad.  The crust was okay, thick enough so that the chili didn't bleed through, and after the sour cream and salsa were squirted out, the dippability wasn't really all that different.  I prefer the REAL version, though.

Next up:  


(aka the Food and Fiber/Taste of Texas building.  Something like that.  Free food.)

In the general store in said building, they have a refrigerator full of beverages.  One of these beverages LOOKS AND TASTES SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE THE BEVERAGE FROM A CERTAIN FACTORY THAT IS NO LONGER ALLOWED TO CREATE A CERTAIN BEVERAGE.

Dublin "Black Cherry" cola.  Yeah, right.

If you are thirsty for a certain Texas-based beverage that is flavored with sugar instead of corn syrup, made in Dublin, TX, you should consider getting this.  BECAUSE IT'S TOTALLY THE SAME THING.

Which brings us to…


Amidst the blue ribbon winning contest entries displayed throughout the Creative Arts building lies an equally unique creation – the State Fair butter sculpture. The talented Ken Robison will take hold of the 2016 butter sculpture project based on this year’s theme ” Celebrating Texas Agriculture. The sculpture, made from several thousand pounds of butter, is set to portray last year’s award winning Charolais breed steer sold at the auction.

Uh…why are there penguins???


Yeah.  The butter sculptures tend to be weird.

Okay…..  Next up is the


Just because of the deliciousness.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Waffle Balls – Plump fresh strawberries covered in a thick chocolate shell are dipped in a sweet, waffle batter and deep-fried.  Dusted with powdered sugar and served on a stick.

Awwww Yeaaahhh….

With this much powdered sugar, HOW CAN THIS BE WRONG??

If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right...


Okay…  This next item is probably not new this year, but I had to try it anyway.


…Because it uses a GRAVY INJECTOR.

In the future, we will have world peace, and everyone will have a gravy injector (!!!!!) in their house.

Because having a gravy injector (!!!!!) is a sign that Jesus loves you.  Texans.  Jesus loves you TEXANS.

So, the outside doesn't really look like much, but once you crack this thing open, it's GRAVY CITY, BABY!!!

I'm pretty sure that this item is proof that there is a God.  And He/She/It loves us.

It's a biscuit, filled with what tastes like Pioneer instant gravy.  The same gravy that is used (I'm fairly sure) on Whataburger chicken fingers.  It's actually quite delicious.  Especially if you gut the biscuit and just eat the soft doughy parts with the gravy.  :)

Okily Dokily…Next up is the

Fried Injectable BBQ Balls.

Injectable Great Balls of BBQCreated by Glen Kusak

Smoke-crusted BBQ beef brisket is hand shredded with bock BBQ sauce and molded to form balls. The ball of beef is then breaded with seasoned bread crumbs and deep fried to a crispy perfection. Served on top of a bed of coleslaw, each order comes with its own pipette of bock BBQ sauce to be injected into the brisket balls. Guaranteed to be a perfectly succulent bite every time.
It's like a Chicken Fanger.   But with brisket.  A Brisket Fanger.

These are actually pretty good.  Imagine a wad of brisket, dripping with BBQ sauce, encased in the same breading that they used to use for the Chicken Fried Steak in Elementary/Jr High school, then fried to a crisp and served over cole slaw.  The cole slaw picked up the flavor.  Very delicious. Very nice.  Despite having the same panko-esque breading that was used for Elementary/Jr High school chicken fried steak.

Yeah, so we didn't ride any rides (STILL depressed that we didn't ride the Texas Star.  THANKS, JOHNNY.), but we did a lot of shopping and a lot of drinking (BECAUSE I DIDN'T HAVE TO DRIVE!!!  WOOHOO!!!)

Somewhere in there, I was informed by Johnny that we were standing in a beer line next to Guy Fieri.  So we left to get beer somewhere else.

And then I sent this text to my sister:


See you next year!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New York, New York!

Getting old is really no fun.  Although it certainly beats the alternative, getting grey hair, watching your metabolism dwindle, and feeling the Grim Reaper getting closer and closer to your doorstep is a real bummer. 

So, I have decided that from now on, I am going to do something really spectacular for my birthday, to take the sting out of the experience.  For just a little bit.

And I'm pretty sure that this has been my favorite birthday so far!

I decided to go to NYC this year.

For the flight to NY, Johnny somehow got first class tickets for CHEAP.   Johnny has a crippling fear of flying, so if there is someone on standby to wipe the drool off of his chin while he is passed out from his free-alcohol-induced coma, it makes things a bit more bearable for him.  So there's that.

When we arrived at the hotel (which I snagged with a 45% discount, thankyouverymuch!), we were informed that our room had been upgraded (!!!!!) to a SUITE (!!!!) because it was my birthday!   YAY!!!!

Dining area to the right, off-camera

I'm pretty sure our hotel room was bigger than Johnny's old apartment in Dallas.

I love this place!!!

So anyhoo, we went shopping in Chinatown.

Ceiling of a tea shop

I got a Faux-kidoki duffel bag!

With Engrish!

We returned to our room and THIS was on the table:

I love this hotel!

BTW, here is the view from our room:

Thursday night, we saw a production of Heathers:  The Musical.  It was pretty much what you would expect for an off-Broadway musical.  The  highlight of the play was the in-theatre bar service, from which Johnny ordered a blue fizzy drink that was created in honor of the play.  



They were having an in-store floral display thing called The Secret Garden.  So there were flower displays everywhere.  Including this gigantic lady:

I finally got to go to the Magnolia Bakery!  It is completely overrated!  I got a lemon cupcake, and the icing tasted like butter.  Not good.  I think Johnny liked his chocolate cupcake, though.

We went to the MOMA, but it was Free Friday, and there was a line around the block to get in, so we went to the gift store. We didn't get anything, because there was a huge line in there too.  Maybe next time.

For our evening activity, we saw THIS:

The first time I saw Les Miserables on Broadway was in about 1990 or 1991.  I saw it later in Dallas.  I thought the Broadway version was better.  I don't know if my perception of the musical has changed in twenty-something years, or if the play has changed.  This version seemed a lot less subtle, a lot more in-your-face and tended to spell out important themes just a little too much for my taste.  It's still better than any of the movies, though.  But the important thing is, JOHNNY LOVED IT!  I think we have another convert!  Mwahahahahaaaaa!!!

After the play, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe.  Because if I'm gonna be a tourist, then I'm gonna be a TOURIST.


We started our day back in Chinatown and Little Italy.  We had missed the Vegetarian Chinese restaurant the first time, so we went back.

Mock Sesame Chicken and Mock Orange Beef!
The staff was super rude and scowly.  The faux chicken had a weird, off taste to it.  The orange beef was delicious.

Next stop:


I got these:

Aren't they adorable????

Johnny got these:


And when you have shoes, you gotta have socks, amirite???

From the Sock Man.  Of course.

SUNDAY (My birthday!!!)

We started off our day with a Quest.   A Quest for Pizza.

We found THIS:

Which looks a lot like my pizza:  

And that's a good thing.

After that, we went to my favorite museum EVER, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We saw Art Nouveau...

Guys sketching Art...

Tiffany stained glass...

Creepy art...

This was in a stairwell.  Thanks for the nightmares, Met...

After looking at Art, we went to my favorite sushi restaurant in the whole wide world, Komegashi Too.  Which is in New Jersey. Really. 

The Banana Mama roll and Salmon Sashimi

Ankimo,  a.k.a. Monkfish Liver!  Oishii!!!

LADY M- Green Tea Mille Crepe  

Deliciate green tea Mille Crepe is a sight to behold with no less than 20 lacy thin crepes enveloping the lightest pastry cream, vibrant green tea flavors gently humming in the background. Powdered green tea on top.

The best thing about Komegashi is the view:

The view from our table.

We had a great time in NYC and can't wait to go back!

Dear Stephan Pyles: All is forgiven.

A month or so ago, Johnny and I had a (gasp!) less than stellar experience at my favorite restaurant in Dallas, Stephan Pyles.  So I wrote them an email.  They asked me to give them another chance.  So I did.  

I was rewarded with a chef's tasting menu.  And this is why all is forgiven...

To start:  Passionfruit margaritas (??? Mojitos?  Refreshers?  Sorry, it's a little fuzzy.  Hooray for vino!)

These were absolutely delicious.  Sweet, fruity, a bit tangy, with a pretty significant punch in the nose of spice.

(Johnny makes something like this.  Cans of Jumex are your friends, kids.  Mix them with a little mezcal, muddled cucumber, and chili powder.  A pretty good recipe is here.  Just add mango or passionfruit juice.)

Next up:  A trio of ceviches, starting with the Charred Octopus "Diablo" with caviar.

For Lent, Johnny and I have challenged ourselves to be Vegetarian.  But because every vegetarian with tastebuds has The Sushi Exception, we're really Pescatarian.  For the Octopus Diablo, the waiter informed us that the chef usually puts chorizo in the dish.  Which I can completely imagine.   It was very, very Spanish. This dish consisted of octopus, black caviar, and (these are guesses here) roasted red bell peppers, and saffron (?).  The flavor was distinctly Spanish, and this was probably my favorite of the trio.

(The second ceviche was Salmon Veracruzano with Capers, Green Olives and JalapeƱos.  Sorry, forgot to take a photo.  Too busy eating.  )

The third ceviche was a Royal Red Shrimp Michelada with Cucumber and Dos XX.

Shrimp, cucumber, and beer.  How can you go wrong with this one?

The answer is, YOU CAN'T.

Every texture and every flavor played off each other beautifully in this ceviche.  The slightly hoppy/bitter beer foam contrasted with the sweet, delicate bite of the shrimp.  Tiny diced cucumber pieces picked up the flavor with a snappy crunch.  It all went together perfectly.

The next item in the tasting menu was Compressed D'Anjou pears, Canela Pear Butter, Aerated Local Blue Cheese, and Charred Purple Kale.

Let me preface this part of my review by saying, I HATE PEARS.  I hate pears with a burning passion that I usually only reserve for certain former state governors-turned-President, and licorice. I hate them so bad.  For me, eating a pear is like chewing on dirt mixed with glass.  I hate them SO.  BAD.

That being said, when I go to a fine dining establishment that I KNOW is total greatness, I will purposefully order something that I don't like (Duck goulash, for example, at Charlie Palmer at The Joule--which WOWED me...), just to see if the chef will change my mind.  

This dish completely changed my mind about pears.  For about ten minutes, anyway.  Which is a lot.

The pears in this dish were not gritty at all.  In fact, they were almost like slices of baked, cinnamony apples freshly extracted from a delicious apple pie.  Without the crust.  Which is just filler, anyway.

The kale was crispy, crunchy, lighter than air, and not at all bitter.  It positively disintegrated in my mouth with each bite.

The best part of this dish, and I MUST HAVE THIS RECIPE, was the tiny cup of pear cider that was on the side. Full-bodied, sweet, cidery, and i could have sworn I was drinking a caramel apple.  Or pear.

Dish #3 was a Tamale Tart, Nova Scotia Halibut, Roast Garlic Custard, Crab, and Smoked Tomato Sauce.

I was on my third glass of wine by this time (Hooray for wine pairings!), but I do remember the halibut being almost buttery, perfectly cooked, and having an almost candylike crust from the perfect sear on top.  Crab is never not amazing, and having it on top of a perfectly creamy custard on a tamale crust just makes it better.   I would definitely get this again if given the opportunity.

Dish #4 was the Georges Bank Scallop, Heart of Palm, Mango Leather, and Black Bean Tacu Tacu.

What is tacu tacu, you may ask?  You can find a recipe here.  (It's a black bean cake.)

Along with pears, I'm usually not a huge fan of scallops.  Cooked ones, anyway.  Scallops are SO hard to cook correctly, and 30 seconds of extra cooking time will yield a rubbery hockey puck.

The scallops in this dish were perfectly cooked.  (I think the heart of palm had a bit of scallop inside, if I'm not mistaken.)  The heart of palm was a bit woody, but that's not a dealbreaker.  The tacu tacu was probably my favorite part of this dish.  Crunchy on the outside, smooshy and tender on the inside, perfectly seasoned, and the flavor of the mango leather played off of it perfectly.  A definite home run.

And now to my favorite dish (actually, my favorite thing in a dish) of the entire evening:

Scottish Ocean Trout, Almond Stuffed Squash Blossom, Sunflower (sprouts?)

This is the best thing EVER, and they need to add it to the menu PRONTO.

The trout was perfectly seared, with an almost candylike crust.  Smoky and delicious, with the sprouts providing a snappy, light foil to the fish's smoky taste.

Atop the fish sat my favorite thing that I have ever had at this restaurant (except for the chicken fried venison WHICH THEY NEED TO BRING BACK).  Sitting atop this fish was a squash blossom stuffed with almond butter (?), dipped in tempura batter, and deep fried.  It was like squash blossom candy.  It was amazing.  The whipped filling tasted like butter or cream cheese mixed with almonds, incredibly fluffy, just sweet enough, and contrasted with the crunch of the tempura batter perfectly.   I need this recipe.  Our waiter tried one and agrees that it needs to be added to the menu.  For the love of Vishnu,  Please add this to the menu, Stephan Pyles people!

For dessert, I had this:

Banana Semifreddo, Blackberry Cremeux, Salted Caramel, Pecan Praline

Oh, sorry, did I forget to mention I came here for my birthday?

Everything was delicious.   EVERYTHING.  Stephan Pyles is my favorite restaurant for a reason.  The food is always perfect, and the service I received on my last visit was nothing short of stellar.  The ONE time that the service was not perfect, and I said something to management, I was expecting MAYBE an apology.  But the restaurant management went completely above and beyond any expectations I might have had, and this is why I will be a returning patron for as long as they are around.

Bravo, Stephan Pyles!

(Now if I could just get that squash blossom recipe...?)