This weekend I risked heart failure and trans fat-poisoning at the Texas State Fair — the lard-fried mecca that invented corn dogs — to uncover the secret behind fried beer, fried butter and yes, even fried Pop Tarts.
The Texas State Fair in Dallas is known for three things: pickup trucks, football, and fried food. I originally went there with the goal of witnessing a Chrysler PR stunt involving the world's largest aerial banner, but after that failed miserably, I had some extra time on my hands. What else to do but delve into the fair's greasy underside.
Like automakers and pickup trucks, food vendors at this year's fair tried to do nothing but one-up the other with an arms race of fried treats. Fair-goer classics like the hot dog sat idly by, uneaten, as customers chose instead to revel in the crispy golden excess of foods that were nowhere near good for you even before they were deep fat fried. I happily reveled with them — ordering up four of the strangest fried treats I've ever seen: Fried Beer, Fried Butter, Fried Frito Pie, and Deep Fried S'Mores Pop Tart.
The star of the show was Fried Beer, which takes Guinness and drops it deep in the fryer. It was this year's winner for "Most Creative," an appropriate response given the three-year journey inventor Mark Zable went out to create and patent the technology.
Hearing the words "fried beer" conjures up images of gooey batter, but the reality of Fried Beer is far different. Zable takes a thick pretzel dough and inserts a squirt of Guinness to create a ravioli-like pocket. This is then deep frozen so it maintains its consistency before being tossed in the fryer.
The beer pretzel raviolis are dropped into the fryer and immediately sink to the bottom. Once the beer begins to bubble — an unappealing thought — it pops to the surface and is skimmed away. Five of the raviolis are dropped into a concessionaire's paper plate and covered with a thick cheese sauce for $5.
Taste: It's intriguing, but now we know why they didn't win "best taste." The beer tastes more like a cheap lager than a stout after the frying and, even worse, its lukewarm. The pretzel never fully crisps, so it's more like deep fried dough. The cheese sauce isn't bad, though. Overall, kind of a miss.
Last year's winner is a horrible idea wonderfully executed. Frying butter and encouraging humans to eat seems almost cruel because of the impossibility of saying no. The recipe's fairly simple: just take a cold ball of butter, wrap it in dough, and deep fry it.
The trick comes with the toppings: cherry flavoring, garlic sauce, or honey cinnamon butter. Everyone says the honey cinnamon sugar deep-fried butter's the way to go and who are we to argue?
Taste: Like a doughnut hole doused in honey and filled with a giant mouthful of melted butter you'd find sitting next to a crustacean. Disturbingly enjoyable.
Winner of this year's contest in the best tasting category, the Deep-Fried Frito Pie isn't creative. It's essentially beef-and-cheese chili wrapped in corn chips and then deep fried. It's served with a package of salsa and a giant tube of sour cream.
Taste: It tastes exactly like Frito Pie, but only better. The crunch of the chips matches so well with the flavor of a delicious chili it's almost worth the triple bypass surgery. The salsa adds a hint of heat quickly cut by a dollop of Daisy. God Bless Texas.
You've got to be slightly mental to look at a Pop Tart and think the toaster pastry's better off in a fryer. Thankfully, Texas is full of slightly mental people. Wonderfully excessive, the makers of the Deep-Fried S'Mores Pop Tart put a lot of effort into each of the large delicacies.
They start with a typical S'Mores Pop Tart, lightly batter it, roll the contraption in Resse's Peanut Butter Chocolate cereal, toss it in the fryer, and then top it with a mixture of mixed cream, chocolate syrup, and chocolate sprinkles for texture.
Taste: The perfect desert for a perfect day of fried food. It wasn't a last meal, but if you're going to be offered one (it is Texas) make sure to attach this to the end. Compared to the plain deeply fried Oreos and Snickers, it's the extra dose of creativity and sprinkles that seal the deal.
Special thanks to Habeab Kurdi for taking the photos/video and eating some of the fried butter before I finished it alone.