Elephant ears and Fisher scones are my two favorite fair foods.
For that, I blame – er, thank – the St. Paul Cathedral School booth at the Central Washington State Fair in Yakima and the Original Fair Scone and Shortbread stand at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.
But, maybe I would find a new favorite.
This week marked my first visit to the Spokane Interstate Fair, which – over the weekend – held a Best Fair Food Contest.
There were 38 entries, five judges and four awards.
I kept these award winners in mind as I made my way through the rows of food vendors at the fair. I was hoping to sample five or six things, but that plan proved to be too ambitious. I stopped at four, defeated by – among other things – deep-fried dough.
The most creative award went to Glazed and Confused for its glazed doughnut sliders (two for $8). I had one. Best dessert was the Huckleberry Waffle Cone Dipped in Chocolate for $7 from Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle. I had one of those, too.
Judges were Michelle Magni of Gonzaga University, Cheyanne Middleton of Flavours Catering, Cynthia Moore of Cynfully Delicious Catering, Paul Santos of Max at the Mirabeau, and Danielle Tidwell of Simply to Go.
They rated fair foods on appearance, originality, portion size and value, and flavor. Island Slaw ($9 from Island Noodles) won best signature dish. Glazed and Confused won best deep-fried food for its pumpkin doughnuts ($7 for a half-dozen).
Here’s what I tried at the fair – and how I ranked each fair food.
Food No. 1: Elephant ear, Moonshiners, $4
I stopped at this booth first because elephant ears are its specialty, and elephant ears are one of my favorite fair foods.
Plus, they serve up a side of local wholesomeness; this fair food booth raises money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.
Now, these elephant ears aren’t quite as big as the hand-thrown beauties at St. Paul’s, but it’s hard to go wrong with deep-fried dough smothered with cinnamon and sugar.
This one was machine-pressed, but sweet and chewy nonetheless.
I give it four out of four funnel cakes.
Food No. 2: Glazed doughnut sliders, Glazed and Confused, two for $8
I like doughnuts. And I like burgers. But these little guys didn’t quite do it for me.
I think it was the pickle. Without it, I think I might’ve enjoyed my slider more. The doughnut was sweet and chewy, and topped with an even sweeter glaze. The cheese was melty, and the burger, meaty. They went together well enough with the doughnut “buns.” But the pickle – briny, zesty, tangy – seemed out of place to my palate. (What if it was replaced with candied bacon?)
Next time, I would order my glazed doughnut sliders without the off-putting pickles.
I give it two and a half funnel cakes.
Food No. 3: Turkey leg, Spokane-East Club of Rotary International, $8
This was my third fair food, but that’s only because the drumsticks weren’t quite done the first two times I stopped at this booth.
Like the Moonshriners, the Spokane-East Rotary’s fair food booth raises money for all kinds of service projects in Spokane.
The Rotarians went with a new vendor this year, and I was among the first to try one of their new smoked turkey legs, cooked low and slow for more than two hours to get them to the proper serving temperature.
The skin was a bit leathery, and the tendons, a bit tricky to work around with a plastic fork and knife. But the meat was smoky and flavorful and not dry. It was also salty, but not too salty.
I split the leg with photographer Jesse Tinsley and together we couldn’t quite finish the whole darn thing. So I have to give it three and a half instead of four funnel cakes.
Food No. 4: Huckleberry Waffle Cone Dipped in Chocolate Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, $7
By this point, I was feeling full – and not so great. But I had only tried one of this year’s award winners, and there’s always room for ice cream, right?
The huckleberry waffle cone dipped in chocolate didn’t disappoint. It was melty and drippy and delicious. I even let Jesse have a couple of bites.
I give it four funnel cakes.
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