Our Favorite: Deep Fried Strawberry Shortcake on a Stick
A food that deep-frying truly improves. An ample square of frozen pound cake is cut, dipped in batter, deep fried, and served over sliced strawberries, with or without whipped cream. The deep frying gives the soft but dense pound cake a nice crispy coat that contrasts delightfully with the berries. We were surprised and relieved the berries were no-sugar added; the tartness did justice to the dish, and there were no mushy bits.
The Strangest New Dish: Chocolate Tamales
Not just another name for some already conjured dessert, these really are tamales—masa meal wrapped around chocolate, nuts, and cherry bits tightly packed in a corn husk for cooking. The consistency of the end product is similar to a Fudgy No-Bake, as is the flavor.
New This Year: Pie Shakes
Available in half a dozen flavors including apple, chocolate cream, cherry, and banana cream. We tried a coconut cream pie shake and found it to be a more than worthy addition to the midway: vanilla ice cream, toasted coconut and pie crust blended nicely and topped with whipped cream. The 16-ounce serving is definitely meant to be shared.
The Old Favorite: Deep Fried Snickers Bar on a Stick
It may have been a decade or more since someone first decided to dip a frozen Snickers bar in batter and deep fry it, but it's still a big favorite. Packed with peanuts, nougat, and caramel, it's almost too rich to handle.
The Name-dropper: The Bill Clinton
This elephant ear comes topped with vanilla cream under that blueberry filling, dusted all over with copious amounts of powdered sugar. The lactose-intolerant 42nd President shouldn't eat this; it got its name from the deep blue, cream, and white colors of the presidential emblem.
The Traditional: Funnel Cake
Chi Sigma's tight little funnel cakes resemble tiaras. The organization's raising money for charity by selling sodas and the popular fair favorites.
You Did What to a Pig? Pig on a Stick
Let's just dispense with the cornmeal, the batters, the fillers, and get right now to the chase. Destined to be one of the most popular items at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair, this pork hot dog tightly wrapped with bacon is deep fried and handed out the window for a salty, savory treat.
The hot mess: Beef Sundae
For those who believe everything should resemble an ice cream confection, the Beef Sundae is back: a scoop of mashed potatoes served on a pile of sliced roast beef, topped with roast beef gravy, cheese "sprinkles," and a cherry tomato, served up with a toasted piece of ciabatta bread. It's a heart-stopping dinner in one dish.
The Pretty: Caramel Apples
The caramel apple has come back with a vengeance at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair. They're everywhere, and only rarely are they just dressed in caramel. Variations include rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, peanuts, M&Ms, chocolate chips, marshmallows, white chocolate, dark chocolate, and combinations of those ingredients. Kudos on the apple-eating; still, we suspect most folks chew off the sweet stuff on the outside first.
The Diet Saver: Small Batch Root Beer
One of the big vendors at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair this year is serving up liquid refreshment in the form of small-batch keggery. The selections include root beer, sarsaparilla, Cherrywine (dark cherry soda), and an orange beverage. We were most impressed with the Splenda-enhanced diet root beer. Almost calorie free, it was light and refreshing, though a little heavy on the vanilla and light on the birch for our tastes.