Finding the fairest food: Sampling falafel, deep-fried Oreos, bacon puffs, and more at Fryeburg

Where else but the fair can you find tractor-pulling competitions, calf scrambles, treacherous-looking carnival rides, and ridiculous food, all in one place?
By LEISCHEN STELTER  |  October 12, 2010

HEALTHY FOOD? AT A FAIR? Falafel’s not a bad choice.

There are few things more American than the fair. Where else can you find tractor-pulling competitions, calf scrambles, treacherous-looking carnival rides, and ridiculous food, all in one place?

I had never attended the Fryeburg Fair, though the public love for this fair was apparent immediately upon hitting bumper-to-bumper traffic that extended from the southern town line into New Hampshire. Like the other 300,000 people expected to attend the week-long fair, my gang wasn't deterred, and a measly hour later we made it through the front gates.

Choosing what you're going to indulge in at the fair can be overwhelming. The best strategy, I think, is to look for lines, which usually mean people approve of what that vendor's dishing out. One of the longest lines was at the Sunflower Farm stand. Granted, pizza isn't exactly a fair-only food, but sharing a huge square slice of cheese pizza seemed like a safe start. It was incredibly thick, doused in ample tomato sauce with soft, doughy crust. Still, I was glad to be sharing it because there were so many fair foods to try.

My vegetarian friend actually made one of the best choices of the day. When I tried to get her to try one of the mega-sized turkey legs roasting nearby, instead she chose a falafel wrap. The four falafel patties were fresh out of the fryer and nestled on a bed of lettuce, accompanied with a generous helping of tabouleh, tahini, and tzatziki sauce, all inside a soft, thick pita. Both delicious and the closest thing you can come to healthy at the fair. Then again, who goes to the fair to be healthy?

Fortunately, unhealthy choices were everywhere. Directly across from the falafel stand was a vendor advertising bacon puffs. That was new to me and luckily there were samples. The woman informed me the golden puff strips were made from the white part of the bacon, which is the fatty part. After they cooled, they were light and crunchy, but extremely salty — I couldn't imagine eating a whole basket.

However, this vendor also offered one of my favorite unhealthy-food weaknesses: poutine. The combination of French fries and cheese, smothered in gravy is delicious. The hand-cut fries were perfect, but this vendor used shredded cheese instead of cheese curds, which does melt better under hot gravy, but leaves out the squeaky factor of curds and, frankly, I need the squeak. The gravy was also chicken gravy, so while this was not a traditional poutine, it was a solid fair food choice.

But, I was on a mission. The last fair I attended, I had the most amazing corn dog with a thick batter of spongy corn bread dominating the hot dog center. After walking the entire fair grounds, I saw only a handful of corn dog signs. I finally decided on a vendor advertising a husband-and-wife team, which, to me, means a serious dedication to the fair circuit and worthy of my choice. While the dog was perfectly fried, the breading wasn't nearly the corn bread I was looking for, though some spicy mustard appeased my craving.

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