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Extreme fair food

[Times photos: Cherie Diez]
It may look like a corn dog, but that’s a Snickers bar getting the deep-fry treatment at the Florida State Fair.

By JANET K. KEELER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 13, 2002

Think you've seen everything that can be fried, battered and put on a stick at the Florida State Fair? You haven't.

TAMPA -- If you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from Carousel Concessions at the Florida State Fair.

If you know what's good to eat, you'll head straight for the red-and-white striped tent as soon as you push through the turnstiles. (Carousel is just past the Charles M. Davis Special Events Center on the way to the animal exhibits.)

Olivia Orme and her merry band of fair cooks have brought something so decadent to the midway that it makes the footlong corn dog seem like diet food:

Battered and deep-fried candy bars.


Rub your eyes if you must and read it again. Battered and deep-fried candy bars. Milky Way and Snickers, to be exact. How over the top is that?

The candy bars are skewered on sturdy sticks -- it is the fair after all -- and then dipped in a sweet batter, something like funnel cake goo. Into hot vegetable oil they go, and round and round they twirl until golden brown. A dusting of powdered sugar, a few minutes of cooling and they are ready to eat.

Orme says her brother-in-law tells everyone that the deep-fried Milky Way tastes like melted chocolate chips and the Snickers like a brownie with nuts. Doggone if he's not right. The Milky Way's caramel and malt-flavored nougat center melts into the milk-chocolate coating so that when you bite into the fried concoction the center is a unified blend of the tastes. Likewise, the peanuts, peanut butter nougat and caramel of the Snickers bar. When the ingredients meld together, the eater is hard-pressed to identify it as a Snickers bar. It tastes that different. Boy, oh boy, are they good.

Christine Angell, 15, gives her sister, Ally, 11, a bite of a deep-fried Snickers bar at the Florida State Fair on Friday. The girls are from Riverview.
"If you like gooey deserts, these are for you," Orme says. The deep-fried candy bars are the newest taste treats at this year's State Fair, which continues through Monday at the fairgrounds in Tampa. Orme saw the candy bars at the Minnesota State Fair last year and figured they were worth a try in Florida. Sales weren't stellar on Thursday's opening day when rain pelted brave fairgoers through most of the day. By Friday, though, with a beautiful blue sky blanketing Tampa Bay, hopes and sales were picking up.

Orme, whose family-run Carousel has been a staple at the State Fair for 20 years, also is roasting marshmallows -- dipped in chocolate if you'd like -- this year. She says she was inspired to add roasted marshmallows to Carousel's huge menu by her grandchildren, who love to toast them over the fire when they visit her and her husband, Larry, at their Corydon, Ind., home.

"This state fair is a good place to try the marshmallows because there are a lot families here," Orme says.

There's also a lot of eating going on. For all the fun things to do and see at the fair, eating has to be on the top of the list. Sure, the Ferris wheel offers a sky-high view of Hillsborough County, and where else can you sit on bleachers and cheer on a cow as she gives birth? But, honestly, if you can start and end your day with a corn dog and eat cotton candy, ice cream, gyros, fried chicken gizzards, pizza, saltwater taffy, fresh-squeezed lemonade and elephant ears in between, well, that's just gluttony at its most gluttonous.

Other notable food sightings were creme brulee at the Tiko Taco Hut and tacos in a bag, which were made by opening a bag of Fritos and dumping in chili, lettuce, salsa and a fork.

This year's fair offers the usual array of fattening food, which isn't too dreadful for most of us because the roar of the grease and the smell of the cows is just a once-a-year affair. For Orme, a second-generation concessionaire who started her career about 50 years ago at age 8 selling Kewpie dolls for her father at fairs in Indiana, it's a struggle to stay away from temptation.

By the end of Carousel's Florida swing, as they go from the State Fair to the Plant City Strawberry Festival to the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition, she's had her fill of food on a stick.

"After a while," she says, "you're looking for something green."

But when the Florida State Fair opens and she hasn't had a whiff of grease in months, the smell of sausage, peppers and onions is so tantalizing, Orme has to take a taste. She's partial to chopped-pork barbecue sandwiches, too. The deep-fried candy bars aren't her thing, she says, but she hopes they become a fair standard.

We've got a suggestion for next year to allow weight watchers to get a taste of the deep-fried candy bar without eating a whole one. Bite-size battered and deep-fried Milky Ways and Snickers. Three tiny ones for $2, instead of one big one for $3.

Remember, you read it here first.

Funnel Cakes

  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat together egg and milk. Beat in flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar and granulated sugar until smooth.

Heat about 1 inch vegetable oil in frying pan to 375 degrees. Pour half-cup batter through funnel into oil with a circular motion to form a spiral. Fry until lightly brown; turn over to brown the other side. Cook to golden brown, and remove to drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar while still warm. Makes 5 to 10 cakes.


Sausage, Peppers & Onions

  • 8 Italian sausages (hot or mild)
  • 4 or 5 green peppers, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 sweet onions, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven or cast-iron frying pan put olive oil to coat bottom. Add green peppers and onions, and season with salt and pepper. Place Italian sausage on top of peppers and onions. Cover lightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the sausages and bake another 7 to 8 minutes. Serve on crusty rolls. Serves 4 to 6.


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