Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fried Alligator, Pepperoni Pizza, Corn Dogs, and Other Delights at the Monterey County Fair

Pepperoni Pizza
This year Seth and I not only got to go back to the Monterey County Fair, but we were also able to attend as official members of the local press for the very first time. Seth got us press passes so that we could cover it as a team for his Examiner column and we were able to come and go at will as many times as we wanted. That said, we had more money to justify spending on food over the course of the three days we were there and we definitely took advantage of that. 

Of course, we are watching our calories and focusing on weight loss right now. We're also still very much into our abstinent Fridays for religious reasons. However, we were totally up for the challenge of keeping those things in mind while also enjoying a few tasty and indulgent treats. We definitely let ourselves off the leash a bit and gave ourselves permission to eat what we wanted, but we also walked to and from the fair each of the days we went, so we burned off most of the extra calories we ate (and drank). I feel like we really experienced the food to the fullest and I'm thrilled about that.

The pizza above was probably one of the most delicious pieces of pepperoni pizza I've ever had in my life and we wound up having it almost by accident. We'd already fallen in love with the midway corn dogs earlier in the week and wanted more. However, the lines were just crazy long that night and we didn't want to miss the Journey Revisited concert that was about to begin, so we went for the pizza and a side of nachos to share instead. That slice of pizza was huge. It was also cheesy and spicy with a chewy crust, as well as that slight hint of greasiness that really good fairground pizza ought to have. And it was just what the doctor ordered, especially to enjoy alongside a couple of beers.

Fish and Garlic Fries with Tapatio Sauce
Since the War concert we wanted to catch fell on a Friday, we needed to find something tasty to enjoy that would still be Friday appropriate, so we went for the fish and chips. The people at the booth were nice enough to serve our fish over garlic fries instead of normal chips at our request, as you can see. I'm sure you can also see that we soaked ours in the delicious Tapatio hot sauce they had on the condiment table this year. 

This was another really fantastic pick that wound up exceeding my expectations and this is coming from someone that probably considers fish and chips to be her favorite meal. The fish was light and flaky, coated with a really nice cornbread-like batter. Steaming hot, juicy, and flavorful. It went perfectly with both the fries and the hot sauce. So well in fact, that we wound up buying another order to share later and savoring every bite.

Midway Corn Dog
The corn dogs from the midway were perhaps my favorite thing that I ate this year at the fair and I'm actually surprised. I mean... I really like corn dogs. However, I've mostly only had them at cafeterias or from the freezer section at the grocery store. I'll tell you right now that type of corn dog is not the same thing as what I ate at the fair this year.

To be fair, I actually can't really recall ever having had an authentic, properly deep-fried, piping hot corn dog at a festival booth or amusement park before. I've, of course, had people tell me that midway corn dogs are not to be missed under any circumstances, but I never really took them seriously before. I just figured a corn dog was a corn dog and that's it. Well... I get it now. These were so good, Seth and I wound up sharing several of them over both the Thursday and the Saturday we were there. Even in the face of a ton of different options to choose from.

Fried Alligator With Dirty Rice
We also got a chance to try alligator for the very first time in both our lives. It was deep-fried (of course) and served with the most incredible Cajun dirty rice. I've heard people say "tastes like chicken" a lot in regards to alligator and I definitely understand why now that I've had it. It's juicy, mild, lean, and white just like chicken breast or chicken tenders. However... it's also completely unlike chicken at the same time. The best way I can think to describe is as a cross between a chicken tender and a piece of a meatier fish like tuna. It was excellent and I would jump at the chance to have it again.

I didn't expect to care much about the rice it came with, but it was actually just as delicious as the alligator. Spicy, light, fluffy, and bursting with flavor. Little pieces of sausage and veggies were interspersed throughout and gave it a really pleasant texture and added some wonderful layers to the flavor as well. I didn't eat the remoulade it came with, as I'm pretty phobic of anything even sort of resembling mayonnaise, but Seth had it and said it was deliciously spicy and creamy.

Firestone Walker Pale Ales
We tried a few of the beers as well, of course. This one was an India Pale Ale from Firestone Walker Brewing Company, a local brewery out of Paso Robles. It was just the right choice to enjoy after a concert as the weather begins to transition from summer warm to pre-autumn crisp. It was rich and light at the same time, as well as herbacious and earthy. It also went perfectly with all of the deep-fried, indulgent wonders we'd been enjoying that day. I'd love to try some other beers from this brewery, actually. Fall time is always the time of year I most like trying new beers and ales anyway. 

All in all, we had an amazing time at the fair and the food was at the center of the experience where it belongs. As usual, I'm so glad that we went and I definitely loved attending with Seth as a member of the press. The food and music were both exceptional and I really enjoyed the fresh air to boot. So much to see and to do. The whole experience really made my little Labor Day vacation everything a vacation should be.
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