Dining With Denise Neil

A culinary tour of this year’s State Fair foods

Moink balls, a Kansas State Fair favorite, will return to the 2015 food lineup.
Moink balls, a Kansas State Fair favorite, will return to the 2015 food lineup. File photo

When the Kansas State Fair’s theme for the year includes a reference to food, you know you’re in for some deep-fried delights.

Especially when said title is “Fried N’ Joy” and the accompanying logo is a spinning carnival ride with corndog seats.

The fair will open on Friday, and when it does, attendees will be able to sample a long list of new off-the-wall treats people have come to expect from fair food vendors.

Cap’n Crunch corndogs. Pumpkin spice funnel cakes. Oreo churros. Jalapeno Twinkies. Deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

And fair organizers have come up with a fun way for food fans to track their culinary adventures – a T-shirt that lists 24 dishes, both new and classic, with a checkmark-able box next to each.

“We have a lot of new things, and we also have what I think are some undiscovered treasures – things that have been out here for years,” said Sue Stoecklein, the fair’s director of commercial exhibits.

Here’s a list that will help you navigate your noshing at this year’s fair.

Crazy new treats

▪ Pumpkin spice funnel cake: The whole world, it seems, turns pumpkin spice-flavored during September, so why shouldn’t the Kansas State Fair join in? This year, the West Moreland’s concessions booth, which sits near the corner of Fort Riley Boulevard and Grandstand Avenue on the fairgrounds, will be serving fall-flavored funnel cakes.

▪ Double-smoked bacon popcorn: How do you make popcorn as delicious and unhealthy as possible? Pop it in bacon grease. Boxcar Express on Fort Riley Boulevard near the Bretz & Young Arena will be serving this smoky, savory treat throughout the fair.

▪ Cap’n Crunch corndog: From Family Foods, the folks who brought you Frosted Flake fried chicken last year, comes this invention, which mixes Cap’n Crunch cereal into corndog batter for an extra-sweet and crunchy treat. The booth will be set up on Pride of Kansas Avenue near the Capper Building.

▪ Oreo churros: Just when you thought churros couldn’t get any better, the fair makes them with Oreo cookies. They’ll be at the Kansas Wine and Beer Garden.

▪ Chicken lollipops: The owners of the Jackson’s Foods booth, who will be the vendor in the beef barn, wrap a chicken leg in bacon, smoke it and push the meat up to the top so that the bone is exposed and the concoction looks like a lollipop.

▪ Deep-fried peanut butter and jelly: Are the fair’s other deep-fried delicacies too much for the kids? Oh, well. Just order them a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich from Tim’s Backyard Burgers on Fort Riley Boulevard.

▪ Jalapeno Twinkies: The Carousel Cafe, the restaurant on Fort Riley Boulevard responsible for the Krispy Kreme burger, this year is introducing a Twinkie coated in batter that has jalapenos mixed in. Alert: The owners have decided this will be the Krispy Kreme burger’s last year, so get one while you can.

▪ Grilled mac-and-cheese sandwich: A concessionaire set up on Fort Riley Boulevard just north of Pronto Pup is offering a grilled mac-and-cheese sandwich.

▪ Mini-doughnuts: The concessions stand in the Meadowlark Building this year will be serving mini-doughnuts, made in what looks like a popcorn machine. “They make them right there, and you get to watch it,” Stoecklein said. “They’re little bitty and look like real doughnuts, only they’re as cute as they can be.” The teeny tiny doughnuts will be available plain, coated in cinnamon or iced.

Food tour T-shirt

The new food-tour T-shirts that Stoecklein’s staff has designed are both fashionable and functional.

On the front is a picture of the “Fried N’ Joy” logo and the words “Kansas State Fair Fried N’ Joy Tour 2015.”

On the back of the shirt is a list of 24 foods, some new and some that have been around awhile. The idea is that fairgoers travel the fairgrounds trying each one. (Not in one day.)

The pumpkin spice funnel cake, Oreo churros, deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich and mini-doughnuts are all listed. But so are some longtime fair favorites such as stuffed cucumbers, Pronto Pups, caramel apple sundaes, buffalo burgers, tacos, gator taters and Moink balls, which are meatballs wrapped in bacon, coated with barbecue sauce and impaled on a stick.

The T-shirts are $12 and will be sold at the Fountain Building souvenir stand.

One vendor is out, two new ones are in

Fair food vendors very rarely give up their spaces, Stoecklein said, so she doesn’t get a chance to choose new ones very often.

This year, though, the Hutchinson Civitan Club, which sold hotdogs and hamburgers, decided its space in Cottonwood Court was no longer profitable enough and gave it up. Stoecklein offered the space to a young entrepreneur who will open Fair Grounds, a booth selling fancy coffee house-style drinks like lattes and cappuccinos along with muffins and mascot cookies.

Also, one vendor of the Kansas food truck fleet has been invited to set up at the fair. Noble House Hawaiian Plate Lunch, a Topeka-based food truck that sells dishes including teriyaki chicken, ahi tuna poke and lobster hand rolls, will be set up on Pride of Kansas Avenue near the Capper Building.