State Fair

Crazy State Fair foods: deep-fried pumpkin pie and a ’shroom truck

Fungai Fusion is a new food vendor at the Kansas State Fair selling all things mushroom – including morels.
Fungai Fusion is a new food vendor at the Kansas State Fair selling all things mushroom – including morels. Courtesy photo

Don’t worry, fans of deep-fried delights. The Kansas State Fair will again this year offer crispy concoctions that must be tasted to be believed: deep-fried pumpkin spice Oreos and deep-fried bacon-wrapped pickles among them.

But one of the more notable culinary additions at this year’s fair, which opens on Friday in Hutchinson, will be a controversial fungus that some love and some hate: mushrooms.

Fungal Fusion, a food truck based out of Humansville, Mo., will be one of two new food vendors at the Kansas State Fair. The owner, Matt Trammell, specializes in dishes made with mushrooms and topped with truffle oil – and he sells morels. (Foodies and fungus fans know that morels are hard to come by, and eating them is a spiritual experience.)

“I’m excited to see how these new folks do, especially the mushroom guy,” said Sue Stoecklein, the fair’s director of commercial exhibits, who manages and hires the food vendors. “He’s different enough that I want him to find his voice out here.”

Other notable culinary additions this year: the mushy, Southern treat known as boiled peanuts; sweet Belgian waffles; and a true heart clogger: a cheesy bacon meatball bomb on a stick.

Here’s a guide to dining at this year’s Kansas State Fair.

Crazy new treats

Deep-fried pumpkin pie: They’re calling it deep-fried pumpkin pie, but the owners of Brackett Concessions at 303 Fort Riley Blvd. are actually coating pumpkin spice-flavored Oreo cookies with funnel cake batter, frying them and serving them with lots of whipped cream.

Bickles: Bernard’s Pit Stop Bar-B-Q at 313 Fort Riley Blvd. will be wrapping dill pickles in bacon, deep frying them and impaling them on a stick. They’re calling the invention a “bickle.”

Cheesy bacon meatball bombs on a stick: This caloric treat, which will feature a cheese-stuffed meatball wrapped in bacon, will be sold by Boxcar Express, a food vendor at 308 Fort Riley Blvd.

Sweet Belgian waffles: The owners of Mel’s Diner at 131 Cottonwood Ave. visited Belgium this year and fell in love with the sweet dessert waffles they now sell, which have a sweet sugar crunch.

Boiled peanuts: When Bernard’s Pit Stop isn’t frying up bickles, it will be offering another unusual treat – at least for these parts: boiled peanuts. They’re a Southern specialty, and their mushiness makes them an acquired taste. But those who love them really love them.

Purple cow: The Kansas Dairy Association’s Dairy Bar, that popular ice cream shop under the grandstand, this year has invented a bright-colored float that mixes ice cream and grape soda. The Dairy Bar is also undergoing renovations and this year has an attractive farm scene towering over it, complete with a faux silo that has benches all around it.

Kangaroo jerky: It’s not in the food court, but a new vendor in the Eisenhower building called I Jerky Guy will serve all kinds of unusual jerky, like kangaroo and ostrich.

New food vendors

Food vendors love the Kansas State Fair, and they rarely ever leave. This year, Stoecklein was able to add only two.

Fungal Fusion: Owner Trammell started his food trailer specializing in mushrooms early this year. It mostly operates in the Kansas City area but is taking a break to come to the fair. He’ll be selling several ’shroom-centric dishes during the fair, including deep-fried mushroom tacos and a french fry dish that tops fries with cheese, pineapple salsa, truffle sauce, barbecued mushrooms and spicy pulled pork, cilantro and morels. He’ll also sell cold soups as well as the popular fermented tea known as kombucha. He’ll be set up at 306 Pride of Kansas Ave.

Hot Rod Grill: A longtime fair food vendor has added a second business on the fairgrounds called Hot Rod Grill. It sits at 308 Fort Larned Blvd., meaning that every corner surrounding the Bretz & Young Arena will now have a food vendor on it. The new business will specialize in cheeseburgers, jumbo hotdogs, Polish sausages and Philly nachos.

All the old favorites

Just because the fair is adding wacky new food doesn’t mean the old faithfuls are gone. Chicken and noodles, Jaffles and all the other old favorites will be back as well.

Workshop shows people how to make a barn quilt to enter in the Kansas State Fair. (March 23, 2016)

The perennial racing pigs at the Kansas State Fair on September 11, 2015 in slow motion. (video by Jaime Green)