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Krispy Kreme burger at Florida State Fair yields a life lesson

Ernest Hooper sizes up the Over the Top burger at the Florida State Fair.

Special to the Times

Ernest Hooper sizes up the Over the Top burger at the Florida State Fair.

Like a siren's song, it summoned me.

I tried to resist but ultimately, gastronomical curiosity overruled the foreboding combination of ground beef, sizzling bacon, melted cheese, sweet dough and warm sugary glaze.

Yes, I ate the "Over the Top Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burger" being served up by Carousel Foods at the Florida State Fair.

Today, I will wake up and call my doctor — hopefully before he sees this column.

It's easy to envision the caloric dangers of this culinary combo, especially for a man just a couple of weeks past his 46th birthday who isn't an exercise fiend.

Personal history, however, ruled over dietary common sense. Where I grew up in Tallahassee, my neighborhood road intersected one of the main thoroughfares, Tennessee Street. On the corner there were two eateries: Krystal and Krispy Kreme.

In short, I was raised on cheeseburgers and hot glazed doughnuts. Of course, I never imagined combining the two.

But somebody did.

A precursory Internet search reveals a number of articles dating as far back as 2005, when a Georgia restaurant owner began serving the "Luther" burger, named for singer Luther Vandross. Legend has it, he invented the burger after running out of buns. (I'm going to leave out the fact that Vandross died of stroke-related complications five years ago.)

CBS News dubbed the creation "The World's Unhealthiest Burger" when writing about the concoction being served at a

Gateway Grizzlies' minor league baseball game. According to a New York Post story, the Grizzlies have since graduated to a 1 1/2-pound burger served with salsa, sour cream, chili and Fritos.

The Food Network's Paula Deen and Travel Channel's Man v. Food brought added attention to the delicacy, but Carousel's Cheryl Reas said she learned about the burger from a vendor who had it in Columbia, S.C.

Part of a longtime family business, Reas has been serving up grub like turkey legs, pork chops on a stick, ribs, chicken and sausage at fairs around the country since 1979. This is her first time offering the over-the-top burger, and the reaction has been nothing short of amazing.

A paramedic downed one on Sunday and then his partner returned on Monday and said, "He's still alive, so I guess I'll have one."

Most come up to the stand and stare in bewilderment. At times, the burger draws a crowd like a sideshow act. Onlookers often greet customers as they prepare to walk away and say, "Can I get a picture of that?"

Peggy Ackah didn't mind the attention. A slender 50-year-old who could pass for 35, Ackah returned to the fair Monday to get her second over-the-top burger in as many days.

"It has a sweet taste and a lot of moisture," Ackah said. "It's not like bread. The doughnuts just melt in your mouth with the meat. It's an awesome taste."

With that endorsement, it was time for me to sample the superburger. I ordered mine plain with cheese, forgoing the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and condiments. I also skipped the bacon in a futile attempt to raise the health quotient.

Like a frightened roller coaster rider creeping up that first hill, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and then went, well, over the top.

It was good. Not overwhelmingly awesome, but good. The burger was fresh and probably would have worked between two conventional buns.

I told my colleagues I would only take one bite for research. Minutes later, it was gone, and I could only think: I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

Then I spotted Vanessa Blue, her sister Syritta and mother, Elaine, and learned how best to eat the Over the Top burger. Likening it to the savory taste of a McGriddle, they split their offering among the three of them.

"We have to balance our eating before nap time," Vanessa said with a laugh.

And really, that's what the fair is all about. Family.

Consider Reas, who travels from her Corydon, Ind., home with a caravan of cooks and helpers that includes her husband, mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and sometimes her husband's brother.

The guys selling gyros nearby are her cousins, and the folks selling fried butter and fried Pepsi next door are her nephews.

Fried butter? Fried Pepsi? Not unless I'm splitting them with a whole group of friends and family.

There is strength in numbers.

That's all I'm saying.

Krispy Kreme burger at Florida State Fair yields a life lesson 02/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:47pm]

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