At the Florida State Fair this year, adventurous foodies can feast on a burger with glazed doughnuts for a bun plus a scoop of mac and cheese for good measure. Or, they can enjoy novel noshes like PB&J quesadillas, pizza funnel cakes and a fried birthday cake pop.
Voting opens Wednesday for a "People's Choice" winner from a slate of creative hamburgers including a "bacon bomb," a French toast burger and an ice cream burger with a scoop of Mexican-style fried ice cream.
The fair opens Feb. 4, the first state fair in the country. Florida's tropical climate allows for an early fair, organizers say, allowing vendors to test out new ways to bust bellies.
You have until Jan. 27 to place a vote at FloridaStateFair.com for one of four burger creations, and the winner will appear on the fair menu with bragging rights. It's possible some of the runners up could still appear at the fair, too.
The nominees include:
French Toast Burger: A burger patty topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, sandwiched between slices of homemade French Toast and drizzled with a special sauce.
Ice Cream Burger: A meal and dessert in one concoction, this one takes a cheeseburger with bacon, tomato, onion and pickle and tops it with a scoop of Mexican-style fried ice cream.
Redneck Burger: The patty is topped with bacon and cheese and a piece of fried bologna, plus baked beans, potato sticks, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on a toasted bun.
Bacon Bomb Explosion Burger: Under the premise of "you can't have too much bacon," the ground chuck is seasoned with ranch, BBQ sauce and a special seasoning. After the addition of some bacon crumbles, the meat is wrapped in a lattice of fresh bacon and slow roasted with hickory smoke until golden brown, then sliced into patties. It's served on a Kaiser roll with a slice of cheese and a few more strips of bacon (naturally). Add lettuce tomato, onion and pickles. (This one will definitely appear on the fair's menu, organizers said, regardless of voting.)
But it's not just the burgers getting reinvented. Fair vendors are having their way with peanut butter and jelly and marrying funnel cake with pizza.
If you want to sample a little of everything, check out Taste of the Fair on Feb. 8, at which select food vendors offer petite portions of their regular menu items at a budget price point. Some of the inventions to look for include:
Pizza Funnel Cake: This new creation starts with pizza dough flavored funnel cake topped with pizza sauce, melted cheese and pepperoni.
Peanut Butter, Jelly and Bacon Quesadilla: The PB&J classic combo gets a Tex-Mex makeover in this new sensation. Or try the peanut butter and banana quesadilla before the annual Elvis Extravaganza, featuring a bevy of Elvis impersonators competing Feb. 12-14. Any of the quesadillas will come with a side of chocolate chips and caramel, and a bacon and cheese quesadilla also will be available.
Double Barrel Burger: A burger bound to have everyone talking makes its national debut at the Florida State Fair. This colossal double-decker burger starts with a glazed doughnut as the bottom bun. Then comes a burger patty, cheese and bacon. Another doughnut cut in half is the middle bun, followed by a second burger patty, cheese, a scoop of macaroni and cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle (optional) and another whole glazed donut on top.
The Southern Belle Burger: Another new burger creation tops a patty with bacon, cheese, fried green tomato, fried egg and the Southern staple, pimento cheese spread. Add your choice of lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion and you have a burger fair organizers say, "could make Scarlett O'Hara blush with delight."
Deep Fried Birthday Cake Pop: Move over, deep-fried Twinkies and Oreos, you'll have to compete with another Florida State Fair first. It's a mini birthday cupcake, dipped in a sweet batter and deep-fried. It's topped with colorful sprinkles and cream cheese icing for dipping.
Gluten-free options: If you've read this far, we doubt you are looking for a healthier fair experience, but organizers swear there are a variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options, including Island Noodles, a stir-fry made with buckwheat Yaki Soba noodles and tossed with garlic, ginger and up to 21 fresh vegetables. Island Noodles contain no gluten, dairy or nuts and can be made with or without meat.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SharonKWn on Twitter.