TAMPA — There's a subtle cultural shift going down at the Florida State Fair this year. Although you can still gobble all manner of deep-fried oddities — Oreos, Rice Krispies, Snickers — at the annual gustatory get-down, the 2013 fryer doesn't seem to be burbling with anything new and shocking.
You know, like, "Mmm, deep-fried wrenches. You gotta try these."
Instead, the trend in zany fair food seems to be devouring pedestrian items in unorthodox manners. Truth be told, this might be the most (relatively) sensible batch of new delectables in a long time (although that deep-fried lobster would be a delicious last meal for sure).
Herewith, a quick nibble of the year's quirkiest new items at the fair, which opened Thursday and runs through Feb. 18:
PIZZA CONE ($5-$6). Because walking and eating a slice of pizza can be so cumbersome (um, wind resistance?), the practical folks at the Pizza Cone Co. have come up with a smarter way to cruise and chow everyone's favorite triangular snack. Put pizza in an ice cream cone! But of course! Terry Desin, one of the mad geniuses selling the fair's hottest creation, says pizza cones come from "Europe" (um, the same as pizza?) and that this is actually a more efficient way to go. The cone, which is more like a pie crust and sweetly delicious, can hold 6 ounces of toppings. A regular slice according to Desin? Two ounces. By the way, there's enough cheese in one to feed an entire family in Wisconsin. Good luck!
CEREAL CHICKEN ON A STICK ($7). I can see the genesis behind this one. Chicken and waffles are big business these days, so why not pair chicken and another breakfast food? Hmm, Pop Tarts? No. Yogurt? Eww. I got it! Cap'n Crunch! Yes, but you can't just put it all in a bowl. Spike it on a stick! Giant planks of tender white-meat chicken are coated in your choice of cereals: Cap'n Crunch, Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch, Rice Krispies or Honey Bunches of Oats. They're then deep-fried and, if you prefer, drizzled with peanut butter or marshmallow. It's an acquired taste for sure, and sweet overpowers the salty. But these suckers are the size of kites and have a silly charm to them. You could probably feed a Wisconsin family with one of these, as well.
"REDNECK WITH ATTITUDE" BURGER ($10). This is one of the most expensive new food items at the fair, but it's also one of the best. From the folks at Carousel Foods — they also dreamed up the maniacally awesome Krispy Kreme burger — the "Redneck With Attitude" is a beef patty piled high with fried bologna, potato sticks, baked beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles on a sturdy bun. Verdict? AWESOME, and not as horrifically messy as you might imagine. Plus those potato sticks are a clever touch, adding not just crunch but a starchy kick.
PUMPKIN SPICE FUNNEL CAKE ($7). Catty-corner from the Pizza Cone Co. is the Best Around stand, which is famous for its red velvet funnel cake. New flavors this year include pumpkin spice and pineapple inside out, both of which are so sweet your dentist will feel a stab of pain as soon as you bite into one. I tried the pumpkin spice, and it's sinful, with its frosted drizzle, pecans and frenzy of powdered sugar. You know something is going to be an adventure to eat when the woman at the counter begs you to take more napkins.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.