TAMPA — Hamburgers and Oreos haven't had much in common beyond the sandwich thing. But all that could change.
The same people who brought us the Krispy Kreme Burger are proposing another dangerous concoction for this year's Florida State Fair: a burger deep fried in Oreo batter.
And then topped with bacon.
The sweet and salty mega-caloric invention is one of five burger concepts created by Carousel Foods competing for a featured spot at the fair. The judges? The burger-eating public.
Sadly, votes must be cast online at FloridaStateFair.com by Wednesday at midnight, without the benefit of actual tasting. The votes will be tallied next week, and the top two will be added to Carousel Foods' menu as People's Choice Burgers for the duration of the fair, which runs Feb. 5-16.
For a fair that prides itself on all manner of deep-fried improbabilities, the rest of the burger contenders aren't all that outlandish. Also in the running are a jalapeno-encrusted burger; another coated in Parmesan; a Holiday Burger topped with stuffing, sweet potato fries and a cranberry orange marmalade; and the audaciously named Burger of the Gods, bearing Brie, bacon and apple-maple compote.
"The crazier it is, the more people want to try it," said Cheryl Reas, 51, of Corydon, Ind., co-owner of Carousel Foods with her husband, brother and sister-in-law.
One of 210 food vendors this year at the fair, Carousel made a name for itself years ago with its Krispy Kreme burger, which substitutes two doughnuts for the usual buns. It's their best-selling burger, Reas said.
She's predicting another sweet-salty mix could join the lineup.
"I almost think one of them will be the Oreo just because it's different, it's crazy enough," Reas said.
One of Tampa Bay's top masters of both burgers and haute cuisine agrees it's a unique concept.
"That's definitely pushing the envelope as far as being crazy," said Chris Ponte, owner of Clearwater's Cafe Ponte and designer of the original menu for Burger 21. "You kind of get a sweet, salty flavor. I think it could potentially be a great burger."
Ponte likened it to an Asian-inspired burger made with peanut butter.
''They all sound great in their own ways," he said of the five options. "I kind of like a burger that's been thought out."
But, he said, he doesn't expect the Oreo creation or the Burger of the Gods to win. Brie isn't a strong enough cheese to stand up against red meat, he said.
The chef favored the Parmesan and Holiday burgers, though he suggested the Holiday be a turkey burger to really accentuate the Thanksgiving theme.
Reas' family sells burgers at state fairs all over the country. They've been coming to Florida since around 1980, she said. But theirs has been a family business since the 1930s when her grandfather started selling food at fairs during the Depression.
When the fair season ends in October, Reas and her husband, Dennis, spend the winter brainstorming new combinations.
"My husband will sit and watch the Food Network and he'll watch the burger shows'' for inspiration, she said.
Because Florida kicks off the national state fair season, Floridians get the first whiff of vendors' freshly crafted menus, noted Terry Longphee, Florida State Fair Authority sales and marketing director.
Items that tank in Florida may not make it to the next state's fair, while the hits will most likely continue on the fair circuit.
"I think it's a badge of honor, so to speak, that we get to debut the new unique fair foods," said markLongphee said.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @josh_solomon15