Passing through the Grand gate about twenty after six on the first morning of the 2012 Iowa State Fair, I found the atmosphere mostly laid-back, with a few food vendors already hard at work serving the early-birds coffee, pastries, and sit-down breakfasts.
Perusing the stands along Rock Island Ave., I happen across the Iowa Craft Beer Tent and take some pictures of the taps on hand. I soon make the acquaintance of Scott Carlson with the Court Avenue Brewing Company and order up a fistful of beer sample tickets. Enjoying a few of Court Avenue's brews, I take another stroll around the Fairgrounds with a sample of Keg Creek's Red Ale, reveling in its nutty aroma.
Sample tickets with a sample at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent.
This ale gives me a stiffy!
On my third stroll up the hill behind Pioneer Hall I finally found the fryers working at the lone Campbell's concession stand offering this year's most-touted food-on-a-stick, the Double Bacon Corn Dog. In anticipation of the demand, Campbell's prepared in advance 12,000 wieners wrapped in bacon. From media reports, 1,000 were consumed on the very first day, with yours truly getting one of the first served.
The bacon-wrapped wieners are deep-fried until the bacon slices are thoroughly cooked. Then they're dipped in cornmeal batter studded with bits of bacon and deep-fried a second time until golden brown.
It's a well made corn dog, of that there's no doubt. The bacon adds a savory, salty note you don't normally find with a corn dog, though overall it's not demonstrably bacony. For the price though I'd pay the little extra for a foot-long. With or without bacon, nothing beats a foot-long.
At past Fairs I've sampled both Carl's Gizmo and the Jennie Grinder [see blog post]. This time around I stopped by Aunt Mary's for one of their Italian sausage sandwiches. I had passed by their little stall several times before they opened, equally mesmerized by the sound of sausage on the open-air grill tucked behind the wee building, and the ensuing aromas that wafted over the fence.
Saucy, moist loose pork sausage, topped with shredded mozzarella then toasted in a soft Rotella hoagie bun. Mildly spicy; do ask for banana peppers if you want an extra kick. A must try!
Perusing the food stalls in the green space south of the concourse I came across Hardenbrook's sausage stand. Mesmerized by the plethora of tube meats on the grill, I broke free of its spell to venture into the madness of the Varied Industries Building.
The Nothing Spared rice crispy square.
Tiring of the crowd I mosey back to Hardenbrook's for a comforting Polish sausage heaped with sauerkraut, grilled onions and green bell peppers. A good, solid sandwich. This does beat a foot-long.
The Nothing Spared rice crispy square is sweet, chocolatey, salty, chewy, crispy and crunchy. And for two bucks it's a bargain! You remember the first time you tried a rice crispy square with peanut butter? Or dipped in chocolate? Yeah. It's that magical. How can one go back to mere one- or two-note rice crispy bars?
Sated food-wise I quaff a few beer samples back at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent, trade in the last three tickets for a refreshing Sutliff Hard Cider, and bid the Fair adieu. I rather wish I snagged a box of black walnut taffy on the way out.