The Hot Wisconsin Cheese
wagon at the Arkansas State Fair
has been abuzz with activity, mostly for the strange and unusual items sold from there, including the eponymous Deep Fried Egg (a hard-boiled egg deep fried and battered on a stick). I can honestly say this is the one vendor at the Fair I want to visit multiple times. Then again, I have a cheese addiction.
The last cheese guy at the Fair two years ago was selling hot deep fried cheese curds and fried ravioli; he had his fill here and never came back. So why should it do so well this time around?
Variation. Because as I found out, there are a whole lot of variations at this one wagon… and one of them could be the best new food found at this year’s Arkansas State Fair. Don’t worry, bacon’s involved.
See, I’m always out there looking for that next great Fair food. This is what I do. The Arkansas State Fair is the culmination of a summer of festivals and a fall of other fairs. Once it’s over, I know I can safely retreat to the interiors of restaurants and convention halls until emerging in the April sun for the first rays of festival season. This is the last great outdoor food of the year.
Of course, I’m leaving out the big duck gumbo cook-off and all that jazz down in Stuttgart - but that’s an abnormality.
Anyway, finding out what’s new and different at the Arkansas State Fair is always a fun challenge. And sometimes, not even the folks at the Fair know everything that’s going to be served up (I’ll have to tell you about Cheeseburger on a Stick soon). So finding a whole lot of unusual at one booth is just about priceless.
So, fried cheese. Instead of cheese curds, the folks at Hot Wisconsin Cheese use cut cheese (enough with the bad jokes already!), good prime Wisconsin cheeses like a very firm Swiss, aged Cheddar, pulled Mozzarella and a
red-veined Jalapeno White Cheddar that’ll stick with you a while.
The art of cheese frying is a delicate one. You
have to get a firm enough cheese that won’t explode inside a batter that will
contain any cheese within. I suppose you have to calculate that into any sort of cheese calculation. So, cheese into the batter, then dipped out and dropped into the fryer. Then scooped out with a spider and drained.
So why don’t we do this at home? Because we’re not experts. Because we don’t want to explode cheese on our selves and our kitchen walls. Because… well, frankly, three bucks is fine for me to pay to get some hot cheese action in a tray or on a stick. I’m happy with that.
It’s what the Hot Wisconsin Cheese folks are doing with cream cheese that really gets me. They do have these little sweet cream cheese on a stick things that are awesome — soft cream cheese that’s been sweetened, batterred with a softer batter than the corn dog stuff, deep fried and served up with chocolate or caramel stuff. I am all about the caramel dip.
Then there are Cream Cheese Chocolates, or more aptly described battered and deep fried balls of cream cheese containing chocolate. They are the bomb. $5 for a tray of six to eight pieces — they really must be shared, though. Very rich. They make the Chocolate Smooches over at the Feed Trough seem pale in comparison when it comes to pure richness and sweetness. You really can just eat one — they’re that rich.
But it’s the Cream Cheese with Bacon on a Stick ($4) that’s been the biggest hit with my crowd. The hubster has pronounced it the coolest new thing he’s eaten at the Fair; the guys at KARN Newsradio liked it bunches; the KARK Today folks ate it up and Grav… well, you just have to see his expression to know it was awesome. Makes me wish I could try it.
But I can’t — because that’s real bacon, a lot of it inside the cream cheese. It’s formed on the stick before battering — nearly a brick’s worth of cream cheese, mixed with bacon and then coated with more bacon before going into the batter. Paul says the
cream cheese intensified the flavor. Grav just gave it a bacony thumb’s up.
And then there’s the egg. Now, it just doesn’t seem like something that’d be that appetizing, a simple hard-boiled egg sans shell, speared on a stick and battered and deep fried. But it works. It really works. I’d eat it for breakfast if some place around here started serving it. And it’s so simple.
What’s really cool is the sauce. They have several to choose from — traditional ranch, a somewhat spicy Jalapeno Ranch, stone ground mustard and sweet and sour sauce. And marinara — though that’s usually for the cheese. Heck with it, I like the marinara with it.
Anyway, there you go — enough fried food from one vendor to finish you off for the entire fair. And I didn’t even get to the uncut deep fried okra, the onion rings or the assorted veggies. Heh.
Go to the Fair. Go down to the Food Court. Turn right at SuperDog and left at the funnel cake guy and it’s right there. And they don’t use any California cheese