Thursday, October 2, 2014

Texas State Fair recap

As I mentioned, one of the destinations this past weekend was the State Fair of Texas.  It runs for just over 3 weeks, but I'll be out of town for the remaining weekends, so this was my one chance.  And based on what I eat when I'm there, it's very good that I only go once a year! 

This will be a picture-heavy post.  Kind of like the travel recap posts I'm HOPING to be able to share while we're on vacation starting next week (!!!!!!!). 

I posted before about what I was going to eat at the Fair this year, and it was pretty much 100% mission accomplished, except I never found the biscuits and gravy as described online (instead, as you'll see below, I found the non-sweet equivalent, likely even better).

The comments on that post showed me what I would not have otherwise guessed -- that not everyone loves this stuff.  People were split, with Meredith and Amy landing on the "yes!" side of my eating plan, but a majority including Jennifer, Mike, Gracie and Megan landing on the "yuck!" side of my eating plan (incidentally, all people with awesome blogs). 

There were several healthy options available (grilled chicken and such), and many "borderline" healthy options (I'd put grilled corn in this category), but the bulk of the menus fell on the unhealthy side (fried, sweet, alcoholic, or two of those three).  And I ended up eating only the unhealthy (though I drank mostly water, which was better). 

Since Saturday night consisted of dinner at a local pizza place and then a long game of Mexican Trains with my folks after my husband went to sleep, and since Sunday my morning consisted of a 10 mile and change run with my friends, a 90 minute Bikram class with my mama, and brunch (at Cafe Brazil) with a friend who'd run 18, I went into the Fair at something less than "full of energy."  I also arrived not hungry, which was nice.  Lots of time to consider what would fill the belly space.  And fill the belly space it did, but I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Our first stop was the greenhouse.  There were tracks and model trains going through the plants and little replicas of beautiful Texas buildings. 

The Alamo in San Antonio, and the Live Stock Exchange in Fort Worth:

Our next stop was one of my traditional favorites, the big Ferris wheel, which is $8 per person and includes lovely views of downtown:

I began menu-browsing after that, trying to see what looked good.  The deep fried spaghetti could have been interesting, but of course since it was with meatballs, I ruled it out.  I put the fried red velvet cupcake on my "maybe later" mental list:

We then got to see Big Tex, who now speaks Spanish too!  One of the many crazy memories from our trip to China in 2012 (I wish I could link to one post that had references to all my travel recaps, oh well, there was lots of crazy stuff) was seeing images of burning Big Tex and not understanding what was going on back home: 

For reference, here is are a couple pictures like the ones we saw on the news in China:

 As you can imagine, it was quite confusing and mildly alarming since we thought there was a chance some major $hit was going on back in Dallas.

Anyway, one of the things we spent the most time doing at the Fair this year (besides walking) was watching dance and performance groups.  A San Antonio "Texas clogging" group, belly dancers, African drum performers, and Irish dancers: 

The first food for me had to be fried butter.  At Jennifer's request, here are photos.  I was disappointed to hear the topping choices this year.  I think they were honey/cinnamon/sugar, grape jelly, or chocolate sauce.  In past years, I've chosen garlic, which makes it taste like buttery bites of garlic bread.  Rather than risk compromising my favorite fair food, I (and my folks, who shared one order) elected to go with plain.  That meant instead of tasting like buttery garlic toast, it tasted like buttery toast.  Oh so good!  This averages out to one fried butter ball per quarter.  My husband thinks only heathens eat butter on their bread (and that olive oil is the only appropriate choice), so I pretty much never have butter at home unless it's on a baked potato or in a baked good.  So hopefully this won't kill me.  If it does, well, what a way to go is all I can say! 

The last ball of fried butter, a sad thing:

Some food options -- fried s'mores sounded intriguing but didn't make the cut in the end:

The butter sculpture this year was wild running horses.  When I saw it, I kept thinking they should cut it up and fry it after the Fair.

We decided on a fluke to go into the children's zoo equivalent at the Fair.  I go in this building about every other year because the animal hair usually kills my allergies within a few minutes and I end up wheezing and sneezing for hours afterward, but it wasn't as bad this year.  Maybe since the Fair had only been open 3 days, there was less hair in the space?

My favorite was probably this little giraffe.  I felt badly for it since it seemed kind of scared, like it just wanted to sit real still and maybe no one would notice it.

This animal won for new-to-me (and below is what I read about it, hollow horns!):

The animal here looked like a cross-breed between a donkey and a zebra:

This little zebra was adorable and kept herding these chickens:

A kangaroo with a joey in her pouch, which just looked so awkward and strange, especially because the longer we watched, the further out the joey came, but the mama never seemed to care:

After we left the petting section, we went to see Boris, the huge pig featured every year.  This always bothers me on some level.  Unnatural, cruel, all that.  But a spectacle and I guess a teaching tool?

We watched a bit of a horse show, but horses are the worst for my allergies, so we couldn't stay long:

The next dining selection was fried stuffed olives, which were surprisingly delicious.  Stuffed with cream cheese and herbs.  It was a total of 6 olives, so we each ate 2 and the verdict was thumbs up from all of us:

Another item for future consideration that didn't make the final cut:

More dancers...

I did want the fried Texas bluebonnet, as it was one of the 2014 nominees for the Big Tex choice award.  It was the fried blueberry muffin and it was okay.  Not something I would get again. 

The winner for "most creative" was the funnel cake ale.  It was pretty good as a beer, but I didn't get any funnel cake taste from it, aside from the sweetness from the powdered sugar around the rim:

My folks got Gulf shrimp boil balls, which won for best tasting this year and they were thoroughly unimpressed.  Thumbs down.  They ate them but said it was not something they'd get again and they guessed the competition was weak if that was best tasting:

D'oh!  At this point, I'd already eaten something sweet (the bluebonnet), and I was saving room for biscuits and gravy still, but then I saw there was a veggie patty with jerk sauce at a Jamaican tent.  I really wish I'd gotten to try this, and I hope it's there next year, because I'll seek it out:

We also toured the auto buildings, I took some Texas car pictures:

And of course there was some Texas history involved:

More dancers:

My best friend works for the FBI (not the same one as this guy).  Yes, this is definitely Texas:

A close up of Big Tex's new boots:

After seeing fried biscuits and gravy on the menu at a few places and asking about it, I never found the one described online -- strips of biscuit fried, with chocolate "gravy" dipping sauce.  But since biscuits and gravy became my favorite new food in 2014 (they serve it for breakfast at my hotel in Las Cruces, and it's soooo good), I decided to try a regular non-sweet fried biscuits and gravy dish.  Vegetarian, not vegan, and definitely my favorite discovery of 2014:

We ended with fried macaroni and cheese, which as not great.  We've had it at the Fair before (it was actually the only food on my mom's "must eat" list"), but this was not the same.  It tasted more fried and less good.  But not bad.  So yeah, between the 3 of us, we ate all 4 pieces. 

A final view of the Cotton Bowl:


  1. Yes! Thank you for this post.

    I have to say biscuits and gravy are one of my FAVORITE things and something I miss as a vegetarian. Hard to find veggie gravy at the places I go (I should try making it home, though).

    My absolute FAVORITE veggie gravy (and maybe favorite gravy period) was a breakfast place in Portland, Oregon called... Gravy. If you ever find yourself in Portland, you have to hit up this spot for breakfast. It's an enormous delicious serving, I often find myself daydreaming about it, actually! :)

  2. Thanks for all the great pictures! What is Cool-Aide Pickle? And why is popcorn so expensive?! I think the craziest fried thing I've had is a fried pickle--not so crazy. I have never even had a fried Oreo. But the red velvet cake would have been hard to pass up or me. I've actually never been to a state fair. I think I thought I'd be upset about the animals. I do feel for that baby giraffe. Where did it come from and where is its family? Anyway...why is Big Tex burning?

    As for the biscuits & veg gravy, I eat gravy nearly every day in winter. I have a ton of recipes for quick & easy no-fat vegan gravies (usually take about 3 minutes to make) & pour them over everything--steamed kale, rice & tofu for a meal or cooked veggies or baked potato. This inspires me to whip up biscuits & gravy this weekend!

  3. SO - after I posted my distaste for everything on your must-eat list, I ended up at a party serving pretty much all the same thing. And out of sheer starvation, I ate whatever was there, including fried macaroni and cheese. It was as gross as I expected, but the presentation was nice at least!

  4. I will have to say that I am thoroughly satisfied after reading your post and have no desire to eat anything on thelist! Thanks for eating them so I don't have to! haha :) Love all the pics and glad you had fun!

  5. I love this post! Good for you for going in with a grand food plan. You only live once! It seems they'll fry anything these days. My grandmother used to make the best fried dough With butter and powdered sugar at our local fair and of course she would make it for us anytime we slept over.

    The animals make me sad. Honestly I'm not an animal lover. I don't want pets. I don't really like touching animals. I know I'm a strange candidate for becoming vegan, but petting zoos, zoos in general and those animal areas of fairs really depress me. Most of those animals don't belong here in the U.S.