Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I Ate at the Fair

This is a practice WIAW post. I don't want my first WIAW post to be full of unhealthy foods and have the other participants get all judgey (let's face it, food bloggers are generally a judgey group, probably because we're all the type of people who avoid processed food like the plague and try to make everything from scratch).

Before I start, let me say that the scale was not kind this morning. I'm hoping it's partly the salt, but I'll also say that you couldn't pay me to count yesterday's calories. I just don't want to know. But they were all worth it.

I've been toying with the idea of joining the WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday) bloggers. I like what I eat, therefore I'd like to share it. But somehow photographing it is easier said than done, especially if 1. you're still in the process of waking up, or 2. you're far too hungry to stop for a photo (and my phone has an annoying delay in the camera app). Yesterday I photographed everything I ate, not for WIAW, but because I was at the fair, and my husband was not, and I felt I should document everything so he wouldn't feel sad for missing it. (honestly I think I'm more disappointed than he is that he couldn't go, but still. One thing to note- it's much better to go to the fair with someone else, if only to have an extra set of hands to hold all the stuff you're buying).

When we go to the Big E, there is a very strict order. Usually we get there early, when only some things are open, but this time I had an alarm malfunction (if you get one of those app notifications at the same time your alarm goes off, and you're still half asleep, it's not possible to snooze the alarm, only to turn it off. So I was about 2 hours behind schedule), so I was able to start in immediately.

The first stop is the Rhode Island building for clam fritters and Del's frozen lemonade.

I wait all year for this, my absolute favorite fair foods.

Normally we split this bag of clam fritters, but since I was alone, I had to do my best on my own. I ended up saving about half the bag for dinner (heated up in the oven- not bad, but not nearly as good as when they were fresh)

This year, I noticed you can actually buy the fritter mix and make them at home!!! Oh so excited.
Next, we go to the Massachusetts building and have a healthy snack. Mom usually gets some chocolate milk too, but I still had my Del's so I was good.
These cups of raspberries are $1 each- kind of expensive for what you get, but then, it's the fair.

I also get some bread in MA, from the Pittsfield Rye bakery. They advertise "buy 1 get 1 free" at the fair, but each loaf is $7 so that's not a good buy! It's not bad though, so I got harvest pumpkin and purple wheat.

Here's the pumpkin loaf cut- it doesn't look overly pumpkinny (nor does it taste overly pumpkinny) but it smells pumpkinny and it is pretty good.

After Massachusetts is Maine, home of the baked potato with insane lines. For a baked potato! I'll never get over this. Maine also has lobster rolls and blueberry pie, both of which I passed on. I was still full from the fritters!

Then it's on to Vermont for Cold Hollow Mill cider. I didn't used to get this unless it was chilly and I needed a warm drink, but now that I moved south I can't get CHM cider any time I want. It's not cheap, this cup was $3.75, but so tasty (so tasty that I had to fight off a yellow jacket as I walked 10 feet between the VT and CT buildings).

Then it's CT but I don't get food there- HOWEVER. I saw they had Avery's Sodas and they had a PUMPKIN PIE SODA. swoon. $2.50 a bottle though, and I just wanted to take it home, not drink it, so I decided I'd try to find some at a grocery store somewhere.

Last up is NH, where they have soups and apple things, but again, still full from fritters, Del's and apple cider. So I took all my purchases to the car (that bread was heavy!) and started in on the rest of the fair.

I was tempted to see the unicorn cow, and it was only $1, but I didn't want to support a carny showing off what's probably just a cow that lost one horn.

 Every New England fall fair needs giant pumpkins...

 ...and chickens...

...and butter sculptures!

 Here is food I did not eat, although I was tempted to hove over there and just see how it all looked. I've done fried candy corn, but somehow I didn't think to try fried jelly beans (the fried candy corn was a big failure, the candy corn melts)

 After I visited the sheep, goats and cows (and resisted the temptation to buy yarn in the "Fiber Nook"- my favorite sock yarn went up from $15 a skein to $24 a skein! No way!), I hunted down the wine and cheese house that I'd heard about recently at the Charlton Winery. I'd also seen a sign about free wine tastings at the entrance to the cow/sheep/goat building, but I couldn't imagine they'd do wine tastings IN there. I found the wine tasting building among the Christmas tree show area.

I really enjoyed both of these wineries. Amherst Farm Winery is located in Amherst, MA, probably about an hour from me. Zoll Cellars is located in Shrewsbury, about 10 minutes from me. I've never heard of either winery, but now I'm definitely planning to visit both! I told both of them where I worked, so we chatted for a few minutes.
Amherst Farm served Red Rooster, Pear, Sangria and Chocolate Raspberry, all very tasty

Zoll Cellars served two different reds, a Vidal dessert wine and a dry Riesling

 Then it was on to the Better Living Buildings (there are 2). The Better Living buildings have booths set up with various clothing, jewelry, household gadget type things. You can buy a super chami cloth thing, or a Wonder Knife, a piano, belly dancing costumes, candy, an ergonomic back support for your desk chair (which I actually find to be excruciatingly uncomfortable), hair clips, paintings, pictures embellished with shiny lines (can't quite explain how they look, but the same class as velvet Elvis paintings), walk-in showers, etc. It's weird. Over the past few years, I've gotten really sick of the Better Living Buildings. I don't like the sellers calling out to me to come check out their stuff as I walk by. You used to also be able to buy log cabins there, but they haven't been there for a few years- I used to like walking through their fake house set-ups. So this year, I pretty much walked in and walked out. Some of the booths do a little show (like for that special non-teflon non-stick cookware) so it's a place to find a seat and rest your feet, but my feet were ok.

Moving on!

I went to the Grange Building, where they have a craft show set up, little crafts and homemade jellies to buy and a quilt raffle. We're members of the Grange so we always go, and we always buy a little something, usually little handmade Christmas ornaments- nothing special, they're usually cheap acrylic yarn and that plastic needlepoint canvas. But they're cheap and they're cute, and I'm happy to give them  my money.

The Grange Building is just across the street from the state buildings, so back I went! They really are the best part of the Big E.

I decided it was time for lunch, so I stopped at the BBQ place in back of Maine for a pork parfait (beans on the bottom, pulled pork on top, very rich and indulgent and enormous- I might bring tupperware next time I go so I don't have to throw out what I can't finish) and a Long Trail Blackberry Wheat beer in VT- for Clint's sake, since he wasn't there (not that he would get Blackberry Wheat).

 I wandered a bit more through the rest of the states, then decided to call it a day. Our last stop is always NH Kettle Korn- NH just happens to be the last building in the row and is right next to where I park. We get kettle korn at the very end because there's enough other delicious Big E food to munch on, and kettle korn is still delicious for days after, to enjoy as a fond memory.
 Oh, where do I park, you might ask? Why, Gate 1. The Holy Grail of Big E parking. I get a special parking permit, and free tickets ;) This is one of the Big E's best kept secrets. (the only thing is the Gate 1 lot fills up fast, so you have to get there early, like well before 9 on a weekend)

 One important part of the Big E is the Official Maple Sugar Candy Taste Test. I buy maple sugar from all the states (except RI doesn't sell any, CT doesn't but should, since I know there are maple sugar places in CT, and ME's are all pre-packaged, not made right there). Every year we have to figure out which is the best (only it's always MA). From MA I get the pumpkin and usually a package of 4 pretty shapes, like hearts and scalloped ovals, etc, but this year they only have mini maple leaves. From VT I usually get men and women, but this year tried maple leaves. And from NH I get the state of NH- easy to remember which state that is from!

 We prefer MA's maple sugar because it's kind of melty in the middle. NH is a close second, but VT tends to be pretty dry and crumbly. However, they all have the same delicious maple flavor!

And then I finish it all and wish I'd bought more. Normally I get a set for me, and a set for Clint, but this year he said he was fine without, so I kind of got one and a half sets. You know next week I'm going to be very sorry I didn't get a full set for him that I could then eat!

For the rest of the week I'll enjoy a Big E breakfast- the Pittsfield Bakery pumpkin bread with Twin Pines Farm (from the CT building, I always like to buy the local agriculture booth of the day's items) pumpkin butter (which is super yum, I need to make some this year).

 Now I need to find another fair to go to.

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