Food & Drink

The top 3 new Iowa State Fair foods: We tried them for you

DES MOINES — Hot dogs, corn dogs, funnel cake and every imaginable permutation of deep-fried, heart attack on-a-stick are all Iowa State Fair mainstays. The classics are good, but in the spirit of ingenuity and entrepreneurialism, one vendor at this year’s fair will be awarded the people’s choice award for best new food at the fair.

Pork belly on a stick

The first of this year’s three finalists is the brown sugar pork belly on a stick, available for $7 at the Iowa Pork Tent on the right a few hundred feet past Gate 4 entrance to the fairgrounds.

The list of ingredients is short and simple: a quarter pound of pork belly, brown sugar and a stick.

Pork belly is essentially a thicker cut of the pig meat that bacon is made from; it’s super bacon.

The thick, smoky strip of pig belly is coated in caramelized brown sugar, blending together in a harmony of sweet and savory. The rind is a little chewy, a nice complement to the fat, which is tender and melts in your mouth.

Folks don’t go to the fair to be healthy, and this isn’t a healthy snack. But it sure does taste good.

Apple egg rolls

Bacon is classic, but nothing is more classic than apple pie. This year’s fairgoers can try a twist on that classic: apple egg rolls, available for $5 at any of the six Applishus stands located on the fairgrounds.

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A lot of work goes into each apple egg roll, made using well-chopped green apples, cornstarch, cinnamon, sugar and butter and fried in an egg roll wrap.

The egg roll wrap is flaky, like any good pie crust should be, but a lack of sugar in the wrap itself turns the dial on this treat from super sweet to just this side of savory.

Hot caramel dip brings in the sweetness that otherwise might be missed between the tartness of the green apples and savory flavor of the egg roll wrap.

Belly up burger

At $10, the third finalist for this year’s best new food people’s choice award is a little pricier than the brown sugar pork belly and apple egg roll, but it’s also a meal in its own right.

The All Iowa Belly Up Burger can be found at the Rib Shack, which is south of the Anne and Bill Riley stage and under Sky Glider West.

From the top down, it’s one generous helping of coleslaw and another of pulled pork, a layer of thick-cut candied bacon and a half pound burger of ground pork belly sandwiched between two brioche buns.

The pork is good, but the contributions made by the candied bacon and coleslaw are what really make the burger work.

The coleslaw is great, lightening the otherwise overwhelming flavor of so much well-seasoned meat and pairing well with the mellow, juicy flavor of the burger.

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The candied bacon comes in at the tail end of the flavor experience to give you a taste of something savory.

That said, the burger drips with sauce and is not something you can eat cleanly. So bring a bib or wear a shirt you’re not too fond of.

How to vote

Voting for the best new food contest closes at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Text STICK, APPLE or BURGER to 75782 to cast a ballot, and check out iowastatefair.org for more information on other new foods to try at the fair, which runs through Aug. 19.

l Comments: (319) 368-8514; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

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