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What’s new at the Washington State Fair? Street corn. Lots of it. Fried stuff, too

What’s new to eat at the fair?

What's new to eat at the Washington State Fair? Street corn, Unicones and llama sausage, if you dare.
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What's new to eat at the Washington State Fair? Street corn, Unicones and llama sausage, if you dare.

Just when you thought fair food could not possibly get more unhealthy, along comes corn.

True, it’s a perfectly innocent food and very tasty in its natural state.

All you need is a little salt, right?

When it comes to fair food, wrong. Big wrong. Salt is just the beginning of the debauchery.

By fair standards, corn apparently needs a slather of mayonnaise, a dunk into grated cheese and then a completely unnecessary adornment of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Would you expect anything less of fair cuisine? Two things I know to be true after 10-plus years of taking one for Team Reader at the fair: The food rarely works out to be a good value and just about everything you eat will slam your arteries shut.

That being said, let’s eat some mayo-slathered corn, shall we?

Here’s a tour of all the corn you can stomach this year, much of it new twists on a favorite street food classic. I’ve also got a few new fried items to try, and one involves a big pile of bacon.

Murphs Mexican Street Corn.jpg
Street corn from Murph’s, a barbecue booth, at the Washington State Fair. At Murph’s, street corn can be doctored any way a diner wants with crushed cereals, chips, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise and a number of other flavorings. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

STREET CORN

What’s that? It’s a Mexican street vendor dish. Mexican restaurants and food stands list it as elotes. The recipe is basically roasted corn-on-the-cob slathered in mayonnaise, coated in grated cheese and sprinkled with smoked paprika or some kind of chile powder.

At the fair, Mexican street corn shows up at three booths, an uptick from last year. It also was served dipped in unicorn-themed breakfast cereal, coated in crushed Funyuns and served as an inspiration for french fries.

Totally Shucked Mexican street corn.jpg
Mexican street corn from Totally Shucked was the winner for the elote taste-off at the Washington State Fair. This version was coated in mayo, parmesan cheese and smoked paprika. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

TOTALLY SHUCKED

Find it: Near Village Restaurant building

The corn: Ding! Ding! Ding! Of all the roasted corn sampled at the fair, this booth won top corn honors for never overcooking its ears.

If you’re going to try one Mexican street corn at the fair, make it this one.

A roasted ear of corn was brushed with mayonnaise, dipped in grated parmesan then sprinkled with magic smoky dust, which turned out to be a combination of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. The spice-and-smoke combination pushed the flavor to the top of my list. Also served coated in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. $6.82 each. Plain roasted corn, $5.46.

Murphs unicorn corn.jpg
Street corn from Murph’s at the Washington State Fair can be customized with a number of flavorings. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

MURPH’S BBQ

Find it: Midway Boulevard

The corn: Winner for most inventive treatment. The booth is known for its “fiesta” corn coated in mayo and Parmesan, but this year, the booth takes the outer coating to the next level with the added offerings of crushed pork rinds, Funyuns, chile-lime flavored Lay’s potato chips, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, chile cheese flavored Fritos and Kellogg’s Unicorn cereal.

Of course I opted for unicorn dust, because I can’t resist pink-and-purple magic sprinkled on anything. Surprisingly, it was not terrible, if perhaps a bit too sweet (totally apropos for Unicorn cereal, duh!). Count this as another booth that doesn’t overcook its corn. Ears tasted sweet and snappy with bursting kernels. If you order the street corn, you’ll have to add your own smoked paprika (and it wasn’t as good as at the Totally Shucked booth). Corn was $6 for plain or $7 slathered in mayo and dipped in whatever you want.

BBQ Pete’s Mexican street corn.jpg
Street corn was a popular find at the 2018 Washington State Fair. Mexican street corn, or elotes, is roasted or boiled corn slathered in mayo, parmesan cheese and smoked paprika. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

BBQ PETE’S

Find it: Near the W.H. Paulhamus Arena (look for the smoke pit)

The corn: This longtime barbecue booth with an open smoke pit has added street corn at its mini Pete’s booth next to the main BBQ Pete’s restaurant area.

It comes unadorned, Mexican-style or coated in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Mexican street corn was ultra tasty and well coated, although a tiny bit overcooked. $5.46 for plain corn, $6.82 for Mexican or Cheeto-coated.

Tip: Also new this year at BBQ Pete’s is smoked turkey legs. I pledge to return for them.

Sharkys elotes fries 1.jpg
Elotes, or Mexican street corn, was a common theme at this year’s Washington State Fair. Pictured here is elotes fries modeled after the flavors of Mexican street corn. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

SHARKY’S

Find it: Near the Paulhamus Arena

The corn: Elotes is interpreted into an order of fries here. Crunchy fries were topped with a drizzle of lime-flavored sour cream, chopped cilantro, fresh sweet corn and a fair-worthy giant plop of chopped bacon. So much bacon. Get this one. $10.95.

Unicone 1.jpg
The Unicone is a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone dunked in chocolate, coated in sprinkles and decorated with a gold-dusted unicorn horn and ears. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

MORE NEW THINGS TO TRY

The Unicone: This new booth serves fresh fruit sundaes, decadent ice cream and frozen yogurt desserts and the winner of cutest thing at the fair — a Unicone. It was a vanilla soft serve cone dipped in chocolate, coated in sprinkles and adorned with a gold-dusted unicorn and matching ears. Too cute for words. Find it at the Fruit Caboose near the Fried Butter and Original House of Donut booths. $9.25.

Outlaw Fries: This new booth serves loaded fries across from the Village Restaurant building. The pork fries came with tangy pulled pork and a portion of cheese lava straight out of the pump station at 7-Eleven, served over steak fries $11.97. Also serving gravy fries, garlic fries, chili-cheese fries ($9.96 to $11.97).

Mac Daddy’s: This new booth near Earthquake Burgers serves mac and cheese ($6.95 to $8.95) with all kinds of adornments ($3.50 to $8).

Dippin Dots French vanilla 4.jpg
Frozen coffee, chilled to 40 degrees below zero, is a new gluten-and-dairy-free treat from the Dippin’ Dots booth operated by Young Life near the dairy barns at the Washington State Fair.

Exotic Meats: The booth that serves bugs debuted bull testicle sliders this year, but — oh, darn — they were out when I visited. Instead, I tried the garlic-basil llama sausage. Gamey in a good way but served with the wrong cheese. Skip the American cheese. Everyone knows llama sausage should be served with gorgonzola. In the Village Restaurant building. $10.96.

Frozen coffee: It’s dairy-free/vegan, gluten-free and low calorie. Find frozen 40-below Joe coffee at the Young Life Dippin’ Dots booth near the dairy barn. Plain is low calorie and unsweetened, but I got mine with French vanilla-flavored coconut creamer. Tasty, frozen to a chilly minus-40 degrees and offering more than a shot of espresso per order. A must for cranky parents ($5.50 to $7).

Paella pros paella combo
Paella with shrimp, chorizo and chicken from Paella Pro. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

NAVIGATION TIPS AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS

More roasted corn: Find it plain and roasted at Juicy’s Outlaw Grill, $5.

Brew: Find the new Harmon Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Wheat Ale and Puyallup River Brewing Raspberry Scone Golden Ale at the Brew Park and Outpost 47 ($9).

Paella has moved: Last year Paella Pro debuted near the Village Restaurant building. Now it’s by the Blue Gate.

Crepe alert: Crepe Chalet moved from its perch by the Extreme Scream to near the W.H. Paulhamus Arena.

Turkey legs: At four booths now. Juicy’s Outlaw Grill ($12.75), Young Life near the Blue Gate ($8.50), BBQ Pete’s ($14.65) and Big Mama’s Sausage Shack ($14.56)

Vegetarian fare: Paella Pro has vegan paella ($8 to $11), Marlowe’s ($9.25) and Bernie’s ($7.35) have vegetarian burgers, and Curry Cousin has vegetarian Indian food plates ($8) near the Blue Gate.

Carb avoiders: Sales Family Krusty Pup booths offer a low-carb “boat” with grilled meat, grilled onions, cheese and lettuce ($6.14 to $6.60).

Gluten-free eating: Head straight to Paella Pro for the rice dish.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, @tntdiner

Washington State Fair

Where: 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup.

When: Through Sept. 23. Closed every Tuesday.

Info: thefair.com

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