Posted: 5:56 pm Sunday, February 11th, 2018
By Ann Kelly
I’m not sure what was deep-fried back in 1904 when T.J. Laud-Brown, the manager of the Tampa Bay Plant Hotel convinced city leaders of the need to bring the South Florida Fair to the grounds of his hotel. But I’m sure it was as delicious then as it is now. Welcome to the 2018 edition of the Florida State Fair, ranked as the #1 State Fair of the Year. Half a million visitors will make the trip to Tampa and enjoy thirteen new attractions that include the Florida State Fair Dance Championships featuring the Dance Moms, Monster trucks and that wonderful food we just can’t say no to.
I took a trip around the Fair to catch up with a fair favorite and friend Mama Jane Harris. Her featured food this time around is the Banana Frenkel Funnel Cake named for an old friend. The batter is kicked up with bananas and spices, then adorned with a very tasty custard, bananas and your choice of chocolate or caramel. I have no shame. I chose both.
I’m also a fan of the grilled corn on a cob, but creator Greg Miller came up with a spin – how about dipping that roasted ear of corn in queso cheese, and hold on – rolling it in Flaming Hot Cheetos! Oh it works and you may find it hard to stop and just one. I won’t tell.
There’s also one I heard a lot of talk about and that’s the Chicken and Waffles Pizza. Too much? Please, it’s the Fair. I surprised myself on this one. Just a tasty little guilty pleasure and as Zack of Swift Creations who handed me my slice said it was one of those late night creations when you’re in that mood when just about any and every combination sound so good. It was that sweet little swizzle of maple syrup, the crunch of the waffles and the nicely fried chicken topping that makes you want to stay out until 2 am and have it waiting for you at home.
But let’s take a major step back for this one. Coming in at a full two pounds of a bowlful of goodness is The Big Jerk. Bring friends for sharing. This Fair Foodie Award Winner. Ronald Conway and his wife Mitz find inspiration in their trips to the Caribbean and make their own sauces and seasonings. This one starts with nacho chips and a layer of Island Rice and Beans, a generous layer of shredded jerk chicken, lettuce, Caribbean cheese sauce and a fresh layer of pico de gallo to finish it off. My photographer Ashley Greco who also work at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had a great suggestion to share it with some of the fine HSCO who work working the Fair. Surprise! No one said no. If you think there’s nothing here for the vegan and vegetarians you need to stop at Caribbean Noodles who make vegan dishes their specialty. They guys told me quite a few fairgoers were a little surprised to see them but also pretty happy. It’s a fresh, healthy option that’s creating a lot of buzz at the Fair. Give Caribbean Noodles a try – delicious.
But as hot as a day it was at the Fair a final stop at the Dairy Cow who’s been a part of the Fair for 25 years was a must. The ice cream is made fresh on site with no added sugar. Their biggest sellers are the Frozen Bananas and the Frozen Cheesecake but the purist in me went for the pure vanilla ice cream. Just the right refreshing way to call it a day at the fair.
My thanks our friends Krystin and Vaness with This Is Press Marketing for our Ann Kelly’s Kitchen culinary trip around the Florida State Fair (on a cart so no hoofing it!). Check here for special days and discounts and of course the full entertainment lineup. Oh, and I would love to congratulate our first baby born at the Fair this past Friday. HCSO Deputies Roberto and Henry Echenique for brought a little girl into the world. Right by the turkey legs. It’s never dull at the Florida State Fair.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM ANN KELLY’S KITCHEN
If you worried about the calories, you’re not walking enough! – Mama Jane
*All photos are from Ashley Dawn Greco and may not be reproduced are used in any manner without permission