The L.A. County Fair is upon us again. It officially opens Sept. 1, but fair officials brought some people in for a preview of the food — the better to tell you what the top five things to eat there will be. A lot of these vendors will have various stalls dotted around the fairplex, so you'll be sure to spot them at some point.
A side note: You should definitely try the chocolate-covered female rhino beetles, but they don't constitute a full meal. They don't have much flavor on their own — they're just crunchy, empty bits with a kind of weird aftertaste. But worth knowing about! On to the more obviously delectable options:
Jackfruit is an increasingly popular meat substitute, as it has a texture similar to carnitas and absorbs sauce very well, tricking our brains into thinking the spices indicate the presence of meat. The jackfruit nachos at the fair do come with a cheesy sauce, but add some pico de gallo and you're getting just about the only vegetables (and fruit) at the Fairplex.
Frog's legs! Those are French, and as we all know, French means fancy. Chicken Charlie's is the vendor specializing in the most outlandish creations — cotton candy ice cream, peanut butter fried meatballs, etc. — but the company's real specialty is grilled and fried meats. And these are more manageable than poultry drumsticks.
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As mentioned above, fair food is often just an excuse to see just how wild we as humans can get with food. But to truly understand all the deep-fried concoctions available now, you have to go to the two that started it all: deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies. And frankly, they still actually taste the best of all the weird creations.
The new wildness
Apparently Flamin' Hot Cheetos are the new ingredient of choice. There are about a dozen menu items at the fair that somehow incorporate this most beloved of after-school snacks, even if it's just Cheeto dust sprinkled on fried. But check out the skewers: chicken, deep-fried, then rolled in Flamin' Hot Cheetos bits. This is absolutely absurd, and everything that fair food is about.
The best homage to L.A.
Afters Ice Cream is a popular truck around town, and it will be on-site for the duration of the fair. The ice cream makers there have come up with two tongue-in-cheek flavors just for fair-goers. One is strawberry funnel cake, a delightful, delicious nod to the surroundings (and even better than the real thing). The other is mango chamoy, which speaks directly to the soul of Los Angeles.