With a nod to the Chesterfield County Fair starting Aug. 27 and the State Fair of Virginia on Sept. 23, here are a few prime carnival-style pleasures.
The smell of those giant, hickory-smoked turkey legs lured me to the State Fair's barbecue pits last year, and I wasn't disappointed, though eating one made me feel a bit like a Flintstones character. I haven't yet tried the Pork Parfait (above), served by Porky's BBQ — the place with Jethro, the singing pig — but the layering of pulled pork and mashed potatoes looks so great, I had to mention it.
A newcomer to the State Fair last year, Manquin-based Arnest Seafood makes these tasty cakes with marble-size scallops and a little breading, then fries them like crab cakes. I can also vouch for Arnest's fried shrimp, hush puppies and spicy crab-and-corn chowder.
Fair enthusiast (and Richmond magazine columnist) Anne Thomas Soffee digs these large Vidalia onions, flayed open, battered and deep fried. But she warns, "If you don't have at least two friends to share it with, you are risking stomach upset, because that's a lot of grease."
Sugar, flour, vanilla and a "magic ingredient" or two make up the batter for Wensil's Old-Fashioned Funnel Cakes, served at the Chesterfield fair for 18 years and the State Fair for 20 years. Poured into 8-inch rings, browned in a fryer and topped with powdered sugar, they're sweet, crunchy and delicious.
As these frozen treats from Williamsburg-based Sno-To-Go start to melt, the fruity shaved ice blends with the soft-serve ice cream, resulting in a texture reminiscent of homemade ice cream. Look for them on the State Fair's Garden Trail.