Indiana State Fair 2019 Photos, Part 1 of 6: Our Year in Food

Relleno de Papa!

Frying! It’s what’s for dinner!

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food. Each year a new lineup of “Taste of the Fair” offerings showcases new ideas from assorted food vendors in hopes of luring in foodies and/or impressing attendees who want to do more every year than simply eating the same tenderloin again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 42: The Week in Donuts

Dough Drop half-dozen!

Clockwise from top left, I think: Berry Bomb, Double Mocha, Banana Split, Cheesecake, Andes Mint, and Cookie Monster!

Eagle-eyed viewers used to our vacation storytelling pattern may or may not have noticed that we’ve been skipping breakfast mentions for most of this series. That ends now as we step back and cover the donut shops that brightened our mornings in three cities, plus a bonus sports donut along the way.

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Indiana State Fair 2018 Photos #4 of 4: Random Acts of State Fairing

Spongebob and pineapple!

Spongebob and his fruit drink stand weren’t new, but I will never get tired of them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food…

…but as the old Indiana Beach commercials used to say: There’s more than corn in Indiana!

It always annoyed me that we as a state felt we had to say that, after years of corn-heavy culture that our ancestors apparently endorsed and enforced. Some of them made the Hoosier State what it is today, but we used to take a lot of heat from other states for all that corny corn-corn-cornity-cornadocious corn talk. By the same token, food isn’t the only reason to attend our State Fair! It’s my favorite reason, but our annual explorations go beyond just eating, more eating, and the walks that connect the eating moments.

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Indiana State Fair 2018 Photos #3: The Art of the Fair

Where Does My Poop Go?

Every great scientist starts with an inquisitive mind. And every inquisitive mind has to start somewhere.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food…

…but we’re also excited to see what new works of paint, photography, building blocks, and science have been offered up for the various competitions. The State Fair holds its massive celebrations on behalf of our farmers, but Indiana has no shortage of artists, either. They come from all demographics, work in multiple media, bring ideas from pop culture as well as from their own home life, and all contribute in their own ways to the Hoosier State hometown legacy.

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Indiana State Fair 2018 Photos #1: Our Year in Food

turkey tips!

Turkey tips, marinated in a house rub and drowned in an eminently lickable barbecue sauce.

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food. Each year a new lineup of “Taste of the Fair” offerings showcases new ideas from assorted food vendors in hopes of luring in foodies and/or impressing attendees who want to do more every year than simply eating the same tenderloin again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This year’s edibles expedition had a couple of setbacks, but we made the most of our day anyway. For one, this year’s Indiana State Fair app failed me in the precisely one job I asked of it. The Map function was ostensibly designed with an option to pin the locations of any and all participating “Taste of the Fair” stands. I pressed the correct buttons and received zero (0) results. The option to show all restaurants worked fine but was unhelpful. By and large the State Fair’s vendors go by their boring, adjectiveless company names that describe none of their products and aren’t even featured on their signs. Perfect example: the official Taste of the Fair site lists two new items from a company called Urick Concessions, but hopeful diners could spend days wandering the fairgrounds searching in vain for “URICK CONCESSIONS” banners. Worse still, Urick has more than one booth. We found both items, but at separate booths on opposite ends of the fairgrounds. You’d never know any of this from that failed app.

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Six Sweet Shots: Our 2017 in Sugary Outtakes

BJ's Brewhouse!

April 1st: BJ’s Brewhouse presents the Baked Beignet. Fried dough tossed in cinnamon and sugar, topped with whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream, strawberries, and strawberry puree.

I had something else planned for this space tonight, but it’s been the kind of week that’s left me wanting to drown some sorrows instead. I could flail about recent stresses on either a personal or national level, potentially spewing a 3000-word tirade that only my wife would read. Or I could take the safer clipfest route and meditate on some of the carefully crafted calories that brightened our days throughout the past year, none of which ever made it into any MCC entries till now.

Perhaps “meditate on them” is a bit too lofty. Ogle them. Savor the memories. Wallow in these past comforts. Take some solace that staring at these photos is less unhealthy than having all six dishes in front of me right now and feasting upon them all at once in one sweet smorgasbord.

For now, for tonight, this shall do.

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Our Fantastic Food Fest 2018 Photos

Gallery Pastry Shop!

Fruit tarts from the Gallery Pastry Shop in Broad Ripple. At right, their almond cookies were among Anne’s favorite bites of the day.

This weekend my wife Anne and I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Fantastic Food Fest at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. This annual event bringing together the best and brightest providers from numerous restaurants, markets, farms, caterers, bakeries, and other tremendous sources of locally sourced ingredients and cuisine under one roof for foodies to gather and escape winter doldrums. Year One’s big show kicked off our new yearly tradition with the perfect headliner, Chopped host and hometown hero Ted Allen. Year Two brought us the immense pleasure of meeting Chopped judge and Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.

This year, we weren’t there for TV personalities or jazz-hands photo ops. If you know who TV chef and NPR contributor Sara Moulton is, or if you’re a fan of celebrated Hoosier chefs or food bloggers, this was the show for you. For us, this time was all about the food.

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Girl Scout Cookies of 2018, Ranked from Best to Bleah

Girl Scout Cookies!

Today’s haul courtesy of a troop tabling at a local Kroger. It was fun watching three girls race to see who could total up our purchases in their head the fastest.

It’s that time again! Every year my wife and I look forward to Girl Scout cookie season, when young-lady empowerment meets the spirit of entrepreneurship and the happy result is another satisfying fix for this perennial craving of ours. Times have gotten harder ever since our usual suppliers went to ground, by which I mean the Girl Scouts we used to know got old and got out of the game. Unfortunately our relatives haven’t been spawning replacement Girl Scouts to hook us up lately, and we’re sadly not hanging out with the right twenty- or thirtysomething crowds whose households harbor these adorable dealers that we can’t live without. That means we have to go prowling around our local groceries and big-box stores in hopes of finding a troop and their moms hanging out by the front door and selling whatever leftovers their own families didn’t buy off them by the crateload.

Today we lucked into a batch early in the season, but had to extricate ourselves from a slowly escalating debate over which ones are best. Rather than keep sowing seeds of dissent between those loyal friends, we walked away and left the two moms and a dad to restore order. That conversation haunted me for the rest of the day. When that happens, I usually have no choice but to type out those thoughts, thereby freeing up that obsessing brain space and clearing my head once again.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 34: Tour of Little Italy

Vaccaro's pastries!

Who needs artisan donuts when you can have bona fide Italian pastry?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Throughout our stay in Baltimore, nearly all our paths to and from the Inner Harbor took us through the heart of their very own Little Italy. We’ve walked near Manhattan’s version a few times on our 2011 and 2016 vacations, but were hobbled both times by a third companion who is among the six people nationwide that dislike Italian cuisine. Also, Manhattan’s is only a couple of blocks long and adjacent to Chinatown, so its restaurants are too easy to bypass in favor of the dozens of other nearby options. This time in Baltimore, it was just the two of us — no excuses and almost no barriers.

Baltimore’s Little Italy comprises several streets and blocks, encompassing both the African American History Museum and the Flag House to the west, and ending with its southeast corner a convenient block away from our hotel. When we weren’t stopping inside it, we were still walking through it here and there for frequent glimpses at an eminent immigrant neighborhood whose origins date back to the mid-1800s.

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Wizard World Chicago 2017 Photos, Part 4 of 5: Objects of Affection

Throne Anne!

We don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I trust Anne has nailed the intended mood.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time once more! This weekend my wife and I made another journey up to Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we found much enjoyment and new purchases alongside peers and aficionados of comics and genre entertainment. Friday night left us near death by the end of our day, after a few miles’ worth of walking up and down the aisles and hallways, with breaks to go stand in lines of varying lengths and value. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

In this penultimate gallery: a look at some of the nifty items around the show floor, whether for sale or for posing with. The merchandise! The snacks! The movie vehicle replicas! The Iron Throne!

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Indiana State Fair 2017 Photos #2: Our Year in Food

Deep Fried BBQ Bacon!

Deep Fried BBQ Bacon: because not all State Fair cuisine needs to be complex.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians that other people love, and farm animals competing for cash prizes and herd bragging rights. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food.

…and so we were, for as long as we had room to fit in more food. My biggest regret is that we aren’t athletic enough to have needed eight thousand calories a day and therefore couldn’t try all of this year’s new “Taste of the Fair” dishes offered by various vendors around the fairgrounds. Heck, we weren’t even done trying all of 2016’s new dishes.

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Superman Celebration 2017 Photos, Part 3 of 4: Festival Food!

Jumbo Corn Dog!

Behold a jumbo corn dog so weighty, you could fend off a Sith Lord with it.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on June 9th and 10th my wife Anne and I attended the 39th annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, a grand bash in honor of the Man of Steel in particular and all the super-heroes who owe their existence and livelihoods to him in general.

We’ve been to Metropolis six times and developed a deep appreciation for one of the most integral aspects of the Celebration: concession stands! Lots of local vendors convene on the scene to bring their culinary A-game, much of it sinfully delectable and almost none of it good for you. Most fans burn off the extra calories walking up and down Market Street all weekend or standing in lines for hours. At the very least they need fuel sources to replenish what they’re sweating off by the gallon in those high summertime temps.

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Birthday 45: The Food So Far

Jack's Donuts!

Partial sampling of the flavors and gargantuan portions at Jack’s Donuts.

It’s that time again! This week I turned 45 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and with only modest physical damage reminding me of the ravages of time. The knee I sprained in Elkhart two months ago has healed and regained more than half its flexibility back. My chronic back pain has left me alone of late. My poor sleeping habits have been slightly less out of control most of this week. The recurring heartburn that’s begun haunting me this year has subsided so far this month. The worst thing going for me at the moment is the giant eyelid pimple that greeted me in the mirror this morning and irritated me most of the day. And you can tell I’m getting old because here’s a short entry about food but the first thing on my mind is all my aches and pains.

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Indy Food Trucks Turn the Whole World on with a Smile (Part 6 in a series)

Gigi's Cupcakes!

Got sugar? Gigi’s Cupcakes has some waiting for you.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: when MCC launched five years ago, one of our recurring habits was keeping tabs on the Indianapolis food truck experience whenever those mighty mobile merchants rocked my world and my lunchtime. (Past entries were here, here, here, here, and here, though a few of the older trucks are sadly no longer with us.) They’re not in my path as often as I’d like, but we see enough of them from time to time that the occasional gallery is warranted as our way of thanking these eminent entrepreneurs for outstanding achievement in the field of edible excellence.

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Fabulous Frothy Fatty Frolicky Friday Fun with a Fondue Fountain

Fondue!

Pictured above is the star attraction from our most recent pitch-in at work: a fondue fountain filled with rich, creamy, sinful chocolate. This enchanting appliance belongs to a kindly grandmother on my team who decided to spoil us with its presence, which made for a celebratory change of pace from the doldrums of day-old grocery donuts, lookalike veggie trays, and a thousand bags of unopened chips. Not one person was the kind of killjoy to complain that this setup had virtually no connection to the “Mexican” theme we’d voted on for the pitch-in.

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Indiana State Fair 2016 Photos #1: Our Year in Food

Double Barrel Burger!

We called it the “Goodbye Cruel World Burger”.

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians that other people love, and farm animals competing for cash prizes and herd bragging rights. My wife and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. At least 70% of our quest is always food.

Right this way for a look at this year’s “Taste of the Fair” contestants!

Hot Latte and the Chocolate Factory

Dark Chocolates!

One quarter-pound of Double Dark Truffles garnished by two dark-chocolate-covered Oreos. Yep, I’ve reached that advanced age when dark chocolate begins tasting better than milk chocolate.

My wife and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. My 2016 birthday destination of choice: the northern Indiana city of Elkhart, with a bonus stopover in South Bend, both some 100+ miles north of here. Elkhart was regrettably cut a little short because the weather was miserable and tried to freeze us in our tracks, but we had enough fun to fill out another four-part miniseries starring a candy factory tour, a super-hero roadside attraction, and a selection of the “art” in Elkhart. Also, food.

Part One of Four: a tour through a chocolate factory, conducted without a single child casualty. It can be done, Mr. Wonka, you demented jerk.

Right this way for the tour, the machines, and the chocolate!

My October Symphony of Treats

Salted Caramel Pizookie!

Best of show: the Salted Caramel Pizookie at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery in Avon, Indiana — an oven-baked caramel cookie as big as a Personal Pan Pizza, filled with almond toffee, pretzel bites, and both white and dark chocolate chips. Because that’s obviously not enough, on top is vanilla-bean ice cream, caramel sauce, and more dark chocolate chips. Just looking at this photo counts as 500 calories. Sorry, dieters.

October has been a delicious month for us, and not because of those tiny prepackaged candies that Big Chocolate wants us all to worship. In that spirit, today we present a montage of five happy treats that provided me much-needed happy-time boosts through a month of unprecedented busyness. Enjoy!

Right this way for four more reasons why I’m not a size Medium!

Indiana State Fair 2015 Photos, Part 1 of 5: Our Year in Food

Lamb Parfait!

This is not ice cream. That’s not chocolate.

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides and big-ticket concerts by musicians that other people love. My wife and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually, 70% of our quest is food.

Each year the State Fair announces the annual theme of a single ingredient and holds a contest daring all the vendors to create a new dish around it, like a sort of Food Network cooking show except I think the grand prize is just “for exposure”. Recent history has brought us the Year of the Tomato, the Year of Corn, the Year of Soy, the Year of Popcorn, and last year’s disappointingly non-food-based Year of the Coliseum, in honor of the longtime event venue that had reopened after a two-year closure for extensive renovations. This year’s theme was “the Year of the Farmer”, a.k.a. “the Year We Ran Out of Food Themes”. For anyone who thought “the Year of the Coliseum” wasn’t directionless enough, 2015 had only a handful of the many vendors offering a random, disconnected assortment of ostensibly new dishes, at least one of which was flat-out pretending to be new.

We tried to make the most of it anyway and found a few items worth actual dollars.

Right this way for pics of our 2015 in State Fair food!

Ranking the 2015 Lay’s New Potato Chip Formulas

Lay's Do Us a Flavor!

Yes, it’s true: I allowed these in our house. Some experiments you have to try for yourself.

Someone at the Lay’s Potato Chip factory got bored this year and let the general public choose new flavors for their mad food scientists to concoct and test on us consumer guinea pigs.

That was the state of the potato union in 2014 as we saw previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, and here we are again one year later. The adventurous bigwigs at Frito-Lay decided the previous stunt was so entertaining, they’re trying it again with four more theoretical flavors suggested by fans at home. The official site for their “Do Us a Flavor” contest lets eaters vote for their favorites and get to know the lucky fans whose suggestions became mandatory work orders for Frito-Lay’s top nutrichemists.

One of the flavors was suggested by a fellow Hoosier who recently spoke to the Indianapolis Star about her new-found claim to potential fame. If she’s one of three losing finalists, she receives a mere $50,000.00. If she wins and America loves her idea, she wins $1,000,000.00, the flavor becomes an official permanent product, and Frito-Lay keeps all future profits in perpetuity, assuming we all don’t band together as a country to troll them by choosing the worst flavor and wrecking their 2016 P&L sheets.

In the interest of food science and life lessons, my wife and I tracked down all four flavors and held our very own two-person chip-tasting party tonight. Also, because we can.

Right this way for our subjectively authoritative results!

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