The 12 Things You Have to Eat at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Fair Food Scramblers Jim May, Robb Sarmento and Dierdre Francis at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Fair Food Scramblers Jim May, Robb Sarmento and Dierdre Francis at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

The Delicious Dozen at the Sonoma County Fair

1. Lobster Dog, Sharky’s Fish Fry

2. Torta Ahogada, Nuevo Sazon

3. Chili Pineapple Paleta (popsicle), Frozen Art

4. Fried bacon and cheese, Monster Grill

5. Dirty Greek Fries, Sleek Greek

6. Chips, salsa and ceviche, Pepe’s Mariscos

7. Pumpkin Curry with chicken, Thai Time Asian Bistro

8. Maple Bacon Funnel Cake, Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes

9. Jalapeno corn dog, Big Jim’s Dawg House

10. Fish Taco, Old Mexico

11. Ribs, Big Bubbas

12. Rocky Road Caramel Apple, DB Ventures

The Sonoma County Fair’s 2015 Food Scramblers have spoken, and this year’s Ultimate Fair Food is…Lobster Corn Dog on a stick.

On Friday, the opening day of the annual Sonoma County Fair, a hearty (and hungry) troop of six food fanatics raced to as many of the fairground’s 60-plus food vendors as $250 and two hours would allow them.

Chosen for their commitment to caloric martyrdom and fearlessness of odd and unusual fried foods, the team included Santa Rosans Jim May, Laurie Trainor, Robb Sarmento, Brad Calkins, John Hendrickson and Healdsburger, Diedre Francis.

Their mission: Grab corn dogs, fries, tacos, burgers and funnel cakes (among other deliciousness) as fast as possible, pile all the food on a single picnic table, grab a fork and get down to business.

“This is a fantasy come true,” said Trainor, a recent Los Angeles transplant and first-time Sonoma County fair attendee.

After an hour of eating and eating and eating and some more eating, the group came to a consensus of what visitors absolutely must put on their hit-list of must-eats at this year’s fair.

“It’s the fair on a stick,” said Francis, of Healdsburg, of the winning lobster dog ($10). The batter fried seafood-sicle from Sharky’s Fish Fry (on Magnolia St.) is drizzled with a lemon ailoi dressing, adding to the decadence.

Ceviche at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Ceviche at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Foodie Jim May defended the taste, saying, “it has a fresh, clean flavor.” Others found it “unusual” and “well cooked”, but it wasn’t the unanimous winner.

Coming in a close second was local newcomer Nuevo Sazon’s Torta Ahogada ($11). The “drowned” sandwich is a specialty of Jalisco made by dipping a baguette into a delicately-spiced tomato sauce and piling it with carnitas and onions. Located next to the Shade Area stage, Sazon is a first-time local entrant run by a small family, so give them the benefit of a few extra minutes if things are busy.

Carnitas sandwich from Nuevo Sazon, another front runner at the Sonoma County Fair.

Carnitas sandwich from Nuevo Sazon, another front runner at the Sonoma County Fair.

“This sandwich beats the lobster,” said Sarmento. “It just pops with spices. It’s a Sea Biscuit,” he said of the underdog favorite. Culkins, the executive director of the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, gave “Honorable Mention” to Nuevo Sazon’s lengua taco ($2.50).

Behold, the Sonoma County Fair Food winner, 2015; The Lobster Corn Dog

Behold, the Sonoma County Fair Food winner, 2015; The Lobster Corn Dog

Though many of the larger food vendors are from other parts of the country, a number of local purveyors have been added this year.

Thai Time, which has a brick and mortar restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa, is featuring the light Thai flavors of pumpkin chicken curry ($9), pork with basil, Thai ice tea and sticky rice with mango ($5).

Mexican Candy, including corn husk wrapped tamarind candy (a favorite) at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Mexican Candy, including corn husk wrapped tamarind candy (a favorite) at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

The mostly-local Mexican Village was a favorite for simple, fresh dishes like pozole ($11) at Old Mexico, and Pepe’s Marisco’s Ceviche ($10) and fish taco ($3.75). Jorge Alcazar of Santa Rosa’s Frozen Art is a newcomer at the fair with a variety of freshly-made ice cream and palate-cleansing fruit paletas (chili pineapple is a favorite, $4).

Fried Cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Fried Cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

If you’re all about the fried and battered, you’re covered. Dirty Greek Fries ($7) at The Sleek Greek are doused with feta and tzatziki. A twist on the usual corn dog? Jalapeño corn dogs from Big Jim’s Dawg House that “packed a kick” according to Scrambler John Hendrickson. Other break-out winners: Maple bacon funnel cakes ($10, Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes) and deep fried cheese on a stick (described by one eater as “molten lava on a stick”) from Monster Grill ($6.50).

Scrambler Robb tasting fried cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Scrambler Robb tasting fried cheese at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

“You can’t go to the fair without having some kind of corn dog,” said Culkins.

Of course, every year, vendors try to one-up each other with grease-tastic dishes that are usually more fun to laugh at than eat. This year’s “Oh, come on seriously?” foods included Cap’n Crunch Chicken (chicken breast rolled in crushed cereal), macaroni and cheese-stuffed burgers, fried shark and bacon cotton candy.

Making tongue tacos at Nuevo Sazon at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Making tongue tacos at Nuevo Sazon at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Holding their stomachs and tossing the melted, soggy leftovers into the trash, May spoke for the group, saying, “Nothing was terrible, which was surprising.”

Maple Bacon Funnel Cake at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Maple Bacon Funnel Cake at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

More Fair Food Scramble Results:

  • Best Restaurant Quality Food: Thai Time Asian Bistro, chicken pumpkin curry and sticky rice with mango
  • Best Way to Feed A Family: Pasta King’s Spaghetti Palace Polenta with Marinara
  • Best Way to Cool Off: Fruit popsicles from Frozen Art
  • Best Lemonade: Phil’s Lemonade
  • Best Spot to Cool Off and Eat Barbecue: Barbecue Spot at Sliders Gastropub
  • Best Sugar Rush: Corn husk wrapped Tamarind Candy at Angel’s Candy
  • Best Lemonade: Phil’s Fresh Squeezed
Macaroni and Cheese Burger at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Macaroni and Cheese Burger at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Pumpkin chicken curry at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Pumpkin chicken curry at the Sonoma County Fair 2015

Best Scramble Team Ever! The Sonoma County Fair Food Scramblers 2015

Best Scramble Team Ever! The Sonoma County Fair Food Scramblers 2015

Flautas at the SOnoma County Fair 2015

Flautas at the SOnoma County Fair 2015