Fair Food Scramble at the Sonoma County Fair

The first annual Fair Food Scramble

Seven eaters. One hundred dollars. Twenty minutes to gather up as much fair food as humanly possible. One hour to eat it all.

That’s the idea behind the first Food Scramble, in which five strangers (plus a reporter and her able assistant) run through the streets of the recently opened Sonoma County Fair collecting armloads of greasy, fried, sugary and no-doubt horrible for you foods that only come ’round once a year.

Then makes pigs of ourselves tasting it all.

With more than twenty vendors spread over several acres hawking
everything from sarsparilla to bricks of fried potatoes, it’s no easy
task to taste everything. But oh, is it impressive to load an entire
picnic table with the kinds of food that make doctors and gym trainers
shudder — barbecue sliders, fried zucchini sticks, spaghetti, two
kinds of corn dogs, fudge, cookies, donuts, tacos, gyros, turkey, egg
rolls on a stick — and that’s just for starters.

Why do we do it? Think of it as a community service to your waist and
your wallet. We’ve hand-picked our favorite fair edibles to help save
you time, wasted calories and maybe a little money. Plus, no one wants
those nasty post-fair funnel cake and corn dog regrets that will plague
you for the next 365 days should you miss out on the deliciousness.

On Team Fair Food Scramble: Stephanie Ansley, a phlebotomist who’s
partial to fudge; Santa Rosa Junior College student KC Crowell who
knows a thing or two about funnel cakes; Jason Shirk, who compares
himself to a crunchy corndog; Tim Meinkin, a man with a passion for
fish tacos and candy apples; and Holly Hansen, who’s all about the
cinnamon rolls; David Wood, a Portlander who found our secret shrimp
cocktail and Heather Irwin of the Press Democrat’s BiteClub food blog.

The results:
– Best Overall Food: We’ll call it a four-way tie between Pepe’s shimp
and octopus cocktail; Willie Bird’s turkey leg, Old Mexico’s posole and
Sleek Greek’s lamb and beef gyro. “Do we have to vote for just one?”
asked Hansen.

– Biggest Surprise: The incredible tzatziki sauce on the gyro. “I loved it,” said Crowell.

– Best Local Favorite: Tie between Willie Bird’s and Mom’s Apple Pie.
“I didn’t think I liked turkey legs,” said Meinkin. Nostalgia points to
Ibleto’s Spaghetti Palace’s half-and-half, spaghetti with half pesto
and half red sauce.

– Best Value: Posole at Old Mexico that’s family-sized and just $6. We
all agreed it was a major hit and plenty filling. “Is this just for one
person or six?” asked Meinkin.

– Best Sweet Treat: Mackinac Island peanut butter fudge and cinnamon
rolls (Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls). “It’s better without the spackle,”
said Hansen of the frosted cinnamon rolls. “Plus the cookies (Mom’s
Chocolate Cookies) when they’re hot,” said Ansley.

– Best Corn Dog: 5 Star Fish & Chips. “It’s just a better dog inside,” said Shirk.

– Best Healthy Choice: Roasted corn (minus the mayo and butter); and
the shrimp cocktail at Pepe’s. “So refreshing,” said Meinkin.

– Best surprise: Newcomer Chuck Wagon Old Fashioned Soda’s root beer. “This is really good,” said Ansley.

What’s your favorite fair food?