Thursday 2 August
When I was a boy (which should be a clue to the attentive reader as to who is writing this part of the blog), we would always go to the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. My father, who has the great and good gift of throwing himself into the quiddity of things, would ride the Tilt-a-Whirls, throw baseballs in the rigged games, and inspect the cows and horses with a knowing air. He and my Mom helped work our church's taco stand. The highlights were the sheep dog trials and the Indian art show (now apparently "Native American Art Gallery"), with the best potters, jewelers, and weavers from all over the state competing for the Best of Show ribbon.
Barbara and I have always liked county fairs, and have gone to the Wayne County Fair in the Poconos with Andi, Joel and the boys. But it was only after we moved to Cincinnati and went to our local county fair that we thought we'd try our luck. We struck gold (well, blue, actually) our first time out, and we've been hooked ever since.
The Hamilton County Fair is always held on the hottest week of the year, and opening day is adjusted accordingly to make sure lots of lemonade and beer gets sold. Nonetheless, we had a great time. We inspected the chickens and rabbits with a knowing air; we attended the cattle judging (our favorite part, because the judge always explains exactly what he's looking for; he has pronounced views on the proper "femininity" for heifers), and the traditional Demolition Derby. A llama attempted to kiss Barbara ("save the drama for your llama").
Since the rule is that all fair food on hot hazy summer days MUST be deep fat fried, or at least boiled for hours, our actual dinner was:
1. Dad's BBQ - a pulled pork sandwich cooked to the consistency of cotton wool, though it did have good flavor; and
2. the sine quo non of Ohio fair food, pork "tenderloin" - a cutlet sandwich, which with mustard, pickles, and a little onion, wasn't half bad. But the best tenderloin sandwich in the world (in our not-humble-at-all opinion), is at
Gnaw Bone Food and Fuel
4947 State Road 46E
as discovered by Jan and Michael Stern and written up in Gourmet.
Two recent blogs here and here.
And now, the PRIZES:
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Shaped Bread. The original idea was a wheat wreath, like on the old wheat-ear pennies, but I made the little ears way too big, and by the time the dough had risen, it had taken on a more succulent appearance. Following the Third Law of the Kitchen ("when all else fails, rename it"), I called it "Cactus Bread."
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Hors d'oeuvres: Honeydew Melon Soup. We were right to favor the honeydew over the raspberry.
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in Whole Wheat Bread. Mine was a pretty simple recipe I've been making since graduate school, a bit sweet with honey. The first prize winner was also best in show, and I could see why: a faultless round loaf, straight from the glossy pages of Baking with Julia, with a wheat shaft design in raised dough and a perfect dusting of flour. This is now my new benchmark (all right, what I really mean is I want to beat the guy next year. I think he also won first prize for rolls and even English muffins!)
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in White Bread. This was my pane Pugliese, which I still maintain is the best bread ever, and I can only ascribe the second prize to massive corruption or temporary madness on the part of the judges.
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in Sweet Pickles. These were the wonderful Parker's Perfect Pickles, adapted from this recipe in an issue of Gourmet so old it's not on Epicurious. Again, only corruption or madness explains this.
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Vegetables, specifically Swiss chard: yes, the Chard from the Yard, a frequent guest at our table and in this blog, was also a big winner at the Fair. Of course, it wilted a bit from the pressure, but luckily that was AFTER the judging.
WHITE RIBBON (3rd premium) in Vegetables, for Other Chile Peppers, i.e. three cute little Poblanos.
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in Relishes, for Cranberry Chutney. We can't ever seem to get better than second prize in preserves, probably because we've got those vicious Amish farm women to contend with.
Last, and least to do with foodstuffs, though emphatically not least in importance:
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Embroidery, for a vest for Holt. I started working on it five or six years ago, then had to set it down while my lens prescription changed, but the prospect of entering it into this year's Fair encouraged me, and I finished it the day before it had to be submitted. Now he can wear it proudly, and take me out to dinner in celebration - though we're not going to a place that makes pork tenderloin!