Two of my co-workers moved to Knoxville within the past year and had not yet attended the Tennessee Valley Fair. They heard me raving about the Fair Food Throwdown several months ago when the Fair’s Sarah Thompson came to the radio stations for a meeting. I was a judge for the 2012 and 2013 contests. Becca of Star 102.1 and Danielle of Q100.3 both volunteered to help me judge the concessionaire food at this year’s Fair. We were joined on the judging dais by Mary Constantine of the News Sentinel and Ashley Izbicki of WBIR-TV.
Two of my favorite savory entries were the BBQ Hot Dog and the Hawaiian Chicken Slider. The hot dog was covered in pulled pork and coleslaw. The slider was a piece of well-seasoned chicken breast on a small bun with diced pineapple served on the side. We also tasted a plain hot dog, one that was wrapped in bacon, and a classic corn dog.
As you would expect, there were quite a few funnel cake entries. We tasted plain, red-velvet, pumpkin-spice and strawberry-sundae cakes. The pumpkin-spice cake was entered in the Best New Fair Food category, which it won. The strawberry-sundae funnel cake, served a la mode, won the regular category.
Two of my favorite deep-fried treats were the Deep-fried S’more and the Red Velvet Deep-fried Twinkie. I appreciated that this year’s organizer, Chef Rachel Reagan, served us slices of each food rather than a whole item. It gave me a chance to see the cross-sections of what I was about to eat.
This year they created separate categories for Candy Apples and Caramel Apples. All of the entries were terrific. I ended up choosing a favorite caramel apple based on the flavor of the apple inside because all the caramel coatings were so good.
I have loved candied apples since childhood. The taste of the apples at the fair reminded me of a Halloween party we had each year in grammar school when the students gathered in the gym to watch a movie and eat popcorn balls and candied apples.
The candied apples at the fair are made by volunteers from Fairview United Methodist Church. Like last year, they gave me extra apples to bring to the evening deejays who were on the air back at the studio complex.