Funnel cakes, cotton candy and deep-fried Twinkies are the staple food groups at fairs and carnivals across the 209. Gourmet food and fairs have not traditionally gone hand-in-hand, but several food vendors at the Stanislaus County Fair are trying to change that. The fair's cuisine will be featured Oct. 6 on “Carnival Eats,” a Food Network Canada show which features epicurean delights from midways across North America. The show will feature foods from deep-fried frog legs to donut ice cream sandwiches, all designed to capture the interest of picky carnival eaters.
The show's crew filmed at four food stands during the Stanislaus County Fair's 10-day run in July. Sharky's Fish Fry was selected for its gourmet lobster corn dog. The fancy fried meal on a stick was hand-made daily at the stand and served with lemon aioli. Crew members described it as sweet and salty.
“It's the classiest of all the corn dogs,” said Phillip Delahoyde, owner of Sharky's Fish Fry.
Delahoyde said that three of his family-owned stands were chosen for "Carnival Eats" because they offered unique menu items like raspberry crispy cream chicken sandwiches and lobster corn dogs. Delahoyde himself was on one episode of “Carnival Eats” and his father was on another. For the Stanislaus County Fair episode Delahoyde elected Sharky's Fish Fry manager Sequoia Schoonover as the on-camera personality.
“This is a home fair for us, so I was excited that they chose to film here,” Schoonover said.
This was the 26th year that Schoonover has worked concessions at the Stanislaus County Fair. In addition to managing Sharky's Fish Fry he also owns the Indian Fry Bread stand. He said that carnival food has definitely changed since he started working at the fair almost three decades ago.
“We're doing a lot more weird and exotic stuff, and everything is bigger,” Schoonover said.
The other item featured on the Stanislaus County Fair episode of “Carnival Eats” is, in fact, bigger than average. The monster corn dog is 18 inches long and is sold alongside a 5 pound bucket of curly fries at the Stroud Concessions stand. The massive meal is part of the ever-growing trend of creating the next big thing in carnival foods.
“I've had some foods that I never expected to see in the world of carnivals,” said "Carnival Eats" host Noah Cappe.
During the two days of filming in Turlock Cappe sampled the massive corn dog, ate deep fried frog legs, and hand-made lemon aioli for a lobster corn dog. He said that carnival and fair foods are much more complex than he would have expected before joining the show.
“They're using fresh ingredients too. This isn't a store bought Oreo dumped in a deep fryer,” Cappe said.
The Stanislaus County Fair episode of “Carnival Eats” will air on the Cooking Channel Oct. 6 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.