Dengler Domain: Iowa State Fair Foods

Next week the Iowa State Fair starts another year full of animals, 4-H projects, lots of interesting people, politicians, and the most important part, food. It is not a state fair unless there is pork chop on a stick or deep-fried Oreos. This means clogged arteries and full bellies. If one does not leave the fair overindulged, one did not do it right. While I will not eat all of them, I want to try at least one of the Iowa State Fair’s best new food finalists. This is my power ranking of the finalists.

Number three would be the Grinder Ball at The Bacon Box. According to the Iowa State Fair, the Grinder Ball is a blend of bacon balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in bacon, rotisserie smoked and dipped in warm marinara sauce. The Grinder Ball is The Bacon Box’s new signature gluten-free take on the traditional State Fair Grinder. A photo of the Grinder Ball and other finalists are on the Iowa State Fair’s website, but this Grinder Ball looks like it is too much. There looks to be too much grease. Bacon is great, but with it being doused in marinara sauce and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, my stomach already hurts. This is not what I want.

Number two would the Deep-Fried Bacon Brisket Mac-n-Cheese Grilled Cheese at What’s Your Cheez. The Rib Shack’s signature Bacon Brisket Mac and Cheese is slathered between layers of American cheese and two slices of What’s Your Cheez Bacon Cheddar Bread. It is then deep-fried until golden brown and served with a signature raspberry chipotle BBQ sauce. I love the Bacon Brisket Mac and Cheese from Rib Shack so making it into a sandwich is the right choice. The several types of food making up this sandwich belong together unlike the Grinder Ball. Adding a raspberry chipotle BBQ sauce is a perfect sweet choice to this savory sandwich. The part of this sandwich which makes me hesitant is the large quantity of cheese. From the mac and cheese to the layers of American cheese to the cheddar bread, this is too much cheese.

Number one is the Iowa Twinkie from Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ & Brew. “A Texas staple with an Iowa twist.” A smoked bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with pulled pork, sweet corn, cream cheese and ranch seasoning. It is then glazed with Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ & Brew house-made Sweet + Sticky BBQ sauce and drizzled with house-made ranch dressing. Look at the picture of it on the Iowa State Fair website and tell me it is not the most beautiful looking food. The smoked bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed pepper part sounds a little out ambitious, but the pulled pork, sweet corn, cream cheese, and ranch seasoning are the perfect complements to one another. Add in the Sweet and Sticky BBQ sauce, and this Twinkie looks delicious. It also surprising there has never been another food item named the Iowa Twinkie before at the fair.

While you visit the fair, go check out these foods. The animals, kids’ projects, and other entertainment can wait. There are also other new Iowa State Fair foods to try, and it is never a true fair experience without wild foods to eat.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.