Big E offers flavorful food that’s novel and fun

Date: 8/20/2014

WEST SPRINGFIELD – In keeping with tradition, the 2014 Big E brings a variety of food options to suite every palate, offering items including the fair’s trademark cream puffs, Storrowton’s Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, Beer-A-Misu and many deep fried novelties.

The Big E will take place from Sept. 12 to 28. Members of the media and local officials were treated to a preview event where they sampled some of the upcoming dishes. New dishes such as Beer-A-Misu, deep-fried s’mores, maple bacon fried dough were sampled.

“I always say, you do so much walking at the fair that the calories cancel out,” Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, said. “Food has become – on a national level – an attraction.” He added that the Big E offers many “gastronomic delights” to please the taste buds of every visitor.

The Log Cabin and Delaney House’s tent will feature “Beer-A-Misu,” the craft beer answer to the Italian desert that often features rum. This incredibly rich dessert, Delaney House Executive Chef Mick Corduff explained, is a stout-soaked fudge cake with raspberry sauce and chocolate chips, topped with a light cannoli filling and a chocolate sauce drizzle.

In the past, he said, the stout used to make the delicacy was from Peak Organic Brewing, headquartered in Portland, Maine.

The cake is denser than your normal chocolate cake, which results in a very subtle hint of the beer that compliments the other ingredients rather than overpowering them.

“At the Big E, the tent is all New England craft beers, so I figured what’s wrong with having beer on your cake?” Corduff said. “It was a big hit at the Learn to Drink Like a Pro dinner [sponsored by the Log Cabin and Delaney House] so we figured why not try it at the Big E?”

Corduff commented that with so many diverse options at The Big E, it’s imperative to come up with unique offerings and added that prior to dessert, fairgoers can enjoy a more “restaurant-like” atmosphere at his tent and enjoy some new menu items including gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup, a variety of salads, calamari, and Irish nachos made with their own fresh potato chips.

“And of course you’ve got corned beef on there,” he said with a laugh.

An old favorite will return to the drink lineup with the Shipyard Pumpkinhead served with a cinnamon sugar caramel rim on the glass.

“People were going absolutely nuts for that stuff,” Corduff said.

Taking a new approach to a traditional fair favorite is F&W Caterers’ fried dough with maple syrup and bacon. While Maggie Rossitto of F&W Caterers couldn’t say for sure whether it’s ever been done before, she explained fried dough is a food item that can be utilized in many different ways.

“Different countries have all kinds of different varieties – some breakfast, some dessert,” she said. “The foreign exchange students that we have had work for us have always shared some of the pretty interesting and unique ways they eat it back home.”

The sweetness of the real maple syrup jives extremely well with fried dough, which shouldn’t be a shock, given the fact that it is often paired with other sweeteners. Sprinkling on a generous helping of fresh bacon pieces essentially makes it taste like a handheld French toast breakfast.

F&W Caterers, a long-time Big E vendor, will also feature fried bananas that Rossitto explained are available topped in chocolate, caramel or peanut butter.

The Italian Pavilion/Martini Bar will feature works of chef Anthony Martone. In addition to eggplant fries and pizzettes – miniature thin crust pizzas – Martone will debut deep-fried s’mores.

The graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate layered with batter and deep fried was about what it should be, though Martone cautioned taste testers that the samples provided had been made much earlier and when served fresh and hot at the fair, the flavors and consistency would much better.

“I’m playing with the idea of adding a little bit of caramel,” he added. “There’s a trend right now with people adding caramel.”

Adding a new twist to the traditional deep fried Oreo, Martone created a deep-fried red velvet Oreo where the batter is infused with cocoa. He then tops the treat with powdered sugar and cream cheese frosting before serving to his customers.

Martone’s creations will also be available in the food court at the Coffee Break. The red velvet Oreos will be available along with deep-fried Snickers, Almond Joy and Samoa Girl Scout cookies as well as a deep-fried Nutella and banana sandwich.

“I think it [deep-fried novelties] started off down South,” Martone said, adding that his creations have attracted many interested fairgoers.

In addition, the fair will has a new Big E Bistro that will be located in the Young Building and will feature food from Frigo’s, Pasticceria Italia and Burgundy Brook Café; Yankee Boy/International Lobster House will offer camel and kangaroo burgers; and Pork Palace will serve a pulled pork sundae with barbeque baked beans stacked on pulled pork and cornbread with coleslaw and a cherry tomato on top.

While The Big E is a great diet “cheat day,” there are a lot of healthy alternatives for those folks who’d like to save those extra calories.

Fairgoers can choose from a variety of salads, fruits, sandwiches, lean meats and more. Try one of Billie’s Baked Potatoes loaded with vegetables, or a chicken gyro. Wash it down with a healthy smoothie. If you are looking for a snack for your mid-afternoon munchies, grab an apple from the 4-H Apple Booth in Farm-A-Rama or a bag of heart-healthy nuts from the Nut Lady in Storrowton.

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