WEST SPRINGFIELD – What do you get when you invite the local media to try out new food offered at this year’s Big E? A full tent of hungry reporters.
Few things attract the press more than free food – free alcohol being the exception – and the staff of the Eastern States had plenty of test subjects to try out this year’s offerings.
The news staff of Reminder Publications all willingly participated in the taste trials.
V-One Vodka premiered its deep fried martini to the media and will offer an apple martini and cosmopolitan version at the festival. The golden squares, sprinkled with powder sugar, crunch with the first bite, releasing a pink jelly.
The 21 and older jelly donut is a sweet and crispy dessert, with the vodka kick coming in the filling. While I could certainly taste the V-One, it was not overpowering.
Paul Kozub, owner of V-One, said someone from the Big E approached him with a suggestion.
“They said, ’If you ever figure out how to fry a martini, it’d be huge.’ So we worked on it,” Kozub said.
Before trying it I had no idea what to expect. Would it be fried dough soaked in a martini glass? Would it ooze vodka? Kozub said he and his team struggled with the same thing when making the concept a reality.
They played with the idea for a while finding a tasty and functional way to make it happen.
“It took three years to figure out how to do it,” Kozub said.
MooLicious Farm in Southwick introduced a new ice cream and donut hybrid to its arsenal. Holy Cows, this year’s newbie, are the brainchild of owner Joe Deedy. The glazed donut holes are injected with vanilla ice cream, covered with a dash of powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
Deedy said those who dare to eat the desert in a single bite are “go-getters.” I accepted that challenge. The ice cream overflows out of the miniature donut, but that only adds to the charm.
Despite the sweet nature of the Holy Cows, they are considerably lighter than the other deep fried options the fair has to offer. Deedy said MooLicious plans four Holy Cows per serving, which should leave the customer satisfied without feeling overly full.
After a morning full of desserts, I swooped in to try the macaroni and cheese “Conewich” (minus the bacon) from the Agawam Lions Club. Effectively, it was scoops of creamy mac and cheese in a bread cone, a dream come true for cheesy bread lovers.
The conewich offers the same portability as a traditional ice cream cone. At a fair like the Big E, the easier it is to transport food, the better. The macaroni and cheese is rich. Surprisingly, the bread cone does not sop up with cheese, so there is no soggy factor to consider.
I started off with the fabled turducken, albeit in a new sandwich form made by the Log Cabin Delaney House from Holyoke. The concept is alluring if not a little bizarre – turkey, duck, and chicken made up in a patty set between two slices of golden brown bread. Taking the first bite, it was reminiscent of a grilled cheese sandwich with that buttery and creamy taste that turns on the metaphorical light bulb of childhood nostalgia.
On further examination, my taste buds revealed the interesting mixture of the three poultry meats. I say “interesting” because it’s really a hard taste to describe. Is it turkey, chicken or duck? Yes, it’s all of these things obviously. It’s all in the name after all, but if I had to give this sandwich an elevator pitch it would be, “An explosion of poultry that’s more than the some of its parts.”
Mick Corduff, executive chef and owner of the Log Cabin and Delaney House, said last year the restaurant offered a buffalo grilled cheese, which became a popular Big E food item.
“I just wanted to come back with something a little bit unique again,” he added. “Grilled cheese is a comfort food. When people think turkey, they think fall, they think Thanksgiving, so it’s a little twist on the old comfort food item.”
Corduff noted that if the turducken sandwich proves successful, it might be added to the restaurant’s menu just as the buffalo grilled cheese was.
The Agawam Lions Club this year decided to expand upon its perennial dinner offering, which acts as the club’s largest fundraiser.
“We’ve been at the Big E for over 51 years and we’ve had the half a chicken barbeque dinner with French fries, salad and rolls and we have chicken tenders,” Harry Camyre of the Lions Club said. “This year we’re offering new products because our sales weren’t all that great and hopefully now they’ll come back up.”
In addition to chicken, the Lions will serve up baby back ribs and a classic comfort food with a twist – macaroni and cheese topped with bacon and served in a bread cone.
The Lions brought in 4,800 cones from the Texas-based company Conewich, due to its popularity at other events and large-scale attractions.
“Those cones are used at all the Disney [parks] and at state fairs,” Camyre said. “It’s a very popular item where you can just walk, grab it and walk away and eat it. We’re really excited about it.”
For dessert, the Lions will offer fruit salad served in a cinnamon raison cone topped with chocolate syrup.
Dick Lanier of the Agawam Lions Clun explained club officials had met Big E staff to help develop the new products. Their charge was to continue the sit down offerings they’ve had, while thinking more of the needs of families.
West Springfield tradition White Hut will be offering the “Garbage Bowl,” literally a taste of most of the items on their menu. Onion rings, French fries, a hot dog and fried onions are all presented in a bowl. It tastes much better than the name implies.
Should I drink before noon? In the name of serving our readership I made the ultimate sacrifice and chose a traditional home made sangria from The Sangria Shack – an excellent choice.
As usual, The Big E prevents gastronomic temptations to woo every member of the family.