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Feel the nausea

Pairing Washington state fair food with amusement rides and animal odors

After throwing back a berry pie, stay on the Sky Ride at least a half-hour before jumping on another ride. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Much has been written about the pairings of food with wine, and chocolate with beer, but what about the combination of fair food with amusement rides and animal odors?

A fine onion burger tastes great (even a second time) with a gentle rocking motion upwind of the petting zoo, but put it on an amusement ride with jarring side to side motion, and the combination of sweet Walla Walla onions, 98 percent beef fat and the whiff of Clydesdale doo-doo does not sit (or stand) as well.

Fair pairings remain an individual's choice - every person's sense of taste and equilibrium varies.  In general, a person should decide what combination of grease, crap and spins feels best to him or her, and not worry what others may write on the subject. I understand, however, that newbies to the Washington State Fair may appreciate a little assistance, and therefore I have arranged a few suggestions below to help readers glean the most out of their fair experience.

The Research

The Washington State Fair serves as a perfect tasting room for pairing exploration.  With dozens of rides, food booths and animal stalls, the potential combinations would take 76 4-H kids years and years to calculate.  Still, here are few I have tested and approved:

Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich and the big slide

Totally Fried returns to the Washington State Fair with last year's not-so-favorite fried chicken patty nestled between buns made from a Krispy Kreme doughnut.  The combination of cold, sweet doughnut, hot, thin chicken patty and strawberry jelly (I'm not making this up, it's near the Blue Gate), leaves a sticky film in the mouth that's best appreciated upwind of the heifers and under the force of gravitational pull. The slide also allows time to unwrap and pop in a breath mint.

Double-dipped caramel apple and the Extreme Scream

Marcoe's Chocolate Factory doesn't settle for one pass through the vat of caramel, they double-dip those babies, which require a penetrating bite to get to the fruit. It's also best appreciated dipped in a crumble of peanuts, which serve as a buffer to prevent a sticky face. After safely throwing out the stick, a launch towards the heavens on the Extreme Scream (sit on a bench and be rocketed straight up) won't send the confectionary back up the throat as it's too sticky to leave the stomach.

The Big Myer's Burger and the Zipper

Call me old-fashioned, but dining with an original fair favorite on a ride that has withstood the test of time in the corner of the fair farthest from the farm animals is what I call the perfect pairing (it's like spicy short ribs with a Lengs & Cooter sparkling shiraz from Australia).  Myers Burgers has been a fair institution since the 1920s, and their three patty Big Burger hits the spot and stays there after a rough-and-tumble on the Zipper.

(Speaking of old-fashioned) Pie and the Sky Ride

I'm not certain but I suspect that many fair-goers miss the pie stand behind the dairy cows.  It may be the stench that keeps them away, or that the Young Life booth is a bit tucked in the shadows - nevertheless, the pies are one of my favorite treats at the fair.  The crust is flaky and buttery, and the filling isn't too sweet or jelly-like.  It's almost as good as my wife's fruit pies.  I would, however, hate to see cherry or berry pie resurface on the downward turn of the rollercoaster.  Therefore, I'd like pie eaters to stay on the safe and sane Sky Ride until they've fully digested the delicious dessert.

What about the scones?

They don't taste as good this year - at least not Sunday's batch under the grandstand.  The dough was too dry while the jelly filling was cold and compacted - and (like mixing Mad Dog and cioppino), that's not even a good pairing with the bumpy fishes.

Washington State Fair, Sept. 11-27, $9-$11. Washington State Fair Grounds, 110 Ninth Ave. S.W., Puyallup, 253.841.5045,

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