If you love wild and crazy food that you can eat out of a paper boat, it’s time to get your Kentucky State Fair on! The state fair opens Thursday, and this year there are lots of new options to give deep-fried Derby pie and monster pork chops some competition.
New vendors include:
▪ Cheezy Does It! Which has lots of versions of fried cheese, including fried mac-n-cheese balls, fried bacon mac-n-cheese balls and fried mozzarella cheese sticks. Oh, and cheesy fries and loaded Cajun fries, with bacon, jalapeño and queso.
▪ John C’s Seafood Mobile Grill. Speaking of Cajun food, this new vendor has crab, scallop, oyster, alligator, salmon, shrimp, frog legs and fish, plus fried corn.
▪ The Tot Spot Tots. Lots of Tater Tots, including Texas Tots, covered in pulled pork, barbecue sauce and cheese; Buffalo Tots, tossed in Buffalo wing sauce and topped with ranch or blue cheese dressing; and Poutine Tots, topped with fresh cheese curds and covered in gravy.
▪ Sugar Fashion Cakes. Cupcakes and cakepops.
▪ Churros To Go. Churros filled with chocolate and caramel, and arepas (a kind of Venezuelan white corn cake often served with fillings.)
The Kentucky State Fair, which runs through Aug. 27, is in Louisville at the Kentucky Exposition Center, at the junction of Interstate 65 and I-264. Try entering through gates 2 or 4 on Crittenden Drive or gate 6 on Preston Highway to beat traffic, according to the state fair website.
The fair kicks off with the traditional Kentucky Commodity Group Appreciation Breakfast at 7 a.m. Thursday. The 54th annual Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast and Auction is 7:30 a.m. Aug. 24.
And there are myriad other foodie things, including the annual competitions for best canned items and decorated cakes, and biggest pumpkins. Cooking contests including the Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef competition, which runs Aug. 17 to 25, the Evan Williams Bourbon Cooking Competition 6 p.m. Aug. 18, the Kentucky Beef Council Backyard Burger Competition 6 p.m. Aug. 20, the Kentucky Pork Challenge 6 p.m. Aug. 21 and the Great American Spam Championship 6 p.m. Aug. 22.
▪ Pick your own Honeycrisp apples at Eckert’s Boyd Orchard, 1396 Pinckard Pike in Versailles, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 19. Call 859-873-3097 for more information. Also, Applefest begins at the orchard on Sept. 9, with wagon rides, festival food, children’s activities and apples, including cider doughnuts and caramel apples every weekend in September.
▪ Friends of Bluegrass Land Conservancy and Woodford Forward will present an outdoor screening of “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry” on Aug. 18 at the Henton Family’s Waverly Farm, 6749 Frankfort Road, Versailles. The gates will open at 7 p.m. for a dinner of local food prepared by Woodford Reserve chef de cuisine Nat Henton, including a Woodford Reserve cocktail. Advance tickets required; bring chairs and blankets for seating. Tickets are $60 or $100 for a couple, free for kids younger than 12.
▪ Mark your calendars: Chevy Chase Street Fair, will be 4 to 10 p.m. Aug. 26, with live music and beer and food for sale from vendors on the block at Euclid and Ashland.
▪ Brasabana, 841 Lane Allen Road, will host a dinner at Wilderness Trail Distillery, 4095 Lebanon Road, Danville, at 7 p.m. Aug. 22. The three-course dinner is $35, including cocktails made from Wilderness Trail’s Blue Heron vodka and Harvest rum. First course is hazelnut, grapefruit and Granny Smith apple on spring mix with crispy chorizo and a pickled apple vinaigrette; second course is tempura shrimp on a bed of sweet coconut rice, and a pickled chayote slaw topped with a sweet peach and cherry chile sauce; third course will be golden raisin and coconut bread pudding a la mode topped with a rum cream sauce. Reservations are required; call 859-303-5573.
▪ Fairyhouse Hall, 3250 Delong Road, will host a Slow Food Lexington supper party on Sept. 9, beginning with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. and supper at 8 p.m. prepared in collaboration with Jonathan’s Events and chef Jonathan Lundy of Corto Lima. Fairyhouse Hall owners Heather McKeever Haffey and CheFarmer Shane Haffey will present a five-course menu of estate raised items as a part of the Kentucky Proud Farm to Fork Dinner Series. There will be culinary and cocktail garden tours, a Kentucky spirits tasting, beer and wine with sommelier TJ Cox, live music and more.
The dinner also will launch the Fairyhouse Hall Club, now available for private dining and celebrations. Tickets are $100 per person; 60 tickets are available and must be purchased in advance at Fairyhousehall.com.
▪ Wine + Market, 486 West Second Street, is hosting a cheese class 6 p.m. Aug. 23, featuring a variety a fresh cheeses perfect for warm weather meals. Advance payment is required for the class; it’s $20. Call 859-225-0755 for reservations.
And Wine + Market is partnering with Country Boy Brewing for a beer and cheese pairing event at its new Georgetown taproom, 108 Corporate Boulevard in Georgetown from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 15. Tickets, which include a couple of gifts, are limited to 30 seats; sign up on Eventbrite.
▪ Flavored Nation has chosen the hot Brown as Kentucky’s iconic dish, and chef Ouita Michel of Holly Hill Inn, The Midway Bakery, Honeywood and more will dish it out at a new national competition against other state foods in St. Louis Oct. 27 to 29. Through extensive research conducted by a team of culinary experts and food entertainment veterans, Flavored Nation has identified the most iconic food from each of the 50 states. Those 50 dishes — and the restaurateurs or chefs who prepare them best — will travel to the St. Louis Dome at America’s Center, giving as many as 12,000 attendees the chance to feast from sea to shining sea.
Michel, a James Beard nominee, will use local ingredients in her hot Brown, including locally produced Stone Cross Farm bacon and Midway Bakery bread. In addition to Michel, Dickie Brennan Jr. of Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, will make gumbo; celebrity cowboy chef Grady Spears of Texas will cook chicken fried steak in full western regalia; and 47 more. For more information on Flavored Nation, and to buy tickets, go to Flavorednation.com.
▪ Jim Beam, the world’s best-selling bourbon, has launched Jim Beam Vanilla, which blends Madagascar vanilla bean liqueur with classic Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. The 70-proof liqueur joins Jim Beam Apple, which launched in 2015. Flavored variations are credited with boosting Jim Beam’s overall sales: according to Nielsen research, Jim Beam’s sales grew 15 percent in the 12-month period that ended July 15. There’s also Jim Beam Kentucky Fire, Jim Beam Honey and other variants. Jim Beam’s global brand partner Mila Kunis will be featured in the official campaign launch this fall. Jim Beam Vanilla has a suggested retail price of $15.99 and is on shelves now.