Delicious or disgusting, the food at The Great Frederick Fair is a force to be reckoned with. Just ask News-Post staffers who ate there last week, and you’ll find feelings as varied as the foods made fry-able by fair vendors.
Some look forward all year to a hefty pulled pork sandwich from Hemp’s Meats, while others eschew the very idea that footlong mozzarella sticks are sold, and that people buy them. As a Frederick newcomer unfamiliar to the glory that is a county fair, I abstained from the corn dogs and fried Oreos, instead watching in fascination as my co-workers returned to the office from a day at the fair bearing pounds of fudge, some clutching their stomachs in misery only to return for another game of gastronomic roulette the next day.
As the infamous Frederick Playlist face and comedic genius Colin McGuire explained to me Thursday, speaking specifically about meat on a stick, it’s seductive. You know the outcome, you know the risks, but as you gaze at the corn dogs dripping with oil, you can’t resist the temptation.
Turns out, even those who work and cook in downtown’s dining restaurants aren’t immune.
Stephen Hartzell, executive chef of The Tasting Room, sampled an assortment of typical carnival food during his Tuesday trip to the fair with co-workers to attend the demolition derby.
The group of servers, chefs and other employees of the North Market Street restaurant consumed everything from sweet tea and lemonade to pizza and a footlong corn dog. Hartzell opted for a pulled pork sandwich from Hemp’s, a local favorite he confirmed was “by far worth the wait.”
Add in ice cream, a drink and samples of the other fried confections and he left feeling full and tired, but otherwise no worse for the wear.
“Everything is fried, so that kills it off,” he said. “And these vendors, they’ve been doing this long enough.”
Daniel Blaugrund, a bartender at Firestone’s Culinary Tavern, also said he felt fine, even great, after his trip to the fair.
Although Blaugrund said he could imagine how an overdose of funnel cake could make for a tumultuous digestion experience, his meal of Italian sausage and fried Oreos created no such problems.
“I wanted more Oreos,” he said.
Firestone’s executive chef, Andrew Mayers, was not quite as lucky. He risked two trips to the fair, each with food. His first go-round, featuring a Hemp’s roast beef sandwich proved satisfying, but his second trip culminated in what Mayers described as “the grossest thing ever.”
His order? A giant mozzarella stick from one of the pizza stands. He ate half, then threw the other half away.
“I don’t shy from fried food,” he said. “And I love mozzarella sticks. But this was like taking an order of 12 and combining it into one.”
Even people who work in a fine dining restaurant still crave comfort food, agreed Carlo Caroscio.
The bar manager at VOLT enjoyed a corn dog and a pit beef sandwich during his latest trip to the fair.
If he wasn’t watching his figure, he said, he’d have added a side of fried Oreos to his meal as well.
“I’d probably eat just about everything there,” he said.
Hartzell also characterized himself as an adventurous eater when it comes to fair food prospects.
“It’s a when-in-Rome kind of thing,” he explained. “It’s not like you can go get tuna tartare there.”