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TASTE-TEST VIDEO: Healthier dish at state fair honored as most creative, but deep-fried foods still fill menus

But deep-fried foods still fill menus as event opens today

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Photographs by Thomas Metthe

Morgan Curtis of Pat’s Kitchen puts cherry pie filling on fried dessert being sampled Wednesday during a State Fair media preview event at the State Fairgrounds.

With fried strawberry cheesecake and mealworm pizza, there will be no shortage of junk food at the 2018 State Fair.

But not every food option at the fair will be unhealthy.

The winner for this year's most creative food item went to L&M Concessions' chicken salad stuffed cucumber.

No sugar. No carbs. No deep-frying.

"We had a lot of people say the reason they liked it so much is because most things at the fair are fried, but this is a healthy alternative for people to come and enjoy," said Nancy Rana, a spokesman for L&M Concessions. "And then you still have a little wiggle room for something deep-fried."

The food vendor began experimenting with the recipe after an employee saw the dish at another event. Making the chicken salad was easy, but keeping the cucumber in one piece after it was hollowed was more difficult, Rana said.

"It snowballed from there, and it all came together for us," she said. "We were hoping to win an award. We try really hard every year, so we're thrilled."

L&M Concessions has served food at the State Fair for years, Rana said. Best-selling items, such as fried pineapple rings and Frosted Flake chicken, will return alongside several items, such as pina colada shortcake and deep-fried corn on the cob, that the company will debut this year.

"I really thought the pina colada shortcake was going to win," Rana said. "We had a lot of positive comments on that one. I think that's one everyone should come and try."

Attendees also can expect a plethora of Spam recipes with its selection as one of the fair's focus foods. The canned meat brand is helping sponsor the event, which has earned it a place on the menus of food vendors that have created dishes like a Hawaiian Spam burger and a deep-fried Spamwich.

Fried food is plentiful among the fair's 55 vendors from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, spokesman Ralph Eubanks said. Popular items, including fried strawberry cheesecake, and more out-there choices, such as mealworm pizza, can be purchased in the concessions area across from the main stage when the fair opens at 4 p.m. today.

Organizers also are introducing new deals for patrons. A new ticket option this year is the $30 super pass, which can be purchased at Tropical Smoothie locations throughout Arkansas and is valid for one gate admission and a one-day ride wristband.

Admission and parking will be available for half-price on "Thrifty Thursdays" until the fair closes Oct. 21.

"We hope that everyone can come out and enjoy the fair," Rana said. "We love to have customers come and enjoy themselves and enjoy our food."

Arkansas State Fair Mrs. Queen Lawrie Music (top left) of Heber Springs and State Fair Junior Queen Emily McGuire of Mayflower react Wednesday as they...

State Fair schedule

State Desk on 10/11/2018

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