BUFFALO, N.Y. - A Twinx. It's a Twinkie — stuffed with a Twix candy bar — wrapped in bacon — deep-fried — and drizzled with chocolate-caramel sauce.
And its existence can mean only one thing: This is fair season, the time of year when over-the-top food somehow finds higher peaks to conquer.
This is the time for funnel cake-flavoured beer, deep-fried jumbo gummy bears and the 18-inch Dogzilla bacon corn dog, of deep-fried butter, of volcanic rivers of melted cheese and marshmallow Fluff.
The creators of fair concoctions say they work all year to outdo themselves and the other vendors vying for the attention of an ever more expectant public.
Here are some of the other offerings seen at this year's crop of fairs:
"People come to fairs to eat, and they look for the weirdest," said Jim Hasbrouck, of Fried Specialties, home of the "Twinx" being served at the New York State Fair, which opened Thursday in Syracuse. "Before we even open, they're lining up outside my booth." Hasbrouck said the Twinx works because "it's the cream from the Twinkie with the caramel from the Twix, and you've got the salty bacon."
PIG AND POTATO PARFAIT
At the fairgrounds' Tikki Turtle, the idea is to "go after something sensory, their smell or their eyesight," said Jim Kerwin, who is serving a "pig and potato parfait" of mashed potatoes and barbecued pulled pork this year, along with deep-fried macaroni and cheese, his perennial bestseller. "We do the norm, too, the hot dogs, fries ... but there's always a big market that says 'what's new, what's different?'" he said.
FRIED SWEET TEXAS
One of two creations by Justin Martinez to be named a finalist for the Big Tex Choice Awards at the State Fair of Texas, which opens Sept. 26. Martinez was leafing through a cookbook when the inspiration struck. "I came across three of the most popular desserts in Texas: peach cobbler, pecan pie and buttermilk pie," he said. "I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't it be something if I was able to combine all three of those and fry it?'"
FUNNEL CAKE ALE
Martinez, whose fried Thanksgiving dinner took last year's Texas prize, also has developed funnel cake ale, served in a powdered sugar-rimmed mug. "I strive for three things," said Martinez, whose food is served at the fairgrounds' Lone Star Roadhouse. "I want to pique their interest first with the name, then the presentation, and obviously, it has to taste amazing."
Doughnut hole-like cakes flavoured with the children's soft drink and dusted with powdered sugar. "It tastes like strawberry," said fairgoer Ben Tripp, of Hudson Falls, during the Washington County Fair north of Albany, New York, this week. The fair is ideal for trying new foods, Tripp said, because there are always people to split it with, just in case. "But usually," he said, "you end up having to order more."
Described as rich gelato blended with local craft beer. It's one of this year's new foods at the Minnesota State Fair, running through Sept. 1, along with dessert salami: chocolate, butter, almonds and walnuts shaped to look like the lunch meat.
G's Mobile Kitchen poured fresh-squeezed lemonade over cooked bacon at the recently wrapped Erie County Fair near Buffalo.
Despite tallying fat and calorie counts that would make anyone cringe (about 1,000 calories for the Twinx), vendors say they don't intentionally ignore healthier cuisine — but find that customers do. Kerwin recalled offering a grilled chicken sandwich topped with homemade tomato sauce and parmesan cheese one year. "We couldn't give them away," he said.
MENTAL HEALTH FOOD?
What makes it taste even better? Lucy Long, director of the Center for Food and Culture in Bowling Green, Ohio, said occasionally indulging can help satisfy the craving for novelty. "Plus, it offers a time when people can psychologically get a little bit of relief from the day-to-day rules," she said.
"Part of it is being able to say you did it, you had the experience. You had a bite of a deep-fried Snickers. It's for bragging rights," said Eric Eliason, a professor of folklore at Brigham Young University in Utah. "We all want to be part of rituals and things that bind us together and make us feel like you're part of something larger than yourself."