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Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005 08:32 am

Guess what they’ve fried this year!

Cheesecake debuts in the deep fryer

Just when I thought it was safe to go back to the Illinois State Fair — the food extravaganza featuring all things fried and served on a stick — comes a new concoction that will surely blow any diet. The deep-fried cheesecake, offered by Michael’s Concessions, is one of several new culinary entries at the fair this year.

In past years, I’ve eaten corn dogs, shrimp on a stick, and a spring roll or two. I’ve even tried fried Oreos, Twinkies, and s’mores. I thought those gooey, delicious concoctions reached the caloric limit for fair food. They sounded outrageous, but, out of pure duty and curiosity, I indulged — and enjoyed. There were also samples of fried pickles and sweet-potato fries. So this year I thought that because I had seen, and eaten, all of the fattening fair food one could imagine, I would be able to maintain my willpower. There couldn’t possibly be anything more indulgent than a fried cookie, right? I was wrong.

Just listen to this description: “creamy cheesecake smothered with rich chocolate and caramel, then loaded with chocolate-covered peanuts and nutty candy-bar pieces, then rolled in a sweet pastry shell and deep-fried until golden brown, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar.”

Is your mouth watering? Has your heart stopped beating?

Michael Ristick, who owns Michael’s Concessions with his wife, Teresa, is the man who is bringing this new treat to the fair. He also offers the Haug Daug, which is a cross between an eggroll and a corn dog. A hot dog, wrapped in bacon and Cheddar cheese, is then wrapped in pastry and — you guessed it — deep-fried.

In addition to the usual offerings of corn dogs, funnel cakes, lemonade shake-ups and pork-chop sandwiches, fairgoers can sample several new items this year, mostly aimed at those with a sweet tooth. Coco Flow Chocolate Fountains will provide Belgian-chocolate-dipped strawberries, bananas, and marshmallows in the Exposition Building. Country Cobblers will sell blackberry, apple, peach and pecan cobbler with ice cream, as well as lactose-free ice cream, cappuccino, smoothies, and slushes, on the north side of Central Avenue. Torrey Park Catering and Concessions will offer pretzels stuffed with sweet cream cheese, apple cinnamon, jalapeno or pizza flavoring, as well as Eli’s cheesecake, Jumer’s cinnamon rolls à la mode, cream puffs, and éclairs on Brian Raney Avenue.

Other new vendors will be offering smoked turkey legs, stuffed potatoes, minidoughnuts, chicken and beef fajitas, quesadillas, skillet nachos, and ice-cream sundaes.

Though all of these items sound tempting, none sounds as decadent as the chocolate- and caramel-laden cheesecake, covered in more candy and pastry, fried, and then rolled in still more sugar. I believe that it wins the contest for the most calories you can possibly get on one meager, little stick. It sounds disgustingly rich and sweet.

I can’t wait to try one.

Grilled-cheese competition

If you’d like to stretch your stomach even more at the Illinois State Fair, there’s an eating contest just for you.

A grilled cheese sandwich eating contest will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. Aug. 13 on the Lincoln Stage at the fairgrounds. The contest is a qualifying round for the 2005 World Grilled Cheese Eating Competition, sponsored by GoldenPalace.com. The winner will receive $1,750 in prize money and a trip to the world championship in Los Angeles.

The current world record belongs to Sonya Thomas, who devoured 25 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes earlier this year at the inaugural championship.

To register, call 212-627-5766 or visit www.ifoce.com.

Largest horseshoe sandwich

The Red Coach Cattle Co. and Poe’s Catering will offer “the largest horseshoe sandwich” at the Illinois State Fair to raise money for local children. They will present the oversized sandwich at 5 p.m. Aug. 16 on the Lincoln Stage, after which dinners will be served, at a cost of $5 per person. Proceeds will benefit the Sangamon and Menard County 4-H programs.

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