Though taste is certainly a factor, many people are drawn to the novelty of food at the Ohio State Fair.
Deep-fry anything. Put it on a stick. It sells.
One of the most unusual and dangerous food attractions that the fair offers: “Dragon’s Breath.” The stand made its debut this year, and it attracts fairgoers not just for its snacking experience, but it’s dangerous appeal.
Large cereal puffs are flash-frozen in a bowl of liquid nitrogen and placed in a cup. Before the snack is handed off to the customer, the vendor reads off a list of specific instructions, such as using a skewer instead of touching food directly, and being sure to blow on the puff before eating it so the throat doesn’t get burned by the extreme cold.
When customers chew with their mouths open or speak while they are eating “dragon puffs,” vapor from the liquid nitrogen escapes from the nose and mouth, giving the illusion of breathing like a dragon.
“A lot of people are curious and come looking for us around the fair,” said Sean Friedhoff, 15, of Waynesville in Warren County. “You get to breathe smoke like a dragon, and a lot of people are intrigued by that.”
The treat is light and refreshingly cold, and the taste resembles a fruity cereal. But the experience of breathing like a dragon really makes it a “party in a cup,” Friedhoff said.
“It reminds me of oversized Cap’n Crunch,” said another employee, Aaron Soper, 31, of Hilliard. “It’s a neat novelty.”
The stand, near the Ferris wheel on the midway, is run by Martin’s Fine Food in Harveysburg in Warren County.
Dragon’s Breath isn’t the only unusual option at the State Fair. Other quirky foods include a burger on a doughnut bun and deep-fried buckeyes wrapped in bacon. The fair leaves the options open to the vendors’ imaginations.
The fair boasts nearly 200 food vendors, 27 categories of fried foods and 32 foods served on a stick.
One of the items is a stuffed waffle on a stick by Waffle Chix, a family-owned food truck based in Iowa that travels to fairs across the country. Customers can select savory or sweet for inside the waffle, with a variety of options that include chicken, cookie dough and Snickers.
“Just by putting it on a stick, it becomes fair food,” said 27-year-old vendor Spencer Taylor. “It’s convenient, and people can meander around the fair with it.”
For some, food is a just a bonus to go along with the the rides, shows and livestock. For others, it’s the best part of the day.
“I lost 80 pounds this year, and I won’t gain it all back in one day, but I’ll certainly gain some of it back today,” Maurice Jackson, 53, of the East Side, said with a laugh as he snacked on Buffalo tater tots. “I’m going to enjoy myself while I’m here. You only live once.”
Originally published by The Columbus Dispatch on August 1, 2018.