WEST SPRINGFIELD- The Big E hosted its media day Friday morning to preview some of the new foods that will be available at the multi-state fair in September.
There is a myriad of things to do at the Big E, but the largest attraction by far is the wide range of food options available on the fairgrounds. The Westfield News and The Reminder attended the event to sample some of the new foods that can be eaten at this year’s fair.
My first choice for samplings was the BBQ Split from Porky’s Concessions. Vito Marotta of Porky’s presented a smaller version of the meal that will be available during the fair. It contains pulled pork, BBQ beef brisket, garlic mashed potatoes, cole slaw, two St. Louis ribs, topped with a slice cherry tomato and Porky’s own BBQ sauce. The offering is made in the image of an ice cream sundae.
My only regret in eating this dish is that it was the first thing I ate during the media event. Despite being a scaled down version of what Porky’s will be selling at the fair, it was heavy and filling. Each aspect of it mixed together well and the ribs were practically falling off the bone before I could take a bite. Marotta said that the BBQ Split will be available for $20 on Commonwealth Avenue.
My second sampling was from Chompers, who featured for the first time a chicken, bacon, and cheese fried chomper with a buffalo ranch dipping sauce. The nearly bite sized chomper tasted great, but it is certainly heavy on the stomach, and one should take care not to eat too much. The bacon, cheese, and chicken, combined with the fact that it is fried makes this a better fit for a smaller yet heavier snack to hold you over while you wait to eat a bigger meal. Chompers will be located outside of the Farm-a-Rama.
Vincent Calvanese and Pam Vadnais were present to show off a couple of options for Storrowton Tavern, which is at the Avenue of States. They presented a cheeseburger chowder and fried oysters for a twist on a couple of New England favorites. I held off on trying the chowder in a fruitless effort to pace myself while sampling the food. Instead I had the oysters, for which I have a small weakness.
The Storrowton Tavern Oysters managed to solve an age-old problem I have had with fried oysters. Typically when I order them elsewhere, there is more fried batter than there is oyster. For Storrowton Tavern, there was a perfect balance between the amount of batter and the size of the oyster, and it was everything I could have asked for.
Nouhaim’s Mediterranean Foods, located in Winsted, Conn., will make its very first appearance at the Big E this year. Their preview table was an elaborate display of their falafels, pita chips, homemade hummus and spanakopita, which is a spinach-filled flaky dough.
George and Noha Noujaim gave me one of their falafel wraps to try out. It contained a falafel ball, romaine lettuce, and diced tomatoes in a pita wrap. It was easily the lightest food available at the event, and was likely the healthiest one as well. If one is looking for a lighter snack to eat while avoiding a food coma as they walk the fairgrounds, this may be the place to go. Noujaim’s can be found in the Young Building Big E Bistro.
All of these foods are great, and representative of the Big E for sure, but the fair is absolutely nothing without their dessert options, and if this media preview is any indication, there will be plenty of options this year.
A new entry into the Big E’s extensive dessert menu this year is Chocolate Moonshine. That name is more than just a clever company name. Brian and Alyssa Wright make more than 40 different kinds of chocolate fudge, and about 11 of them are made with alcohol.
No, that does not mean that one can get drunk off of chocolate, the science on that is still shaky. Instead, some of their chocolates are cooked with the flavors of some alcohols, but the alcohol itself is burned out in the cooking process, meaning this chocolate still good for kids to eat.
The Wrights had more than a dozen of their chocolates on display. Each of them is shaped in a small cylinder and colored depending on the flavor. I chose to try a piece of the smoked whiskey chocolate. As the name would suggest, it had a smoky flavor to it. The slightly harder outer shell quickly gave way to the melty interior. The Wrights said that they would not have their entire menu available at the fair, but they should have 25 options available. They can be found in the Better Living Center.
One dessert that I did not get to try, but that I may seek out when I attend the Big E, is The Coffee Break’s deep-fried pineapple upside down cake. As my fellow reporters from The Reminder described it, the fried outer shell was hot, but it gave way to a cooler pineapple in the middle and it was surprisingly refreshing. The Coffee Break’s Anthony Martone and William Caban can be found in the Big E Food Court.
Stella’s Milk and Cookies has added a new addition to their menu and will now offer gourmet flavored frozen or hot chocolate inside gate 9A.
Also available at the media event was the Big E Bakery’s signature cream puffs, which I regret to say I have never tried before and did not get to try during the preview. One may wonder why they were on display, as they are not a new item to the Big E by any stretch. Starting this year, the cream puffs can be topped with chocolate ganache sauce, adding a new element to the already iconic Big E treat.
My final stop — after I deemed my stomach to be full enough to handle it — was Craft Cocktails Inc. and V-One Vodka. They were giving out samples of their V-One Friesling slush. The drink is made with three ounces of Riesling Wine, one-ounce V-One Vodka, one ounce of peach puree, and one ounce of white cranberry juice.
Thankfully they were giving out smaller samples of the drink, as it tasted relatively strong. I am not normally a fan of anything peach flavored, but I found myself finishing the Friesling. I would certainly recommend this drink for someone seeking a refreshment on a hot day during the fair. Craft Cocktails inc. and V-One Vodka will be located in the Young Building.
There will be several other new locations besides those that appeared at the event. Gertrude’s Pretzel will be selling giant pretzels, pretzel wrapped hot dogs, and 10-inch bratwurst..
Hot Wisconson Cheese will offer deep fried cheddar, mozzarella, jalapeno, and swiss cheeses.
Available on New England Avenue will be Souper Bowl, with a variety of soups in an edible bread bowl.
All of these foods and more will be available at the Big E from Sept. 13 -29.