Thursday, July 21, 2011

OC Fair Hamburger Chowdown & Giveaway (Costa Mesa, CA)

OC Fair Hamburger Chowdown & Giveaway
88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Thu 07/21/2011, 05:30p-07:20p

[UPDATE 2011-07-29: And we have a weiner--thanks to all the participants! I had to disqualify 11 entries (EpicuriousTravels, angiesun, Victor Nguyen, Anonymous{co.apel}, eric, tiffanie, Jennifer Park, OftheSeven, CP, T-Bone, Steve) for not really conveying a "why" and 3 entries (Galen, Andrew, Eileen) for not providing contact info. Of the responses left, I really had a difficult time choosing a winner. I narrowed it down to a few finalists (Raymond Lew, Sam C., Bryan, Joanna Park, JamesP, Clara Lee), but after nearly an hour of deliberation, JamesP reigned supreme for really putting forth a good explanation as to why he wanted those lobster rolls. Everyone else, there's more to come in terms of giveaways: I'll be giving out two *VIP* tickets (worth $250 each!) to this year's Plate by Plate tasting, so check back soon!]

Burger Joint Burnt Truck

Yes, it's sad but true. I'd never been to the fair before. Thus, to make up for my deprived (depraved?) childhood, I quickly jumped on the chance to participate in the Orange County Fair as a food challenge judge. The Fair runs this year from July 15th to August 14th, and features the theme of "Let's Eat!" Fitting for the theme are the first-ever Fair Food vs. Food Truck Chowdowns, in which local food trucks square off against established fair concession stands every Thursday.

My particular throwdown pitted the likes of the Burnt Truck against the Burger Joint stand in a Hamburger Chowdown--two burgers enter, one burger leaves, and all that. Future Chowdowns include:
  • 7/28 at 6:00p: Deep-Fried Dessert Chowdown featuring Chicken Charlie vs. The OC Food Truck
  • 8/04 at 5:30p: Fried Potato Chowdown featuring Tasti Chips vs. Tornado Potato
  • 8/11 at 5:30p: Bacon Chowdown featuring Chocolate-Covered Bacon vs. Bacon Mania
If that's not enough, non-competing food trucks will be lined up at the fairgrounds ready to serve as well. Trucks scheduled to appear include: Chunk-n-Chip, Dogzilla, Dos Chinos, The Greasy Wiener, Grill 'Em All, The Grilled Cheese Truck, India Jones Chow Truck, Lobsta Truck, Ludo Truck, Piaggio on Wheels, Seabirds, Shrimp Pimp, SlapFish, and White Rabbit.

Dan Iehl
Hosting these battles is none other than the ever-ebullient Dan Iehl. Dan and his wife Jane run Gourmet Food Trucks LLC, a company that focuses on social media management for food trucks.

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger
Our first contender was The Burnt Truck, a local gourmet slider purveyor helmed by chef-owners Paul Cao and Phi Nguyen, as well as partner Minh Pham. The team submitted their Western burger, made with Angus beef, American cheese, TBT BBQ sauce, crispy bacon, and crispy onion strings, all topped with a fried quail egg. It was a lip-smacking combination, with a fantastic juiciness and lusciousness from the beef-cheese pairing, along with an additional bit of saltiness from the bacon. At the same time, I appreciated the textural component of the onion strings, while the BBQ sauce added a smart amount of sugariness to the mix. I liked the inclusion of the runny egg, but did feel that its contribution was somewhat muted here. In the end, a lovely slider, which interestingly enough, reminded me of Carl's Jr's Western Bacon Cheeseburger!

Belly Buster Burger
Up next was 13-year fair veteran Dominic Palmieri, who operates the likes of Candy Factory, Enzo's Pizzeria, Squeezers Lemonade, Corn Shack, and of course, Burger Joint. In the grand tradition of fair food, Burger Joint's Belly Buster Burger is appropriately ginormous. We're talking 13-inch bun, 10 slices of cheese, eight slices of tomato, 30 slices of pickle, and half a head of lettuce, all weighing four pounds (sounds like a challenge for Christine). Not surprisingly, it was a messier, less refined affair vis-à-vis its competition. The patty itself was tender, and suitably succulent, with a nice offsetting lightness from the onion and lettuce. However, the burger also possessed an almost strawberry-esque sweetness to it, which I found a bit disconcerting.

Awaiting the Decision
With the two vying burgers firmly down our gullets, we anxiously awaited the verdict...

Burnt Truck Reigns Supreme! Dominic Palmieri, Paul Cao
...The Burnt Truck reigns supreme! The loss proved jarring for Palmieri, who had, just a day earlier, used his Belly Buster to snag the Best Single Item award at the Concessionaires Cup's, an annual event in which various fair food vendors compete amongst themselves. He was gracious in defeat though, and made sure to congratulate Chef Cao.

Marian Bacol-Uba, Anita Lau, Robin Wachner Phil, Kevin, Marian, Anita
My fellow judges: chef/caterer Phil Knoke of OC Rock 'n Roll Chef; restaurant social media & marketing consultant Marian Bacol-Uba of Marian the Foodie; and food writer Anita Lau of Mad Hungry Woman, along with event organizer Robin Wachner, Communications Director for the OC Fair & Event Center (who selected me as a judge).

Chunk-n-Chip Cookies Truck Menu Moo-lan Rouge
With our bellies full of burger, we were craving dessert, and headed over to the Chunk-n-Chip Cookies truck to sample some of founder Claudia Gonzalez's ice cream sandwiches. I ended up going with the "Moo-lan Rouge," which showed off a great interplay between its warm, crumbly red velvet cookie and white chocolate fudge (loved the textural contrast of the chips in the ice cream). Yum!

OC Fair Tickets and Food Vouchers Ticket Giveaway!

The OC Fair runs all the way through August 14th, so there's still plenty of time to attend. To make that easier, I'm giving away a four-pack of tickets along with two $10 food vouchers, a $64 value in total! And yes, pictured to the left are the actual tickets that you'll receive.

To win, just leave a comment telling us which culinary delight you'll be looking forward to the most at the Fair, and why. Crave those massive turkey legs? Sure! Or are you going to be one of the many in line for The Grilled Cheese Truck? No problem.

So simple, but be sure to leave your name and contact information. Entries must be received by the end of Thursday, July 28th, and I'll announce a winner Friday. Good luck!


Blogger EpicuriousTravels said...

I want a hot and toasty grilled cheese sandwich, and the chocolatiest Chunk-n-Chip cookie!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:05:00 AM  
Blogger angiesun said...

loaded grilled corn and chocolate anything

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 7:43:00 AM  
Blogger -bLONG said...

I missed the San Diego Fair, so I would love a second chance and be able to try the Deep Fried Kool Aid.

Bryan Long binolong at yahoo dot com

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 7:45:00 AM  
Blogger TNT Adventures said...

Craving the Mexican funnel cake. In my opinion way better than the original one.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011 8:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Raymond Lew said...

I would like to try the deep fried butter. Who doesn't love fried foods and who doesn't love butter? Combine the two and who doesn't win? Maybe my arteries, but I'd like to try. Thanks for your blog Kevin! It's always so informative and entertaining.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 8:48:00 AM  
Blogger NicoleM said...

I'm with Raymond - couldn't bring myself to order the deep fried butter last year, it's defiantly on my hit list for this year! That, plus a stint at the wine tasting courtyard and I'm good to go!

Always a fan :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:44:00 AM  
Blogger Victor Nguyen said...

The Beer :)

Victor Nguyen
(I'm a Los Al Alum also!!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:52:00 AM  
Blogger JustinM said...

I gotta say the deep fried Kool-Aid, just to see if it's as weird as it sounds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the grilled corn and the turkey legs!!
You have a great blog!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger Galen said...

Lobsta Truck FTW.... try it once and fell it love with it so much... Their clam chowder is awesome too... mouth watering....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger terramassu said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger terramassu said...

Chocolate covered corn dogs,
Deep Fried Kool Aid,
Deep Fried Butter,

Because it would be fun to gain a few extra pounds this summer through an extra oily, salty, sweet, savory way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

Fried Chicken at the fair...small portion, lots of flavor.

Not to mention the usual, fried zuchinni, corndog, grill corn with 5 different kinds of spices, fried oreo, fried kellog bar, etc. :-)

and if I feel like dying earlier...fried butter (had it before, tasted like a plain churro).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:27:00 PM  
Blogger Zody said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

The international beers, Bratwursts, and turkey legs. I ALWAYS hit up these stands FIRST every year because they're probably the only non-fried foods that the fair actually does RIGHT.

Bryan Hoang

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:37:00 PM  
Blogger Zody said...

Every time I've gone to the OC fair this year, 3+ times, I keep coming back for the friedbQ ribs. They're freakin amazing! Pair it with some ranch and bring a small bottle of tapatio or sriracha and it's HEAVEN.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:39:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Kimm said...

The Mexican Funnel Cake!! It is so crispy but light with strawberries on top.. beats any other fried food at the fair!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Kimm said...

The Mexican Funnel Cake!! It is so crispy but light with strawberries on top.. beats any other fried food at the fair!

Kimm Ninh

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:46:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I just want to go to the fair, so I can try to order the "Swanson" - a turkey leg wrapped in bacon, or a Ron Swanson turkey burger - A fried turkey leg inside a grilled hamburger.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 5:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Joanna Park said...

Funnel cake, turkey legs, whatever new deep fried food is "in" right now, battered Australian potatoes with the cheese and ranch, maybe some hot dogs, snow cone, corn dog, etc. Why? Because I like to eat :)

And don't get the deep fried butter! You take a bite into it and it literally just GUSHES BUTTER. If you're going to eat it, make sure your feet aren't right below it. Otherwise, your feet will be buttery for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 6:01:00 PM  
Blogger eric said...

i want an oc fair corn dog!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011 8:48:00 PM  
Anonymous tiffanie said...

I want a Chunk-n-Chip cookie ice cream sandwich after I eat a corn dog!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Park said...

Really want to try the deep fried thin mints, klondike bar and the grilled cheese truck!

Jennifer Park -

Thursday, July 28, 2011 8:51:00 AM  
Blogger OftheSeven said...

Grilled corn! Butter, garlic powder, salt, pepper, chili powder....enuff said!

oftheseven at gmail

Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:43:00 AM  
Blogger JamesP said...

Had an amazing lobster roll in Boston 2 years ago and I cannot get the taste out of my head! My mouth waters and stomach rumbles just thinking about it. I've heard from several people that the only thing around here that may be able to satisfy my craving is the LOBSTA TRUCK. Need to get this and bring me back to my happy place!


Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

never ever been to a fair either (a fellow fair virgin).

i know it's cliched, but i really want to try the deep fried twinkie. watching zombieland makes me yearn for one now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous CP said...

grilled corn / turkey legs FTW!

sameaest at gmail dot com

Thursday, July 28, 2011 1:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Eileen said...

A co-worker told me she and her hubby tried fried BBQ ribs at the fair. She said it was good but expensive, like $12 for one rib. Would love to try it and see how that taste like.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 1:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Clara Lee said...

i go to the OC fair every single year and this year i hope my spread includes: fried ribs from chxn charlie's, pepperoni pizza on a stick from papa ginos, garlic butter bacon fries, and roasted corn slathered with butter and triple coated in seasoning from the corn shack (corn's an annual MUST). for dessert, i can't wait to try chocolate covered corn dogs and cool off with some shaved ice. if you saw me i know you'd doubt me, and i totally wish i could see the look on your face after watching me inhale it all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fried pickle spears and deep fried arteries won't be too thrilled with me, but I consider it experimenting.


Thursday, July 28, 2011 3:15:00 PM  
Anonymous T-Bone said...

The biggest, juiciest, most roasted to perfection Turkey Leg I can find :-)
Thanks for your great blog, Kevin!
Todd (

Thursday, July 28, 2011 6:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Love to get my hands on those hot, mouth-watering Pastrami and french fries at burgers N Dogs+ watching the free live performance OC fair has to offer= fun time. :]

Thursday, July 28, 2011 6:40:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

VIETNAMESE PORK: Marinated pork loin, pickled daikon and carrots, garlic spread.


Friday, July 29, 2011 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Michael, you're a bit late to the game there. ;)

Sunday, July 31, 2011 3:51:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

A joke. :)

Sunday, July 31, 2011 11:04:00 PM  

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