I've always loved a good county fair. As a native Midwesterner, I pity my D.C. friends whose childhood summers didn't include grimy carnies and meat on sticks. So I recently decided to bring a taste of the country to those city slickers by rustling up an outdoor feast of artery-clogging classics.
My menu featured goodies that taste even better (cross my heart) when dipped in batter and submerged in a vat of oil: heaping plates of hot dogs, plus Hostess Twinkies, cubes of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, dough for fashioning funnel cakes, and bite-size Snickers bars. It was a spread fit for folks who think of South Beach as a destination, not a diet.
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On the side were dishes of gooey chocolate sauce for Twinkie-dipping and mustard and ketchup for slathering on the dogs. (Optional: a set of doctors standing by to perform emergency angioplasties.) I also sliced juicy wedges of watermelon, grabbed a jar of dill pickles (hey, it's something green), and stocked a cooler with hard lemonade and cans of Red Stripe and Milwaukee's Best.
Luckily, a pal had prime real estate to donate to my backcountry cause: a spacious roof atop a Woodley Park apartment complex. As people arrived -- some done up whole hog in Daisy Dukes, braids and cowboy boots -- they assembled upstairs while my co-host and I got the oil crackling in his apartment below. We dredged our eats in flour, dipped them in batter and -- in about two shakes of a lamb's tail -- delivered our first platter to the hungry gathering.
People initially gaped at the golden-brown mystery food, but once they worked up the courage, they started popping it into their mouths. Soon, they were devouring the down-home delicacies, at times not even stopping to wipe the grease off their chins.
To round out the afternoon -- because no county fair is complete without a little blue-ribbon competition between friends -- we staged contests for the best tomato in the city and the best home-baked fruit pie. The only thing missing at the end of the day? A clean-up crew. Allison Stevens
24 hot dogs, halved widthwise
2 1/3 cups flour
48 wooden skewers
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
4 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sugar