While Lisa was out for the afternoon on Saturday, I decided to take Julian to the Burlington County Farm Fair. We usually attend the Ocean County Fair every summer, but we missed it this year. Julian loves the kiddie rides, and I love the food, so we both had things that attracted us. And, I have to admit – I’ve really become a fan of county fairs. There’s something so simple and relaxed and just-be-yourself about fairs that appeals to me. I also love the connection to community that you can have at a county fair. People tend to be friendlier as well.
Of course, the first thing we had to do once we got to the fairgrounds in Lumberton was – the rides! Julian got lost in a fun house, rode the train, and got sped around in a car forwards and backwards within about 30 minutes or so. With all the noisy activity going on, it’s amazing how easily you can pick out your own child’s screams of joy while he’s getting whirled around.
It was then on to the animals, where Julian got to see chickens, roosters, pigeons (I didn’t know they had competitions for pigeons), rabbits, sheep, goats and cows. Julian tried in vain to feed some hay to the cows to no avail. Looking at the cows, they seemed pretty well fed. And big. You forget how big cows actually are when you’re not in contact with them on a regular basis. (It’s not like we have cows coming into our office or something.)
As we headed our way towards the food area, we got to see a bit of a parade of old tractors driving around the fairgrounds. Clearly they were making sure that you didn’t forget the farm part of the farm fair.Time to eat! First up, a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade, which was a bit too sour for Julian’s tastebuds. I then spotted a vendor that was serving fish and chips. That sounded too appealing to pass by, and Julian loves fried fish to boot. We were certainly rewarded for our selection. The fish was nice and crispy on the outside, and the fish inside was still moist and flavorful. It’s that contrast you want out of your fish when you get fish and chips. The pic shows one piece of fish; well, there was actually two pieces, but hunger took priority over photojournalism.
Man, I thought to myself, I haven’t had one of those in a good long time. For those who don’t know, the simplest (but not quite accurate) way to describe a panzarotti is that it is a deep-fried calzone. They’re shaped in puffy squares usually, not pockets like calzones, and the dough is thinner than calzones, which makes them nice and crispy on the outside. The filling is usually red gravy and mozzarella cheese, but you can have pretty much anything that you’d top a pizza with stuffed in a panzarotti. Panzarottis are also very South Jersey, and specifically very Burlington and Camden County. I remember the first time mentioning them to Lisa, and she looked at me with a very confused expression.
While Julian chatted up the young lady at the front of the vendor truck window (he’s quite the charmer, y’know), four mini panzarottis were fried up for me. While the dough was a little thicker than usual (maybe due to the fact they were small), the crispy outside and the hot gooey innards of cheese and gravy were exactly as I remembered. Yummy yum yum. Someday, I will take Lisa on a trip to Vincent’s in Merchantville, where I was introduced to the panzarotti as a kid.
The only thing left was a bit of dessert. For Julian, a lime snow cone was just the thing, which further made the point that sometimes we just need the simple things to enjoy ourselves.
Lots of food news to mention, so let’s get to the mentioning…
* Aaron did it! Aaron McCargo won The Next Food Network Star competition and will have his own show starting on Sunday. Well done.
* The Pop Shop did it! Collingswood’s own little family funky eatery was voted Best Philadelphia Family-Friendly Restaurant in Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect’s First Annual Parents’ Picks Awards. Well done to them as well.
* Olga’s Diner did it! The owner blows off the state of New Jersey, and the state responds by seizing the restaurant due to back taxes owed. Not so well done. Just another sad episode in the decline of this institution.
And on the Events front…
* Farm to Fork Week is underway!
* The Camden County 4-H Fair gets started later this week.
* AND, if you can’t get enough of that Collingswood restaurant scene, next week is Collingswood Restaurant Week. If you haven’t been, this is a great opportunity to try the best of what Haddon Avenue has to offer.