Monday, March 15, 2010

Eating around at the Houston Rodeo

It's March in Texas and that can only mean one thing: time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Every year the Rodeo comes to Houston at Reliant Park and includes the arena and stadium. This year I made it my goal to sample a couple of the more famous foods from the show. Specifically it was my goal to try the ultimate bad food: a deep fried oreo. But, I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

For those of you who have never been to Texas, Houston or the Houston Rodeo, it's a bit of an understatement to say that Texans like things larger than life. And that even applies to how they eat. This is the state that brought you the 72 oz steak challenge, after all. Therefore for some of you it will be no surprise that the vendors at the Rodeo bring portable restaurants.

And there is generally a huge selection of sausage and other "Texas delicacies" such as chicken fried bacon.

What does chicken fried bacon taste like? Like a chicken bullion cube with a hint of bacony goodness. The texture's a bit weird because they overcook the bacon before breading it and frying it. Just...meh. (For the record, yes, the picture is from last year. We didn't bother to re-sample the chicken fried bacon,)

Additionally the trend this year, as in past years, is to try and put everything on a stick. No, I didn't actually try the pizza on a stick. It looks and sounds rather scary. Try not to make any sudden moves in front of it. O.O

Did I mention that everything is bigger in Texas?

What will also come as no surprise is the incredible variety of fried foods. If it can stay together in the fryer, it's on the menu. And even some crazy, never-would-have-thought-of-that stuff, like a hot dog surrounded by a potato? Whodathunkit?

For lunch I settled in on a restaurant that won an award at the Rodeo for their sausage and boudin. When I walked up to the window I asked which was better, the boudin or the sausage. The cook recommended the smoked boudin blanc, so away I went. And it really was fantastic. All boudin is sausage with rice in a natural casing. This one had mild creole seasoning and jalapeno peppers. Well-balenced and truly delicious.

The spouse got a burger with a side of one of my favorite street foods on the planet: ribbon fries. If you've never had them before, they're a whole potato that's been spiral sliced and dropped in a frier. The result is just like fresh potato chips. If done right they're crispy and delicious. And these were. *drool*

Lest we all forget the Rodeo is also an educational venture, meant to expose Texans to their heritage. So it was with great pleasure that I was able to stop by the chuck wagons and sample some real cowboy cooking. The beef stew was excellent.

In addition to the carnival food and restaurant vendors of the Rodeo there was also a retail show of sorts and I'm sure my guests at the Rodeo would be remiss if I didn't mention their favorite vendor: Silverleaf International, with the fortuitous url of While I was unable to partake, I am assured that that garlic products were excellent and that the sauces were even better the next day at breakfast.

Which leads me to my quest for the day: the deep fried oreo. I found the booth near the Kid's Corral in front of Reliant Arena. Evidently these people really know their fried foods, especially the sweets.
And, yes, they really will fry everything listed on that sign. The line was huge. So, I thought, "this MUST be the place." There were other vendors of fried oreos, but none had a line like this one. So I stood in line. And waited. And waited. After about an hour of waiting I was rewarded.

The fried Oreos are on the left. I also got fried green tomatoes because I realized I hadn't had any vegetables all day. So what did the fried Oreos taste like? Kind of like a beignet with an Oreo in the middle. If you haven't had a beignet, it's a French-style donut; kind of like little fried dough pillows. This was just like that...with an Oreo in the middle.

As you can see, my quest was a success. I finally tried my fried Oreo. And it was all I hoped it would be. If any of you get the chance, I recommend stopping in Houston in March and checking out the Rodeo. There are always intersting foodie finds. I didn't even mention the wine competition and auction or the beer selection. :-)

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