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What's New In Food At The Big E For 2018?

The Big E is officially underway, and as has been the case with every iteration of the fair in the past, all eyes are on the food.

If you’re heading to The Big E for its 102nd year in West Springfield, its vendors are serving up the annual food extravaganza: a maelstrom of sugar, fried carbs, cheese sauce, whipped cream, butter, pork in every form and chocolate drizzle.

Here’s a closer look at the newest additions to this year’s menu.

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New Foods For 2018

This year, two new items are hitting the deep fryer: Pop Tarts and corn on the cob (dipped in buttermilk and fish-fry batter, and dusted with Creole seasoning.) Find them both at the Coffee Break booth in the fairground’s Food Court, which has successfully fried cannoli, s’mores and strawberry shortcake in recent years.

V-One Vodka, which triumphantly pulled off a deep-fried martini in 2015 and followed it up with a deep-fried piña colada in 2017, has returned with a Frozé Martini. The frosty concoction includes La Vieille Ferme French rosé, vodka, strawberry puree and white cranberry juice, and it’s available outside Door 1 of the Young Building.

V-One offers a “passport” to the multiple fair locations where its vodka and vodka cocktails will be served, said owner Paul Kozub, including the Young Building, the New England Craft Beer Pub and the Wurst Haus. Visitors who complete the passport will get a prize, a copy of Kozub’s book with two V-One branded shot glasses.

The new Ripieno, from Moolicious on Springfield Road, features Italian sorbet served in a natural fruit casing. Peach, orange and lemon flavors are presented in their respective hollowed-out fruit shells. “This was simple, quick, easy,” said Joe Deedy, whose Southwick, Mass.-based business also offers more decadent ice cream treats like the Blueberry Pierogi Sundae, first introduced in 2016.

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At Captain Nemo’s, they’ve revamped their menu with new items like a pot roast patty melt on a brioche roll with Swiss cheese, red pepper aioli and dill pickles. There’s also a quesadilla burger on a jalapeño cheddar roll, topped with nacho cheese and pico de gallo, and “New England” nachos: waffle fries topped with pot roast, shredded lettuce, pub cheese and sour cream.

The starch-heavy “Sunday Supper” combines garlic mashed potatoes, giant “keg tots” stuffed with bacon and cheddar and pot roast, topped with pub ale cheese and crowned with sour cream, red teardrop-shaped Peruvian peppers and chives.

“It’s not your grandmother’s Sunday supper, but it’s definitely an interesting combination, and it’s a great flavor profile,” said Garett DiStefano, whose family has been vending at the Big E since 1976.

The Bud and Burger Pub returns with gourmet “smashed sliders” in flavors like peanut butter and jelly, Texas BBQ with pulled pork and bacon, “FunOnion” with gorgonzola, and “Rugged Man” with five-bean beef chili.

“Sliders are still fairly trendy,” said chef Mick Corduff. “At the fair, you want to walk around and try a bunch of different stuff.” The diminutive burgers are served in portions of one or two, with waffle fries on the side.

Fresh off a March feature on the Cooking Channel’s “Carnival Eats” series, Canton-based Chompers Food Truck returns to the fair for a second year, serving “crunchy balls of goodness” in chicken Parmesan, bacon cheeseburger and taco flavors. The Taco Chompers are balls of seasoned beef and cheddar with crispy tortilla coating, served with salsa and sour cream.

“It’s catching on, everyone loves them,” said owner Tom Barletta. “It’s just a nice flavor profile. It’s everything in a taco in one bite.” Find Chompers outside Door 8 of the Better Living Center.

The Wurst Haus debuts its “Messy Magnus,” a pulled-pork sandwich with an apple fritter as “bun,” and German Chocolate Heaven, or warm cake doughnut holes topped with fudge, coconut, and chopped walnuts.

Storrowton Tavern has added gourmet macaroni and cheese with lobster and Cajun chicken to its menu.

The Irish Pub inside Young Building at the International Plaza will transform into the Guinness Pub, featuring beers from around the world.

Amy’s Sweet Treats on Commonwealth Avenue will offer the Nacho Sundae: cinnamon and sugar tortilla chips with ice cream and choice of toppings.

At Giant Corn Dog on the corner of West Road and the Avenue of States, you’ll find the Dilly Dilly Dog, a cored-out pickle stuffed with a hot dog (that’s then dipped in corn dog batter and fried.)

The Donut Family on Commonwealth Ave offers new Cinn-a-Roll Gourmet Mini Donuts, covered with cinnamon cream cheese, drizzled with sugar glaze and topped with homemade whipped cream.

The newest menu items at Bernat’s Deli on East Road are kielbasa chili and a Polish sampler platter.

Southington-based Poutine Gourmet is back, serving its fresh-cut French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, but with two new twists this year: a pulled pork version and another with ground sirloin and corn.

New concessions include Stella’s Milk and Cookies inside Gate 9A, with warm gourmet chocolate chip cookies; Fluffy’s, also at Gate 9A with hand-cut doughnuts and a Donut Sundae; Barbie’s Ice Cream on New England Avenue, with gourmet ice cream cones, cups and sundaes; Sweet and Salty at the corner of Springfield Road and New England Ave, with novelty flavored sodas and flavored popcorn; and Cranston Enterprises, in the Better Living Center, with 40 different flavors of licorice, including a three-foot long sweet and sour licorice rope filled with soft sherbet.

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Returning Favorites

Some of 2017’s top eats return for a sophomore season, including a Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich from Amy’s Sweet Treats; the Burger Bomb from Hofbrau Joe’s (a 5-ounce burger with cheese, bacon, onions and sauerkraut wrapped in pastry dough and deep fried); Porky’s BBQ brisket sundae (apple crisp, homemade cornbread, garlic mashed potatoes, pulled pork and coleslaw, topped with cherry tomato and barbecue sauce drizzle) and the Flatliner Burger from West Springfield Lions Club, a double cheeseburger topped with chili, french fries, cheese sauce and bacon. Waffle-battered fried chicken bites at the Deep South Company also make a comeback, served in a waffle cone and drizzled with a maple mustard sauce.

The Granville Country Store will move its brand new trailer inside Gate 4, serving popular cheesy items like mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Of course, you’ll always find fair staples like the Big E’s signature eclairs and cream puffs, and the now-iconic Craz-E Burger, featuring a bacon cheeseburger between two halves of a glazed doughnut.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Choices

For those with dietary restrictions or preferences, the Big E notes several vendors with gluten-free, gluten-friendly and/or vegan fare: gluten-free nuts from The Nut Lady and Bavarian Beer Nuts; gluten-friendly tater tots and toppings at Tots-a-Lot (with vegan options too); gluten-friendly French fries at West Springfield Lions Club; gluten-free salad options at Big Kahuna; gluten-free bread at Subway; gluten-friendly Indian dishes like saag paneer and chicken tikka masala at The Garden Restaurant; gluten-free sides and meats at Pig Park BBQ and The Ultimate BBQ; gluten-free ice cream at Dippin’ Dots and Moolicious (which also offers gluten-free cones) and unfried veggie combos at Dr. Vegetable.

Information: thebige.com.

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