Battle of the 2014 Arizona State Fair Corn Dogs

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JK Grence

In my humble (but correct) opinion, the quintessential carnival food is the corn dog. I know I can get a (barely passable) corn dog from a number of outlets around town, but there's nothing like savoring a hand-dipped corn dog while basking in the lurid lights of the Arizona State Fair midway.

Some State Fair food vendors give the venerable carnival snack an over-the-top twist in an attempt to get people talking about their specific product. Two different vendors have spicy variations on the corn dog. But, only one can be this year's Arizona State Fair corn dog champion.


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Coca-Cola's Freestyle Machine Lets You Customize Your Drink in Amazing Ways

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JK Grence
Where the magic happens.

The Guilty Pleasure: A new app for Coca-Cola Freestyle soda machines
Where to Get It: A handful of Freestyle machines, at least for now.
Price: A couple of bucks, give or take. Depends on the restaurant.
What it Really Costs: A potential sharp uptake in high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweetener.

By now, you may be familiar with The Coca-Cola Company's next-generation soda machine, Coca-Cola Freestyle. If you haven't seen one yet, I think they're worth seeking out just for the gee-whiz factor.

You use a touch screen on the machine to select what kind of beverage you want (of 26 different base varieties, including Sprite, Dr Pepper, and of course several versions of Coke), then add optional flavorings (orange Sprite? Sure! Raspberry Coca-Cola Zero? It's mighty fine!). Between the 26 sodas and all of the flavor variations, there's about 150 different drinks available from one soda machine.

But for some, yours truly included, somehow even that isn't quite enough.

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8 Weird Foods We Tried at the 2014 Arizona State Fair

The Guilty Pleasure: Deep fried everything on a stick.
Where to Get It: The Arizona State Fair.
Price: $5 and up.
What it Really Costs: I'm staying the hell off my bathroom scale for at least a week.

Ladies and gentlemen, the high holy days of guilty pleasure food are upon us once more. That's right, it's time for the annual cavalcade of weird food on a stick at the Arizona State Fair, which runs every day (except Mondays and Tuesdays) through November 2.

Certain foods from previous years have quietly disappeared, sometimes to my chagrin. Pumpkin-batter corn dogs, you shall be missed. But as things go away, others rise to take their place. Some are surprising delights. Others, I wish I could forget. But one thing is for sure, there's nothing like many of these anywhere else.


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Oreo O's: Straight from South Korea

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Josh Chesler
The first bowl of Oreo O's we've had in seven years. You better believe it was amazing.

The Guilty Pleasure: Oreo O's Cereal
Where to Get It: eBay, Amazon and South Korea
Price: About $20 including shipping
What it Really Costs: An explanation to the manager of the Post Office that you really did order breakfast cereal shipped directly from Korea.

As one of the most delicious cereals in history, Oreo O's were sadly discontinued everywhere other than South Korea in 2007 due to a split between Post (who owns the cereal) and Kraft (who owns Oreos). For us, it marked the end of the simpler times of childhood, the Saturday morning cartoons and overflowing plates at family meals with our grandparents.

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Krispy Kreme Introduces Ghostbusters Doughnuts (and Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts Too, Of Course)

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JK Grence
The Guilty Pleasure: Marshmallow-filled, Ghostbusters-themed donuts.
Where to Get It: Krispy Kreme, several locations around town.
Price: About $1.20 each.
What it Really Costs: Oh, sugar!

Nostalgia for the 1980s and 1990s is in full swing these days. The latest entry is the Ghostbusters franchise celebrating its 30th anniversary. Yes folks, you read that right, as of this year it's been three decades since Bill Murray and the gang first crossed the streams.

Naturally, along with this anniversary, there's a marketing blitz to both sell more copies of the movie, and sell things that weren't related to the movie until someone put a Ghostbusters logo or the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man on it.


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Pumpkin Spice Oreo Taste Test (Caramel Apple Oreos, Too)

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JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: Two new flavors of Oreos.
Where to Get It: Caramel Apple flavor at Target. Pumpkin Spice flavor everywhere. Much like pumpkin spice flavor in general these days.
Price: About $3 a box.
What it Really Costs: The usual danger of a box of processed cookies suddenly disappearing in one sitting.

It's practically a tradition that this time of year, anything that can possibly be flavored with pumpkin and/or pumpkin pie spice will be flavored with them. The list gets longer with every passing autumn. The trend has become ridiculous to the point that a hoax of pumpkin-spice condoms seemed at least slightly plausible.

See Also: Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter Has Arrived. It's Officially Fall!

Given the proclivities of the people at Nabisco to churn out seemingly endless flavors of Oreos over the last few years, it's almost a wonder that it took them this long to come up with Pumpkin Spice Oreos. But, the unholy union of Pumpkin Spice Everything and Oreo Anything Flavors has finally happened.

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Kale Soda Exists, and It's Surprisingly Tasty

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JK Grence
"With real cane sugar". How considerate.

The Guilty Pleasure: Hansen's kale-flavored soda.
Where to Get It: Your favorite natural foods store, as long as their buyer has a sense of humor.
Price: Three or four bucks a six-pack.
What it Really Costs: Lucy, you got some 'splainin to do! (Also, as with any soda: Whoa, lots of sugar!)

I'm somewhat grateful that Peak Kale has passed. The cruciferous green was once relegated to decorating salad bars. Then, kale became a wondrous superfood. Kale salads, kale chips, questionable kale smoothies, you name it.

The insane demand for kale has waned somewhat in recent months. But there's still the occasional outlier who thinks that kale should go in something where kale shouldn't really be.


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Little Caesars Introduces Pretzel-Crust Pizza

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JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: Pretzel-Crust Pepperoni Pizza.
Where to Get It: Little Caesars, locations everywhere.
Price: Only six bucks.
What it Really Costs: Say cheeeeeeeese.

Little Caesars has been one of my favorite guilty pleasures for quite some time. Thanks to modern technology (read: warming cabinets), you can walk into a Little Caesars with five bucks (plus tax) and walk out mere seconds later with a hot pepperoni pizza. At that price, it sure as hell isn't Bianco's, but at that price, what did you expect?

While their business model seems to be working fairly well, it's still a good idea to get a boost every now and again. To do this, Little Caesars jumped on the pretzel-as-bread bandwagon that chichi burger joints got going last year.

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Arby's Secret New Meat Mountain Puts All the Meats on One Bun

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JK Grence
Good luck wrapping your lips around all that meat.

The Guilty Pleasure: The Meat Mountain
Where to Get It: Arby's, locations nationwide (participation may vary)
The Price: $10
What It Really Costs: It's a doozy, but not quite as bad as you think.

I'm stunned by the existence of a new off-menu item at Arby's, the Meat Mountain. As the story from the company goes, Arby's stores put up a poster displaying all of the different meats they use, attractively stacked in one very tall pile. People took a look at the poster, and said they wanted one of that. Never mind that the poster was just for looks, the giant stack of meat had to be theirs.

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Hostess' Strawberry, Banana, Chocolate, and Blue Raspberry Creme Twinkies: A Taste Test

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Lauren Saria
Hostess has taken a cue from Oreo and released four new flavors of Twinkies.
The Guilty Pleasure: Hostess' Summer of Twinkies flavored Twinkies
Where to Get It: Walmart
Price: $2.50 for a box of 10
What It Really Costs: Having irreversibly greasy fingers for the rest of the day

Like so many others, I felt a little twinge of panic when Hostess announced it was going away for good in 2012. At that time I genuinely wondered about whether life would be the same without the Twinkie. Would our kids grow up without knowing the beloved American snack? Of course the crisis was averted and in July 2013 the Twinkie returned to convenience store shelves -- it was really the only fitting ending for a snack that's known for its everlasting powers.

But this time around Hostess is doing things differently. They aren't about to let the Twinkie slide back out of America's culinary consciousness. They're going to be a hip, cool brand. They're going to be like Oreo, with an array of flavors for customers to choose from.

Enter, the Hostess Summer of Twinkies.


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