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DINING: Tomato fare at the fair

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Dining - A&E

Every year, the Indiana State Fair powers that be select a signature food and invite vendors to use that item as a key ingredient in a for-sale dish.

This year that item is the tomato, the bright red orb that is a standard item in low-maintenance gardens and Red Gold cans. If the five finalists didn’t come up with anything likely to be a fair staple, they at least provided us an excuse to get out on opening day for a sampling survey. (And, yes, we also tried the chocolate covered—and tomato free—bacon. The less said about that, the better).

All dishes will be available through the Fair’s closing day, Aug. 23.

Pizza Cone: We had high hopes for the concept: tomato and cheese (plus optional pepperoni) tucked into a nest of baked dough. But standard-issue sauce, partially melted cheese, and long wait time led to our lackluster response. ($4. Find it at King’s Concessions, located near the Home & Family Arts Building.)

Pizza Cone (IBJ Photos/Robin Jerstad)

YaYa’s Tomato Balls: This one, it’s claimed, comes from a family recipe from the old country (Greece, in particular). And the deep-fried combination of tomato, grated cheese, onions, spices and bread crumbs does taste like there’s history in it. Our favorite of the bunch. ($6. Papageorge’s Inc., located near the West Pavilion across from Hook’s.)

YaYa’s Tomato Balls

Fried Pizza: Judges picked this one as the winner, and we sort of understand that, given the competition. But this attractive item is really little more than an elephant ear ladled with a thin coating of sauce and sprinkled with cheese. Forgive us for expecting something more akin to the Panzarotti, the more appetizing steam-filled calzone variation that’s been around for generations. ($5, Urick Concessions, located near the Grand Hall.)

Fried Pizza

Tomato Bob: Seriously? A couple of cherry tomatoes and slices of cucumber and green pepper qualify as a State Fair finalist? This healthy-but-so-what entry is more of a children’s-area craft exercise than a worthy food competitor. ($3, Smith Concessions, located near the West Pavilion)

 

Tomato Bob

Sun-dried Tomato Pork Burger: Moister than one might expect, this slider puts most of the tomato flavor on top, where it moistened the bun more than flavoring the fried pork. A good enough snack, if not particularly memorable. ($3, Barto’s Catering, located near the Farm Bureau Building.)

Sun-dried Tomato Pork Burger
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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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