Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#38 Shrimp Festival - Golconda, IL - September 18, 2010

#38 Shrimp Festival - Golconda, IL - September 18, 2010

You might be wondering if that is shrimp on a perfectly good nacho, and the answer would be yes. I'm not sure who or why someone thought this was a good idea, but there is a reason this is the first time I've seen this combination. It's not that it was bad, but it just didn't make any sense either. I ended up eating the nachos first and then eating the then cheesy shrimp. The creativity though was duly noted.

The classic fried shrimp. There really isn't a way to mess up this dish, and I was certainly happy with this. Along with the perfectly GBD shrimp was something called a sweet tomato. It was crinkle cut and looked like s half tomato half pickle frankenfruit. It tasted like a very mild pickle with a crisp texture which ended up being a good contrast to the sweet thimble o' cocktail sauce.

There wasn't really any other strange concoctions, so I went ahead and got the shrimp on a stick. I have previously bemoaned terribly cooked and handled seafood in the past, but this was excellent. They understood that people are willing to wait the 2 minutes to cook shrimp, and perfectly grilled this skewer. I will happily attest that these shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the scampi style was pretty decent too.

Now when I first came to this festival, I was greeted by a line of motorcycles. My mind immediately raced back to my previous misadventures with motorcycle rallies. Don't get me wrong, bikers are by and far great people, but it's kinda like looking into a cow's eye. They look nice and calm, but you can tell their animal instinct could kick in at anytime.

Golconda, Illinois is set atop the Ohio River along the Kentucky border. This festival was fairly tame when it came to the strange, but it did offer helicopter rides. Now I have done a tethered hot air balloon ride, but I just couldn't trust a helicopter pilot that needed the money from a Shrimp festival to fly me around.

Festive Trinket of the Week: Maybe not one of my strangest buys, but I've always enjoyed mancala and don't have a set. That, and the price was right at $2. Heck, you don't even need the board to play; in ancient times people simply dug the holes into the ground and played with stones.

Video of the Week: The video I had didn't reflect the humor I had intended. Thus, here is a shrimp on a treadmill set to the music of the Benny Hill Show. Solid. If you watch the whole thing I might be worried about you.

Now you may be wondering why the heck is there a shrimp festival in the middle of the country? Well, turns out that Golconda is a burgeoning freshwater shrimp farming hub. Apparently the shrimp at this festival was raised right here in Golconda, which made me feel better about eating shrimp in Southern Illinois (Kind of). Golconda was a nice host, but my favorite Golconda fun fact may be that it has no signal lights and only one four-way stop (almost impossibly true).

Now loyal readers know this is an educational blog at its roots, so here is all the information you may ever want to know about shrimp (even told through the oral tradition). Or maybe you would like to go shrimping on your own and catch a fresh batch, well Jethro is way ahead of you. Now I know that some people may no longer be able to say the word "shrimp" without thinking of Bubba Gump. Can you name all the ways Bubba can cook shrimp? The first thing that actually came to my mind was actually a prawn. Here is my boy, Pepe the Prawn, telling a fairly solid joke with an elephant buddy. As we have seen shrimp can be funny, but did you know they can also be deadly? This pistol shrimp kind of creeps me out. Make sure you watch the first video as well, I'm not sure how much sound is added and how much is real. Heck, you don't even have to be around the water to be in shrimp danger, just ask this lady what flying shrimp at the local Benihana can do.

Shrimp are an extremely versatile food, and one that almost everyone enjoys (except for those that are shellfish intolerant). If you ever find yourself with a bunch of shrimp and no ideas, make sure you try the horseradish shrimp recipe on the left side of the page (my first award winner). The Golconda Shrimp festival is pretty fun, if a little on the normal side (if that's a bad thing). Maybe it needed a mascot or a someone in a silly shrimp costume. Either way the food was good, the sky was blue and the travel smooth. Another success on the festival circuit.

EDIT: Festive Friend Imron added some great information regarding Golconda in the comment section that I felt should be included in the post:
"Also, did you investigate the claim that the name Golconda (which is pretty unique) actually comes from India? Golconda, India (right by Hyderabad and the Fort is still there), was apparently one of the regional capitals from 1512 to 1687. It is likely the Illinois town was a throwback to the earlier Indian era, since it was named as a regional capital within Illinois in 1817, at a time when interest in India was the vogue because of expanding English rule there."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

#37 Popcorn Festival - Casey, IL - September 5, 2010

Popcorn Festival - Casey, IL - September 5, 2010

Welcome to the Popcorn Festival in Casey, and yes, the first thing you get is a free bag of popcorn. Getting the theme ingredient for free at a festival is always a great beginning. I think popcorn is one of those foods I could keep eating until either there was no more left or my stomach hurt. (Also included in that category: Chicken Wings, Candy Corn, Milk Chocolate, Peanut M&M's, most edible items, etc.)

Meet the fried pretzel. Deep fried foods are a staple at these festivals, and I can't believe it took me this long to find a fried pretzel. The concept is so simple and obvious it almost puts the pet rock to shame. Don't let the strange color and scary bubbles scar you, this pretzel was crispy and soft on the inside. A great compliment to the cheese. I'll just have to say that it tasted better than it photographed.

Next up was this belly bomber known as either a Frito-Pie or a Taco-in-a-Bag. Either way it is pretty tasty. These are prevalent at festivals, but I hadn't gotten one before. It is a regular bag of fritos (Slightly crushed) topped with chili, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. Another looks like crap but tastes great option.

After these goodies, it was time for dessert. This is a deep fried snickers bar. This is definitely not my first rodeo when it comes to deep fried desserts, but the snickers had eluded me until now. Maybe I was expecting more, but this was kind of a disappointment. The crust did nothing for the bar, and to make a snickers even more gooey seems counter productive. Don't get me wrong, you can't go wrong with battering and frying a candy bar. But, I would prefer a frozen snickers to a deep fried one.

Strangely, there were three wood carvers putting on demonstrations throughout the day as well. These guys were fairly impressive as their pieces show. I like artwork of animals doing people activities, so the fishing bear definitely caught my eye.

Festive Trinket of the Week: I think this sign speaks for itself. It will make an excellent addition to my home, and I was even able to talk down the price enough to not even have buyers remorse (quite the feat when it comes to these silly trinkets).

Videos of the Week Twofer: I finally found my camera and videos are again plentiful. Of course you didn't expect quality images of quality entertainment did you? On the left is Paul Lee the Magician. He runs through a few staple tricks such as producing a dove and turning it into a rabbit. The man just needs an assistant, and he would be great. He even claims to have appeared on the Bozo the Clown Show (creepy, but reminded me of this Seinfeld skit). On the right is the "Whip Guy" who was actually fairly entertaining. Here he is doing his best Indiana Jones impersonation by whipping the whip around a woman.

This festival was actually larger than I had expected, but oddly enough did not feature much popcorn. Sadly, it had the free popcorn stand and two other kettle corn booths for purchase. I'm not much of a kettle corn guy, there's something plain wrong about sweet popcorn. So why popcorn in Casey, IL? I asked the local information booth, and was told that Casey used to be home to many popcorn factories, was grown in town, and donated to the festival. For some reason the factories closed up years ago and the town continued using a popcorn theme (even though its popcorn is now bought and shipped in).

I know my loyal reader is here to become the next leader in popcorn history so here you go. If that wasn't enough to satiate you, then this site dedicated to popcorn is bursting with info. Some of you may not be into all that learning stuff, so here is a direct link to a corn and kernel popcorn pong game against Poppy and a slow motion video of popcorn kernels popping set to strange music. Maybe that's not silly enough for you. Well then, how about the world's largest popcorn ball and the process to make it? If that still isn't doing it for you, then nothing is sillier than the mark up on movie theater popcorn. After all of that, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about writing this post was James Brown performing "Mother Popcorn". If you would like to learn how to dance like James Brown learn from the Godfather of Soul himself here (2 Words: Funky Chicken). Or if you ever wondered why he is referred to as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, then here is a good run down. (Set to a great song).

These days microwaved popcorn has made life pretty easy for most popcorn enthusiasts. Yet modern science always wants to tell us that everything is bad for you. Heck, even if you do make it, many people tend to get distracted and forget it in the microwave too long. A lesson my old friend the Swedish Chef makes here to a very catchy song. If you want to make your own microwave popcorn yourself without the extra fillers and additives, then Alton Brown is here to help with a brown paper bag. Maybe you can even sneak some into your next movie and keep some kernels in your cob.