There are dozens of food booths and a vast selection of tasty and downright clever things to eat at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo NOV Carnival. Why settle for a boring turkey leg when you can get one wrapped in bacon? Do you want to be seen eating fried Twinkies and Oreos? That's so passé now. A slice of deep-fried pecan pie is where it's at.
It may be carnival food, but there's no reason not to eat in style. Here are just a few of the good (albeit not necessarily good for you) things we found to eat.
8. Five Different Kinds of Sausage on a Stick
Why get one sausage on a stick when you can get five all at the same time? This skewer of sausage bites from New Braunfels Smokehouse was the first thing we ate and also one of the best. There's pork and beef, beef with cheese, chicken apple, jalapeño and bratwurst. It will put you back $7. Look for them near the big Miller Lite stage.
7. Smoked Boudin
As long as you don't mind choking down the $8 price tag for one generous link of smoked boudin at Triple J's Smokehouse stand, it's definitely one of the best food items we tried last night. We say it's worth it. It's legit smoky boudin with plenty of shreds of pork mixed in among the rice and as good as you'd find in Louisiana.
6. Roasted Corn
After all this meaty goodness, it's time to get something on the lighter side, and corn roasted right in the husk is smoky and sweet. You can get a cup of elote, too, or corn with a dollop of mayonnaise and a sprinkling of Tajin seasoning, a combination of lime, chiles and salt. Bonus: We can be self-righteous and claim we're eating vegetables! (By the way, if corn's not your thing, there's fried zucchini slices with buttermilk dip at the carnival, too.)
5. Blooming Onion
The blooming onion: It's not just for steakhouses anymore. You can get your very own big "onion flower" sliced into deep-fried petals at the carnival. Obviously, though, it's big enough to share with a friend and it's more fun that way. Wait -- onions are root vegetables, too! See how healthy you can eat at the carnival?
4. Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly on a Stick
All that self-righteous vegetable eating didn't last long, especially after we saw this. It's the ultimate bacon-wrapped food! It's uncured bacon wrapped in cured bacon -- on a stick! It was actually not nearly as fatty as we feared. The pork belly had been rendered nicely and the bacon was pretty crispy, so while we're not going to lie and say it was fat-free or good for you, it actually wasn't the lard-fest it could have been. Also, get this: It comes with a side of sautéed onions and green bell pepper, and it all went great together. You can find it at the Big Bad Bubba's BBQ stand.
3. Chicken Kabobs
If you're not into pork belly or you're really hungry, these big, generous skewers of chargrilled chicken thigh meat, onions and bell pepper are sure to satisfy. They can be had at the Bubba's Burgers stand.
2. Fried Nutella
Why have a deep-fried battered Oreo when you can get a big glob of chocolate hazelnut heaven at the Sweet Cheeks stand instead? It's essentially the equivalent of two Nutella-filled donuts -- on a stick. As if that weren't enough, it's sprinkled with a generous quantity of powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup, too. Ask for a fork. This baby is so heavy, it's going to lose structural integrity after a bite or two. Eight dollars gets you to the realm of sweet-tooth satisfaction. If we hadn't have gotten this, we totally would have gone for the deep-fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
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1. The Chuckwagon Tent
During the barbecue competition, which runs through this Sunday, February 28, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo makes sure that no one who gains admission to NRG Park goes hungry. Everyone can get a plate with a chopped-beef barbecue sandwich, some pretty decent baked beans and a bag of Lay's potato chips for free. Yes, it's a whole meal for free, and it's pretty decent, even if the beans and meat are a little sweet for our tastes. Sure, if you have tent tickets you can turn your nose up at it, but for all of the rodeo workers, security personnel, volunteers and families with kids who don't, it's a welcome boon.
Kudos to the rodeo, too, for making the tent less grim than it used to be. Now that it's connected to a tent with a stage with interesting lighting and good bands playing, it's actually a whole lot of fun. Props too to the dozens of rodeo volunteers who man the tent and serve the general public, often with a smile.
Those are just a very few of the goodies available at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo NOV Carnival. When the rodeo starts on March 3, there will be even more food booths, including some from local restaurants we're really excited about, such as Polonia and the first appearance of Maine-ly Sandwiches.