If you find yourself lurking around the Carnival at Rodeo Houston, you might be asking yourself, "What the hell is a bacon Nutella fried pickle and what does it actually taste like?" In fact, while I had already tried some of the rodeo's new foods at this year's Gold Buckle Foodie Awards, including an excellent Flamin' Hot Cheetos roasted corn on the cob, the abysmal Flamin' Hot Cheetos pizza, the fan favorite Nitro popped kettle corn, and a pretty delicious chocolate-dipped oatmeal whoopie pie, I wasn't sure how the newcomers would actually stack up out at the carnival, where it's hot and wait times run long even when there isn't a line.
Plus, there were a few more items I needed to get my hands on, because I'm kind of into torturing myself with gluttonous carnival foods whenever I get the chance. The last time I did so was at Galveston! Mardi Gras back in February, where a pretty great onion cheeseburger and barbecue plate prevailed over numerous mediocre meats on a stick.
Here now last week's reason for Pepto.
Bacon Nutella Pickle
It's deep fried. It's sweet and salty. It's composed of a dill pickle hollowed out and filled with lava-hot Nutella and bits of bacon, served atop a few larger pieces of crumbled bacon with a side of dill-laden Ranch dipping sauce. It isn't so icky, at least when you don't think about what you're actually putting in your mouth, until the realization that you've just spent $10 on two hunks of this hot mess actually settles among the dirty grease trap that keeps your brain functioning.
However, the Bacon Nutella Pickle is far less offensive than it sounds, and it's actually infinitely better than its sister menu item at the Get Pickled stand, the pickle chips, which are the worst pickle chips I've ever had — the breading hardly stays on — and highway robbery at $10 per basket. The only saving grace was adding some of them to a plain and meaningless $12 burger with its sad cloak of unmelted American cheese, thus making a $22 burger that, on a scale of carnival horrors, registers just a tad superior to walking around in sopping wet cowboy boots and painted-on jeans after a go on the flume ride.
Spiral Fry Dog
It's a $7 foot-long, snappy hot dog with a spiral of thin-cut potato "fries" around it, all of it deep fried, and served with a small cup of nacho cheesefoods for dipping. "How do you eat it?" anybody who buys this one will be asking. Should you attempt to nibble down the taters and then go for the unsightly dog after, or do you bite both the taters and the dog together with cheese dribbling down your chin? It's hard to dip, so the easiest way of downing the spiral fry dog seemed to be by pulling the spuds off and dunking them in the gelatinous, tepid cheesefoods first and then dipping and biting off the sausage. Not advised for a first date.
In essence, it could be the perfect carnival food except that you will likely resort to using your hands and that is very risky after visiting the llama in the petting zoo. The only thing more insalubrious would be using the butter dispenser at the popcorn booth and then licking your fingers right after.
Nitro Pop Kettle Corn
This kettle corn stole the show at the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards and seems to be an Instagram darling because of its signature cold smoke, but after waiting around for ten minutes for the vendors to get nitrogen from a giant tank to a smaller holding tank, and then moving that smaller holding tank to the front of the booth, wherein a shovelful of colorful popcorn was then siphoned into the container and slowly mixed before us, it was kind of annoying. Like waiting for Guns N' Roses to come out and play a show where the dry ice hit the stage an hour ago level of annoying. Translation: This popcorn is the Axl of the rodeo carnival. Meanwhile, the humidity sucked the nitro off the popcorn in about ten seconds flat after the lid was removed from the Slurpee-style cup, and the effect was lost, though the popcorn was at least pleasantly cold.
I recommend just adding the regular popcorn (which is laced with fruity Trix cereal) to a vanilla soft serve. It's a delicious combo.
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Flamin Hot Cheeto Roasted Corn in a Cup
It doesn't come slathered in crema like the corn on the cob, and I'm guessing the main reason for that is what happens after you add the accompanying butter packet and mayo packet to the corn and Cheeto crumbs — the Flamin' Hot Cheetos roasted corn in a cup turns rather barf-tastic. It looks just plain icky. With that in mind, it still holds up as one of the tastiest new options out here. And if you add it to the loaded Texas chili cheese fries, you're looking at a very grotesque plate of extremely delicious carnival foods.