One of the treasured seasonal rituals that the pandemic has denied us is indulgence in state fair food.
In a pre-coronavirus year, midways from Texas to Minnesota would have been crowded with those indulging in carnival fare. Here in Western Massachusetts our hometown version of such an event, The Big E, would be hosting fairground vendors featuring everything from jalapeno corn dogs and barbecued brisket sundaes to Belgian waffle ice cream sandwiches
But just because The Big E’s midway is silent and empty doesn’t necessarily mean that state fair food junkies can’t get their annual fix.
The Student Prince and Fort Restaurant in Springfield, which normally operates The Wurst Haus at the Big E, has created a Fort Fair Menu that’s being served at the Student Prince throughout the month of September. Featured in the fair food lineup are Fort Poutine and Loaded Tater Tots, the latter topped with barbecue pork and a beer cheese sauce.
Entree choices inspired by fair food tradition range from a turkey drum stick plate and a pork belly Rueben to baby back ribs and blackened kielbasa.
The Log Cabin in Holyoke is playing host to a Big E-inspired restaurant pop-up, the New England Craft Pub, that is offering some of the favorites that the Delaney House – Log Cabin brand served at previous fairs.
The Big E itself has put together a program it’s calling The Big E Food-to-Go Drive Thru, a four week long opportunity to enjoy the fair food experience that public health considerations have otherwise made unavailable.
Sponsored by Westfield Bank, the drive-thru will operate Tuesday thru Sunday starting September 22 and running until October 18. Each week’s Drive Thru will feature three different vendors that would normally have operated at the Big E.
Unlike the earlier drive thru the Big E sponsored during the summer, this series will have reserved time slots in addition to a $5-per-car entry fee. Time slots must be reserved and paid for in advance online at TheBigE.com.
More information about the Big E Food-to-Go Drive Thru, including details on the time slot procedure as well as a list of vendors and the food items they’ll be offering, can be found at thebige.com/BigEFoodToGo or facebook.com/TheBigE/.
Dunkin’, the coffee-and-snack chain, is aggressively promoting its DD Perks loyalty program, and their DD Perks offer involves one of the region’s most popular sports franchises, the New England Patriots.
To celebrate the start of the NFL’s 2020 season, Dunkin’ is offering Western Massachusetts DD Perks members a $1 medium hot or Iced coffee every Patriots’ game day. Members of the loyalty program can receive the special price by downloading Dunkin’s Mobile App and using it to order ahead for subsequent in-store, drive-thru, or curbside pickup. There’s a limit of one discount-priced coffee per each DD Perks member, and dairy alternatives, espresso shots and/or flavor shots may carry an add-on charge.
The offer is available at participating Dunkin’ locations in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties.
The Delaney House and the Log Cabin Banquet and Meetinghouse in Holyoke are both getting an early start on promoting Thanksgiving.
Each location is offering a four-course feast that begins with a first course (roasted squash soup accompanied by marinated shrimp) and second course salad selection.
For the Thanksgiving main event both locations are suggesting eight different entree possibilities. In addition to a turkey dinner with the traditional fixings, choices such as cider house pork chops, sesame salmon, Black Angus prime rib and a vegetarian casserole will be available alternatives.
Four sides will be served family style, and for dessert pumpkin, apple, and pecan pie will be on the agenda.
Both locations are accepting reservations for parties of six or smaller, but the Log Cabin is also requiring a minimum of four per reservation.
Seatings begin at 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving day; the dinner is $49 per person for adults and $20 for children from four to 12. Tax and gratuity are additional.
Reservations can be made on line at OpenTable.com.
Buffalo Wild Wings has added new options to its menu.
“Cauliflower Wings,” breaded and deep fried cauliflower, come with Asian “zing” sauce, and a Buffalo wedge salad gets its character from a fried chicken tender drizzled with Buffalo sauce.
Two salads – a chopped Cobb salad and an upgraded chicken Caesar salad — have earned a permanent slot on the chain’s menu, as have three new wings sauces: a Chinese-style orange sauce, a lemon pepper sauce and an ultra-spicy Carolina Reaper blazin’ sauce.
There’s a Buffalo Wild Wings location on Memorial Drive in Chicopee, just south of the Mass Turnpike entrance.
The Irish House Restaurant at the Irish Cultural Center in West Springfield recently enhanced its menu by adding “Family Dinner Specials To Go” to its repertoire.
Hearty Irish-inspired dinners, the to-go options include pot roast with fingerling potatoes and carrots, shepherd’s pie with peas and carrots, and a roast chicken dinner served with mashed potato and vegetables. Each dinner package includes salad rolls and a dessert of bread pudding.
The dinner specials come in two, four and six person sizes; pricing starts at $30 for a two-diner package.
Orders are taken Wednesday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with pickup hours beginning at 4 p.m. Family Dinner Specials can be further enhanced (at an additional charge) by a wine or beet selection. Curbside pickup is available.
Call the Irish House Restaurant at (413) 342-4358 to place an order.
Denny’s locations are featuring fall’s iconic flavor, pumpkin, in the form of a limited-time-only pumpkin pecan pancakes option. Made with pumpkin and studded with pecans, the pancakes are served drizzled with pecan pie sauce.
The pumpkin pecan pancakes are available as part of a full breakfast that also includes eggs, hash browns, bacon and sausage. They can also be enjoyed as a side with other Denny’s breakfast platters.
Denny’s locations in the Springfield area include Boston Road at Pasco Road and in Holyoke on Northampton Street.
Restaurants across the region are increasingly promoting special events served outdoors with social distancing, and this month The Duck in Sturbridge has joined in to offer a Harvest Dinner on September 24 at 6:30 p.m.
The Duck’s head chef, Eric Jolin, has created a multi-course, farm-to-fork dinner designed to highlight what’s freshest and best from local farms and food producers.
The dinner’s $55 per person cost includes one beverage selection, and a wine pairing for each course in the dining event will also be available on a supplementary charge basis.
Contact The Duck at (508) 347-2321 for more information.
Chick-fil-A locations have recently supplemented their menus with two new items, a dessert and a coffee beverage.
The chicken sandwich chain has created a Chocolate Fudge Brownie that features a semi-sweet chocolate batter with fudge chunks blended in. The brownies come individually wrapped or by the tray.
THRIVE Farmers Hot Coffee is a specialty blend with a smoother flavor and finish that makes it ideal for those who like their coffee mellowed by cream and sugar.
Chick-fil-A is additionally featuring a Mocha Cream Cold Brew coffee beverage as a limited-time-only menu special. It will be available at participating locations through mid-November.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at OffTheMenuGuy@aol.com.
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