DEL MAR — Although the 2018 San Diego County Fair theme is “How Sweet It Is,” the man best known for cooking sugar-coated confections in hot oil is keeping it simple and savory this year.
Charles Boghosian, aka Chicken Charlie, is deep frying filet mignon that’s been marinated in his secret sauce. But the gastronomic genius hasn’t abandoned culinary creativity.
His other offerings include a cotton candy ice cream sandwich, with spun sugar replacing the outside cookies, and a ramen burrito stuffed with noodles tossed in Maui and sriracha sauce, Funyuns, scallions and grilled Maui chicken.
Boghosian is also serving chocolate pasta — fettucine made with cocoa powder, tossed with Nutella and chocolate fudge and topped with strawberries, whipped cream and mint.
Those and other fair foods and libations were revealed at a May 16 press conference that also provided a sneak peak of some of the nonfood offerings during this year’s fair, which opens at 4 p.m. June 1 and runs through July 4.
The nightly concert series features Sugarland, Capital Cities, Kansas, Hanson and Barenaked Ladies, to name a few. Comedians include Larry the Cable Guy and Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.
There will be exhibits and activities such as bubble gum blowing contests, cake decorating, jelly bean tasting at Bean Boozled and samples from a chocolate fountain. Gospel music, wine, beer, Asian and Mariachi festivals are also planned.
Four Cocoa Cabana speakeasies with passwords that change daily (just ask around) will be serving Made in San Diego from Ballast Point Brewing and candy-infused cocktails.
Must-haves for those who make it inside are the avocado toast and a cabana-rita, served in a mango-sugar rimmed glass and made with fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice, Don Julio reposado tequila and Disaronno Amaretto.
Venissimo Cheese is celebrating American cheeses such as a Point Reyes Blue and Cypress Grove Midnight Moon from Northern California.
Sweet Cheeks Baking Company, a “Cupcake Wars” competitor, created mini-unicorn funfetti cupcakes that are 100 percent edible, including the gold horn, and whookies, which are gluten-free whoopie pies made with oatmeal peanut butter cookies, chocolate chunks and an Italian buttercream filling.
Pair the latter with a vanilla ice cream shake you can make yourself by peddling a bike with a blender attached to it.
Johna Nilson, founder of Vista-based So Rich! Chocolates, is pairing her handmade confections with local craft beers and distilled spirits. Samples include cranberry chipotle toffee with an Irish cream liqueur or Space Juice IPA with pomelo bark.
Mike Hess Brewing is once again pouring the official beer of the San Diego County Fair. On tap this year is Tangerine A-Fair, served in a can with a lid that can be completely removed.
The Mediterranean’s bacon-and-syrup infused baklava and Tasti Chips’ unicorn burger, made with ghost peppers and fresh cheese curd, are also worth a taste.
Pink’s is combining tomatoes, corn and colorful onions to make it look like their unicorn dog is topped with candy.
“We’ve taken all the calories out for 26 days,” Tim Fennell, fairgrounds general manager, said. “All that is a recipe for one sweet, sweet fair.”
Visit www.sdfair.com for a complete list of concerts, events and daily activities. A variety of discount days, including free Fridays for youngsters under 12, are offered.