Along with previewing Lodi Grape Festival rides, and musical entertainment, the News-Sentinel staff takes its annual opening day trip to the festival grounds to sample the various food offerings.

While some vendors and concessionaires had to cancel appearances this year, it seemed as though there was no shortage of food options, as there was everything from garlic fries to shaved ice to tri-tip burgers.

Last year, we recommended chicken strips and fries, of which this writer described the former as “some of the best I’d ever had in my life.”

We also suggested the deep-fried veggies, which were not soggy at all and had “a really good crunch,” and frozen bananas, which were dense and cold, and the natural sweetness wasn’t overwhelming.

Our number one recommendation last year was the Dole Whip, which was sweet, icy cold, and had the food crew returning for second helpings.

This year, the crew tried to do something a little different.

• Corn on the cob from the Barn Yard Grill ($5)

• Turkey leg from the Barn Yard Grill ($15)

• Fruit cup from Tapatias ($8)

• Alligator on a stick from Quick Grabs ($12)

• Cheese Quesadilla from Taco Fiesta and Catering ($4)

• Dole Whip ($8)

For the most part, the food was delicious, although there were some regretful choices. This writer’s wife, Lorraine Ramsey, sampled the alligator on a stick. The offering is about five pieces of gator, deep fried and skewered on a dowel.

Lorraine had eaten alligator before, but this sampling didn’t live up to her expectations.

“It looks interesting, but it was a little too chewy for me,” she said. News-Sentinel page editor Kyla Cathey agreed.

Not satisfied with the gator, Lorraine tried the cheese quesadilla, which she said made up for her first choice. Not too much to describe here. It’s mozzarella cheese, cilantro and salsa, grilled in folded tortilla.

“It’s good, but a little spicy,” Lorraine said. “But I can be a wimp when it comes to salsa.”

Kyla tried the corn on the cob from Barn Yard Grill, a grilled, foot-long ear.

“It’s corn,” she said. “The corn is sweet, it’s tasty. Probably one of the healthier things you can get here.”

A popular choice among the crew this year was the fruit cup from Tapatias. We ordered a “small,” although it contained a few dozen pieces of watermelon and pineapple topped with chili powder and lime juice.

On these warm September days, News-Sentinel classified rep Jessica Clark said it was a great treat with which to keep cool.

“It’s much larger than what I would consider a ‘small’ size,” she said. “But it was delicious and refreshing. You can’t really taste the chili and lime.”

Her two children chose the Dole Whip again this year, with older son Corey declaring it was “delicious as always” and her 3-year-old Conor stating it was “nummy.”

This writer in years past had always wanted to sample the turkey leg, and this year I sprung for it.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was savory, juicy, and meaty. The only complaint was that it can be too much to consume in one sitting.

These treats were just a few of the offerings available at the Grape Festival, and if we had more money and time to digest our food, we most likely could have spent all evening sampling other wares. Of course, we had to return to the office to report what we tried.

After all, there are three more days to try things like the tri-tip sandwich, corn dogs or chili cheese fries.

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