The time has come to ignore all common sense and eat more fried food than imaginable. The Minnesota State Fair is in full swing, and as always, my family headed there to celebrate my dad’s birthday and to eat, eat, eat. The fair usually signifies the end of summer, but this week’s outrageous heat wave makes the winter months feel far off. I outlined our food trail with the temperature in mind, trying to balance between warm and cool treats (not surprisingly, it’s harder than you’d think!).
Planning the night’s meal actually began months ago when the State Fair announced their new foods and vendors for the year. Their web page was promptly bookmarked. Next up came last week’s Star Tribune article, listing the 10 best foods at the fair. Again, bookmarked. Then, last but definitely not least it was time to cross-reference between the Fair’s list and the Star Tribune’s follow-up story on new foods. Thanks to the many helpful resources out there, I felt truly prepared for the evening ahead.
So, once again, I would like to unveil the State Fair Food menu, courtesy of the Goelz/Nickerson clan. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
*Deep-fried green olives from Fried Fruit, outside the Grandstand: I happen to love olives in any form, so this was an incredible way to start the night. The tasty green treats were filled with cream cheese, deep fried, and served with a side of ranch. Salty, tasty, delicious. (9 out of 10)
*Turkey-to-Go, near the DNR fish pond: I didn’t actually have one of these sandwiches this year, but my family ate a few. As I’ve mentioned, this sandwich is our State Fair staple, so they are always given the highest of ratings. (10 out of 10)
*Northwoods BBQ Taco from San Felipe Tacos, inside the food building: A delectable new item. The savory pulled pork paired with coleslaw and a maple syrup dressing, wrapped in a corn tortilla was a great combination of flavors. (8 out of 10)
*Three Little Pigs from Manny’s Tortas, inside the food building: Tom and I weren’t impressed. Aside from the avocado heaped onto this sandwich, it was pretty bland. The pork (served three different ways) was chewy and lacked flavor. (5 out of 10)
*Cider Freeze from the Horticulture Building: The perfect ice-cold treat. Imagine a cup of hot cider. Now freeze it and put it in a plastic sleeve. Voilà: the cider freeze. (9 out of 10)
*Craft beer onion rings from Ball Park Café, outside the food building: Huge onions, dipped in Indeed Beer, served with spicy Excelsior Bitterschlappe Brown Ale mustard. Great taste and not too greasy. We almost felt like the basket was too much. Imagine that – onion ring overload! (9 out of 10)
*Mediterranean Lemonade from Holy Land Deli in the International Bazaar: Normally I don’t include drink suggestions on my list, but this was an incredibly refreshing treat. Tart lemonade mixed with basil, served as a slushy. Perfect for a hot day. (9 out of 10)
*Minneapple Pie: This has become an essential item for Tom. Their new addition to the menu is a Minnepumpkin Pie. We were tempted, but stuck with the original. As Tom said, the deep fried apple pocket with a side of cinnamon ice cream is perfect every time. (11 out of 10. Yes, 11)
*Double Bacon Corndog from Campbell’s Flavored Corn Dogs, near the Education Building: This was another new addition to the fair, and I wish we’d tried it earlier in the day. Unfortunately, by 9pm the corndog tasted overcooked and rubbery, and the bacon was nearly burnt. Not our favorite. (5 out of 10)
*Affagato from Minnesota Farmer’s Union: So simple, I don’t know why I haven’t made these before – we were served a cup of ice cream with a shot of espresso on top. The perfect jolt of energy after walking around for several hours. (8 out of 10)
Just when we were starting to feel extra crispy and ready to head home, we happened upon the free concert at the Leinenkugal Bandshell. You wouldn’t believe my surprise (and extreme excitement) when I realized it was one of my favorite groups from days of yore: Hanson! The super cute boy band that we all loved in middle school (Tom included) was just getting started, so of course we had to wait around for MMMBop (see video below). It was AMAZING.
Otherwise, due to the heat, we kept our path around the fairgrounds simpler than normal and actually avoided most buildings. Sorry horses, cows, and pigs, we missed you this time. We quickly breezed through the Art and Horticulture Buildings, stopping only briefly to check out the paintings, drawings, sculptures, and crop art. Lucky for Tom and I (and Lauren, too!) we’ll be back on Saturday for the Macklemore concert. Of course that means more menu planning – we passed on cheese curds and Sweet Martha’s cookies this time, but will definitely grab some later in the week. Two trips to the State Fair – it’s definitely a special year!