Put a Stick In It

We’ve taken the summer off at Hotdish & Catfish, but I wouldn’t dream of missing the chance to write about one of my absolute favorite events of year: the Minnesota State Fair (what else?!).

Though back-to-school time doesn’t mean much to me anymore, I can’t help but feel a bit sad when the end of August rolls around. Luckily we have this annual food-on-a-stick event to look forward to every year! I’d like to give a shout-out to my dad, Richard, who’s always game for heading to the Great Minnesota Get-Together on his day of birth.

Per usual, planning our food trail began back in June when the State Fair website wizards unveiled the list of new foods. Then, as the big day approached, I followed along with Star Tribune food aficionado Rick Nelson’s tweets, and kept an eye on Mpls/St. Paul Magazine and Heavy Table ‘best of’ lists, too. This year, I’ve also asked my good friend (and fellow blogger) Ellen V. Roth to add her two cents. Thankfully, Ellen is just as dedicated to State Fair foods as I, so we’re a match made in heaven.

Ellen’s Fair Food for Thought:

Chicken in a Waffle at Blue Barn: After abstaining from most meat products over the past year, something called to me from the new Blue Barn, and that something just happened to be a double meaty cone from heaven. Blue Barn’s fair food trophy consists of savory pieces of all-white chicken, fried to your arteries’ content, piled high in a semi-sweet waffle cone and topped with spicy, salty sausage gravy. Amen! What on earth more could you ask for? A chocolate-filled tip of the cone? Done. (9 out of 10)

photo 1-2Bison Dog (with Chicago Fixings) at Chicago Dogs: Now I love me a dog with all the fixings, and Chicago Dogs does it right. I opted to try the Bison Dog on a spur of the moment hunger pang on my way out of the fair, and I’m glad that I did. The bison dog itself is snappy and full of flavor. Top it with the traditional Chicago fixings and you have a blue ribbon winner of a wiener. My only problem with hot dogs is that I’m never satisfied with eating just one. (8 out of 10)

Ellen would like to note that she is headed to the State Fair for round two today, and is planning to add the following items to her snacking list: Mini Donuts (Tom Thumb), Chickpea Roti (Harry Singh’s), and Walleye Cakes (Giggles). Best of luck to you, Ellen!

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And now on to the Goelz/Nickerson annual State Fair Food Ranking:

Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz from Blue Barn: We started off the evening with this item (and the Chicken in a Waffle – I agree with Ellen, it was great). The fritzes, on the other hand, were only OK. We couldn’t taste any blue cheese, so I’d really describe it more as simple corn fritter that came with an herby chimichurri sauce (that was quite pleasant!). (3 without sauce; 5 with)

photo 3-2Deep-Fried Buckeyes from Spaghetti Eddie’s: Ooh boy. This was a great new addition to the State Fair menu. It is essentially deep-fried chocolate and peanut butter, with a side of strawberry jelly and a bit of powdered sugar on top. Delicious, sweet and sharable. I want every PB&J prepared this way, from here on out. (8 out of 10)

Mini-Donut Beer from Ball Park Café: Imagine your favorite margarita. Replace the salt with cinnamon sugar, add a malty, maple-flavored Lift Bridge beer, and you have a classic. Tom was in love. (9 out of 10)

photo 5Deep-Fried Lobster on a Stick from LuLu’s Public House: Sadly, this was a major loser. I love lobster, but realized how much I don’t like it when it’s deep-fried and covered in heavy-duty breading. It was simply too chewy. (2 out of 10)

Hot Toasted Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich from West End Creamery (tasted by Lauren): The hot toasted waffle ice cream sandwich tasted pretty much as expected – like two warm waffles with vanilla ice cream in the middle. Nothing spectacular, but still tasty. I do have a suggestion for West End Creamery: offer maple syrup ice cream instead of vanilla. Now that might be perfect. (5 out of 10)

Pretzel Curds from O’Gara’s at the Fair: Tasty, beer-battered pretzels filled with Wisconsin cheese (of course!). These were great – bite-sized, not even remotely greasy, and came with a wonderful dipping sauce. An all-around salty and flavorful snack. (9 out of 10)

photo 4SnoRibbons from Blue Moon Dine-In Theater: This was described as “flaky shaved ice…it’s like eating snow and tasting ice cream at the same time.” Flowery language, to be sure. But I think we caught this item on an off day – it sounds like many of the flavors are to die for, but our options were either green tea or grapefruit. I went for the fruit and can honestly say it was only mediocre. (5 out of 10)

S’Mores Beer from Gigggles Campire Grill: A nice, chocolaty porter (with some marshmallows thrown in), but it didn’t hold a candle to the mini donut beer. Sorry, Giggles! (6 out of 10)

Well, it was another great year. I hope everyone venturing to the fairgrounds this Labor Day weekend has a similarly snack-filled, delightful time!

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