This year's fair finds (MN)
I know there's been a fair amount of discussion about the fair already, but it's been more prepare-for-the-fair-based than report-based. Having been to the fair once already (yesterday), I have a couple favorite finds to report. I'm hoping to get back at least once before the end of fair days, and therefore am very interested in hearing other fairgoers' recommendations. So: what was the best food you ate at the fair this year?
Yesterday's fair chow standouts (in my experience):
Schumacher's (on Carnes Ave between Nelson and Underwood - almost nestled underneath the Giant Slide) grilled pork chop on a stick: Besides finding that perfect tender/chewy balance and tasting nicely, subtly smoky and salty, this is actually a good deal by fair standards. It's a big ol' chunk of pork for - what, $5?
Cream Puffs (at the corner of Liggett and Dan Patch) are perennial favorites of mine. Yesterday they did not disappoint. I really love the chocolate ones, but the chocolate machine has been broken the last two times I've tried to purchase one (yesterday and last year). Let's hope that's just a coincidence. Vanilla's just dandy, too (I've never tried the strawberry). Anyway, the puff is just so nicely eggy, and the whipped cream so not-too-sweet, it's just a dream, especially washed down with an ice-cold glass of milk. Mmmm. Warning, you will need both hands, and you will probably want to dump some of the whipped cream - they go a little crazy with it.
That's all that really stood out this year. Of course I loved the cheese curds, and the corn dog, and the malt too, but I can't extricate the nostalgic-type love from the chowtastic-love, so I won't go there on this post. Lookng forward to hearing from you!
We made our sometimes annual trek to the fair yesterday. We started out with sharing a deep fried breaded pork tenderloin sandwich from the Jurrassic stand across from the Pet Center at the northern end of the fair. I think it was the only booth serving them. Donna's down by the barns served shaved pork tenderloin and the Spaghetti place called theirs "pork patties" so I figured they might be fritters.
We had a creme puff, the obligatory deep fried cheese curds at the food building along with a beer at the Ball Park Cafe and we tried the new hot dish on a stick. Hot Dish is an alternating meat ball and tator tot on a stick deep fried in a batter and served with a tiny cup of dipping sauce. You pretty much taste the batter and dipping sauce. We finished off with a take home bag of kettle corn near Giggles. Did not have stomach left over to try something at Giggles, one of my favorite food stops.
Today's food find:
The "porcupine" meatballs at Giggles' Campfire Grill. They're not mentioned in the State Fair Food Finder, but luckily I stopped by for an elk burger and saw this new item.
For $6 (I think) you get six LARGE meatballs (ground elk), on a pile 'o mashed potatoes (red ones, with the skin left on) covered in tasty gravy. There wasn't much wild rice in the meatballs, but there was a strong flavor of Gorgonzola, and the gravy tastes of mushrooms (and salt). Yummy! And a good size for sharing.
If I wasn't burned out from the fair (after three visits), I'd go back for more. I'm not alone in my appreciation - they got a mention in the Strib:
One of the booths has watermelon on a stick. Also, I think a lot of the dishes at Giggles pretty much approximate real food, although I haven't tried any of it yet this year. AnneinMpls (and Danny?) posted in another thread bouncing around here about some lamb that sounded excellent and, again, like "real" food.
Kate, I think that counts! Sounds lovely!
Here's what I've tried so far this year. I don't think I would necessarily list any of them as "finds." Be forewarned, my curiosity definitely leans strongest towards the “on a stick” items, so not everything is necessarily that chowish:
~Egg bake (both meat and veggie), blueberry waffles, gorilla bread (Blue Moon Dine-in theater). I thought the veggie egg bake was pretty good and a reasonably healthy start to the day. The waffles were fine, although not extraordinary. The gorilla bread (pull-aparts/Bubble loaf) were okay given the venue, but they had gobs of un-melted butter in the nooks and crannies. I can’t understand exactly why the gobs weren’t melted since the gorilla bread was warm. Very attentive service.
~Granny's Kitchen Fudge Puppies (the stand outside of the food building) – I thought these were pretty good, although I thought the waffles were a bit tangier than I liked. The chocolate was good. The chocolate is so hot the whipped cream melts almost immediately, so you could skip it, and truly eat it “on a stick” rather than with a fork and knife.
~Jerk chicken wings (West Indies Soul in Food Building) Great, as always. Make sure to get the sauce.
~Spaghetti & meatballs on a stick (Food building) This is basically a giant meatball on a stick where spaghetti noodles have been mixed in with the meat. Then they bread it, deep fry it and roll it in marinara sauce. It has a kick to it, which makes it nice. Otherwise, it’s the novelty of it that makes it interesting.
~Egg coffee, Salem Lutheran Church. I thought it was nice.
~Pancake (and sausage) on a stick (Epiphany Diner)—the best part of this is the cheer the kitchen staff lets out when you order it. It’s basically a breakfast sausage, dipped in pancake batter, then deep fried. They give you a little packet of syrup. Don’t let it cool down or it’s not that great. Warm, it’s pretty good, although, I think pancake batters is perhaps too delicate to hold up to deep frying. Still, I liked it. If you were serious, you’d bring your own maple syrup. ;-)
~Chocolate and vanilla shakes (at the Dairy window in the cattle building or whatever it’s called, not in Empire Commons) Fine, nothing special.
~Hotdish on a stick (Ole and Lena’s)—they basically alternate meatballs (pork & beef mixture) and tater tots on a stick, bread and deep fry them, then serve with a mushroom soup “dipping” sauce. The meatballs are pretty good. The tater tots practically disintegrated. As a novelty food item, it’s pretty good. Could have used some peas or carrots or something to complete the hotdish experience.
~Sweet Martha’s cookies. Too sweet for me. :)
~Cup of French Fries, Fresh French Fries—they cut the potatoes and fry them up right there. Decadent, I love them.
~Coffee (Minnesota Farmers Union)—pretty good coffee, nice patio, live music. The “mocha on a stick” at this stand comes from Grand Ole Creamery.
We tried a couple of other things, too--including cheese curds, but not from my favorite Mouse Trap place in the food building-- but I’m not sure which booths they came from. If I find out, I’ll post about them.
EDIT: I just want everyone to know that tasting all of the above took place over more than one visit and involved a lot of sharing. :) Still, I ingested way too many calories and have been eating almost only fresh fruits and vegetables ever since.
re: The Dairy Queen
Regarding your "EDIT"...I'm really off my chow game when it comes to the Fair lately. Saturday afternoon I had a pork chop on a stick, a few french fries, 1/8 of a blooming onion, a small bite of a Pronto Pup, four Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies and a 1/2 cup of chocolate milk over the course of 2 1/2 hours (in that order) and I felt flat out gross. That's really not a large amount of consumption considering it's the Fair, but it was so bad, I was almost tempted to download one of those ridiculous detox diets from threads on the Not About Food board. What have I become??? My "find" this year is that I'm just not as cut out for Fair-style consumption as I used to be.
Anyway...maybe I'll get back over there one of these days and find something better to contribute to this thread. At least I kept my Fairgoing streak alive -- 17 years in a row since I've moved here. But my chow performance warrants a serious downhill alert.
MSPD, I know what you mean. I and my primary chow companion both remarked how tired were were after our visits to the Fair this year and how we needed to nap afterwards.
I think it's because we were eating mostly junk. In "real life" I go easy on pan-fried foods and (except for french fries, which I really have a hard time resisting) seldom eat deep fried foods.
I enjoyed many of the things I tried at the Fair as novelties, but it doesn't matter how good they taste when you reach that point where your body just cries out for some real nutrition. The broccoli in my "egg bake" was the only vegetable I had at the fair and at least 6 of the dishes I tried (including some I didn't mention) were deep fried. The sweets I tried were all full-fat. And, I had to drink a lot of coffee just to keep going.
I agree--it was a real surprise to me how low-energy I felt when I got home. It was very Morgan Spurlock.
re: The Dairy Queen
My visit to the fair last week had me finding a lack of energy from all the (delicious!) haevy foods as well. I find that I do much better (digestively, in particular) if I have a more balanced meal. Does anyone know where in the fair one can find fruits, veggies, or any other sort of "whole" foods? I figure I'll be able to enjoy more of the greasy "on-a-stick" chow if I have something natural in my stomach, too. Caramel apples and roasted corn are the only things I can think of; any other suggestions?
There's actually a lot of "real" food at the fair, tucked away between the french fries and mini doughnuts. Andre's Watermelon and Veggie Pie are two booths that come to mind. One of the Greek places has a Greek salad, and another place has baked potatoes (good if you leave off the rich toppings).
If you're still planning a visit (hey, there are three more days, right?) check out the food finder and search for "fruit" and "veggie" or "vegetable."
Me, I don't like fried food (except corn dogs), and am not wild about sweets (except ice cream), so I'm always on the lookout for real food. Giggles' Campfire Grill has a good elk burger (I skip the cheese) and salmon-on-a-stick (untried). Plenty of places have grilled turkey legs or grilled chicken or meat kabobs. The MN Apple booth sells plain ol' apples (plus a "frozen cider pop"). Another place has a chocolate-dipped banana. And how about a no-fat, no-cholesterol Giant Pickle On A Stick?
I've become more aware of the real food after successfully navigating the fair while on Weight Watchers, in past years. Not this year, though; after three corn dogs, a Scotch Egg, and a cream puff (on different visits), I can't even pretend to be dieting.
This isn't Chow but it qualifies as a major find: In the Agriculture building at the Honey exhibit they are serving Honey Lemonade. It's a dollar for a nice sized glass and it is the most sublime drink! It's initial flavor is sweet mellow honey, you taste it and smell it and then as you swallow, the fresh tart taste of lemon comes bursting through. The two flavors are perfectly balanced too, neither is too overpowering. It is wonderful, very refreshing and inexpensive to boot! I loved it.
Thanks for starting this thread! I've got to try those cream puffs.
Me, I went to the fair on Thursday - there's nothing like that first whiff of fresh grease! My tried-for-the-first-time food finds were:
Wild-rice corn dog from the wild rice booth in the food building. It's a wild-rice & beef hot dog (not much rice) in a superior corn batter. I liked it much better (gasp!) than the pronto pup/poncho dog variety. In fact, I loved it and I want more.
Sweet potato pie from West Indies Soul (also in the food building). Yeah, I know I can get this in their restaurant, but I'm always too full, so I've never had it. It was DELICIOUS!
Roast leg of lamb on a bun from the Lamb Shoppe (in between the first two in the food building). This was very lamb-y and delicious. Not enough garlic, but this *is* Minnesota. I liked that it was meaty but not deep fried - it tasted like real food.
Gelato from Pizza Papa's (just down from Schumacher's on Carnes Ave). They let me taste three flavors before I finally decided - I really liked the liquorice, but went for the white chocolate with coconut. Mr. Tastebud's Amarena Cherry was yummy, too.
I'm going back on Monday for more food...
Thanks for the update, Diesel. Cheese curds and malts from the dairy building (Empire Commons?) are among my perennial favs, too. Glad to hear they are still chowish.
We'll add our impressions from this year later, but for now, here's a link to what the Strib tried, for what it's worth.