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Minnesota State Fair foods?

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Since the Minnesota state fair starts tomorrow, I thought I'd take a poll to find out:

1) What's the one thing you cannot leave the fair without eating?
2) Have you tried any of the "new" foods?
3) Do you have any tips for semi-healthy eating at the fair?

For me, the answers are:

1) Mini donuts, hot from the Tom Thumb stand and all the milk you can drink. Ooh, and cream puffs!
2) Not yet, but I'll report back after I've been there
3) Try the milk, corn on the cob in front of the grandstand, gyros from Dinos or the lamb shop, or grilled shrimp (at Old English Fish and Chips).

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  1. 1) The footlong corn dog from the vendor cuddled up against the horse barn (side facing the cattle barn). Best. Corn Dog. Ever. The corn batter has a nice grit to it, and a perfect flavor. Smear it with ketchup and mustard and enjoy while checking out all the lovely dairy cattle.

    2) Nope, I'm kinda cheap when it comes to my Fair dollars, plus I'm too full from the footlong corndog. I did get burned two years ago trying the Reuben corn dog (saltiest thing in the world, and nothing (nothing!) like a good Reuben), so I will probably steer clear of the latest and greatest. This may change however. Still, the tried and true are what bring us back

    3) Yep on the milk and corn on the cob, also the tabouli filled pitas. Too, there's a place up on the more northern side of the fairgounds selling a concoction of smoked salmon, cream cheese and a (lingonberry?) tart fruit sauce on a rye-crisp wafer. Very virtuous feeling after all the other stands. Can't remember the name of the place, but I think it was a log structure (I was there in pouring rain last year and could only think of shielding my treat from the rain and not what my location was).

    Enjoy the Fair folks! We live right next door in SAP and love to see all the happy Fair-goers!

    4 Replies
    1. re: cayjohan

      Cayjohan, re: #3--are you referring to Giggles? I think that place is usually a pretty good bet for "real" food.

      EDIT: Also, here are some links to my favorite state fair threads from last year. I find these are helpful from a planning perspective:

      State of Organic Food at the Fair:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320689
      (Karl Gerstenberger’s post about organic foods and some replies about “healthy” fair eating).

      This year’s fair finds:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320859
      (diesel’s post asking for our new “finds” last year).

      Best breakfast at the fair:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320289

      All foods at the fair (more or less
      )http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320592
      (This is AnneInMpls’ post wherein she lists all of the foods from the State Fair’s online “food finder” so we could print it out and take it along with us…).

      State Fair must haves:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/123284

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        1) What's the one thing you cannot leave the fair without eating?

        Cay's aforementioned corn dogs - I'm pretty sure I am thinking of the same vendor
        Martha's chocochip cookies
        creampuff things that are heavenly!

        2) Have you tried any of the "new" foods?

        Hmmm- I don't think so.

        3) Do you have any tips for semi-healthy eating at the fair?
        Go early, eat a good breakfast, go with my kids so you can have a bite of what they order .....instead of a whole creampuff - I get 2 bites.

        And I'm adding a 4th general question....
        4) what food item have you been disappointed with at the fair in recent years?

        I had the corn last year and it was horrible. Not even going to bother waiting for it this year.

        1. re: St Paul Susie

          I'll answer number one: cheese curds. From that "original" stand that's inside and maybe has mouse it its name? My husband knows it and steers me to it. Claims it's the first cheese-curd place to have set up at the fair. (But what does he know).

          Also, crab cakes from that outdoor food court-y area (with real beer this year).

          Oh, and something at the freestanding House of LaChoy, just because it's so cute.

          2) Will they have deep-fried Coke or Pepsi there? The newest thing this year. But I won't try it because.

          4) I tried deep-fried Snickers two years ago and it was horrible. Essentially a batter-covered candy bar. And the batter strongly reminded me of that used at Long John Silvers for fish, where I worked back in the day. Good stuff, but not on a candy bar.

          1. re: jeanmt

            while a deep fried snickers may have disappointed some (i had chino's a few weeks ago and it was pretty tasty, with a much finer batter than the one used at the fair) the real king of deep fried confections is definitely the oreos - they undergo a texture transformation in the oil, you could call it the unification of cookie and cream. just watch out for the powdered sugar - it gets everywhere - check out how much of it is all over the ground around the stand if you needed .and more warning.

    2. 1) ONE thing? Oy. I'm way into the Gizmo sandwich: seasoned loose ground beef & pork in a hoagie bun, covered with red sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. The stand is on Cooper, between Murphy and Lee. Also have to have mini-donuts (shared), cheese curds (shared), honey ice cream (shared) and corn. (And then I fast for two weeks.)

      2) I have too many old favorites to make room for anything new . . . the last new thing I tried was the Fudge Puppy, ages ago: a Belgian waffle wrapped around a stick, dipped in chocolate and slathered with whipped cream. Not bad, but it could never replace mini-donuts as my sugar rush of choice at the Fair.

      3) Clearly, no.

      1. What ARE the new foods this year? Anyone know?

        ~TDQ

        8 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          From Rick Nelson's column today:
          http://www.startribune.com/456/story/...

          On the second page of this article, scroll down to the paragraph heading "New Foods."

          1. re: KTFoley

            Thanks! So, it looks like the new items that caught Rick's attention (enough to include in his piece, anyway) are:

            Apple fries -- julienned apples, crumb-coated and deep-fried -- at Coaster's (Liggett & Carnes.)

            Sloppy Joes on a Stick (Axel's in the Food Building)

            Spam Burgers (Spam Burgers, Carousel Park)

            The Uffda Brat -- a Norwegian brat wrapped in lefse and speared with a toothpick at Sausage Sister and Me (Food Building)

            The BeerGarita, a margarita made with beer (Tejas, the Garden)

            Hmmm...I think the only one that's really calling to me is the "sloppy joe on a stick." That's just weird enough that I'll have to investigate it. If it's hot, I may have to try the BeerGarita.

            EDIT: and I have to disagree with Rick Nelson re: the key lime pie on a stick (which he declares "fabulous"). I've high hopes in the past, but thought that somehow they didn't hit the right combo of sweet & sour with the lime. I can't remember now whether I thought it was too sweet or too limey, but I just remember I didn't quite think it worked. Also, it tasted chemically to me.
            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I wanted those apple fries and couldn't find them!! Too late now

          2. re: The Dairy Queen

            The State Fair Food Finder is pretty cool: http://gopher.mnstatefair.org/foodfin...
            You can do a search for new stuff - I did that, and copied and pasted the actual new items below:
            Apple Lil's: Coca-Cola cheescake dipped in chocolate on-a-stick and Soda fountain funnel cakes
            Axel's: Sloppy joes on-a-stick
            Blue Moon Dine In Theater: Peanut butter hot dog
            Bridgeman's: Old fashioned ice cream soda
            Coasters: Deep fried crumb coated apple fries
            Epiphany Diner: Two children's menu offerings
            Famous Dave's: Pork knuckle sandwich and Kool Aid pickles
            French Meadow Bakery: Rocky road scones on-a-stick (caramel, chocolate, marshmallow)
            Fried Fruit: Batter dipped deep fried fruit on-a-stick in a variety of the following combinations: grapes, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, strawberry, pineapple, apple, pineapple, banana, kiwi, peaches, cherries, pears, watermelon fruit blended drinks made fresh on site to include fruit combinations, Dasani bottled water
            Green Mill Pizza: Dixie wings on-a-stick
            O'Garas: Corned beef and cabbage dipped in batter on-a-stick
            Old English Fish & Chips: Calamari
            Potato Skins: Buffalo chips and cheese (sliced potatoes with melted cheddar cheese with optional toppings)
            Ragin Cajun: Breakfast bread bowls (blackened steak or shrimp, eggs, potatoes, cheese), jambalaya (eggs, potatoes, cheese)
            Sausage Sister & Me: Uffda Brat (Norwegian sausage wrapped in a potato lefse)
            Scotch Eggs: Butterscotch cake (cream filled dipped in butterscotch) on-a-stick
            Spam Burgers: Spam burger (fried Spam served on a bun with cheese and/or pineapple), Spam curds (Spam and cheese battered and deep fried)
            Tejas: BLP quesadilla (bacon, lettuce and picodegallo)
            Ultimate Confections: S'mores on-a-stick (toasted marshmallows in chocolate topped with graham cracker crumbs)

            1. re: Danny

              Thank you! I remembered (from last year) that there was a way to search on the new items, but couldn't figure out how to do it.

              What are kool aid pickles?

              And, I hate to say it, but spam curds could be good, too, depending on how they pull it off.

              ~TDQ

                1. re: Danny

                  Okay, that's on my must try list! Crunchy & sour & sweet, what's not to like?

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Alton Brown tried Koolickles on Feasting on Asphalt this week. He was extremely skeptical but seemed to like them. Maybe if one were sitting in front of me I'd eat it but I don't think I'll seek them out.

          3. 1.) Many moons ago I worked as a Dairy Bartender at the Gopher Dairy Bar (attached to the Cattle Building). As such, I am slavishly loyal to their thick and delicious shakes. This booth is staffed by members of the U of M - St Paul's Gopher Dairy Club and serves as their annual fundraiser.

            2.) I don't know what's new this year, but I have tried several new things over the past couple of years. Deep Fried Snickers: good, but too rich to eat the entire thing. Share with a friend. Pickle Dog on a Stick: pickle spear schmeared with cream cheese and wrapped in a slice of lunchmeat. Delicious. I think it might get bumped up to Category 1 "Thing you cannot leave the Fair with out eating." Deep Fried Tuna Casserole on a Stick: I admired their inventiveness and it didn't taste half bad. The dipping sauce is cream of mushroom soup.

            3.) Coat your stomach with Grain Belt Premium first so the rest of the calories won't be absorbed. ...What? I dare you to find the flaw in that logic.

            3 Replies
            1. re: StPauliGirl

              StPauliGirl, are you referring to last year's new item " hot dish on a stick"? If so, I don't believe it was tuna casserole but some kind of ground meat (beef pork combo, if I recall correctly) hotdish on stick.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                That sounds right. What a terrible memory I have!

              2. re: StPauliGirl

                SPG -
                1) love those shakes
                3) spot on logic!

              3. I can only handle the fair about once a decade. What's the verdict on the much-ballyhooed hotdish on a stick from last year?

                3 Replies
                1. re: pgokey

                  Once a decade? I go at least twice every year!

                  It was fun and creative, but not a solid homerun. It was basically tator tots and meatballs alternating on a stick, then breaded & deep fried and served with a "cream of mushroom soup" sort of a sauce on the side. There might have been some peas in there somewhere, too, although I can't now quite remember.

                  My main complaint is that the tator tots couldn't hold up to the extreme heat of the deep-fry and basically disintegrated into mush... So, every other bite was a bite of deep fried mush.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    The fair is just not my scene. The chief reason for me to go is to eat the food, which is never as tasty as I want it to be, and I always want stuff that I don't need to be eating anyway.

                    I was inspired by this thread to go to Town Talk and get their better-than-the-fair's cheese curds. That's enough fried stuff for me this year.

                  2. re: pgokey

                    I cannot leave the fair without having:

                    1) Austrian or Australian battered potatos (see, I don't even remember the name). They're med-to thicker cut slices of potato (the long way), deep fried and then drizzled with not so great cheese sauce and ranch sauce. Then you get a flag on a toothpick put on the plate. I know...I know..but it's greasy goodness.

                    2) A shake or cone from the dairy barn.

                    3) I discovered some sausage sampler (cant recall - ) right in front of the MPR building. It's REALLY GOOD STUFF. If you get the sampler, you get cajun, andouille and garlic sausage pieces? Hmm....

                    4) CORN DOG!

                    Haven't tried anything on the "new foods list" - with the prices there, I have to stick to the staples!

                    Healthy: Yep -I agree- milk stand, the roasted corn, an ice cream cone is reasonable - especially if you share it. Otherwise, it is much too big. Andre's cubed watermelon (though I'm sure it's pricey for fruit), a snocone, West Indies Soul Cafe - maybe it's not extremely healthy but a healthier option as it's chicken (choose your thigh, wing, breast) with a jerk seasoning....not sure how horrible (against everything else there) it could be.