I followed the discussion on the Midwest board of Minnesota State Fair food with wonder and perhaps a little horror. Am I missing something, or do Northwest fairs lack something in the food department? I have a fond but vague memory of a nice wine garden at the Oregon State Fair (vague because I left my native state over 20 years ago), but for Washington, all that comes to mind are Fisher scones and hamburgers with grilled onions. Hardly "nowhere but the fair" foods. Are we too refined for *whatever* on a stick? Am I missing some showcase of local producuce, like the honey & sunflower seed ice cream at the MN fair?
Jeri L the answer to your questions is a "Yes." Yes fairs here do lack something in the food department. Refinement may not be the issue but perhaps lack of imagination is. Yes the fairs here do not celebrate the local offerings adequately.
I will say that the Minnesota State Fair is by far the greatest in the country and would be hard to match. It is a true culinary wonderland of-sorts. So, if you want to truly experience the apex of fair-dom, the MN State Fair should be your destination. (Don’t let Texas or Iowa or anybody in the South try and convince you otherwise)
However, you have to realize that eating at a fair such as the MN State Fair is truly an experience for which an open mind is required. Just as at a fancy restaurant may endeavor to push molecular gastronomy (MG) to new heights, the MN fair does so with respect to street food type items especially those items on a stick. So, just as you must be open minded about eating a pile of freeze-dried chorizo dust, a foam of yuzu or rose petal spheres at a MG place so must you be willing to experience cheese curds, alligator on a stick, fried oreos, the walking taco (taco meat, cheese salsa and sour cream served in a Dorito bag of tortilla chips), foot long pizza on-a-stick, spaghetti and meatballs on a stick, salted nut rolls, various honey products, and a whole series of buildings dedicated to nothing but dairy products (the best shakes you will ever have).
One last note on the refinement issue, any true fair-goers knows that you only eat like this once a year and you must check your health concerns at the entrance gate. It is all worth it!
Lucky for you the Puyallup Fair just started. I highly recommend a visit. Try an Earthquake burger. ;)