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Aug 27, 2009 03:49 PM

State Fair MSP

Ok, just back from a first trip to the fair. The best thing was a truly great cheeseburger with wild rice in it from the food building (other than the footlongs, pronto pups, strawberries, and Tom Thumb doughnuts, of course.) I had the tater tots from Axels. They were very greasy and pretty tasteless, although the sauce helped somewhat. We also had the chocolate mousse stuffed churros from French Meadow Bakery, which has taken over the Schuhmacher building--better than the tater tots, but not an even exchange for my usual cream puff.

Can't wait to hear from others--

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  1. Rundown

    Leprechaun Legs - O'Garas - This is really well executed. Great balance of bean and batter, not greasy or overcooked, and the sauce is nice and pungent.

    Bacon - Big fat bacon: The orange chipotle marmalade is still a great compliment to a high quality slice of bacon, but the bacon was a tad underdone.

    Pig Cheeks - Famous Daves: I thought the meat was nicely done and flavorful. I wanted the peach glaze to infiltrate the meat a bit more, and I wanted salt, which was not available.

    Porcupine Meatballs - Giggles: The belle of the ball this year. The elk (not porcupine) meatballs are cooked with gorgonzola, which contrasts nicely with the (real) mashed potatoes and gravy. Sweet onions tie everything together. The portion is substantial for the price.

    Risotto balls - French Meadow: A dud. Soupy, bland, risotto with mushroom cream sauce soggily breaded and served at about 65 degrees.

    Olives on a stick: An annual tradition we were about to shirk in favor of Holy Land's $1 deals... Until we realized HL's $1 deals are apocryphal. Tasty olives.

    Funnel Cake Fries - Apple Lil's: Wife had high hopes for the portable version of her favorite. Dish is largely a failure. The "fries" are cut too wide, and they are served with, literally, heated Hershey's syrup. Lame.

    Cheese Curds - The Mouth Trap: After one glorious year, Ole and Lena's has stopped serving their curds with Lingonberry sauce. Back to the salty old standby.

    Mini-donuts - Tom Thumb: They are mini donuts. Next.

    Tornado Potato - Sonny's Spiral Spuds: The name is a bit of hyperbole, considering the product is just spiral cut, fried potato slices on a stick. That said, they were nicely seasoned, and the sauce was killer.

    Chocolate/Raspberry Wine ice cream - Minnesota Wine Featurama: A decent scoop of chocolate ice cream from Izzy's with nary a hint of the promised raspberry wine infusion. Which, usually when you order a flavor from Izzy's, by God you are going to get that flavor up to your eye-sockets.

    Walking Taco - That One Church: Ironically, it's one of the least portable food items at the fair, but they do a nice job with this.

    Alligator Sausage - Bob's Bayou Gator Shack: I was all excited to try the advertised gator ribs, but alas the offerings are the same as last year. I usually pivot between the marinated bites and the sausage, and went with the sausage. For $3.50, this remains one of the tastiest bargains at the fair.

    1. We did the fair (sadly) as our last night in town. Luckily we brought a big crew and got to have tastes of many of our old favorites, as well as a couple new offerings.

      We opted for famous dave's choco bacon (pig lickers? whatever marketing they made up didnt stick with me probably because you can't go wrong with straight-forward description, especially when that description involves bacon and chocolate) over the big fat bacon on a stick, though if i had known there was chipotle marmalade involved it would have made the choice tougher. that said, from looking at people walking with them, the nice meaty thick slices at big fat bacon seemed pretty solid.

      What we ate:
      Dan Patch Cheese curds - it wasnt super busy on this opening day but our curds were fresh from the fryer and tasty as ever - i can never remember the names of the curd spots, but know that we like this one more than the food building's offerings.

      Turkey Sandwich - perhaps a bit smaller, and maybe wetter than previous years but delicious none the less.

      Famous daves pig cheeks - good, with great porky flavor, definitely pretty fatty (as i expected from the cheeks) and a good value at 5 bucks for two decent sized hunks of meat. One was notably more charred than the other which was decidedly the preferable finish. The sweet peach was a good compliment, but not too sweet or overpowering.

      Famous daves chocolate bacon - this was a winner with our group with only one person unable to overcome the aversion to cold bacon (they served it out of a fridge). The slices of bacon were thinner than i would have expected, but i think given the fact that these bites were composed of an unthinkably high proportion of congealed pig fat, the thinness kept it from feeling like spooning crisco into your mouth. overall we wanted the bacon to be slightly crisper, but having cooked and cooled bacon before i dont know how they could have accomplished this, especially not en mass like the fair requires. 5 bucks seemed pretty steep, and we all decided we could do this at home just as well but for less, and without too much work. A good novelty item but not something we'd eat again if it became a fair regular (not because it isnt good, just too little room in stomachs/cash in wallets to justify it.

      honey sunflower sundae - a total home run, as usual. great honey flavor, nice crunch from the seeds, smooth texture that made us with we could get these year round (or summer-round as it were).

      deep fried oreos - not my first try but several people in our group hadnt had them. a bite is enough but i really like them, something about the heat and batter transforms the cookie, softening the chocolate wafers and almost liquefying the cream center.

      fresh french fries- by the midway - good but not as great as in past years these fries had awesome flavor and were well cooked but despite nice browning they were a tad limp, especially towards the bottom of the bucket when they had plenty of time to steam. also, can anyone explain why they are so short and stubby?

      Aligator sausage - like Kevin i really like these, solid, notably gator flavor in a moist, easily chompable package, whats not to like.

      Fried green tomatoes and fritters - fritters were awesome as ever, the tomatoes were super freshly fried but maybe spent a bit too long in the oil (or the oil was already dirty, but at the end of the first day???) because they had a bit too much color and overly fried flavor.

      Can anyone report on the $1 dollar shrimp cocktail on the south side of the fairgrounds, by the miracle of birth barn/raft ride? we were sure it couldn't be a good idea, but curious about what it could be despite that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tex.s.toast

        I tried that shrimp cocktail, though it was a few years back. You get what you pay for. Shrimp were tiny, not deveined, and mushy. Avoid, your instincts are correct.

      2. First, the hits. The absolute highlight were the Salty Tart macaroons from the Midtown Global Market stand. They couldn't be more perfect. The Honey Sunflower Seed ice cream from the Hort building, and the U of M Dairy Club milkshake were as good as ever.

        I thought Big Fat Bacon wasn't nearly as good as last year's version. Another dissapointment was my Gizmo - noticeably smaller than in previous years, but the price was up to $7. It was disappointing.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Danny

          My impression was that the bacon wasn't as good as last year. I wondered if it was just me. Guess not. Still love the sauce.

          1. re: kevin47

            Mine just wasn't well cooked, and had a bit of gristle. I also didn't notice the maple glaze nearly as much (if at all) Rather than being a meaty piece of bacon, this definately seemed like a lower quality piece of meat.

            1. re: Danny

              Per the City Pages, the bacon is no longer sourced through Fischer Farms. The difference in quality shows. A pity. They had a good thing going.

          2. re: Danny

            We are going later this week some evening. And I definitely want to check out the Midtown Global Market stand. Do you remember where it was? And was there a pretty good assortment of Salty Tart goods there?

            1. re: karykat

              It's near the Ag Hort building. If you search the Fair Finder for it's listed as the Produce Exchange booth. Just a few selected Salty Tart items at most.


              1. re: karykat

                Midtown global market has a booth in the international bazaar, which rotates every couple of days. Salty tart sells at the organic produce bin outside the ag center. Near as I could tell, they were just selling macaroons.

            2. Had the "pancake on a stick" - breakfast sausage dipped in pancake batter then fried, served with maple syrup - for the first time this year based on recommendations from friends. It earned a spot on the must-have list for us.

              Tried the new deep fried banana split from Ole and Lena's. Big thumbs up, though I would say I don't see any reason not to put the banana on a stick. Sure, you'd have to scoop and smear at the ice cream and berries and whipped cream, but maybe it would work? Who knows. We'd get it again.

              Tried the fried pickles, which were good, but small serving for the price.

              Repeat from the last couple years: Lingonberry float. Each time we get this thing it's better than we remembered it.

              The rest of our items have already been mentioned, but I'll give a shout-out to some: tom thumb donuts, roasted corn, dan patch (the original!) cheese curds, and, of course, pronto pups.


              11 Replies
              1. re: gromit

                Do you remember where you got the "pancake-on-a-stick?" I can't find it on the Fair Food Finder. Sounds really good!

                1. re: marybold

                  Pancake on a stick is at Epiphany Dining Hall. Personally, I'm not blown away by it, only by the idea of it.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    they used to serve us these in elementary school for breakfast. they're unbelievable.

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Wait--Epiphany Diner doesn't have pancake on a stick this year. I'm so sorry if I confused anyone. (The gal told me they changed their menu this year).

                      Gromit, where did you find pancake on a stick?


                    2. re: marybold

                      William's Dinette, near the eco-experience building thing and machinery hill. I was very excited about the idea, and I have to say the one I had lived up to the idea. Seems like they run the stand like a short-order place, so the pancake-on-a-stick, and the ones my friends ordered just after it, were all cooked up fresh. That helped a lot I'd say.


                      1. re: gromit

                        i find it surprising a lot of you see this as so novel an idea. i've seriously been eating these since i was in preschool. i think STATE FAIR (the sara lee brand) even sells a frozen version.

                        check it out:


                        1. re: beelzebozo

                          Well, I've visited the Minnesota State Fair probably 25 years of my life, and I've come to appreciate that a well-made and FRESHLY-made corn dog (Pronto Pup, to be particular, and I AM particular) is a fine thing. Sure it's something that you can get pretty much anywhere at any time, even in the frozen section of a supermarket. But what's the fun in that?

                          So when a friend pointed out that he'd tried out the breakfastified version of something that's an annual tradition for me, available in the same venue where I'm typically eating a corn dog at 8 in the morning, I thought I'd give it a try. And I liked it. Yet I would never consider buying such a thing from Sara Lee. *shrug*


                          1. re: gromit

                            yeah, i understand that. certainly a freshly made corn dog or breakfast dog is going to be better than the frozen. i was responding to those who were unfamiliar with it prior or viewed it as a novelty.

                            1. re: beelzebozo

                              Are you responding to me? I'm didn't grow up in Minnesota. Rest assured, pancakes on sticks are not a breakfast staple world-wide. I think the idea of it is fun, but the execution of it (at Epiphany, haven't been to Williams) was blah.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                no, to gromit. my apologies. er, i guess it depends on which post we're referring.

                                but yeah, they are ubiquitous in the kentucky-ohio-west virginia school systems for breakfast. i think they're pretty excellent, even when you get them frozen and warm them in the oven/deep fryer (say no to microwave)

                        2. re: gromit

                          Thanks, gromit! I'll put that on my list for next time around.


                    3. Spamburger- Delightful as usual. It isn't pretty, but they offer lots of condiments and it has a nice crust and great taste. I love it, but an acquired taste.

                      Sunnies from Giggles- Good, but some where not properly cleaned leaving scales in my husband's mouth, which is gross. The sauce that comes with them does nothing for them

                      Blossom Onion- I don't know why we got this. It didn't taste good, had some raw parts, and was very expensive. Ranch dressing that came with it tasted weird.

                      Pig Cheek- Very meaty tasty. Super tender. We got three of them. Peach sauce is good and not too sweet. For $5 it is a good deal