Sugar Pie, this is not my first State Fair. I’ve been at the State Fair on Day One trying all the new foods since Microsoft Sidewalk was a thing. (Does anyone remember Microsoft Sidewalk? They came to town from Seattle with all that Bill Gates money and put free cocoa packs in the break room. It was like our own little Silicon Bubble, in Swiss Miss form.)
Anywho, I was there for the first season of deep-fried candy bars. I was there for the first year of deep-fried lamb next-generation-generators. And I tried the ghastly chocolate-dipped jalapeno, on two consecutive years. Which I tell you to let you know that, Sugar Pie, you have to do a damn sight more than deep-fry nasty stuff to impress me. I am officially a skeptic. And yet, I all-out love the Fair! The fresh barn smells of new hay, the crazy looking drag-queen alien chickens, the seed-art, the Sputnik-era Mod sky-ride, pet surgery, the hollow, wet smell of Ye Old Mill Log Ride—I could really enumerate the whole darn thing. Love! So I’m unabashedly enthusiastic, and a total skeptic. And that’s why I raced to the Minnesota State Fair this year on the first day it was open, and ate through $100 worth of new foods—faux cronuts, Cajun pork rinds, candied bacon cannoli, liquid nitrogen caramel corn, cocoa-dusted cheese curds, sweet-corn corn dogs, and more, more (burp), more! So that I could present to you:
An Unabashedly Enthusiastic Skeptic’s Guide to Best New (and Old!) Foods at the Minnesota State Fair, 2013:
Let’s get the oldies out of the way, shall we? If this is your first visit to the State Fair, don’t mess around with the next best thing, just zip over to:
1) Corn! The corn roast. The best! The MN State Fair goes through some 200,000 ears of corn a year, 4,000 pounds of butter, and probably a third of that will be eaten by me.
2) Cheese curds, at the Mouth Trap, in the food building. There are no others! Crisp as a bubble, gooey-creamy, my only problem with the Mouth Trap is I wish they had a one fat curd for a dollar line, because that’s really all I need.
3) MN Craft Brewer’s Guild Exhibit. The second year of this, and about the greatest thing to happen to local brew since 50 breweries opened. For jaded beer-heads it’s an unbelievable chance to sample rarities that don’t make it in bottle to local stores, for novices it’s a fun opportunity to taste through flights of beer in an insightful, yet very accessible way. I feel like this Craft Brew exhibit also captures something about the best of the Minnesota spirit: smart, hands-on, and truly friendly. In the Ag building!
4) Harry Singh’s Doubles. I know, you thought I’d say mini-donut! But as much as I love the State Fair mini-donut, the Tom Thumb classic where you watch them made right in front of you, I have to confess that the mini-donuts all over town (Chef Shack!) have diminished the mini-donut thing for me —which is totally not fair! But it’s also true. So now I always get doubles, the Trinidad street food which I think Harry debuted in 2009. These little fry-breads with a spicy curried chick pea filling are very State Fair—fry bread!—but also fresh and satisfying and unusual.
5) Honey Lemonade. Bees are in dire trouble (read the recent nihilistic Time magazine cover story to get a glimpse of a world with robot bees and no fruit). But you can help by supporting good local beekeepers, and enjoying a glass of their delicious lemonade. Tastes like a simpler time, and so good.