Here's a (not-so-)quick recap of my time at the Minnesota State Fair this year. I try not to go too overboard with the reviews, so if you need more details, just leave a comment. And yes, I do tend to go overboard on the food and drinks at the State Fair every year - just a warning...
I started the week by figuring out what places I wanted to try, as well as their locations, just to make things a little easier for me. The website for the State Fair has an awesome Food Finder application (which can also be downloaded) that really helped find some unique items this year. I was on my own for the morning, so I'd do most of my eating then and then D.Rough and I would head out as a team and see what else I hadn't eaten.
Here's what the State Fair looks like at 9am, just in case you're wondering. Yeah, it's a little busy, but the lines and crowds are still manageable. That will change soon.
I started with a Breakfast Lollypop from Axel's - Southeast corner of the food building - on the outside of the building. It's basically a sausage patty battered and deep fried and has some maple syrup on it for sweetness. This thing had good meat flavor, but the grease was amazingly overpowering, especially first thing. Thankfully, I washed it down with the first of many 1919 Root Beers - the best root beer at the State Fair.
It was time for a Breakfast Stromboli from American Stromboli in the Food Building. It's chopped up hard-boiled eggs, shredded cheese and a slice of american cheese, and your choice of ham or sausage wrapped in a pizza crust and baked. I got to watch them make the strombolis while I was standing in line, so it's nice to see them make the things here. This pastry was just about perfect for breakfast, especially since they let you order just a half a stromboli so you still have room for other foods. Very good flavor and not greasy, so it left plenty of room for gorging.
Here, we see a VERY uptight guy smoking a cigarette. He sat like this for at least three cigarettes. Very formal smoker, I guess. I sadly, didn't get a photo of the Menonite missionary woman drinking out of a Camelpack - so hilarious.
I headed to the International Bazaar to find some stuffed grape leaves from Holy Land Deli. I'm a huge fan of Holy Land since I started going to the Midtown Global Market years ago. They always have delicious food. I asked what the grape leaves were stuffed with and the guy at the counter couldn't remember. I ordered them anyway. I was a little bummed they were served cold, but mostly because it made the rice in side a little gummy and unappetizing. NOT my favorite thing at the fair, despite being on a stick.
I went back to the food building to get a Puff Daddy on a Stick (I know, he's only going by Diddy these days, but whatever) from Sausage Sisters and Me. It's a thai sausage link wrapped in a puff pastry dough and comes with some thai peanut dipping sauce. I brought some of this back to D.Rough to sample and she really liked it. The sausage had really good flavor and actually might have been better without the dipping sauce. The pastry was really light and flaky, so this thing is worth a look/taste.
Oh wait, and another 1919 Root Beer.
I headed down the block to Andre's Watermelon to get come chocolate covered watermelon on a stick, but then when I saw he had pineapple, I changed my mind to that. Everyone has a favorite fruit - mine just happens to be chocolate-covered pineapple. It's a little sloppy to eat, but it's delicious.
To make up for the missing watermelon in my diet, I got a watermelon lemonade from Andre, as well. Excellent choice - it was fantastic.
Since moving to Minnesota, I've discovered that Hot Dago is not a racial slur, but rather a tasty Italian sandwich. Luigi's has a Hot Dago on a stick that I needed to try, so I headed there and picked on up. It's basically a breadstick followed by a meatball (repeat) and then cover the whole thing with mozzarella and then bake it all. Served with hot peppers and a marinara sauce for dipping. Holy crap this thing was amazing. One of the best things at the fair in my opinion. Absolutely delicious.
I washed this bad boy down with a Kiwi Strawberry Crystal Light (watching my figure, you know).
As an added bonus, right across the street from Luigi's is Big Fat Bacon on a stick. I loved this place last year. It's very simple - it's a really thick-cut piece of bacon is deep fried and it's put on a stick. Then, you have the option of putting on this orange-chipotle glaze on it (if you want). I'd recommend it, since it's really an amazing combination. I'm not as impressed with the piece of bacon I had this year, over last year's, but it was still pretty darn good. It's simple and filling, and the glaze is really a unique flavor. Worth it.
I headed back to find D.Rough, but not before stopping by 1919 one more time for a root beer float. So freaking good.
This is how I roll (after going to visit the fire prevention area...
With D.Rough in tow, we headed to Mouth Trap to buy the best curds at the State Fair (according to D.Rough's tastebuds). I have to admit, these things are some of the best curds I've ever had. A little bit salty, but so worth it - once these things cool down. They're like molten lava right out of the fryer. Top notch.
Then, we went to watch the robot competition/demonstration at the Education Building. High school students build robots to complete certain tasks and then try to score the most points to win the competition. They have to do things like place inflatable rings on a wall, stack the same inflatable rings in a pile, and jettison smaller mini-robots to do their bidding (seriously).
I think we were standing a little too close, since D.Rough got a little nervous when the robots rolled over to us and began stacking rings less than 6 inches from us. Yikes.
We wanted to check out some more entertainment, so we headed over to the Flippenout Extreme Trampoline show (Trash will be thrilled we did that). It was a million degrees out, so we grabbed a Lemonade Shake-up.
On the way, we stopped by the large plot of land where they basically have a huge karaoke area with like 30-40 microphones set up for people to sing into. On the giant LED screen, they show all the words to like 50 super popular songs. I know this sounds really white trash, but it's really fun and people are REALLY into it. So each song gets like 200 people singing along. It's great fun!!! We busted out some Lady Gaga while we were there.
We watched the extreme trampoline guys jump really high in the air - I mean REALLY high. They're Olympic hopefuls for the 2012 Olympics. And yes, there IS a trampoline event in the Olympics.
We leave the trampoline show and headed to the animal/pet barn. I love this place, but I don't think D.Rough has spent a lot of time in here. I had to explain a little bit about what's going on (animal surgery center, dog breeders area, etc). We popped by to pet some of the puppies, which are mostly cute. We were also amazed at how creative (aka insane) people get about their dog treats.
And now you see how crowded the State Fair gets during the afternoon. It's pretty serious.
We also saw a sad banana taking a rest since it was a thousand degrees out.
D.Rough is a big fan of the deep fried pickles from the Preferred Pickle (over west of the grandstand). They have cajun flavor, original, and ones with cream cheese in them. They're pretty good, even though I'm not a huge fan of pickles. But, let's be honest, if you deep fried anything, I'd probably eat it. These are pretty good, though she did eat more of these than I did.
It was dessert time and we had been hearing about this sweet corn ice cream over at Blue Moon Dine In Theater. It was unique enough we thought we'd better try it. They have three different toppings you can put on it, but we went with the obvious choice - Honey Butter Bacon. This sounds odd, but I can assure you, it was amazing. Great ice cream flavor with the buttery taste of corn - it even included bits of roasted corn kernels in it. Brilliant. The sauce was much runnier than I expected, but had a great flavor. It's sweet, but not sickeningly so - and the bacon pieces were quite wonderful in there. We got to eat our dessert in the theater behind the restaurant, where they were showing Minnesota-produced films on the big screen. It's a quaint little place with old bench seats out of vans to provide the seating. Super fun.
We went to the arena to check out the tail end of the cattle show. (get it? Tail end? Nevermind.) Then we watched the first couple rounds of the equestrian competition with the horses jumping the obstacles and such. Pretty fun, to be honest. Plus, how often do you get to yell all crazy for horses (unless you're a rodeo person, of course). Maybe chest paint is in order one of these days...
It was dessert time again (for me), so I headed to Moe and Joe's Coffee (near the water rapids ride) to get a Yankee Apple Pie Chocolate Sandwich. I know it sounds horrific, but it honestly was one of the best things I had all day. I'm not a huge pie fan, mainly because I don't really like the crust. However, if you put an apple pie on a couple slices of buttery toasted bread, I'm going to love it. Which I did. The chocolate spread on the bread isn't very strong, but adds some unique sweetness. Just get this thing. It's great.
And, of course, I needed another (large, this time) 1919 root beer.
I needed to have something healthy, since most of what I had today wouldn't be approved by my doctor. I found the Vegie Fries booth and grabbed a Veg Wedge. It's a bunch of chopped-up vegetables folded into a won ton skin and deep fried. See, I told you it was healthy. hahahaha. And it was pretty good. there was a lot of shell, compared to the amount of vegetables, but it was still good. This thing was almost identical to the egg-roll-on-a-stick that I was about to get, so I didn't even bother getting it. Sad, but true.
The night was winding down for us, so we decided to have a wind-down snack of our own - Garlic Fries from the Ball Park Cafe... followed up with a beer for some people and a bottle of water for me. The fries are obviously garlic-y with the amount of garlic they throw on the top of these things. They were actually quite good. I will say, the amount of garlic pales in comparison to the amount of garlic they put on the fries at the Seattle Mariner's stadium, but they were still really quite good.
I thought we were going to get out of the fair at this point, but we got sidelined by the fireworks.
And then by the cotton candy...
Time to hit the express bus home!
Overall, the entire day was wonderful. Great food and tons of people watching, and a blast with my lady. Nothing to complain about at all. And to be honest, I didn't even feel full, let alone sick. I probably could have done a few more things, but I kept it civil this year. I was surprised at the lack of really horrific foods this year, but maybe next year will be better. I'm already looking forward to it!!
Top 5 things about the Minnesota State Fair
1. Yankee Apple Pie Chocolate Sndwich
2. Hot Dago on a Stick
3. Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Honey Butter Bacon Topping
4. Mouth Trap Cheese Curds
5. 1919 Root Beer (especially in float form)
Bottom 5 things
1. Stuffed Grape Leaves
2. Breakfast Lollypops
3. Lack of more horrific foods than in previous years
4. Lack of more cute puppies in the animal barn than previous years
5. I totally missed the lumberjack show!!!