Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 Minnesota State Fair – St. Paul, MN

My sister PalmMapper and brother-in-law UncleDumDum were in town celebrating their 10 year anniversary. The trip was a surprise for my brother-in-law, who has never been to a State Fair before. He’s always wanted to check it out and who better to go with than someone who can also eat their weight in fried food! ME!!! PalmMapper had printed out a couple of new fair items (which coincided nicely with my own list that I always write up) and we headed out to the fair.

We got there early to ensure we could see D.Rough on TV at the KARE-11 building. In fact, we got there too early, so we started eating without her. There’s no better time for breakfast than… uh… breakfast time. We headed into the food building and started the day right.

Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Stromboli from American Stromboli. It’s hardboiled eggs chopped up with ham and shredded cheese baked in a pizza dough - delicious and comes with a side of salsa. While you’re waiting in line, you get to look through the window and watch them make cinnamon rolls… which of course means we had to get a cinnamon roll, as well. Really good dough perfectly baked and with TONS of cinnamon. And of course we got it iced with sugary frosting – which melts immediately on the hot roll. Perfect way to start the morning.

We headed into the other wing of the food building to find Rajin’ Cajun. The entire building was empty and we didn’t think it was open. Thankfully, there were workers behind the counter who were willing to make our breakfast sliders (right before the power went out in the entire building). The breakfast sliders were a trio of small buns filled with steak, Cajun sausage, and ham (each slider has its own meat). They also had scrambled eggs and cheese on them, and each was complimented with an incredible homemade garlic mayo. We actually ate this in order of our favorites, accidentally: ham first, just ok; sausage second, pretty good; steak last, really beefy and tender. I had heard the steak might not be the best, but we must have gotten a good piece because we were thrilled with it. AND it’s really cheap for three sandwiches.

We headed back to the KARE-11 building and watched the Minnesota RollerGirls get interviewed by Eric Perkins. He’s a hilarious guy that just got a promotion to Sports Director – which he’ll be fantastic at. Congrats, Perk! Now it was time to find the 1919 root beer booth – I’ll never get enough of this stuff. It’s my favorite root beer.

We walked around a bit and found the animal barn. I claim I like to go here to watch animal surgery – which they have set up in a sterile booth with cameras and then bleachers outside it to watch the action. But the real reason I like it there is I get to pet the cute dogs. Sure it isn’t cool and it isn’t tough-guy, but I don’t care. The dogs are awesome. This year, the Great Pyrenees stole the show. Beautiful dogs.

After a quick swing through the fine arts building, we eventually found our way to the International Bazaar. One of the new items they had this year at the Midtown Global Market booth was Camel Burgers. UncleDumDum wanted to try one, since he had already ridden a camel at the Minnesota Zoo a few days earlier (I’ll see if I can score a photo). He grabbed one and had it cut in half so we could split it. The sandwich could use some sauce or something, since the meat itself is a little bit dry. It’s got a decent flavor, so it isn’t bad, and I will say it’s way better than the camel on a stick I had last year at the fair.

We headed to the Holy Land Deli (one of our favorite places in the Twin Cities anyway). D.Rough got a gyro on a stick, which ended up looking like a gyro steak on a stick. I’ve never had gyro meat cut this thick and I was worried it wouldn’t be crispy like I like it. But it honestly was a good piece of gyro meat (did I mention it is on a stick?), especially paired with the tzatziki sauce dip that comes with it.

We had to get the lamb fries, since they were the talk of the fair. Lamb testicles! The sign says they’re grilled, but they aren’t. They’re clearly fried. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with these things, but we absolutely went for it. The balls themselves don’t taste like much, to be honest. They just taste like “fried”. Not fried meat. Not fried anything. Just fried. The Holy Land dip that comes with them gives them some flavor, but it just didn’t taste like much. So for $5, you get some bragging rights, but not much else. Meh.

Next on the docket, poutine from Duke’s Poutine. As you know I’m participating in a Twin Cities Poutine Crawl trying out all the poutine in the Twin Cities. This was basically a requirement at the fair. The fries were pretty good. I like when there are bits of potato skin on the fries for texture and flavor. The gravy was a little lack luster and bland (still salty, but not much meat or even gravy flavor). But the real winner was the curds. We all ended up fighting over them. Very tangy and held their shape in the heat of the gravy and fries, but had the squeak that lets you know they’re serious. This was a pretty solid dish of poutine, especially for a fair truck.

Right across the street from the Poutine truck was the Icee truck. I had to get one – blue and red mixed. Nothing fancy, especially considering we walked by an Icee truck earlier that had like 10 different flavors. But I would have gotten these two flavors anyway – I’m old school - so what was the point? Delicious. And now, Coach is jealous.

We needed to rest our feet from walking, so we popped into the air-conditioned coliseum to watch the bull judging. Sure it isn’t action packed, but it’s just the thing you need after a morning of walking and eating.

We had to get Scotch Eggs – a hardboiled egg encased in deep fried sausage. I really like these monstrosities and get them whenever I see them. This year, the one we got was a bit dried out, even though I drenched the thing in maple syrup (they have other more normal sauces to put on them, but I like syrup). Just ok, this year.

PalmMapper was finally worn down by the cheese curds signs. You can only walk by cheese curd booths so many times without stopping to buy some and she had reached her limit. I’m not even sure which booth she got these at. They were delicious, as always. They could have been fried a bit longer in my opinion, but a deep fried cheese curd is a good thing, no matter how you look at it.

Deep Fried Pickles from The Perfect Pickle were next. I love these things. We get the sampler pack – regular, Cajun, and cream cheese-stuffed. These things are always delicious – today was no different. And they have Dew at their booth, which is a bonus for me.

We headed into Heritage Village so Rita could try this new beer from Schell’s Brewery – it’s a Shocked Radler, which means it’s beer with Grapefruit in it. UncleDumDum was unsure about trying it, but he tried it and liked it. …And then we spend much of the remainder of their trip going to Twin Cities liquor stores trying to find it (it isn’t in bottles until next year). Good stuff, according to everyone who tried it. I was still drinking my dew. But we did get photos of D.Rough and Rita hanging with the raccoons and hyenas.

I was feeling desserty – which doesn’t happen often. I needed a cannoli from Ole’s Cannoli (pronounced like Oleee, not Olé like in a bullfight – though it still cracks me up when I hear it pronounced that way). I’m man enough to get sprinkles on my dessert – and I’m glad I did. The fried shell of this cannoli was a little thicker than most I’ve had, so it was difficult to break into pieces, but the flavor of it was just right, so I’m not complaining. Also, the mascarpone cheese filling was spot on to the hundreds I’ve had in Italy and Sicily, so kudos to Ole for nailing it!

It was time for beer flights back at the Ag building. The ag building (pronounced “AYG building” in Minnesota)(I got told I wasn’t allowed to make fun of Minnesota accents while AT the MN State Fair – it’s apparently an unwritten law, enforceable by punching) had a huge exhibit on hops since home brewing is so popular now. This also created an absolute madhouse for trying to get tickets and get in line for the beer flights. They had four different sets/flights of beers from Minnesota: Dark, Light, Belgian, and something else I can’t remember. You can’t mix and match, so I went with the Belgians. All were delicious, however, you have no idea what you’re drinking. The cups aren’t labeled at all, so it’s almost pointless, unless you’re only hoping for four small cups of beer for $8. Next year will be better… right guys? Better system? Just a hint…

Teriyaki Ostrich on a stick at Chinatown in the food building. Looked like a meat lollipop, actually. And surprisingly, this was pretty delicious. The meat itself was much better than other ostrich I’ve had (sounds weird to say, but yes, I’ve had other ostrich), but it was better without the teriyaki dipping sauce. We almost went back for more of the ostrich.

D.Rough swears by the cheese curds at the Mouth Trap in the food building. So we scored some. They were better than the curds we had earlier, if only because they were fried a bit longer to get crispy. Delicious.

UncleDumDum had never had lefse before (it’s a potato pancake – a Swedish thing), so he popped in to Lynn’s Potato Lefse and got one filled with lingonberries. I like these things but only enough to eat some if someone offers. I don’t think I’d order one for myself. It’s a little bit dry and could always use more filling in my opinion. But if you’re Swedish, I’ve heard these are the holy grail of lefse. I could take it or leave it.

You’ll notice, up to this point, I haven’t done anything with bacon. I’m not an addict. I can stop anytime I want. I don’t need bacon all the time. That being said, I DOOOO love the bacon on a stick at Big Fat Bacon. So we grabbed one. The bacon is super thick and deep fried. You can also put this delicious chipotle orange glaze on it, which I highly recommend. I really like these, even though they’re nothing fancy. They’re just fantastic.

D.Rough and I tried the sweet corn ice cream last year at Blue Moon. It’s really good, and really weird. But we liked it enough to try it again, since we were near it. This year, we got cayenne peanuts on it, instead of the honey bacon glaze. I like this much better. The ice cream actually has pieces of sweet corn in it, as well as some corn nuts – which is a brilliant touch, I might add. The dish is about the perfect size to split with someone. UncleDumDum wasn’t a big fan, but the rest of us ate it ALLLLLLL.

We passed by Luigi’s and I mentioned they have the best Hot Dago on a Stick ever. UncleDumDum had never had one, so I said it might be worth it (although he should also have a real hot dago sandwich from a restaurant). It was. These things are sooo good here. Garlic breadstick, meatball, garlic breadstick, meatball, garlic breadstick, meatball, garlic breadstick – then cover it all with mozzarella cheese and bake it. Then serve it with marinara sauce. Man, these things are awesome.

Back for more 1919!!! This time, a large.

And another repeat from last year – the Yankee Apple Pie Chocolate Sandwich. The whole things sounds horrific, but it honestly is one of my favorite things to get here. It’s apple pie filling and some chocolate sauce cooked between two slices of bread until toasted. Then cover the thing with powdered sugar (which apparently gets all over your black shirt while eating, especially if it’s windy). I’m glad we got this on the way out of the fair, or I might have gotten two. They’re fantastic.

I think I can safely say we did some damage at the 2012 Minnesota State Fair. I’m not sure if it was amazeballs enough for UncleDumDum to come back and do it again, but I had a blast hanging out with my awesome family. We like to eat, and I’m sure we eased into the five-digit calorie zone for the day. Thankfully, I only let myself do that once a year. Then I start training for next year!!!!!!

Top 5 things at the 2012 Minnesota State Fair
1. Hanging with my sister and brother-in-law
2. Yankee Apple Pie Chocolate Sandwich
3. Hot Dago on a Stick
4. 1919 Root Beer
5. Poutine (especially the cheese curds)

Bottom 5 things
1. Beer flight debacle
2. Lamb Fries – still, I now have bragging rights
3. Camel Burger
4. Scotch Egg
5. Severe lack of cute puppies in the animal barn


Jen said...

fun to read! i passed up fried pickles for a horrible fried onion blossom. still regret my decision.

AP said...

I might sound like the most pathetic person of all time but I have been somewhat impatiently waiting for your fair review! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with my brother that my top on my list was spedning time with my Brother and Sister~in~law (who I love and miss sooo much) and the Apple chocolate sandwich was my other topper.... and yes the powdered sugar on a windy day doesnt bode well with a black shirt.. lol Love you guys!!

Chao said...

Not pathetic at all, AP! I had it done last week, btu then still had to get through a bunch of posts about Seattle. Sorry to keep you waiting:)

Maggie said...

I think you had to specify if you wanted the grilled lamb fries otherwise you get the fried ones; still didn't care for them though. Completely agree about the beer flights.

Maggie said...

I think you had to specify if you wanted the grilled lamb fries otherwise you get the fried ones; still didn't care for them though. Completely agree about the beer flights.

Ruby James Vita said...