Thursday, August 22, 2019

2019 Minnesota State Fair – St. Paul, MN

This year’s adventure was a little different from 2018, 2017, 2015, and a bunch of previous years. This year, I went on opening day with a handful of my co-workers as sort of a culinary tour guide. I’m not sure I was any good at it, but I’ll let you know what they say when we get back to work.  Thanks for hanging out with me all day, Sherri, Lisa, Hannah, Tami, Vicki, and Jim (and his family)!

I started at one of my favorite breakfast places – The Blue Barn. They’re always known for some creative stuff, and this year was no different. 

I tried the Breakfast Potato Skins – deep-fried potato skin filled with scrambled eggs and peppers. It is topped with a blackened beef chislic – a South Dakota bar food staple – and drizzled with béarnaise. The meat has an unusual texture, which makes me wonder about South Dakotans (hahaha kidding!), but was actually very flavorful. It’s sort of like a kafta kebop (lamb skewers). I thought the béarnaise on top was a nice touch. An unusual dish for breakfast, but still good.

I also tried the Blue Cheese Corn Fritz – these are deep fried blue cheese and corn fritters with chimichurri sauce. The had a good fry on them, but the cheese didn’t really shine through. I was hoping for more bite on them. The chimichurri sauce was fantastic, though. If you had just called them corn fritters and gave me the sauce, I wouldn’t have even needed to know there was cheese there.

The best thing I tried at the Blue Barn was the Nashville Hot Chicken on a Stick – it was a large flattened chicken strip coated with cereal (Special K, if I’m not mistaken) for a breading, and then sweet-heat butter glaze. There was also a great hot sauce drizzled over them and served with some pickles. Really a good and simple snack, for breakfast or anytime.

We stopped at Lulu’s Public House for some adult beverages. It’s never too early to double-fist beers at the State Fair! The Berry Go Round  by Schell’s Brewing was pretty darn good and a great way to start off the day. It’s a lemon-y beer with raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Nice and tart/sour. Loved it.

The Onesie Twosie Lulu Lucky from Surly was also excellent. It’s a delicious IPA worth checking out. It isn’t going to change the IPA game, but I enjoyed it.

Next was the Turkish Pizza at the Blue Moon Diner. Way better than I thought, actually. It’s a flatbread naan topped with spicy minced beef, onion, tomato, lettuce, cucumber salad, herbs, and lemon juice – you can have it rolled up like a cone or like a pizza. I do wish they toasted the naan a little bit. As it is, it’s super floppy and soft and it’s very messy to eat, since they don’t have a lot of plastic knives at the state fair, I’ve noticed. Get it rolled for easier eating, I suppose (or they can cut it if you’re going to share it). Not mind-blowing, but it was extremely good, in my opinion.

We headed to the Coliseum for a Deep-Fried Dilly Dog from Swine and Spuds. This place has a pretty good track record for creativity. This monstrosity takes the cake for me. It’s a bratwurst, shoved inside a fat pickle, then battered and deep-fried. Oh, and it’s on a stick. I’m not even sure what kind of sauces you’re supposed to put on this thing, but I didn’t even use any. It’s like the best corndog you’ve ever had. I’ll be talking about this for a while. Also, my co-workers were impressed I could get my mouth around it. (I’m sure everyone is going to focus on that last phrase for the next year or two…)

We walked over to Mancini’s for a beer and another dog. This time it was the No Bologna Coney – it’s an Italian mortadella pork sausage flavored with pistachios and peppers, covered with  a muffaletta salad and served on a split-top bun. This thing was pretty good, especially the muffaletta. I wish the sausage had a touch more pistachio, but it was still really good (and messy).

The beer was Funnel Cloud F2 Ale from Bad Weather Brewing. I thought it was middle of the road and nothing special. I tasted neither funnel cakes nor caramel nor vanilla. Might have just had my expectation set to high – it was just an ok ale.  

Off to Dino’s Gyros for more delicious beers – they always have a great selection there. I went with the new Surly Mango Medusa, which was pretty good. Not my favorite mango beer, but it was really good.  The winner of the entire day was the Berry Manilow by Utepils. It was lemonade and raspberry, but not at all chemically. Just fantastically light and fun for the summer. I’m hoping they throw this in cans or bottles for me to stockpile in my house. Great work on this beer.

At Dino’s I also tried the Feta Bites, another new item. They had less flavor than I expected, but the dipping sauce that came with them did help – it was a creamy olive tapenade that was pretty rad.

I really wanted to try the Shrimp and Grits Fritters from Funky Grits in the Food Building. I’m a grits fan, cheesy or otherwise. These were a little dried out, sadly. The dip was ok. They were mainly just overly-fried dough balls served with an aioli. I had higher hopes for these.

There aren’t very many repeats for me at the state fair, but Mouth Trap cheese curds usually make an appearance. They definitely do if I have other friends to share them with. They’re so good and I love them.

Sometimes, O’Gara’s has delicious-sounding items and sometimes they follow through on it. I was a little disappointed with the Irish Whiskey Boneless Wings, though. They seemed like just regular wings and had no whiskey taste at all. The sauce that was on them was a little flacvorless, to be honest, although the fry on the outside of the chicken was excellent and the chicken inside was also excellent. I think they just missed some flavor powder with the whiskey sauce. Not terrible, and great if you just want some boneless wings, but not rave-worthy. (Go with the Rueben bites instead)

You can’t do wings without beers (well, I suppose you could, by it seems pointless), so I got a MN Haze from Lakes and Legends Brewing. It was a decent beer. No complaints and I’d drink it again. I also tried Castle Danger’s Peaches and Cream Ale. It was one of the better beers at the fair. Lots of flavor and very smooth. 

I’m a cookie dough fiend, so I had to check out the Deep Fried Cookie Dough at Kora’s Cookie Dough. It was cookie dough wrapped up in a wonton skin and deep fried. It was greasy but decent. I’m glad they added the chocolate drizzle and powdered sugar – both of them helped. It just feels texturally funny to eat warm cookie dough. Maybe that’s just me, though.

We popped over to The Hanger for the Wingwalker donut holes (I know there was some controversy over the original plan to have injectable syringes for what is now dipping sauces). The donuts themselves ended up being sadly boring, but the lingonberry sauce, the Bavarian cream, and chocolate dipping sauces were really great. I even shared mine with some strangers sitting next to me on the bench outside, and they concurred. Dips yes. Donuts meh.

I was starting to wind down, but I kept hearing about these Carnitas Taco Cones. It was honestly good, but was pretty much just a standard taco when it all comes down to it. The filling was great and a good amount. And the shell was perfectly fried into a cone. Note: This item got the most comments from passers-by out of anything I ate at the fair. It’s visually impressive.

I had to make sure I got at least one 1919 root beer. It’s my favorite at the state fair and I normally drink a gallon of it. I kept it to a low roar this year, but I still love it so much.

I ended up skipping the cheesy sriracha funnel cake, even though it was on the list. I just wasn’t’ feeling it towards the end of the day. I’m not always a funnel cake fan, so it doesn’t surprise me. But, if you find out I should have gotten it, please let me know. I’m curious about it!

On the way out of the fair, I had to make one last stop to get the Hot Hen from RC BBQ. It’s BBQ potato chips covered in buffalo chicken, blue cheese fondue, pickled jalapenos, and blue cheese crumbles. The topping was really good, but I wasn’t impressed by the BBQ chips. If you’re going to lay down a foundation, give it a little something, so it isn’t plain. I basically ate all the toppings off the top and powered through as many potato chips as I could. 

Overall, it was another great day at the Minnesota State Fair. I didn’t have a lot of mind-blowing new items, but a few definitely stuck out. Same for beers. I’m not disappointed at all. I had a great time hanging with my co-workers and running into a few friends that I have missed terribly. Let me know if you try anything I missed or if you disagree with any of my comments. I love a good food argument!

Top 5 (food) things at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair
  1. Deep Fried Dilly Dog
  2. Nashville Hot Chicken on a Stick
  3. No Bologna Coney
  4. Turkish Pizza
  5. Carnitas Taco Cone


Anonymous said...

I look forward to your Fair Food review every year! I’d read about this year’s new food and nothing jumped out as particularly interesting or innovative and that seems correct. The brat in a pickle was the only thing I thought was a possible maybe (but not if the weather was too hot or the lines were too long or if I was cranky, or if other people were cranky, or I had to pee, or if the people around me were annoying...)

Thanks for taking another one for the team!

Unknown said...

Thanks Chad! I was curious about the Feta Bites, thanks for the heads up!