As another summer draws to a close, it's time for the twelve day celebration of agriculture, handicrafts, nostalgia, and gluttony that is the Minnesota State Fair. Since the State Fair is one of the few days when I studiously ignore nutritional guidelines and consume fried food followed by staggering quantities of sugar, I tend to stick with tried-and-true favorites rather than the latest deep-fried gimmick on a stick. Here are my classic favorites, along with a few new discoveries:
Classic Food Favorites
- I eat them every year for a reason: the creamy texture of the soft serve at Dairy Goodness (Dairy Building) and the crispy, almost airy batter on the Mouth Trap's deep-fried cheese curds (Food Building) make these offerings the best of their genres.
- Mike's favorite fair food (besides cheese curds) is the Holy Land Deli's Mediterranean lemonade smoothie (International Bazaar), an icy concoction of freshly squeezed lemon juice and fresh mint leaves.
New Food Discoveries
- A new offering this year, the apple rollover from Minnesota Apples (Agriculture Horticulture building) is a delightfully flaky pastry, folded around a spiced apple filling and topped with a cider glaze.
- Since the Corn Roast (southeast corner of Nelson St. and Dan Patch Ave.) has been serving up roasted corn for 30 years, this is a new discovery only to me. The juicy, slightly smoky roasted corn-on-the-cob is the quintessential taste of summer.
- After a day of eating pastry, ice cream, and cheese curds, the fresh fruit at the Produce Exchange (Judson Ave., across from the International Bazaar) was exactly what I was craving. My baseball-sized, gloriously ripe Colorado peach was the most satisfying thing I ate all day.
Other Fun Stuff
- There are free samples of Kemps' Pearson Candy Company-inspired ice cream from 1 pm to 2 pm daily at the Kemps booth (Cooper St., by Kemps Little Farmhands). Mike and I both preferred the intense nuttiness of Salted Nut Roll (marshmallow ice cream with salted peanuts and caramel), with Nut Goodies (chocolate and maple ice cream with chocolate nut clusters) as a close second.
- The Minnesota Cooks demonstrations (Carousel Park) are a highlight of the fair for me. Chefs from restaurants across the state prepare dishes featuring local ingredients, while a panel of farmers discusses sustainable practices. You even get to sample the delicious results. The demonstrations only take place on one day of the fair (this year, it was Sunday, August 24), so mark your calendars for next year's demonstrations on Sunday, August 30, 2015.
- The History & Heritage Center (West End Market) features a fascinating exhibit about the history of the fairgrounds and a glimpse of how the fair has changed over the years. Among many other tidbits, we learned that the Agriculture Horticulture building was a WPA project, cookie and cake baking contests were suspended during WWI due to sugar rationing, and the State Fair won a precedent-setting 1981 Supreme Court decision regarding public solicitation rights.