Minnesota


Minnesota State Fair 2016

Every year, my trek to the Great Minnesota Get-Together is both the same.  And, absolutely different than years past.  But, always, consistently, fun and memorable.

Steve & I at the Fair

I always go to Day One of the Fair in Saint Paul with my “fair husband” Steve. We are particularly compatible as a fair couple because we like the same things, yes, but are also open to the choices of the other person. Plus, we share the food.

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Iron Range Meat & Potatoes

So without further ado (because I know you are dying to find out) here is what we ate at the Fair:

  • Iron Range Meat & Potatoes
  • Pronto Pup®
  • Honey Sunflower Ice Cream, Honey Lemonade, Honey Lemon Sorbet (can you tell I am a big fan of the honey wing of the Horticulture Building)
  • waffle fries
  • birch beer
  • vanilla milkshake (only 2 spoonfuls; too creamy. Me, I like icey shakes)
  • blue cheese & corn fritz
  • candied bacon donut sliders
  • cup of coffee, flight of dark beer, Clown Shoes chocolate porter, lots of water
  • roasted corn
  • cinnamon banana dark chocolate Jonny Pop.

For more pictures and narrative, I invite you to check me out on Instagram @nyproducer

 

 

 
Before I regale you with my list of food I ate at the great Minnesota Get-Together — I just have to talk about this piglet I met  at the Swine Barn. They do not make a cute alert LARGE enough for this little three-day-old creature. I recommend you make a copy of this and every time you get sad or blue or angry or just plain bummed: look at this creature. I defy you not to smile. 

 So here’s what I ate — sometimes sharing with my State Fair “husband.”

Honey sunflower ice cream, honey tasting, corn on the cob, “Blue Cheese Corn Fritz” (corn fritters with blue cheese, corn kernels served with dipping sauce), half of a succulent sweet peach, Pronto Pup, Walleye-stuffed mushrooms, German Nic Nacs (double crunch peanuts), couple sips of beer – including maple bacon beer, draft root beer, shared turkey sandwich, tasting of cheese cubes, and a bite of a “rollover” (apple turnover). 

I read my list to a Minnesota friend and he said it sounded like a lot. To my State Fair “husband” it seemed like a hell of a lot less than years past–by a third from our peak. 

 

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Huh?

I figured out the perfect method for drying out my curly kale to make Kale Chips: the ShamWow® I purchased at the Minnesota State Fair. That ubiquitous dry-em towel takes the water and moisture right out of the freshly washed kale like nothing else. 

And, if you’re looking for the best recipe to make your Kale Chips, look no farther than Melissa Clark’s how-to video from the New York Times.

Marriage made in heaven – Kale in need of a good drying. And, my ShamWow!

 
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BLUE CHEESE AND CORN FRITZ!

Corn Fritter at the MN State Fair (Photo: foodbeast.com)

Walleye Roll move over! There’s a new fave food in town. You are looking at the Blue Corn and Cheese Fritz. It is a top-notch combination of tender corn fritter with the perfect choice of blue cheese for the fair crowd (Gorgonzola) speckled with succulent kernels of good ol’ Minnesota corn. With a side of chimichurri sauce that condimented the crispy, deep-fried but not greasy, balls of wonderfulness perfectly.

If you have the good fortune of being close to St. Paul and could go to the Minnesota State Fair, you can get these little paragons of deliciosity at the Blue Barn food stand in the newly completed West End Market.

Good appetite.

So busy going to the Minnesota State Fair, I have little time to chronicle my adventures, but follows is a quickie list of foods I have eaten — probably not in order, because I’m still digesting. Haha. Get it!?!?

* Honey sunflower ice cream plus multi-spoonfuls of honey tastings 
* Corn on the cob
* Sausage sampler from Cynthia’s Sausage booth of Irish sausage, wild rice with jalapeño and cheese sausage, Swedish sausage speckled with potato bits. Served in a paper tray with sauerkraut 
* Nibble of bison hotdog – Chicago style – which, btw, I don’t get. Why junk up a perfectly good hotdog with all those condiments? Makes no sense to me, but then I’m not a fan of Chicago
* Two sips of a craft beer (with a touch of cardamom) from my friend’s flight of MN beers
* Vanilla milkshake from the Moo Bar outside the Cattle Barn
* Turkey-to-Go. How good can a turkey sandwich be? Come to the fair and find out. It’s near the Poultry Barn. 
* Walleye Roll (think lobster roll – but with flaked walleye: a Minnesota-based perch, wild rice! celery and lightly mayoed on a thick slab of open-faced bread touched with butter). This might be my FAVORITE dish at the fair!
* Walleye cakes (like crab cake only with walleye and a tad bit of smoked salmon). Yum!
* Pronto Pup®
* Cup of coffee
* Deep-Fried pumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream
 

Minni Pumpkin Pie

 

It’s that time of the year for the annual Great Minnesota Get-Together.  Edition 2014.  

Yep, stay tuned right here with Janet Eats – to follow my culinary (yes, CULINARY, dammit) adventures. 

Here is the MN State Fair’s List of New Foods. Click it. Read it.  And, Weep. 

I haven’t fully perused the provenance or full ingredients list quite yet. But, I’m leaning towards Bison Dog, Pizza Tots, and Rustic Scones. Maybe the Jello Salad Ice Cream and the Breakfast Juicy Lulu. But, Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Brat!  Really?!?!  It’s the State Fair for crissakes!

and, of course, grilled corn (Circa 2011)

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What a great time at the Fair this year. I often have trepidation at the outset: will I see and eat everything I want to? My fairmate always teases me: remember, we ARE professionals.

We attend the Great Minnesota Get-Together every summer, always on opening day. Gotta catch it when the deep fat oil is fresh, and there are still yardsticks to be had in the Merchandise Mart.

I train for this event like a seasoned athlete. Study the new foods, decide what I want to try: yes, on the deep-fried bread pudding, no, on the Idaho nachos. That kind of thing. Make sure I have enough room in the tum for what I want to eat. In years past, I have made the mistake of eating breakfast before attending. Wrong. Why waste the precious stomach room, ya know!?

I have seen changes in my eating marathon through the years. Honestly, I don’t have the capacity to hold that much, I have a better internal monitor for fullness. And discriminating. Yes, I know when you are weighing deep fried dill pickles with chocolate sauce against pork belly sliders, it may not seem like a gourmet challenge. But this is the fair, dammit! Whadya expect? Corn dog foam? And, when you have a companion, you can share. Which we did.

Let’s get to it: honey ice cream with sunflower seeds, battered and deep-fried green beans, deep-fried bread pudding, Pronto Pup (pictured above, you may know it as a corn dog), Walleye roll (think lobster roll except made with a Minnesota native fish that’s in the perch family), a dough-sant (state fair version of the cronut) with iced coffee, sasparilla, a sip of Guinness, thick vanilla shake purchased outside the Moo booth at the cow barn, dream peach (a big ol’ succulent, drip-down-your-arm juicy sweet peach), miniature pumpkin pie served with cinnamon ice cream, sausage sampler (bourbon wurst, wild rice sausage with jalapeño and Swedish sausage with potato), lots of water and the evening capped off with a flight of admittedly mediocre but earnest Minnesota wines.

What I loved: the mini pie with crust worthy of a French bakery and, surprisingly, those green beans. What I did not like: deep-fried bread pudding needs to go back to the drawing board, and that dough-sant was frankly inedible. Or, as I said in my Instagram post (nyproducer) “dough-sant: don’t give up your day job!”

Not all 10 hours at the fair was Food. We made our usual pilgrimage to watch Roger demonstrate the fascinating craft of bowl turning on a foot-operated lathe. He’s a talented, personable, humble man who started turning bowls because he loved history. He dispenses aphorisms as nimbly as his flying wood chips. He makes exquisite pieces for daily life — those bowls. He uses them himself to drink his beer. Isn’t it frustrating, I asked him, to put all those hours into these bowls, knowing that if you hit a knot just wrong, it will break?

This is workmanship of risk

I love that phrase. As I love those bowls.

My friend and I set out on the fair history tour: visit 13 sights, punch your card at the kiosk, win a gift! I learned that several of the notable Art Deco buildings were WPA-built. That Teddy Roosevelt made his “carry a big stick” speech at the MN State Fair. That Matisse, O’Keeffe and Picasso showed their work at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. For our prize, we each picked a sheet of State Fair postcard reproductions.

We capped our night with what seems to be becoming a tradition: a walk through the crop art exhibit (seeds and stems made into “fine” art).

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It was truly a fair to remember.

Published in the New York Times!!