The Minnesota State Fair is a week away. One. Week. Away. While I hate that it signals the end of summer, I love the fair. If I could Ground Hog Day one day, it would have to be the first day of the fair. Everything is still super clean. You’re not walking over trampled corn dogs and half eaten French fries. There’s so much excitement in the air. So many foods to eat and exhibits to check out.
Last week I had the opportunity to sample some of the new food that will be offered at the State Fair this year. We met at the fairgrounds which was a weird experience to see before anything was set up. It looked so calm and peaceful. We were served food. Then we had the opportunity to take pictures of it both indoors and out. After we heard from three people that book entertainment for the fair. The event wrapped up with a drawing for prizes. And yeah, I won an MN State Fair water bottle.
Buckle up people! We have some eating to do! But first let’s talk about my experience with the MN State Fair. Feel free to skip this if you don’t want to know more about me. I won’t be offended. Okay, a little bit. Honestly, I’ll be devastated. But you do you.
As a kid, the MN State Fair was a must. My dad used to take my sister and me the first Saturday. For reference, the MN State Fair is the 12 days leading up and including Labor Day. As we got older, he’d take off work and we’d go the day the State Fair opened.
With my dad we always did the fair the same way. He was very much a creature of habit. First, we parked in a neighborhood off Raymond Ave. Since my dad insisted on getting there early, we’d always find a spot. As we’d walk to the fair gates my dad would always tell us stories about how he and his friends would climb the gates and sneak into the fair without paying. Growing up as one of three kids to a single mom in the 1930’s meant you didn’t have money to go to the fair. Unless you snuck in. Don’t do this kids!
Once we got through the entrance, we’d work our way through the barns looking at chickens, cows, and horses. Then we’d grab a malt from the Dairy building. Still my favorite malts on the planet. With malt in hand we’d check out the Princess Kay butter sculptures.
You may be asking ‘What the heck is a butter sculpture?’. Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court get their heads carved into 90 pounds blocks of butter. They have to sit inside a refrigerated, spinning booth while the artist carves it. If you’re lucky, you can see this happening. It’s pretty much one of my favorite fair things. These ladies get to take the butter home when the fair is over. Butter rich! I also like wandering through this building and seeing all the prize winning meat for things like beef sticks. Who doesn’t love a good beef stick?! My husband likes this building because they always have a Duluth Pack stand where he can buy stuff.
Next we’d head up to the International Bazaar where as a teen I got my favorite flannel shirt and sweater ensemble. Prior to leaving for the fair, I had heard that it was going to be a humid day. What I didn’t know was that it could be simultaneously humid and cold. So I froze. Until I picked up this great shirt sweater combo. I wore that crap out of that outfit well into the winter. And got lots of compliments on it. If you need or just want to buy clothes, this area is worth checking out.
We’d go through the Horticulture building looking at plants and flowers then make our way to the Food Building. After getting something to eat we’d head through the 4-H Building, Fine Arts Building, Education Building, etc. Basically all the buildings on the east side of the fair.
We’d eventually end up at Machinery Hill which is where all the farming stuff and cars are. After wandering through there for a while we’d head towards the Grandstand, making a stop at the Penny Arcade. Oh, and grabbing food along the way.
When we’d get to the Grandstand we always looked at organs. Don’t ask me why. I think my sister always wanted to play the piano and this seemed like a good compromise. We never bought an organ.
After the Grandstand we’d head to the old timey town area (which I think is where buses pick you up and drop you off now). We’d wrap up the day in Midway playing games and going on a few rides. Going to the MN State Fair has always been a full day event. My husband loves the fair as much as I do. We go at least once a year. More if we can.
Now let’s talk food! First up, the pizzarito from Green Mill. It’s a mash up of a pizza and a burrito! If you like big, bold flavors you’ll like this. Italian Sausage, pepperoni, risotto, mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce are baked into flour tortilla. But it doesn’t stop there! The tortilla is then coated with garlic butter, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and Italian spices then baked. It’s served to you with a side of marinara sauce for dunking. Slam dunk!
The next dish comes from The Hideaway Speakeasy, which itself is new to the MN State Fair. It’s called Mobster’s Caviar. It’s a crab meat and cream cheese dip loaded with red pepper, water chestnuts, and green onions. It’s served with sliced French bread. If you like crab dip, you’ll want to check this out.
Mancini’s is a Minnesota staple. As a kid my family would celebrate birthday’s there. And for a while, before my sister and I hit our teens and wanted to spend time with our friends and not our parents, we’d go there on a Friday or Saturday night almost weekly. When Mancini’s al Fresco opened at the MN State Fair it just seemed right.
A new sandwich for them this year is the Italian Bomba. It’s loaded with flavor and just the right kick of heat. It’s a grilled ciabatta roll topped with proscuitto cotto ham, beer braised pork shoulder, fontina cheese, aioli, and giadriniera, which is a spicy Italian relish.
A surprise addition was beer gelato! They’re still working on the recipe, but in my book they’ve already nailed it. It’s light and creamy, with a slight banana flavor. Beer gelato is the flavor combo you never knew you needed in your life.
I’ve heard that sweet corn ice cream is delish. I’ve never tried it so I’m naturally skeptical. But let me tell you the Sweet Corn Blueberry Eclair from the Farmers Union Coffee Shop is amazing! It’s a blueberry glazed eclair filled with a sweet corn cream. It’s so good. I’m looking forward to grabbing another one at the fair.
I’ve been a fan of Sara’s Tipsy Pies for a while. I was so excited when she got a stand at the MN State Fair. Not just any stand either. She got a spot in the Food Building. I’ve tried most of her sweet pie flavors. This year she offered a savory flavor called Brown Ale and Onion-Gouda. It’s like French onion soup in a tasty pie. I’m definitely more of a sweet than savory person. But I couldn’t stop eating this pie. Seriously, I finished it all. No pie left behind. Which is hard to do when you’re given six yummy foods to sample.
This is a small subsection of all the new food being offered this year. Get ready\ to get your eating on!
What are your favorite fair foods? Experiences?