Sunday, September 2, 2018

Eating Our Way Through the Minnesota State Fair, 2018

Yesterday was our annual Minnesota State Fair Eat-Fest. Although I feel as if someone poured an entire salt shaker into my veins, I'm also filled with happy memories of a Fair properly conquered. Here's a rundown of what we ate:

1. Corn & Blue Cheese "Fritz" from the Blue Barn
In case you are dense like I was, "fritz" are "fritters." These were nicely fried and served with a tangy chimichurri sauce. We liked them, but I didn't think them particularly blue cheese-y or even particularly corn-y tasting. Plus, we were so crushed that the Blue Barn didn't bring back its amazing Truffled Trotters from last year. B+.

blue cheese & corn fritz

2. Fried Olives
These are one of my sister-in-law's favorites every year, and for good reason. They're stuffed with cream cheese and then deep fried, apparently right on the stick, and served with ranch dressing. Good stuff. A-.

fried cream cheese stuffed olives

3. Flavored Fried Cheese Curds from Miller's Flavored Curds
Flavored cheese curds were a new item (at least to us) last year. We liked them enough to pay them a repeat visit. Last year, we got a sampler of all four flavors (plain, jalapeno, garlic, and ranch); this year, we stuck with our favorite from last year, the garlic. A-.

garlic cheese curds

4. Grilled Peaches with Herbed Goat Cheese from the Produce Exchange
Our favorite new item from the fair this year, the grilled peaches with herbed goat cheese were a much-needed palate cleanser after the initial barrage of fried everything. The peaches were huge and juicy and sweet, and the grilling process accentuated the peachy flavor. The herbed goat cheese gave it a savory component that was just right with the peaches. Aggressively priced at $9 for about 3/5 of a peach, but all the concessions at the State Fair are overpriced, so we let it slide. A.

grilled peaches w herbed goat cheese

5. Birchwood Heirloom Tomato Sweet Corn BLT from the Farmer's Union Coffee Shop
In a surprising departure from tradition, our choices this year seemed to pay a little more homage than usual to the farmers at the Fair. They came through in this BLT - the tomatoes were thickly sliced and full of flavor - like the homegrown tomatoes of my childhood (I haven't been able to master tomato growing in Texas). We asked them to halve our sandwich to make it easier to share, so it's not that photogenic and was much messier than it probably would have been otherwise, but it still tasted great. A-.

BLT w corn

6. Wood Grilled Elotes from Tejas Express
This was on many of the critics' favorites lists, and it probably would have been higher on mine if I didn't live in Texas and have access to so many outstanding examples of elotes on a regular basis. This version had a nice char from the grill and was seasoned well, but they were way too skimpy with the cheese (cotija, I think), and the kernels on this corn were less plump than the ones at the regular corn stand. B+.


7. Poutine from Duke's
After TacoCat crushed our loaded fry dreams by closing for good a few days before we arrived, we ended up getting poutine at Duke's. I was really impressed that they were cutting their fries from fresh potatoes right there in the booth, but the end result wasn't as compelling as I'd hoped. My brother pointed out that the gravy tasted like the gravy on KFC's mashed potatoes, and he was spot on. Also, these would have been better served in a boat and with smaller bits of cheese curd so you got more curd in every bite. B.


8. Cheddar Cheese Curds from The Big Cheese
My sister-in-law says these are the best fried curds at the Fair. I have not conducted an exhaustive search myself, but these are excellent. They retain a little more of that squeaky-on-your-teeth texture specific to curds, so you know you're eating the real thing. A.

cheddar cheese curds

9. Tom Thumb Donuts
Tom Thumb Donuts are one of my must-stops every year. You can watch your doughnuts being flipped out of the fryer before being doused in cinnamon sugar and put into your bag, piping hot. Perfectly pillowy with a fresh cinnamon flavor, $5 for a bag of 16. You can't go wrong. A+.

Tom Thumb donuts

10. Sweet Martha's Cookies
These are on my sister-in-law's list every year. It's an absolute gauntlet to get to them, involving probably a good thirty minutes in line. I personally find them way too sweet, but they're at least charmingly warm when you get them, and the sheer volume at which they turn these out is nothing short of astounding. Sweet Martha's grossed $4.3 million in 12 days at the Fair last year, so I am apparently the only person in the universe who isn't in love with them. B.

Sweet Martha's

Thus concludes our annual trek to enjoy all the food the Fair has to offer. My step tracker says I walked 12,221 steps yesterday; I'm hoping that takes care of at least a fried curd or two!


Have you been to the Minnesota State Fair? What are your favorite Fair foods?


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