I look forward to going to the Minnesota State Fair like I look forward to Christmas. Possibly more.
Like many other Minnesotans, I grew up making my annual pilgrimage to this Great Minnesota Get-Together.
The fair reminds me of an old high school romance who took me to ride the Sky Ride cable cars and read me a poem asking me to be his girlfriend. It rhymed and was illustrated with stick-figure depictions of us holding hands. The fair brings to mind my first taste of cheese curds. And it makes me think of my mom’s last visit to the fair, during her last summer on earth. She managed to rally for an hour, so we could push her around in a wheelchair and collect some of her favorite foods. These usually included a cream puff, skin-on french fries, a pronto pup, and cheese curds, of course.
For years, my running favorite treat were Australian Battered Potatoes doused in both ranch and cheese sauces. One year, my mom and I ended a fair outing with these potato planks which inundated us with enough grease to result in horrible stomach aches. I remember curling up in bed and praying for daylight. And thus, I never ate Australian Battered Potatoes again.
As an adult, my visits to the fair are brief, but no less anticipated. The crowds and the heat drive me batty. Now that we live out of town, a weeknight jaunt was no longer an option so we gritted our teeth and visited on the last Saturday of this year’s run. The day was hot and the sun relentlessly beat down on us as we ran between un-air conditioned buildings and scouted for spots of sidewalk shade. We bumped into the people who randomly stopped mid-step, avoided collisions with massive strollers, and waited in lines for bathrooms.
During our 2012 State Fair visit, we shared a couple of old favorites and a few new foods, referencing Heavy Table’s definitive 2012 MN State Fair Food Tour.
By 10 a.m. we had already laid a base of coffee within our stomachs and added $5 cheese curds from the Mouth Trap in the food building.
I’ve had the curds from the Mouth Trap and I’ve had curds from the stand on Dan Patch. Personally, I choose to just go to the Mouth Trap. There’s nothing significant that I can add to the MN State Fair cheese curd conversation so I will end by saying I like these. I always like these, and I don’t visit the state fair without these.
Next, we stopped at Sausage Sisters & Me, a vendor also located in the food building. I have never visited them before, but read many positive reviews of their Great Balls Of Fire, $5.50, a new offering.
These meatballs were by and far, the best thing we tasted at the 2012 fair, if not at any fair. They were notably juicy and compellingly spiced. Not quite like traditional sausage, not quite like jerk, and pleasantly spicy. They brought to mind Spoonriver’s flavorful lamb burger. My Sausage Sister & Me offers a variety of squirt bottles of sauces. We chose the creamy cucumber sauce which jived well with the strong flavors.
We tried another frequently mentioned new food, Famous Dave’s Ragin’ Ankles, $6.
The pork was tender and moist, and easily fell off the bone. They were fatty in a pleasant way and we enjoyed the sauce which was slightly spicy and sweet without being too sweet. Overall, we enjoyed the BBQ ankles, but thought the Great Balls of Fire were better. I wished the ankles had a little crust or crunchiness.
Saturday’s beverage breaks included Lift Bridge’s Hop Dish, $4.50, from the Ballpark Cafe. Jake thought Hop Dish tasted a lot like Bell’s elusive Hopslam, his favorite beer, adding that it had a “similar start with a smoother finish.” He enjoyed it so much that he tried to find it in the stores that evening only to learn it’s not available, yet, in bottles.
We shared a refreshingly cold Black Cherry Soda, $3, from the Spring Grove Soda Pop stand. We both thought it was pretty tasty with no complaints. I was satisfied with a few sips since it was so sweet my lips were sticky.
The third new food we tried was a cannoli from Ole’s Cannoli. Cannoli’s happen to be one of Jake’s favorite desserts.
Jake ordered a plain cannoli with its ends dipped in chocolate chips, $4.50. The cannoli was generously sized. Its shell was crispy and the filling was thick and slightly tart, reminding me of cheesecake. Jake had no complaints. As an individual who doesn’t routinely seek out desserts, I found two bites enough. I have a low threshold for desserts that are rich and sweet.
My last bite at the fair was a fried onion blossom. Ever since Fargo’s Ribfest debacle in June, I’ve had a hankering for an onion blossom. I forked over $8 for this large monstrosity.
The batter was crispy in a mouth-puncturing way and tasted like it was seasoned with nothing in particular. The ranch dip tasted cheap and at least one, heaping tablespoon of grease pooled on the bottom of the plate. The only redeeming qualities of this onion blossom were that it was fried, the onion was tender and sweet, and it wasn’t the $1 shrimp cocktail.
And with this terrible onion, our brief 2012 Minnesota State Fair visit came to a close with little nausea, stomach discomfort, or ailment that couldn’t be cured with a good nap.
Hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate next summer with both the North Dakota and Minnesota State Fairs.