Alas, the bell tolls for another summer. I don't care how warm September can be, or that the autumnal equinox is on the 20th, once the fireworks finish on the last day of the Minnesota State Fair, the summer is over.
The fun part of these final measures of warmth is that the Fair offers us some of the most interesting and most comforting food of the year. Interesting because there are combinations that we would normally never eat, and comforting because so much of the Fair is based around tradition. I was able to go this first day and try out some of our favorites along with some new entries in the company of a celebrity cookbook author. Our goal was to decipher whether the Fair's food was actually good or just something we get every year because it comforts us to know it's still there. I did most of the eating, as is my wont, and my friend provided the perspective.
So here are our results with a little letter grade to coincide with the start of school.
Apple Cider Freezies, $1 Horticulture Building. Grade A
Still the best value and one of the healthiest snacks one can get.
Fresh French Fries, $4.75 for a small, across from the Dairy Building - Grade A
As we approached the French Fry Stand, my friend asked if the fries here were really good or was this just one of those traditional things Minnesotans eat every year. After the very first fry, we both agreed, tradition has nothing to do with it, these fries are good. There's a very fresh flavor to these chips as the English would call them. I had mine with malt vinegar and my friend dipped hers in ketchup. If your arteries can take it, make sure to get some of these.
French Fry Covered Hotdogs. $6 - Blue Moon Cafe. Grade - C
While this has gotten a lot of media attention, it was a big disappointment. The french fries were like a carpet that was wrapped around the dog. It was hard and a little tough to eat. Neither of us took more than a bite nor would we get it again. The theatre seating and the Gilligan's Island reruns were a fun touch though.
Deep Fried Candy Bar. $5 Across from the Republican Building. Grade - A minus
These have been around for quite a while but I had never had one. But I have to admit while the first bite was only OK, it really grew on me and I wanted to eat more. We tried the deep fried Snickers bar and there was nothing not to like. Warm, crunchy, salty and sweet. Stay away from these, they are really good.
Chocolate Covered Bacon, $5 - Famous Dave's next to Sweet Martha's Cookies. Grade - B
I tried these last year and was pretty sure I wouldn't get them again. But as we were doing a tour of the food we felt compelled to give them a second try. I felt they were improved significantly from last year with more salt to balance the sweetness. The chocolate tasted better and was less waxy than 2008's version. We were getting pretty full or I might have had more. But still nothing worth a return trip. (then again, I said that last year.)
Scotch Egg, $6 - right in front of the Rabbit Building. Grade A minus
This sausage covered Deep Fried egg is one of our perennial favorites. With the various sauces like Horseradish and Honey Mustard, there's a lot to like with this pricey but meaty treat.
Pronto Pup, $4 - Various Locations Grade B+
(no photo available, we ate it too fast)
It was great to have an outsider's take on the Pronto Pup. My multi year love affair with the Great Minnesota Eat Together has come at the cost of my ability to have perspective on the stick mounted treat's actual taste. My friend liked it and even mentioned it later in the evening as a good thing. It was the only thing we finished that night. Yummy goodness on a stick.
The Mouth Trap Cheese Curds. $5, Food Building. Grade A
I'm not the the biggest curd fan, but am open to the fact that people like them. The Mouth Trap is known as the best place for the yearly treat and this year was no exception. They were hot, crunchy, salty and good. Even Cookbook Writing Californians like them.
Malts from the Dairy Building. Grade B minus
Going to the fair and not getting a malt from the Dairy Building would be like not going to the fair at all. Or so I thought. Tonight we got both a pineapple malt and an apple and caramel malt. My guest thought they were more like sundaes than shakes and were probably more a byproduct of tradition than actual good taste. I had to agree. Try the shakes down by the cows.
Deep Fried Pickles filled with Cream Cheese and Ranch Dressing $6 - Food Building - Grade A
I do not like pickles, never have, never will. But somehow these little sandwiches of goodness, sourness and saltiness have won me over. They were hot with just the right amount of cream cheese in the middle. I ate one more than I would have liked but still felt good about myself. These are surprisingly good.
We also checked out the Nachos on a Stick from Axel's but couldn't pull the trigger. It just seemed like they were trying a little too hard. The casher had trouble even describing what the dish entailed. If someone else tries them, let me know and if you have any other favorites, put them in the comments.
Summer, 9 days left, and ticking.