It is that time of year, when the thought of anything on a stick under the scorching hot sun at the state fair makes mid-westerners salivate. The Minnesota State Fair is the 3rd largest in the US, and the first state fair I have attended. My first visit was 7 or 8 years ago. My previous experience to these had only been the small county fair in my hometown. This was insane, the MN fair averages around 100,000 – 200,000 a day and over a million over the 12 day period it is open. This year with so much of my focus on food and cooking, I was very determined to go this year. Not only because it has been 2 years since our last visit, but because I wanted to try some of the new and old favorites.
One of my first go to favorites is the grilled pork chop on a stick. Lightly seasoned and smokey, it is just grilled to perfection, and it’s happiness on a stick. The reason this is one of my favorites is because the problem with not owning a home is no back yard BBQ. Just look at the grill marks, and it’s shiny and… great now I am totally craving this. I ended up breaking our “share everything” rule on the first item. I broke off about a 1/3 handed to my husband and started eating the rest. When he tried to take more I threatened to bite off a finger. I really like these.
After walking around talking and looking at all the vendors in the buildings selling everything from a mix for Wine Slushies to pulled sheep wool ear muffs, that I bet itch like a bastard, we went to go watch the cooking demonstration in one of the actives building. It was being hosted by local bakery St. Agnes Baking Company with the CEO Chef Klecko. The demo we ended up catching was with John Michael Lerma who some may or may not know from the Food Network. He was making pretzels, one of my favorite starchy foods, but also one of my most feared bread item. It isn’t because of anything other then you have to boil them before you bake, and as much as I really want to make them my poor little kitchen just won’t work out. Maybe one day, I did absorb every little bit of information possible but being me, I was WAY too shy to go up and say hello to either Chef when the demo was over. I just walked up took my little bookmark with his web info on it and giddily geeked out as we made our way to the pretzel place, because after that a big soft pretzel with mustard and or cheese sounded too good to wait. A pretzel is my second required item from the fair. Everyone has their ‘must have’ list. Mine is simple, a pretzel and a pork chop. Other then that I can go with or with out everything else.
A corndog is not a must for me but is for my husband, and since watching the Las Vegas episode of No Reservations the deep fried twinkie was also added to his “must have” list. Anthony Bourdain says “it’s wrong that it’s actually good” and really it was. It is a twinkie, dipped in a sweet batter then deep fried, then chocolate sauce on top with powdered/frosting sugar dusted on top. I had a bite, ok I had two. It tasted very light, and only slightly sweet. It really was wrong that it actually tasted good. I wouldn’t have it again, but was just really a strange thing. After a lot of walking around we went and played some games and won some over priced stuff toys made cheaply but as always it’s still fun. To end the day as every trip to the fair Frank likes to get a cream puff with chocolate cream.
This had to be the most disappointing item of the fair despite the looks of it. The choux was soft and soggy, and the chocolate cream was too sweet and tasted nothing like it had any bit of chocolate in it, other then for color. I have it on my list to make him some to make up for this horrible disappointing ending to our otherwise fun and great day. On the way home, we were relaxing on the shuttle bus, and heard everyone talking about the food, how much they spent. It made me think of watching No Reservations and how Anthony Bourdain is always saying how the states need good street food. I never really thought about it but after the fair trip, talking to people at work, and listening to people who save hundreds of dollars to spend just on the food for this one day exactly how right he is.
The average MN state fair visitor spends 60-80 just on food and drinks, figure 10% of that is on a single bottle of water sometimes… it’s freaking water! Why is it $5 for a bottle? Anyways, I just feel now I can see how the statement is true. The fairs and festivals are proof. All summer long in good weather if you’re from Seattle or Boston, they are packed with people and every line for food is longer then the next. I don’t see it happening any time soon, but I do miss the trips to mexico when I was younger with my Aunt Inez and the street taco carts selling the best damn tacos’ you could ever have with fresh salsas and amazingly tender meat. It holds us back as americans from experiencing something amazing, and unique. Things in the states won’t change to adapt to the popularity of street food you see in other countries any time soon, so for now we have our fairs and festivals. So my friends, eat well, eat good, and eat something new and different, step away from your comfort zone and explore and be adventurous. Every bite is an experience good or bad.