Best New Minnesota State Fair Foods
This year, Minnesota State Fair vendors have introduced about 40 new foods. Even if you wear your elastic-waistband pants, you're not going to be able to sample 'em all, so you'll need to narrow your list. So cross off the ones you can find at non-fair restaurants (cranberry wontons, sushi, poutine, cannoli) and "stick" to the ones you can only get once a year.
Here are my picks of five new 2012 Minnesota State Fair foods worth checking out:
Cereal Killer Ice Cream
($5, at the Blue Moon Dine-in Theater, on the corner of Chambers and Carnes)
It's the quintessential indulgent fair breakfast: cereal in ice cream form! About five years ago, New York's famed Momofuku Milk Bar introduced cereal milk ice cream, and the Minnesota State Fair is now catching up on the trend via the folks that brought us last year's delicious sweet corn ice cream. The new soft serve comes in two flavors, Cocoa Puffs or Honey Nut Cheerios, with cereal topping that adds a nice textural crunch. Honey Nut tasted exactly like I remembered it from childhood—super sweet and slightly oat-y—except in a silky, frozen form. Just don't let it melt and leave you with actual cereal milk, which isn't nearly as good!
($6, at French Meadow Bakery, on Carnes between Nelson and Underwood)
These piping-hot nuggets bear less resemblance to Italian risotto than a cheesy Mexican beans and rice, but no matter. The tapioca-flour-and-corn-chip shell makes for a delicate and crisp crust, and the spicy seasoning adds a robust kick. Consider these your moderately healthier alternative to cheese curds.
($5, at Green Mill, west of the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park)
These are a bit of a stretch, because nothing involving American cheese should ever really make a "best" list, but given our state's Juicy Lucy heritage, the cheeseburger sticks shouldn't be overlooked. They're basically burgers-as-Hot-Pockets: ground beef, American cheese, and pickles wrapped in pizza dough. But do not, under any circumstance, dip your cheeseburger stick in the accompanying cup of marinara sauce—or order Green Mill's icky, also-new carb-on-carb spaghetti sticks.
Spaghetti Eddie's Super Stick
($6, at Spaghetti Eddie's, on the corner of Dan Patch and Cooper)
Last year Green Mill offered pizza-on-a-stick (three small pizza rolls on a skewer). This year Spaghetti Eddie's brings us a new version of the concept. Think of it as a pepperoni-and-cheese kebab that's dipped in a garlicy batter and deep fried, to be dunked in pizza sauce that comes on the side. (Just be sure not to sit on the bench where I took this photo, because the stick was so greasy it leaked through the paper.)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Puppies
($5, at Granny's Kitchen Fudge Puppies, on the outside of the Food Building's west wall)
Consider this dessert, or, on a fair day, a decadent waffle breakfast. The waffle is studded with bits of peanut butter cups and baked onto a stick, then dipped in a decent-quality dark chocolate, topped with whipped cream and peanut sauce. If you think you want a deep-fried candy bar, try this instead and your stomach will thank you—it's not nearly as sickly sweet. The pb & chocolate puppy was my favorite food of the day: even knowing I was facing an onslaught of fried-food eating, I couldn't help but polish off the whole thing!
**If you're at the fair this Saturday, I'll be joining The Splendid Table's Lynne Rossetto Kasper at noon to talk more about fair food and other summertime eating, including farmers' markets and grilling. Lynne will be signing copies of her new book, A Summertime Grilling Guide, which features of-the-moment recipes like this delicious Yankee Tomato Salad (PDF).