If you are a state fair enthusiast (yes, they exist), then the Minnesota State Fair is definitely on your bucket list. The Minnesota State Fair has the largest average daily attendance of a state fair in the US, and surpassed in overall annual attendance by the Texas State Fair. The big draws each year are the top-name entertainment, one of the largest independent ride midways and – of course – the unique food items offered by the 300 food vendors dotted across the fairgrounds.
The 2015 fair will be held August 27th through September 7th, and the fair organizers recently released a list of the 40 new foods to be offered. The list is diverse, and far outreaches the cliched list of ‘things you thought couldn’t be fried but are fried anyway.’ They range from the simple twist of the “Burger Dog” to the well thought out delicacy of Walleye Stuffed Mushroom. Dessert is not forgotten either, with 11 new treats including the intriguing BBQ Pickle Ice Cream. We’ve weighed through the official list, and picked out some of our favorites as we try and convince management to sponsor a trip to Minneapolis.
Minnesota does a good job of balancing fair food with interesting food that you don’t want to just try, but actually eat and enjoy. Many of the vendors are local restaurants who serve great food year round. One of the dishes that have our mouth watering already is Cowboy Dave’s Cluck & Moo from The Blue Barn. The all-in-one meal has smashed potatoes, roasted beef and grilled chicken covered with beef gravy, crispy onions and mustard BBQ sauce. The Minnesota Wild Rice Benedict Muffin combines a wild rice English muffin cup with sliced ham and a softcooked egg, covered with hollandaise sauce. LuLu’s Public House offers this delicious-sounding breakfast sandwich.
Looking to go upscale at the fair? It sounds like Coaster’s has a hit with their Prime Rib to Go. It is described as thinly sliced choice prime rib with sautéed peppers, onions and mushrooms (optional) nestled in a soft bread cone with a side of au jus, horseradish or Parmesan garlic sauce. Walleye Stuffed Mushrooms from Giggles’ Campfire Grill is just that – jumbo mushroom caps stuffed with a flavored cream cheese spread, walleye, three cheeses, red pepper, panko breadcrumbs and a special sauce. Another ‘slightly tipsy’ selection is the Wine Fried Kalettes from Minnesota Wine Country. They took healthy kale and fried it in a batter featuring local wine. It’s served with a sweet Thai chili sauce.
Shanghaied Henri’s International Tacos brings several world-view variations of the taco to the fair this year, ranging from Korea to Norway. Their Korean Bar-B-Q Beef Taco is marinated beef glazed with spicy soy honey, layered with kimchi, topped with crispy rice noodles and served on two flour tortillas. The Oslo Taco features seared braised, peppercorn-rubbed pork, layered with Norwegian Jarlsburg cheese, pickled cabbage slaw, red onion, apple-smoked bacon and lingonberry relish sour cream, topped with pork cracklins and served on two flour tortillas. The local St. Paul Taco has braised beef brisket simmered in Summit Villain beer served on two flour tortillas with caramelized onions, cabbage slaw, horseradish sour cream and apple-smoked bacon bits. Finally, the Yucatan Taco has seasoned chicken chorizo braised in tequila and red wine vinegar served with green cabbage carrot slaw, queso fresco, pickled red onion and cilantro sour cream on two flour tortillas.
Can’t Get Away from the Clichés
As hot trends, Bacon and Sriracha inspired dishes continue to be introduced at fairs across the US. A couple of vendors at the Minnesota State Fair are still trapped under these clichés, as evidenced by Sausage Sister & Me’s Sriracha Sliders. They feature meatballs with a Monterey Jack cheese center, on a crusty slider bun with Sister’s own Sweet ‘n’ Hot Sriracha Sauce. Other Sriracha clichés include the Sriracha Dog and Sriracha Balls with your choice of fillings: a blend of shredded chicken, corn, tomatoes, egg and Sriracha; or Sriracha cream cheese with corn, tomatoes and egg.
This fair was one of the first to introduce the public to Chocolate Covered Bacon, and that tradition continues this year with a Maple Bacon Funnel Cake from a vendor aptly named Funnel Cakes. It is described as a funnel cake infused with bacon pieces, then topped with sweet maple glaze and sprinkled with more bacon. For the even sweeter tooth, Pat’s Place offers a Caramel Chocolate-Dipped Bacon Ice Cream Bar.
You may call the five new flavors of SPAM® Burgers a fair clichés, but Hormel Foods is based in Minnesota. Still, this year you can choose from Jalapeño, Hot & Spicy, Bacon, Hickory Smoke or Black Pepper at the SPAM® Burgers booth.
Finally, we can’t ignore the obligatory fried food entry – Ball Park Cafe’s Deep Fried Ribs which are smoked baby back ribs, breaded, fried and served with BBQ sauce.
Or beginnings, depending on your appetite. There are 11 new frozen treats this year. They range from the Doo Wop Dip (strawberry ice cream and real strawberries in a croissant, dipped in chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate) from the West End Creamery to Fire and Ice Kreme (soft serve vanilla ice cream with a Sriracha sauce and corn chip crunch, all topped with whipped cream) available at Goertze’s Dairy Kone.
From the ‘it says salad, so it must be healthy’ department is Grandma Deb’s Snicker Bar Salad. The “salad” includes chopped Snickers® bars and Granny Smith apples tossed in vanilla pudding with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce and is available from The Blue Barn. Finally, The Pizza Shoppe introduces Italian Dessert Nachos with cinnamon sugar cannoli chips smothered with sweet ricotta cheese filling, fruit, chocolate, nuts and candy toppings.
Of course, we had to ask our resident ‘I’ll eat anything’ foodie into the conversation. His go-to items on the list included the Hot Tail, described as a “roasted pig tail coated in a scallion ginger sauce.” It is the culinary invention of The Rabbit Hole, a Koreatown-style Bar and Restaurant in Minneapolis. Sara’s Tipsy Pies also caught his eye, especially the Irish Apple pie made with 2GINGERS® Irish whiskey. Sara has been making pies with her ‘secret ingredient’ (Hint, it is local alcohol) since 2011 and is taking them to the fair for the first time this year.
On the flipside, Cody joined the chorus of puzzled gasps at the description of BBQ Pickle Ice Cream. The concoction from R&R Ice Cream is described as vanilla ice cream infused with a light BBQ sauce and diced pickles.
Create Your Own Food Creations Using Central Equipment
Many of the vendors at the Minnesota State Fair are local restaurants just like yours. They are using the fair to not only show their culinary creative side, but also attract some new business. When you are looking to invest in new equipment, turn to Central Restaurant for answers. Our highly-skilled Product Consultants are here to help you find the right equipment for your task, whether it is figuring out new weird flavors to add to ice cream or perfecting the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors in a sandwich. Give one a call at 800-215-9293, start an online chat or order online from our website at CentralRestaurant.com!