Minnesota State Fair – Part 1

What do alligators, cookie dough and Michelle Bachman banana splits have in common?

They all come deep fried at the Minnesota State Fair! The Capers & Co. was at the fair on Saturday sampling some of the many (many!) culinary delicacies offered at the Great Minnesota Get Together. Here’s what to try and what to skip when you take your trip to the mecca of questionable fashion chocies.

Try: Ooey Gooey Cookie Dough on a Stick from Sonnys Spiral Spuds

Be warned, the line for this is LONG. You’ll wait in one line to order, and then hop in another to collect the dough, but it is worth it. This was probably the most popular item at the fair based on wait time and the comments of the frazzled guy working the register. They can’t make it fast enough. If you want fresh, hot, right out of the fryer cookie dough, that is exactly what you will get here.

Ooey and gooey are the perfect words to describe these dough balls wrapped in chewy donut goodness. The firmness of the fried dough on the outside works well with the molten chocolate chip cookie love inside. Oddly enough, the group was split on overall ratings: the ladies LOVED this one while the guys were luke warm, but that didn’t stop them from downing their portion.

I’m not sure it rivaled Sweet Martha’s, but if you’re looking for a different twist on chocolate chip cookies at the fair, this is for you. Be careful though! They may come on a stick, but if you try to hold it like a pronto pup the gooey dough tries to slide right off and you may sprinkle powdered sugar down your front.

Skip: Sweet Corn Ice Cream from the Blue Moon Dine In Theater

I so wanted to like this dish. I had been looking forward to trying this unusual flavor of ice cream all day, but when that first bite hit my tounge it wasn’t as magical as I had hoped.

The ice cream comes with two topping choices, berry topping and a caramel bacon sauce. We chose to have our ice cream nude so we could get a better idea of the true flavor of sweet corn ice cream. The ice cream itself tasted more like Jelly Belly’s buttered popcorn flavored jelly beans and came topped with dried corn kernels which gave a nice salty accompaniment to the overly sweet ice cream, but had an unpleasant texture if you had too big a kernel.

If you love the jelly bean flavor then this is for you, but if you’re looking for some good frozen treats you’d be better off at Custard’s Last Stand (my personal favorite) or grabbing a milkshake.

Try: Deep Fried Mac & Cheese from Axel’s

I was really skeptical about this one, but it was offered to me and what sort of food writer would I be if I turned it down? Really, the things I do for you readers.

That said, once I tried it, I really liked it. The mac and cheese itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but the fried outer layer had a wonderful crunch that added a lot to the flavor and texture of this. If you’re looking for a fried cheese dish at the fair, this would be a great alternative to the Mouse Trap cheese curds which are delicious, but a bit greasy and salty to eat comfortably in one sitting.

Try: Risotto Poppers from the French Meadow Cafe & Bakery

These were amazing. Go get them. Get serveral orders, you can definitely eat mulitples. The risotto is a garlicy, mushroom risotto and the cheese isn’t too sharp which is an issues I have with some risottos. Again it’s fried, but with a crunchy outer layer similar to the mac and cheese. It comes with marinara dipping sauce (so you can pretend to get some veggeis) and the acidity of the tomatoes is really nice with the sweetness of the risotto and the crunch of fried layer.

Try: Walleye Cakes from Giggles’ Campfire Grill

If you’re looking for seafood at the fair, this is the place to go. The walleye was moist, flaky, and enveloped in the crunchy variety of fried outer layers. There are some wonderful flavors in these cakes, none of them fishy, which come from their combination of spices and a side dipping sauce that is a little reminiscent of a southwestern ranch dressing.

Try: Fresh Peach Stuffed Scone with Sweet Cream Cheese Topping from the French Meadow Cafe & Bakery

My friend Lisa loved this. She said she would choose this as her last meal, it was that good. It might not be the only thing at my last meal, but it would definitely make a wonderful fourth course. The peaches are fresh and not the sugary pie filling some bakeries try to pass off as fruit. This was a peach that was probably peeled and sliced that morning stuffed into a more savory than sweet scone and topped with a cream cheese glaze. The savory nature of the scone was wonderful with the sweet peaches and tangy cream cheese to make a favor combination that could only be described (again by Lisa) as wholesome. This is probably the most wholesome food at the fair. It’s freshly baked (you can watch the bakers at work while you wait), isn’t fried and isn’t a sugar overload. Together with the risotto poppers, this scone was enough to convince us that a post-fair lunch date at the French Meadow Cafe & Bakery was a must!

Skip: Korean BBQ tacos from the Blue Moon Dine In Theater

These tacos come in pairs and you can choose from pork, chicken or both! I opted to try one of each, and was sadly disappointed. The chicken wasn’t bad, it had a nice heat to it, and the crunch of the sweet corn and other veggies inside was a nice change from the fried foods I’d had earlier, but the pork was horribly salty. I had one bite before I passed off the rest to my fellow tasters, with the majority favoring the more flavorful chicken over the more spicy pork. I’d skip this one unless you’re really looking for some salt and spice.

Try: Northwoods Salad on a Stick from Giggles’ Campfire Grill

Contrary to the name, this salad isn’t completely on a stick. A bed of lettuce is served in a boat (like you would get a hot dog in) and topped with an amazing bright and fresh wild rice salad with slivered almonds, dried cranberries and a creamy (but not too mayo-heavy) dressing.

The stick part comes in with three mini skewers of tomato, basil and mozzerella that top the salad and are drizzled with balsalmic vinegar. The bite of the tomatoes and the balsalmic vinegar work really well with the sweetness of the wild rice salad. The entire dish might not make sense as a whole, but it is incredibly delicious and fills you up without weighing you down in fried dough.

Giggles, if you’re reading this, you should seriously consider selling your wild rice salad à la carte because I could eat that year round!

Try: Spinach and Artichoke Pizza from the Blue Moon Dine In Theater

This was very refreshing pizza. We had this later in the evening after our mountain of fried goodies that afternoon and it was a great choice is you’re looking for something filling, but not heavy. Served “by the slice” the pizza is asymetrically formed and large enough to be a stand alone meal. The crust is very thin and very crispy, more like a cracker than a true thin crust, and the spinach and artichoke topping isn’t overy cheesy or heavy on the mayo. It’s sprinkled with tomatoes which are great as a juciy compliment to the crispy crust, and to top it all off the Blue Moon is a great place to rest your sore feet while you watch old black and white movies shown on a projector! I loved the ambiance and this pizza, so check out the Blue Moon Dine In Theater if you haven’t yet!

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