Terrible news, everybody: The Minnesota State Fair shuts down after Monday, September 3.
That means just four more days to drink in the intoxicating, uniquely Minnesotan swirl of livestock, crop art, butter sculptures, farm machinery, and, of course, indulgent face-stuffables. When the fair opened, we brought you reviews of all the new foods, each slotted into our highly scientific categories: Skip, Shrug, and Scarf!
But there's no time for duds now. Below, for expediency's sake, you'll find all our certified Scarf! selections (plus the borderline PB&J Sausage, because ya gotta hit 10).
Read up, chow down, then check off the days until 2019's Minnesota State Fair.
Smoked Soft Serve Ice Cream
Cold-smoked cream available in two flavors: Cold Brew Coffee infused with cold-smoked Arabica beans or Muscovado Sugar Vanilla. At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, $7-8
This. This is what you need for breakfast. Why waste time surviving two lines and finding a snack and a caffeine wake-up, separately, when both desires are met so sweetly in this little cup? A swirl of unremarkable-looking ice cream is wedded with a thin Oreo and just-charred marshmallow on a stick, cute accompaniments there to remind you you’re swooning for this dish at a state fair. Without them, you’d mistake this for your send-off at a diner you dream about. One piled-up serving size is probably big enough to share, but don’t sell your sweet tooth short.
Sweet Greek Cheese Puffs
Flaky phyllo dough filled with feta and ricotta cheese, deep-fried, drizzled with honey and topped with powdered sugar. At Dino’s Gyros, $5
Based on looks, it would be easy to assume that these golden, honey-drenched pastries take their inspiration from baklava. In actuality, the Sweet Greek Cheese Puffs are closer to a dessert version of a cream cheese wonton... in that the feta and ricotta filling tastes just like cream cheese. But the phyllo dough is exactly how it should be: flaky, buttery, light, and not so delicate that it breaks down in your hands.The drizzle of honey on top is worthless; you’ll want to submerge your phyllo in the sweet nectar pooling at the bottom of the cardboard serving dish. This treat also gets points for not being overwhelmingly sweet, something baklava isn't exactly known for.
Fresh-made waffle wraps in seven sweet and savory varieties. At Nordic Waffles, Prices Vary
You know how Ikea is only sometimes worth the insanity? Even when you score a great deal? Nordic Waffles is the State Fair’s Ikea. In both the savory and sweet varieties we tried, the waffles sported crisp edges with an overall chewy, crepe-like texture befitting their role as contents-wranglers. The “Slammin Salmon on a Stick” ($10) is delicious and shockingly generous in its smoked-salmon-to-cream-cheese ratio, even if the actual waffle-on-a-stick felt more cumbersome than effective. On the sweet side, the “S’more” ($7) was sweet but unexpectedly finishable, owing to a pleasant balance between its Nutella, marshmallow creme, and crunch graham guts. Now, consider that it took a half-hour to navigate their line… at 10 a.m. Only you can decide for yourself if, at the end of that wait, a waffle will end up making you a crabbier or happier person.
Rainbow Cloud Roll
Three scoops of ice cream (Superman, vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate) sprinkled with fruity cereal and wrapped in a pillow of cotton candy. Hand-rolled on-site. At Rainbow Ice Cream, $8
When we ordered the rainbow cloud roll, the cashier encouraged us to photograph the process and post it to Instagram. It was good advice—the rainbow roll is an utterly fascinating creation. Two people stopped us on the walk from the stand to the table where we ate it, marveling at the kaleidoscopic Lisa Frank burrito. The flavor did not disappoint, either: As you bite through the pillowy layer of cotton candy, the sugar crystallizes, crunching right along with the Fruity Pebbles surrounding the filling. Do yourself a favor and get it with the Superman rainbow sherbert. Absolutely delightful and tons of fun.
Zesty PB&J Sausage
Peanut butter, cherry jelly, and a hint of cayenne pepper and cilantro blended into a quarter-pound sausage. At Gass Station Grill, $6
We thought melding sausage and a childrens’ lunch sandwich could only go two ways: Either dazzle us by pulling a perfect culinary rabbit out of a hat, or provide (the expected) gross schadenfreude by way of ground meat pulsating with peanut butter, cherries, and spices. Unfortunately, Gass Station Grill made a lovely, kinda-spicy sausage that, were we none the wiser, we’d never know sounded like a nightmare on paper. Would we eat it again? Absolutely. Is it being docked a bunch of points for breaking the most basic rule of all (“be what you say you are”)? You betcha. Weird sausage not as billed.
Black forest cake, birthday cake, or chocolate peanut butter cake, baked in a cup packed with Sassy Pecan toffee bits and served warm, topped with real whipping cream and more toffee bits. At Sweetie Cakes, $7
Cakey nirvana. Served hot from the oven, the Sweetie Cake is an avalanche of deliciousness. We tried the chocolate peanut butter variety, a cup full of pillowy cake swirling with molten chocolate and PB. Flavor-wise, it’s a Butterfinger bar. Texturally, it’s a heavenly romp through all things crumbly, gooey, and whipped. There was no line when we arrived, but expect that to change in a major way.
UpNorth Puff Pasty
Porketta sausage, cheese curds, coarse grain mustard, and chopped dill pickle baked in a puffy crust sprinkled with pepper and sea salt. At Sausage Sister & Me, $8
Everything’s perfect outside, a flaky hot crust asking to be pulled apart and dragged through spicy, creamy, or peanut-y sauces. The “porketta” inside doesn’t live up to Iron Range bragging about that lauded meatstuff, and some short-order thief must have absconded with our promised “cheese curds.” Still, there’s a bit of magic here: A crunchy pickle two layers down inside a crunchy crust? An English drunkard’s walk-around meal repackaged as a dainty French-ified dough carriage? We, too, have layers, puffy pasty, and we’ll fall for this one when it, and its eater, are appropriately sauced.
Mangonada Shave Ice
Mango-flavored shave ice drizzled with Mexican chamoy sauce, dusted with tajin chili powder, topped with popping mango boba pearls and served with a tamarind candy straw. At Minnesnowii Shave Ice $6
This, folks, is the ultimate fair refreshment on a steamy day. Expertly spiced and popping with color, the mountain of fluffy ice sneaks subtle mango flavor throughout and has a sweetness that deliciously intermingles with the kick of chamoy and chili. Those generously sprinkled boba balls? They pop triumphant, just like sugary caviar. The mad flavor scientists behind this treat, armed with the knowledge that ice melts, even incorporated a tamarind-encrusted straw. Genius! Big enough for two, it’s a thriftily delightful dessert.
Corn on-the-cob grilled over an oak wood fire, brushed with chile-spiced mayo and sprinkled with queso Cotija and fresh lime juice. At Tejas Express, $5
For all you basic corn gobblers out there not looking for saucy kernel action, the vanilla (read: butter only) corn stand is located on Nelson Street. For everyone else favoring bonus flavor, your new ticket to happiness is the wood-grilled elote. Thanks to a blanket of a chile mayo (smokier than it is spicy), a healthy dose of lime, plus just enough salty cotija cheese and minced cilantro, this sexy little beast ensures you’ll forget that, beneath all that piquant goodness, you’re actually annihilating a vegetable.
Blueberry Rhubarb Cobbler
A blend of organic blueberries and rhubarb topped with a cornmeal biscuit and whipped cream. At Farmers Union Coffee Shop, $8
Don’t go looking for bits of fruit in this dish, as all of the ingredients have been boiled down to a rich, smoothie-like compote. And dang, that compote is tasty. Blueberry is the dominant flavor, but the rhubarb plays an important role here, adding a pleasant tartness that keeps everything from being cloyingly sweet. The cornmeal biscuit is inconsequential, but it does what it needs to do: get that sweet sauce from the bowl to your mouth, ASAP.
All photos by Jerard Fagerberg, except for lead image by Lucy Hawthorne