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The Minnesota State Fair 2013: A three-hour food tour

All the fried food fit to eat, in under three hours (including this fried gold)
All the fried food fit to eat, in under three hours (including this fried gold)

Joy Summers

The Great Minnesota Get-Together can be a bit much to bite off. Trying to pack all that eating and gawking into one day -- it's never easy. This year, to kick things off, we decided to put the pedal to the metal and see just how much we could hit first off and fast. We rolled in at 11 a.m. today, hit some favorites as well as some new bites, and we're here to tell you -- it can be done.

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Fresh from the Park 'n' Ride, we marched uphill to the top corner by the Fine Arts building. Since it was still technically morning and the heat hadn't kicked in yet, there was time for an egg coffee from the fine Lutherans at Salem Lutheran Dining Hall. Raw egg is mixed into the grounds before brewing. The coffee isn't eggy per se, it's just an extra-rich, black cup o' joe. Plus it's only $1.


Walleye cakes divine
Walleye cakes divine


Over at Giggles, beyond the competing lumberjacks and nubile young ladies kicking up water at the log roll, we whipped out the handy-dandy fair coupon book for an order of the walleye cakes. Hunks of fish along with just a bit of soft-cooked wild rice are molded into patties and served atop a creamy mustard sauce. The sauce gave a great tang to each crunchy, lush bite. 

Down the hill, we wandered toward the food building. For our money, the Mouth Trap's are the cheese curds that hold the high standard. However, that line was unwieldly... and time is not on our side.

Next, we went over to the French Meadow, where images of the croissant-donut hybrid have been burning up Instagram. We'd heard there would be another line, but remarkably, there was none. None! We scored one of these octogonal little nuggets fresh out of the fryer for $4. After a minor skirmish over who would get first bite, we dug in. 

Do believe the hype
Do believe the hype
Joy Summers


Okay, we get it now. Buttery layers inside a crispy exterior, sprinkled with a judicious amount of powdered sugar. They were just sweet enough -- and collapsed with each bite. We could eat a dozen while standing outside one of the best-smelling booths in the fair. That fair-trade fresh-roasted coffee mingled with confections, and the workers were generously piling enormous cupcakes onto cake stands.

Continue onward for a savory treat at the fair...

 

Piggy porketta pops
Piggy porketta pops


Steps away, we found ourselves back in the savory graces of the new Mancini's building. There's a stage and a couple of scaled-down red booths reminiscent of those in the restaurant's lounge. They have Schell's beer as well. We dove into an order of the $8 "porketta pig wings." Wonderfully tender hunks of pork easily yield their bones, heavily seasoned in that Iron Range-style porketta spice. Herby and delicious, they still felt as though there should be something for dipping. One eater voiced what we were perhaps too snobby to say: "Ranch would make this!" Oh, bless you, Minnesota.

It was time for a brief pit stop over at the new bathrooms that were recently constructed by the DNR building. On the first day, they're still nice and sparkly fresh (like the green grass -- that might not last all the way through).

Find out where to get all the hoppy refreshments you can handle on the next page...

 

Over and up to the Ag-Horticulture building we stopped by the new Minnesota Craft Brewers' display. Even the most enthusiastic local brew fans are likely to find a flight featuring some new beers to try. Bent Paddle out of Duluth has a Dark beer that was an instant favorite. You have to buy tickets -- $8 for two tickets will buy you a flight of four beers. Or, for one ticket, there is a sample of root beer from Fitger's Brewery, also in Duluth. Fantastically refreshing, it was another newbie winner.

Beer me
Beer me


The beer was filling, and there was just a little more time and stomach space. The Produce Exchange from Midtown Global Market is selling enormous Sweet Dreams peaches from Washington State. Their perfume was positively intoxicating. It's remarkable how well they pair with the gluten-free coconut macaroons from the Salty Tart that are conveniently sold right there.

You won't miss the gluten
You won't miss the gluten


At this point, it's fast approaching one o'clock. In State Fair time, that's happy hour. Our final stop was at the Minnesota wine booth -- conveniently back in the direction of the entrance. A little plastic glass of Frontenac was a perfect way to toast a successful round one at the fair.


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