View 2012 Minnesota State Fair New Foods Map in a larger map
Yesterday The Wife and I loaded up The Rooster and The Baby and headed over to the 2012 Minnesota State Fair for a day of eating the Fair’s new foods, visiting with the animals (we avoided the pig barn due to the threat of spreading swine flu), riding some kiddie rides, and State Fair Bingo (a new card is now available!). We left the house at 8:30 and were wandering the grounds by 9:30 AM. I selected 11 new MN State Fair food items for 2012 and mapped them out (as you see above). We started with breakfast items being that we were there so early in the morning and planned a route which would take us all over the fair without criss crossing too much.
The first stop was Ragin Cajun‘s Breakfast Sliders. Three sliders topped with steak, “Cajun sausage” (kielbasa) and ham which were served with scrambled eggs, a spicy and flavorful garlic mayo topped with cheese and green onion. At only $5 these were an absolute steal. There was enough food there for three average fairgoers to have a quick and easy breakfast and still have plenty of room for everything else on their agenda for the day. While all three meats were quite good compared to your standard $5 item at the Great Minnesota Get Together, the steak was the weakest of all three and compared to its brethren left me wanting more meat flavor. However, as sad as it is to say this, this was the highlight of our entire day and thus it was all downhill from there.
The second stop was French Meadow Bakery to check out their Scone with Sausage Gravy. While I am not at all a Sausage, Biscuits, and Gravy fan, The Wife is. Based on the raving everyone does about French Meadow’s usual array of offerings around town, I expected this to be at least halfway decent. Unfortunately, as The Wife later noted, it was one of the more disappointing items of the day. The dish was a gloppy mess of runny gravy with a heavy and tasteless scone in the center. There was some heat in the dish but we couldn’t tell if it was the tiny bits of sausage or the gravy itself. At $7 this was a bigger ripoff than I expected from the State Fair and I definitely don’t recommend you waste your time on this one.
- The Ragin’ Ankles were described as being “slow-smoked” and tender pork shanks which were fried crispy and then tossed in a combination of grilled fresh pineapple, habaneros, BBQ sauce, pineapple juice and cayenne. While the picture on the State Fair’s website shows something along those lines, what was delivered were a handful of tough and chewy pork pieces which came with a very typical Famous Dave’s BBQ sauce. If you’re going to claim you’re using habaneros and fruit, at least have those flavors come out in the sauce. I expected at least a little heat and sweet but got none of that. To top it off, the meat wasn’t slow cooked or tender. I spent most of my time tearing it off the bones while trying to choke down this $6 mess.
Ole’s Cannoli, a favorite of the Pioneer Press‘s Jessica Fleming, were pedestrian and virtually tasteless. At $4 for plain (.50 for pistachio, chocolate chips, or something else I don’t recall) and $5 for dark chocolate dipped, these were a very average Minnesota representation of one of my favorite desserts. While someone who has never had a decent cannoli in their life might believe they’re great, they don’t know what they’re missing. These are a huge pass for me but compared to some of the other items we ate today, they’re far from the bottom of the barrel.
After The Wife took a 30+ minute pump break at the car while The Rooster, The Baby and I hung out in the shade and rehydrated in Heritage Square, we headed back into the thick of it and hit up one of the many Rainbow Ice Cream stands for their Bacon Ice Cream. The two minuscule scoops I got for $6 ($5 for one) were salty, sweet, and carried the distinctive bacon flavor. While the majority of the ice cream was just fine, two of the spoonfuls I had were filled with a decent sized hunk of chewy and fatty bacon which, after sitting in ice cream for so long, had become a congealed mass which reminded me a lot of raw bacon and really put a damper on the entire thing for me. I’d eat this one again if it weren’t priced as if it were 14K gold.
Next up was Duke’s Poutine located next to the All You Can Drink Milk stand. The poutine was a small pile of fries with a VERY peppery gravy and unmelted cheese curds which were rubbery and chewy. While I’ve only had poutine on a handful of occasions prior, I came from the land of gravy and french fries and the soggy and miserable mess which was presented to us for $5 was not the worst thing all day but, as The Wife noted, it was like having soup or chili and wasn’t something that was appropriate for the Minnesota State Fair.
After a trip to Canada, we headed to the International Bazar to try what is likely to be the most visited booth for a new food item this year: Lamb Fries (testicles) at Holy Land Deli. While the photo provided both at the booth and on the Minnesota State Fair’s website look great, what we ended up with was nothing like what was advertised. Still, the lamb testicles were fine. Light but slightly chewy, the curry spice turned the lamb balls yellow and hid the typical organ flavor which usually carries for other animal testicles I’ve tried in the past. The burned onions added nothing to the dish and the “Holy Land Deli Ranch-style Dressing” didn’t do it for me at all. While these weren’t nearly as bad as The Wife made them out to be, spitting out the only bite she took, for $6 I am certain you can find plenty of other excellent things to eat instead.
Next up was the newly relocated Minnesota Wine Country which has a sizable space offering many different Minnesota wines in single glasses, expensive flights, and even slushies. In addition they have an interesting array of food items including pizza, antipasto plates, etc which, while overpriced, bring more refined eating options to the MN State Fair. The $9 antipasto plate included a collection of cheeses, boring bagged crackers, two pieces of sausage, and some marinated/pitted olives. This dish, while the most expensive of the day, provided a nice snack for the entire family and was something I’d definitely eat again.
- The Great Balls of Fire are described as coming in three different flavors: Indian Curry, Korean BBQ, and Cool Cucumber. I didn’t pick these up but The Wife noted she asked for the most popular option and what came back was apparently their Korean BBQ with cucumber sauce on the side. The Korean BBQ sauce wasn’t like any Korean BBQ I’ve ever had and tasted a lot like a spicy cherry Coke syrup. While definitely pleasant and interesting, leading me to state it was one of the better items of the day, especially at $5.50 for a portion which by that time of day was quite filling for me.
The $8 Lamb Chop on a Stick are grass-fed/organic lamb chops that were freshly grilled due to popularity. They were perfectly cooked, tender, and incredibly flavorful. This was the single best item I had at the Minnesota State Fair in 2012 and, quite possibly, ever. While I originally balked at the price for the two tiny mouthfuls of meat, compared to some of the other $5+ disasters other vendors were putting out, this was a very welcome respite and one I suggest you hit up yourself.
The final item of the day was supposed to be Giggle’s Classic Walleye Roll but due to a miscommunication between The Wife and I, we ended up with Walleye Cakes instead. We’ve had them before and these were fine, nothing special, but based on the quick review provided by Jessica Fleming on Twitter, I’m guessing we dodged yet another expensive bullet by going with the cakes instead.
After our dining was done, The Rooster and I hit some kiddie rides and we made a final stop at the newer Martha’s stand near the Grandstand and we listened to some live music at Famous Dave’s before heading out into the parking lot and into the car by 5:00 PM. Overall we had a very busy day full of some really terrible food for way too much money. As I’ve stated before, the food truck revolution in Minneapolis/St. Paul has really shown people what can be served for relatively little money in a very tiny space. The MN State Fair vendors really need to up their game if they’re going to keep people coming back year after year for these new items which really don’t cut it anymore.
What did you have at the 2012 Minnesota State Fair? Did you try any of the new food items or did you stick to your tried and true favorites? Were there any of the new items on your list which you’re now going to avoid because of what you’ve read here and elsewhere about them? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.