I attended my first Minnesota State Fair yesterday (the first Friday the fair was open). I worked until 12:30 and headed to the fair straight from work. It was overcast until about noon, and the sun came out, but I was hoping the weather and being a Friday would still keep lots of people away.
Lots of people is a relative term since I know the fair would be busy, but I was pleasantly surprised it never felt packed. I never waited long in a line or kept bumping into people just to see something, clueless people stopping in the wrong spots was kept to a minimum, etc. So that was a success. Another nice surprise was realizing that the things I wanted to eat, drink and see were all pretty close to one another so there wouldn’t be a lot of walking back and forth to see everything. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of walking, but everything was in the same area.
I had a small lunch before going to the fair because I know the vegetarian options aren’t aplenty, but since I passed a cheese curd stand walking toward the part of the fair I wanted to see, I grabbed some roadie curds. Again, I was impressed at the stand (and everywhere I went) that the lines moved quickly and they had an efficient system to serve people and get them in and out.
Once I got to the area I wanted to be for the fair, I grabbed a beer to figure out the game plan for the day. To kick off my beer drinking at the fair, I went with Bent Brewstillery’s Fest Hop, which won Best of Show at the state fair last year and was brewed for the fair this year. My boyfriend Aaron had the Lift Bridge Mini Donut Beer. I had a sip but it was just way too sweet for me (I don’t like donuts anyway).
Other notable beers from the fair include Maple Island Brewing’s 2 Headed Goose with a sourdough pretzel on top; The Villian from Summit, a black lager special to the state fair; sampler sets at Land of 10,000 beers (we each got one sampler of a different style and shared); and Sweetland Orchard Scrumpy Cherry Rhubarb Cider, which is more tart than sweet and light. I would recommend any of those, depending on they style you are interested in.
Regarding food, I’m disappointed the Minnesota State Fair doesn’t have more vegetarian or vegan suggestions as far as food is concerned, but that isn’t to say there aren’t food items. I would have liked a wild rice veggie burger somewhere or something. But I certainly didn’t go hungry. There were many options clearly marked for vegetarians and vegans in the food building. And at the International Bazaar the vegan wok-fried soba noodles from Island Noodles looked excellent and the garlic fries at Ball Park Café were hard to stay away from, as the entire place smelled of garlic (in a very, very good way). There is also a Produce Exchange stand with fresh fruit, healthy options and even Kombucha.
I went to the food building for dinner and almost had a torta but settled on a chickpea roti for the protein factor. It had great flavor and spice (and sadly no picture because I was ready to eat and had consuming my food on my brain). After that Aaron and I split some potato skins a few stalls over topped with cheese and jalapenos.
Other than that, the only other food we had was roasted corn. The process was really cool: You buy a $3 ticket for an ear of corn and walk up to the large counter to get your corn. On the other side of the counuter people are roasting the corn, dipping it in butter and handing it to people. But there aren’t lines so when you spot an ear you like you try to get the attention of the worker holding it and are competing with others for the ideal piece. Someone nearby wanted one “as roasted as possible.” Two small ears were being offered together for one ticket. It was a little like an auction and fun to watch. And the corn itself tasted so much like summer, roasted and dripping with butter to perfection.
All in all I was impressed with the service and organization of the food and drink, but wish there were more traditional foods available to non-meat eaters. What is the best thing you have had to eat or drink at a fair?
In the next few days I’ll share the attractions I visited. Click here for links and hints for fair preparation.