My First Minnesota State Fair: Food and Drink

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.

 

Cheese Curds Minnesota State Fair | KaleAndAle.com

Cheese curds to kick off the fair!

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.

Maple Island 2 Headed Goose beer | KaleAndAle.com

The beer I was most looking forward to, a Maple Island 2 Headed Goose.

Drink

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).

Land of 10000 Beers Hops KaleAndAle.com

Land of 10000 Beers | KaleAndAle.com

Land of 10,000 Beers

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.

Food

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.

Corn Roast Minnesota State Fair | KaleAndAle.com

The Corn Roast stand really fascinated me.

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.

My First Minnesota State Fair: Preparation

Minnesota State Fair Tickets | KaleAndAle.com

Minnesota State Fair tickets and guide.

Caught up in the excitement surrounding the Minnesota State Fair, I decided to buy advance tickets. The lure of the social media links and people around me buzzing about the fair and asking if I am going was too strong that I have to see for myself what everyone is talking about.

I have only been to one fair once, the Iowa State Fair four years ago. It was fun but at the time I thought I was good if I don’t go to a fair for a long time. Since this is the summer of trying new things in Minnesota, and the state fair is in the capitol city of St. Paul (much closer than Des Moines to my hometown Cedar Rapids in Iowa) I decided what the heck. I plan to go on a weekday so there will be fewer people, but I’m expecting it will still be a crazy mess.

Because I’m a planner and like to maximize my time so I don’t miss anything, I have amassed some resources in my state fair prep. Since this is my first time at the fair, please let me know in the comments what I can’t miss or other links that might be helpful. I know many people have written about preview food, but since much of that isn’t vegetarian, I’m not linking to it here. I’ve broken down the best information I’ve found into beer, food (vegetarian and vegan) and other.

Beer

Growler Magazine has put out a great guide to beer at the fair, telling about new beers and what beer can be found where, including a map and list. I personally am very excited for the Maple Island Brewing Two Headed Goose Sourdough Pretzel.

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild will present the “Land of 10,000 Beers” craft beer hall exhibition talking about the history of craft beer in the state and how the beer industry is in the state. Also, there are flights featuring many different breweries that aren’t available in the Twin Cities, and tickets for the flights can be bought in advance.

Food

There is a Minnesota State Fair food finder. When I put “vegetarian” into the search, I got 10 results, but I have a suspicion this might only be places that use the word vegetarian in their description of what they serve. (Can anyone confirm this?)

Also, Twitter user @TofuPunk has complied a nice map and guide of vegan options at the fair.

Other

Regarding getting to the fair, I’m a big fan of Metro Transit, so I plan to go to a Park and Ride (especially since I can park close to my home and use my unlimited monthly pass), but there are also shuttle services available.

I am looking forward to the prize-winning produce, but other than that, I don’t know a lot about the actual attractions and what is a must-see for a first-timer and what can be missed if there isn’t time for it all.

Any suggestions for a first-time Minnesota State Fair goer or links you would add to this list? I will be back soon to report my findings and share my state fair tips!

 

Simple Home Bar Setup

Bar library area | KaleAndAle.com

Bar and library area at the far end of the living room.

Right when I moved into my house last fall I knew I wanted to make a portion of the built-in furniture at the far end of my living room into a bar. The other end of the built-in is a library, as shown in the photo above (but don’t judge the chair, it hasn’t been reupholstered or refinished yet!). If you note, the left and center walls are different than the right wall (which is the color as the rest of the living room) to set this part of the room apart from the rest. This area is typically meant as a dining room for houses of this age, but with the built-in, it leaves too little space. Already near the kitchen, it seemed the perfect place to have the bar.

Home bar tray | KaleAndAle.com

Ledge area of the bar.

I wanted to keep the room true to the house’s mid-century roots, but still look modern, and that extends to the bar area. I think my decorating style is more minimal, so I wanted to keep the bar area clean. I’ve been on a gold kick lately so I picked a gold tray and I liked the contrast of the round shape. On it I put a simple decanter and image I made in Photoshop next to a classic cocktails book I won in a United Way auction.

Home bar shelf | KaleAndAle.com

Shelf area of the bar. It might still be restyled or added to.

The shelf on the wall is new but mid-century style. It is rather deep, so I could put more on the shelf, but I have only had it on the wall a few weeks and am still deciding how to style it. I’m looking for cute stir sticks, but put a shaker, small decanter and some glasses on it, along with gold and neutral coasters.

I have thought about keeping my liquor in the cabinet below, but it’s in my kitchen where I prepare more than what might be in the decanters since I’m known to be messy in the kitchen. I think this setup works for now, and it didn’t take a lot of space or styling to make a simple bar in my living room.

Do you have a bar area in your house? I would love to hear your experience or see photos of  you have them!

Get the look

Shelf: West Elm Mid-Century Shelf

Tray: Similar at Target

Decanter (large): Pottery Barn Square Decanter

Decanter (small): World Market Individual Decanter With Wood Stopper

Shaker: Ikea

Glasses: Ikea Godis (I think that’s the style)

Coasters: Food Network 8-pc. Cocktail Recipe Holiday Pub Coaster Set

Book: Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails

Friday links

Remember when I used to do my “Friday links” featuring my favorite links of the week? Don’t blame you if you don’t remember, I looked back and it’s been two years since the last one! Nowadays I pretty much link on the Kale And Ale Facebook page as I come across things to share (so, like the page already!), but I’ve seen so many good items this week that Friday links is back.

Let’s get started. The best this week was The Sporkful podcast about shower food and drinks (the right beer, how to eat properly, etc.). Finally shower beer gets its 15 (well, 5) minutes of fame. Worth all 20 minutes of the show.

Next, my former newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, has a special section on craft beer called TAPPED, and starts with Five Things to Know When Visiting a Craft Brewery.

Brewpubs gain entry to the Minnesota State Fair, which starts Thursday. Speaking of the state fair, if you go (I hope to try to go for the first time) here is a list from last year of vegan/vegetarian friendly food at the Minnesota State Fair. Does anyone know of a list of Minnesota State Fair vegetarian/vegan food for this year? Also, since I’ve never been to the fair, what things must I do/try?

Return to Florida

Dolphin Hotel Walt Disney World | KaleAndAle.com

Sunshine! Palm trees! View from my room.

Last week I returned to Florida for the first time since I left in January 2014. After making it known on social media I was in Orlando for work, no fewer than three people asked within a short time if I would be visiting South Florida during my trip to the Sunshine State. (Nice to know I’m missed!) Although I thought of ways to incorporate a trip south into my trip, the timing and logistics weren’t in my favor. But I need to return soon.

In my time away, I’ve missed Florida more than and in ways I never thought I would. It’s a weird place known for its crazy stories—hope on Twitter and search #Floriduh, @FloridaMan and @FloridaWoman, if you don’t believe me—but we were all there together trying to enjoy life. It’s a crazy place but, as a resident, it was my home. Returning brought mixed feelings; I left almost eight years of my life and experiences there. Last week I was an outsider looking in. As someone staying at a Disney hotel for work, I was a tourist passing through.

Erin McKenna's Bakery Walt Disney World | KaleAndAle.com

Having an afternoon snack of Erin McKenna’s Bakery brownie cupcakes and coffee and the Walt Disney World Boardwalk.

But I didn’t have much time to dwell on the past, as my work trips are jam packed with activities. After landing in Orlando I was working the next 10 hours, and started working the next day eight hours later. Day two I gave myself an hour and a half break (mostly to eat lunch) and walked over to the Boardwalk to grab some vegan treats from Erin McKenna’s Bakery (formerly Babycakes, which I love and have written about here and here). Otherwise, the meals I had at the Swan and Dolphin hotels weren’t up to the Disney standard I had previously experienced, and vegetarian options were limited, even when I asked, so that was disappointing.

What I lacked in food variety I made up for in beer. I was on a mission for a Yuengling Lager and Cigar City Jai Alai, which I had. I was also able to have a few other Cigar City beers (Florida Cracker and Inversion) and a Funky Buddha Floridian.

Valerie Swan Hotel | KaleAndAle.com

Getting a little sun and a cool drink at the Swan Hotel pool before heading back to Minnesota.

Despite being busy with work, I was able to sneak in a few hours of pool time soaking in that glorious Florida sun, being reminded how much I “glisten” in the heat and humidity. Despite that, I need to make an effort to plan a trip back to the place I called home a majority of my adult life.