2016 Fair Food

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Every year I anxiously await the day all the new foods are announced for the upcoming fair season. Well…today is the day! To my surprise, only TWO were on a stick! Although I was disappointed in the lack of excitement in that area, I was also a little bummed about the new options.

== SEE THE FULL LIST HERE ==

 

In my opinion, Spam is a little over-hyped and there are two new Spam items on the menu.

The Blue Moon Dine-In Theater always does a good job with their food and they are offering up Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread . In my wold, Monkey Bread is cinnamon and sugar, but I am hoping that’t not the case. This one will make my “must get” list.

I am also excited about the Rustic Beef Pastry from French Meadow Bakery and Cafe. These guys have great food and I am hopeful this one won’t disappoint.

Having tasted food from almost every vendor that is on the new foods list, I am not overly optimistic that many of them will be in my “tops list”.

You know how when you go out to eat you can tell if food has been made in bulk and just reheated, or if it was made with quality ingredients? A handful of the vendors displaying new foods seem to fit into the first category and even though the titles look enticing, I won’t be going out of my way to try them.

That said…we all know I am a sucker for new things and ALWAYS willing to give vendors another chance to redeem themselves. I cannot wait for August!

Did you notice RC BBQ has replaced Famous Dave’s? I obviously haven’t tried their food yet but you know I will.

 

2015 State Fair Season is HERE!

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The 2015 state fair season is upon us! I am sure you are just as excited as I am about the new foods and events that are happening during this years fair. I have had lots of people ask if I was going to do the challenge again…

I had so much fun last year but in reality it took months to plan, budgeting, and lots and lots of extra time. Every use of resources was entirely worth it, but I didn’t want to set myself up for an annual event. I am thinking maybe every 3 years, or even 5.

I will of course be trying the new foods and attending more times than needed but hey, over indulgence is my specialty. I will still be posting to Twitter any great findings and will be on the prowl for fun people to chat with.

The new foods list looks exciting and I can’t wait to dig in.

Since it’s Thursday how about a #TBT….

The anticipation and excitement of last year’s opening day.

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I cannot wait to see all my fellow Minnesotans celebrating the last few weeks of summer and enjoying themselves at such a great event. 

See you all at the fair!

The End

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I am done.

I ate the last and 93rd item on my list and can say with confidence that I scoured the fair for every unique item on-a-stick. I stopped at every booth and finished every item. This was a success. 

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The fair is one of my favorite places in the world and I got to spend 10 days doing what I love. I celebrated the last item with my family by my side and got to spend the rest of the morning following tradition and walking through the fair with them. I have THE best family and friends. Folks I haven’t talked to in years reached out to offer support. It has truly been overwhelming the amount of love I have felt throughout this challenge. Not only have people been sending messages and saying hello at the fair, they have also been supporting with generous donations. I cannot say thank-you loud enough. This has been a truly amazing experience.

I had so much fun: meeting new people online and in person, seeing behind the scenes TV and radio, learning how much work it takes to write a blog, oh and EATING EVERYTHING ON-A-STICK.

Here are some of the news stories:

Bring Me the News – Story by Rick Kupchella

WCCO News – Interview with Rachel Slavik

WCCO Radio – Interview with Rashini Rajkumar –  8/31/14 at the 1:45 mark

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Here is a quick summary of the food:

  • My favorite part: finishing the last bite of food
  • My least favorite part: the undercooked food
  • Best overall food: Deep Fried Snickers
  • Best new food (for me): Spaghetti Eddie’s Super Stick
  • Worst new food (for me): Deep Fried Brie
  • Most expensive Item: $11.00 Texas Steak Dinner
  • Cheapest Item: $.50 Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

 

Maybe I will do it all again in the future, maybe not. All I know is that I finished what I set out to accomplished and did something that had never been done before. Today I can officially say:

I ate everything on-a-stick at the Minnesota State Fair.

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Thank you for following my story and thank you for all the love.

Mandy

Top State Fair Tips

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Get the best food…


 MY NUMBER ONE STATE FAIR TIP:

1) Timing is everything. 

If you want the best food a vendor has to offer, be willing to get up early or be willing to wait. Everything is fresh right when the gates open so your best bet is to get there early and tackle your favorites right away. If it is painful to get up early, be ready to wait in line. If there isn’t a line the food is likely old and you shouldn’t be eating it. Period.

Most people think convenience: I am nearby so I will get it. If you truly want the best food: find their peak time, wait for them to make a fresh batch, or ask for a new one. It can make or break your fair food experience. 

2) Don’t order food that the vendor doesn’t specialize in. 

You wouldn’t order sushi from McDonalds, don’t order a corn dog from a slushy maker. Only order the one item that vendor specializes in. If they don’t have a “top selling item” think twice before placing your order. 

3) Speak up. 

If your food isn’t cooked properly, RETURN IT. I returned at least 6 different foods that were undercooked. (GROSS!) The vendors want to make you happy and you shouldn’t be stuck with a half-cooked item. If your food isn’t perfect, get a new one. 

4) Don’t judge a vendor by their booth. 

Some of the best foods I have tried have come from the most generic looking vendors. If you know you want to try what they are offering, go for it. If it ends up being a flop, you can always get your other standby option. 

5) Keep an eye out for deals

Most of the vendors I visited on “Thrifty Thursday” didn’t even know what their deal was. Pay attention to what you expect to pay and ask about deals. I showed the discount to several of the vendors for proof. $2.00 in savings adds up quickly when you have a whole day in front of you. Also watch for coupon books. Most vendors have signs posted, but if you forget, I found that most will give you your money back if you present them with the coupon shortly after your purchase. 

6) Avoid Deals

First decide if you want it, then look for a coupon. A lot of the time the fair’s best foods don’t have deals: cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s, Pronto Pups, etc. Don’t order something just because you have a coupon or because it is a bonus buy. I made that mistake several times and should have stuck with the original vendor and not the vendor with the coupon.   

7) Consider if it is available outside the fair

After eating everything on-a-stick it was always a disappointment to be served something that I can get some where else for half the price. Think: is this pre-packaged? Can I get it once the fair is over? (Lollipops, cotton candy, regular popcorn, regular kabobs, popsicles, Icee, etc.) Is this food unique or different?

General…


1) Don’t pay for parking.

You are a fool if you pay to park. There are tons of ways to get to the fair FOR FREE: bike, bus, walk, run, or drive and find street parking. You are going to be walking around all day at the fair, is $20 to park a couple blocks closer really worth saving those extra steps. Don’t be silly.  Yes, time is money, but taking a shuttle into the new transit hub will add 20 extra minutes to your day. 

2) Say hello and don’t be afraid to go alone.

People love to talk. Everyone wants to be acknowledged: vendors, kids, volunteers, etc. Saying hello opens up the door to so many conversations. Even if you don’t want to talk, a simple smile will let the person know you appreciate their work. It’s easy and leaves them in a better mood for the next person they encounter.  You can have a completely different fair experience if you just say hello. Trust me, going alone forces you to be friendly, and all the laughs outweighed all the awkward moments.

3) Have a plan ahead of time so you are don’t have to wander back and fourth all day. 

When you visit in a group, have a plan. Find out what everyone wants to do and strategize. If you don’t discuss what you want to do ahead of time, you could end up walking miles more than you meant to. 

4) Take out money before you arrive. 

This is an easy one, but everyone always forgets. Almost all vendors are cash only and money goes quickly. Take out more than you need and disperse it evenly (a little in your pocket, some to your husband, some in your purse). You will be covered if you drop something. 

5) Wear real shoes. 

Sure your sandals are cute and your heels go better with your dress, but walking in the barns with open toed shoes is gross and dropping ketchup on your toes is grosser yet. Be practical, wear sneakers and avoid a painful recovery.

6) Visit the buildings early. 

By noon, all the buildings are muggy and gross. If you want to see them all head to the Grandstand first and go from there. They get packed and it gets so hot ,everyone seems on edge.  

August 30 – Day 8, Food Recap

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I only have a few items left on my list and I knew the hardest one would be the jawbreaker. I got to the iCandy Shoppe just outside the Granstand at 8 am and grabbed one: “The World’s Largest Jawbreaker On-A-Stick.”

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I knew the only way I would be able to eat it would be to smash it in a million pieces. So I did….

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I met with WCCO and they wanted to cover my story (awesome!) so I spoke with them for a bit and we headed out to three stops.

First up was Hansen’s Breakfast Sausage On-A-Stick. I thought it tasted just like you would expect and actually made a nice breakfast. There are a lot of breakfast options near the barns and my personal suggestion would be the Deep Fried Breakfast or the Scotch Eggs. If you wanted something a little simpler these corn dogs had a good classic flavor. 

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We headed to Chan’s Chicken for a Teriyaki Chicken On-A-Stick. They cover the skewers in teriyaki and I thought the sauce was a bit sweeter than most teriyaki sauces. The chicken was perfectly cooked, but the sauce was a little strong. Overall, it was pretty good. The portion size was generous too. 

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My last stop with WCCO was for Luigi’s Hot Dago. The Hot Dago was essentially breadstick and meatballs covered in a melted cheese accompanied by a dipping sauce. The sauce and meatballs were very good but the breadsticks seemed a little bland. I know they have other foods there and I think next time I will try something else. It was served very hot and I liked the sauce so I would imagine it would be just as tasty on their other options. 

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My last stop of the morning was for a Double Bacon Corn Dog. I have heard about this a lot this year and I was expecting a little more. I didn’t get much of a bacon flavor (despite there being double bacon) and I also thought that it was dry. It comes with a maple syrup sauce which was a nice addition, but it just didn’t make my “must have” list for next year. 

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I very slowly plugged away at the jawbreaker and I did finish it. With every new portion I ate, I was reminded why it is called a jawbreaker. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CHEW. 

Tomorrow I wrap up my The Great State Fair Food Challenge. I am meeting my family bright and early in the morning and want to celebrate my last food item (Big Dog Corn Dog) with them by my side. They love me and my strange goals and I can’t think of a better way to finish this thing. 

Top 10 Best and Worst Foods On-A-Stick

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I got to thinking: What good is a top 10 list once the fair is over? I only have 1 item left and I have already eaten it before. I know where it falls so…here are the good and the bad of the 2014 fair.

Top 10 Best Foods

1) Deep Fried Snickers, Deep Fried Candy Bar Booth

These are just so over the top and indulgent. You would never eat these outside of the fair and they have the perfect texture.

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2) Super Stick, Spaghetti Eddie’s

Prepared to order, pepperoni with mozzarella cheese inside wrapped in a buttery crust. By far the best pizza-type food I came across.

 Super Stick

3) Cheese On-A-Stick

You have to visit the booth by the Giant Yellow Slide. These are always melty good and a must have every year.

Cheese on a stick

4) Handmade Nut Roll

I love nut rolls and these are served still warm. They are very sugary and sweet. I would get one to take home.

Nut Roll

5) Pronto Pup/Big Dog Corn Dog/Poncho Dog

Choose whichever one you like best but they all make the list and are fabulous. Try them all like I do.

 ProntoPup

6) Breakfast On-A-Stick, The Sandwich Stop

This is a fun, unique item that had great flavor that I haven’t found elsewhere. A must-try fair food. Fried Breakfast

7) Chocolate Covered Cheesecake, Granny’s Cheesecake

Frozen cheesecake, fresh dipped in chocolate. They are better than any popsicle and a wonderful dessert.

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8) Tater Twister, Texas Tater

This was really fun to eat. Although it was a bit greasy it was a “single serving” size and I loved that I could peel it apart as I ate it. Softer than chips, crunchier than french fries.

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9) Deep Fried Baklava, Dino’s Gyros

This is as flaky as flaky can be. A very sweet treat and tastes like traditional Baklava, but with added layers of crust.

 Baklava

 

10) Mocha On-A-Stick, MN Farmers Union

While I thought it was a bit over-priced ($5.75), it was creamy and had a great coffee flavor. image

I had Mickey’s Beef Kabobs as my number ten favorite but with such terrible pork and chicken I was having a hard time determining if the beef was the rule or the exception. You will have to determine this one on your own.


 

Top 10 Worst Foods

1) Wine Crusted Deep Fried Brie On-A-Stick, Minnesota Wine Country

This was awful. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

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2) Chicken Nachos On-A-Stick, Tejas

The meat was terribly fatty and it wasn’t actually on a stick, just the chicken was. It had pumped nacho cheese and cheap tortilla chips.

Chicken Nachos

3) Deep Fried Cookie Dough, Sonny’s

This was very undercooked and had zero texture.

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4) Gummy & Jaw Breaker – World’s Largest On-A-Stick, iCandy

I think the lesson here is to not buy anything that is prepackaged. There are so many freshly made snacks, that buying something that you purchase year round isn’t the route I would take. There are a million other options to get your sweets fix.

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5) Pizza On-A-Stick, Tino’s

This was very blah. It wasn’t hot, it didn’t have a lot flavor, it just took up space in my stomach.

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6) Puff Daddy, Sausage Sister’s and Me

This tasted like it had been under the heat lamps too long. Get their Twisted Sister instead, much better.

7) Buffalo Kabobs, Minnekabobs

The flavor of this was bland and the price was outrageous. I don’t think it counts as a healthy option either since it sits in a marinade once it is grilled.

Buffalo

8) Alligator Sausage, Bayou Bob’s Gator Stand

This sausage was too fatty. It tasted great while I was eating it, but left me feeling very blah when it was gone.

9) Fried Fruit, Fried Fruit Stand

The is a bad combination and the fruit tastes like it came out of a freezer or can. The warmth of the fruit and the greasiness of the batter were a terrible texture. These guys sell Deep Fried Olives…go that route instead.

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Fried Olives with cream cheese

10) Pickle On-A-Stick, Fried Pickles

These pickles are just too big. They have lots of seeds in the middle and are very soft. I love pickles, but these ones are too large.  Try the pickles from Pickle Dog instead. They are smaller and crunchier.

Pickle on a stick

 

Please keep in mind that this is MY OWN opinion. Most of the vendors on the worst food list have other options available, some of which have now become my favorites.

August 27 – Day 7, Food Recap

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Today was the shortest day yet. Here is what I grabbed in less than 2 hours.

I saw pictures of the Texas Steak Dinner from Texas Taters (the ones that also have the cool spiral potatoes) and I thought it was going to be a bigger challenge. The pictures have four these…

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And when I asked if it was one serving, she said yes. Thankfully, when it got handed to me it was actually only one.

This was nothing special. It was a essentially a beef kabob that they were selling as steak. The meat was tough and the bun was a Village Hearth bun fresh out of the package. I made some mini bbq sandwiches with it and moved on. It was definitely something that you can make at home.

As it turns out, Green Mill doesn’t have Pizza Kabobs, so that was one less thing on my list.

I still had Pork and Chicken On-A-Stick left on my list so I walked back to Mickey’s. I figured with such fantastic beef kabobs their pork and chicken would be in line, but it was far from that. Both of the meats were very fatty and the pork was very tough. They were, again, served with a soft taco shell so after the initial taste test, I slathered them with BBQ and finished them. If you go to Mickey’s for a kabob, stick with the beef.

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Strawberries and chocolate, who wouldn’t love this combo. These strawberries were fresh and very tasty. They weren’t fresh dipped like the bananas that Granny’s Cheesecake is serving, but in this case it worked. You can find these right next to the Big Green Pepper down by the barns at Caribbean Smoothies.  The fruit kabobs came right out of the fridge and the chocolate was crunchy. Fresh and sweet, I would get it again. 

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My last stop was for a Gyro On-A-Stick from Holy Land Deli. This was really just lamb served with a side of tzatziki sauce. It was far from a sandwich and unless you are really in the mood for a plain slab of lamb, I would order something else. 

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I won’t be visiting the fair tomorrow because my body needs a little recovery. I will be posting the Top State Fair Tips that I have learned over the years.

There are 6 items left on my list.

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