For opening day at the Minnesota State Fair, reporter Tim Nelson spent the day stepping lightly around the fairgrounds with a single focus — food. He teamed up with Dara Moskwitz Grumdahl, an MPR News regular who writes about food for Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine.
An edited transcript of their conversation:
Tim Nelson: What are the takeaways from the 2014 Minnesota State Fair?
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl: Sticks! Sticks are over. Out of all the new foods — I think there are 28 official new foods, and there are a lot more unofficial ones — only four were things in batter on a stick.
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Tim: And I think there was one you didn't like very much. Wasn't there a new one on your life grudge list?
Dara: Yeah, this would be the pancake breakfast on a stick. It's pancakes, eggs, two kinds of cheese, all of it kind of welded together with fresh pancake batter, deep fried. You could not get more grease if you got your oil changed. Disgusting.
Tim: On the other end of the spectrum, there's a lot of frozen stuff at the fair this year.
Dara: This might be the year of the frozen stuff. Everything good is frozen. They've got the whole Japanese crazy beer foam, it's made with blueberries, it's made with beer. It's over in the West End Market. You put it on top of either a special blueberry beer from Schell's or any one of the many Schell's beers. It's crazy. It's kind of good. I really like it.
Tim: And we stopped by the Blue Moon Diner there, and I think you really liked the snow ribbon.
Dara: I did like the snow ribbons, they're fun! They have a big block of ice cream and they turn it and it turns into kind of shaved ribbons. It's a fluffy way to eat ice cream.
Tim: The other thing we saw a little bit of here I think you referred to as "stunt beer" as we were walking by.
Dara: There's a lot of stunt beer. There's a S'mores beer over at Giggles, from Flat Earth. There's a mini-doughnut beer. They've put a little sugar-cinnamon rim up top, like you do a salt rim for a margarita. But this is a cinnamon-sugar rim for a beer.
Tim: Anything surprise you?
Dara: Actually, it's a good year. The past couple of years, things were getting a little crazy, just trying to shove as many things onto a stick and then fry them. Things are a little more authentic this year. I love that Mancini's bought a gelato machine, is making a whole bunch of gelato flavors. So they have a mini-doughnut gelato, and a salty caramel-apple gelato. Things that are really Fair, but they're very authentic, good, real homemade stuff here.
Tim: If you're only going to have one thing, what's it going to be?
Dara: If you're doing one thing, it's got to be the classics. Your pick: mini-doughnuts, roast corn or cheese curds.