The Minnesota State Fair is upon us, and all of that food can be daunting. So we called on Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl to get us prepped for what to eat — and also what to avoid.
Click play on the audio player above or read the transcript below for Moskowitz Grumdahl’s predictions on the best and worst new fair foods. And join us at the MPR booth 10:00 a.m. Tuesday or tune in next Wednesday to hear if she was right.
For you, what makes an ideal state fair food?
For me — and I'm very passionate about this — fair food should give you a feeling that you can only get at the fair. The sweet corn roast is the perfect example. Sweet corn is only in season one time a year. It's specifically grown for us at the fair, so it’s ripe every single day. And you get that char roast that you can really only do at the fair. That's a perfect, perfect fair food.
Another perfect fair food is mini donuts. And they’re so perfect, I also feel a little bit like we should not have them the rest of the year — that's how passionate I feel about the mini donuts.
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And then, of course, the last one: cheese curds. That's where I was introduced to cheese curds. They have spread through the food environment since then; I've had fancy ones at restaurants resting on a bed of spinach. But the best ones are still at the state fair. Just smokin’ hot, gooey. Love it.
What do you get excited about for this year?
So the thing that I am just like, “I can't believe how lucky we are,” is Union Hmong Kitchen, which has made James Beard Award nomination news this year. And what's happened right now is that Chef Yia Vang has this food stand at Graze food hall in downtown Minneapolis. Well, he is recreating it at the food building at the state fair. It's going to have a signature Hmong purple rice with different meats and sauces.
The Minnesota Farmers Union brought in a hard-hitting chef this year, Pat Weber, and they're gonna do a big pork schnitzel sandwich from local farms. Really excited to try that.
Gerard Klass is a wonderful chef and he runs Soul Bowl, also in Graze food hall in the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. He's basically bringing something that I've been wanting my whole life, which is fried chicken on a stick, but soul food style.
And then did you hear Al’s Breakfast is doing a collaboration with Hamline Dining Hall? So they're doing a collaboration where they're putting together the Al's Breakfast pancakes at Hamline. Very excited about this.
What on the list do you think might be a misfire right off the bat? I know you haven't tasted them yet, but what are you skeptical about?
I'm grumpy and terrible, and everybody should hate me. I got to look at this new stand called Nautical Bowls. They seem very nice, but I don't really want a granola acai bowl at the fair. Like, if I'm having January wellness or whatever, then maybe I want a granola acai bowl, but I don’t want to walk around with a bowl at the fair.
The fair just needs to be that one time where you would cast that stuff aside, right? I feel it's very much a time to get your freak on and eat a weird fried thing, and then another weird fried thing, and then also ice cream. That's how I feel about it.