State Fair Diaries: make new friends and keep the old

One of the best things about going to the Minnesota State Fair often is that I don't feel obligated to gorge myself on food. Instead I pick my way through new foods and old favorites and experience the Fair in a slower more deliberate manner.

Last night was our 9th year of State Fair Trivia/Bingo which meant meeting up with friends and eating/drinking our way from Heritage Square er... I mean the West End Market to the Education Building (for our annual group photo calendar). And of course we hit every beer garden in between.

I finally tried the Chicken in a Waffle at the Blue Barn. The cone is a slightly sweet version of a traditional waffle ice cream cone. Tucked inside are robust crunchy chicken bites somehow not soggy in spite of the creamy peppery gravy generously ladled over the whole concoction. The experience begins as a savory meal, intermittent with bites of sweet crisp cone, and ends an oddly wonderful candy note of chocolate covered malt ball sort of oozing with hints of pepper gravy.

A generous group near us offered a taste of their Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz with Chimichurri, also purchased from the new Blue Barn. I am not a Gorgonzola fan but those little fritters are a perfect balance of gamy and sweet, crunchy and smooth, while the chimichurri adds a nice herbal note.

Our group wandered up to O'Gara's where we shared the Pretzel Curds. I'd already attempted twice to procure a basket of the pretzel coated cheese curds and upon finally tasting them decided that they are pretty good, although more like mozzarella sticks than traditional fried curds, and thus had us craving a smooth marinara sauce for dipping rather than the chipotle ranch that is served.

Another new item we tried was the Grain Belt Blu; a not offensive blueberry flavored beer topped with a refreshing and thankfully not cloying blueberry slush. After that we headed for a few old favorites; fried pickles, shandy beer, and pumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream from the Minneapple stand.

Pleasantly bloated and done for the evening, I bid goodbye and took the shuttle home. I was happy to see my old buddy Elvis, the gentle dog that hangs out near the parking lot where State Fair goers catch buses and hours later stagger off of them. Elvis, like the rest of us, is slightly older but none the worse for wear. Like us, he seems as happy to be a part of the Fair.




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