Sunday, September 05, 2010

Minnesota, Day 3: The State Fair

Morning glories at Burt & Linda's house

Today was the Minnesota State Fair, an event I have been anticipating for quite some time due to various Food Network specials. To be honest, I'm not sure we'll ever again be able to visit Burt and Linda if the fair ISN'T going on (with the exception of their wedding, although I may bring my own fried bacon).

This is an event that is totally devoted to showing off the real goods that Minnesota has to offer: produce and fried things on a stick. OK, so maybe Minnesotans aren't frying things on sticks in their own kitchens, but almost everything at the fair (at least, anything fun) is fried and presented on a stick.

We opened with some delicious corn fritters with honey butter, and although they were not on a stick, I was very pleased with them all the same. Next we went for some buffalo kabobs on a stick with green pepper and onion. These were really amazing and gave me a very good appreciation for buffalo not in ground meat form.

Then we went down a very special, very frightening path that few dare to tread - fried candy bars. I got two Reese's cups, dipped in batter and deep fried. They were on toothpicks, so I guess that counts; Linda's battered and fried Oreos weren't. Still, you can get a Snickers or Milky Way bar on a stick.

Even after this ridiculousness, I still kind of wanted a fried Snickers bar. Obviously I have a stomach that can take some punishment.

They also have beautiful produce to display, including this room of award-winning dahlias. They ranged from ones as big as my head to ones that were so small and perfect, you could hardly believe they were real.

The dahlias were housed in the agriculture pavilion, which also housed Minnesota's great wine tasting and some really amazing honey. Each couple (Dave & I, Linda & Burt) split a six-wine flight, which included some very nice grape varieties, as well as raspberry and rhubarb wines! The raspberry was my favorite. In honey, I picked a very nice dandelion variety, as well as a huckleberry creme honey. Whoa, was that amazing.

The dairy pavilion also housed some amazing stuff, including some wonderful malts (Dave and I split an apple caramel malt, Burt and Linda split a strawberry rhubarb malt), as well as butter sculptures and, for some reason, some really nice yarn. I got a hand-dyed spool that I plan to make into a hat. Oh, and there were also pork recipes on hand, so you had better believe that I grabbed some of those.

As you can tell, food like this will really bring the spectators. And it does.

Finally, we stopped by the animal barns. First, it was poultry. We found epic chickens, like the one at left, and some as big as a small dog. It was a little scary to see a chicken that could probably fend for itself against our 15-lb. rabbit. I like this guy's hair, though; he looks pretty Fraggle-tastic.

Other animals in the poultry room included geese, ducks, and even doves. On our way out, Linda spotted this absolutely adorable little duck, which happens to be a champion duck.

The label listed her as "old," so I'm guessing at least a few years at that. But she walked around the cage as feisty as can be, shaking her little head furiously to find grubs in the sawdust floor of her cage. If I was slightly tempted to steal that lamb at the Renaissance Festival, I was ready to pry open the cage and run down the street with this adorable duck down my hoodie.

Next we saw the goats, which actually had some pretty cute little guys, and also the pigs and horses. The pigs included Minnesota's largest swine! But, of course, you know I can't miss the cows!!

This little guy was very clean and fuzzy. Also wouldn't fit down shirt.

On our way out, we did some further damage to our arteries in the form of fried cheese curds (yes, you heard that right) and lingonberry lefse. Lefse are like crepes, but made with a potato-based batter. They are pretty tasty!

Somehow, after all this food, we managed to wheel-barrow ourselves over for some proper dinner, and boy were we glad we did. Burt and Linda took us to one of their favorite restaurants in the area, a Nepalese restaurant called Everest on Grand. I had a fantastically spicy chickpea curry with lentil soup, and Dave sampled a very nice platter of yak and potato curries.

And guess what Everest is right next to. Grand Ole Creamery!! Dave and I shared a split scoop of chocolate and cinnamon. Damn. We made a note to grab a quart of each of those flavors to take home.

Then off to Burt and Linda's to finish off the day with another movie, "District 9." It's one I've meant to see for a while, but now I'm glad I didn't see it in the theater, because it's too scary and suspenseful for me! But it was a very good movie nonetheless.

Thus ended our epic trip to Minnesota, and we really thank Burt and Linda for showing us such a good time. They are excellent hosts, their home is beautiful, and we wish them many happy years living in Minnesota, the land where they certainly do not mess around with food. It's a philosophy I can get behind.

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