State fair's new foods have local flavors, on-a-stick options
Among the best of the best of the new foods at this year's Minnesota State Fair is a pink fluff of Lisa Frank fan-bait. The rainbow cloud roll is three scoops of ice cream — pick Superman flavor for optimal Instagram-age — covered with a cereal that is probably Fruity Pebbles, wrapped in pink cotton candy.
It's literally sweet on sweet swaddled in sweet — and it's a must-try.
My family hit up a record-setting opening day of the Great Minnesota Taste Together and painstakingly tested 10 of the almost 30 featured new foods — a mix of on-the-stick, state-specific flavors and this colorful spectacle. Here is what we found.
French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, $7
North side of Carnes Ave., between Nelson & Underwood streets
Ah, the lure of the vegan and gluten-free option. For this sleight of hand, French Meadow would turn fresh cauliflower into something that resembles chicken wings. Huzzah! Historically, this state-fair branch of the restaurant has offered something that leaned on bakery more than cafe, landing on something warm, rich and delish: mini sconuts, maybe, or a buttery pastry packed with Moroccan flavors, or a pretzel sandwich, or. The line showed it. We waited 45 minutes.
The veggie is battered, so there is an occasional bite that has a wing-ian crunch. Otherwise, the sauce is very sweet and the cauliflower is, well, cauliflower.
"Is it worth the wait?" a woman asked, eyeing the boat of BBQ.
No, not for the earth wings. But there are still cronuts on the menu.
HONEY CREAM SODA FLOAT, $9
Minnesota Honey Producers
Agricultural Horticulture Building, north side
It's worth it to cruise through the bee display at the fair before stopping for a honey cream soda float — cutely, one woman wore a name tag identifying her as a "bee whisperer." The float is honey, cream soda, a dollop or two of vanilla-honey ice cream. The float is a nice, no-nonsense treat. You won't go back for seconds, you won't raise your fists to the sky in anger. There are probably better ways to spend $9 at the fair, but why not pay homage to the bees.
IRISH TATOR KEGS, $8
O'Gara's at the Fair
Southwest corner of Dan Patch Ave. and Cosgrove St.
This is such a perfect fair food: corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sour cream within a tator tot-shaped fried potato with a Thousand Island drizzle and served in a nest of sauerkraut. Our forkfuls were served alongside super-festive fiddle and bagpipe music from inside O'Garas.
This is the kind of appetizer a human could come to crave. Luckily, the St. Paul-based restaurant has a variation of this on its menu — but it substitutes the tot for a wonton.
PEPPERONI CHIPS WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER QUESO, $7
Lulu's Public House
West End Market, south of Schilling Amphitheater
This sounds like something your keto friend would serve up and say, "I've been eating these for a week straight, and I lost 12 pounds."
Lulu's serving of pepperoni is more than one would find on a meat-lovers pizza, and even more than one would find in a single-serving bag of chip-chips. But, typical of chips, once you get past your eighth handful, they go down faster and with less resistance.
There is an excessive amount of salt — you can practically feel the dehydration pillows bubbling beneath your eyes. Not worth sacrificing your face.
RAINBOW CLOUD ROLL, $8
Rainbow Ice Cream
Level 2 of the Grandstand, east side
Each customer is tended to by a personal roll roller, who collects wisps of pink sugar, scoops superman, chocolate, vanilla or strawberry into the cotton candy, pours cereal over it and uses a sushi-technique to make a tight treat before slicing it in half.
The rainbow cloud roll is sweet, maybe the sweetest thing ever, but because of the mix of textures, it doesn't seem aggressive.
"This tastes like the future," said our resident 5-year-old, who sees the world through rainbow-colored glasses.
It's a top pick for the you-ate-what category and will definitely land on remember-when lists.
Of note: Oddly, this is the second time in a week that we've encountered Fruity Pebbles as an ingredient. T-Icy Roll, a new thai rolled ice cream shop in West Duluth also offers it as an optional topping.
SALMON ON A STICK, $10
West End Market, southwest section
This might be a new state fair stop, but the keepers of Nordic Waffles knew what they were doing: Scandinavian fare within the on-a-stick food group. Though, honestly, the stick is purely decorative.
The waffle wraps around smoked salmon, green onions and cream cheese — which collects in the waffles pockets. The waffle-as-sandwich is a bit limp and flimsy, but that can be overlooked in favor the taste: Det smakte utermerket.
SWEET GREEK CHEESE PUFFS, $5
North Side of Carnes Ave., between Nelson & Underwood streets
Deep fried phyllo dough stuffed with ricotta with powdered sugar and the aforementioned honey.
This was like a cross between a sweet breakfast treat and an elevated cheese curd that someone accidentally drizzled with sweet goo. As the former, it's a lot. Super sweet, super sticky. As the latter, omitting the toppings, it would be genius. Flaky crust, creamy cheese. Either way, this feels like a bargain.
UPNORTH PUFF PASTY, $8
Sausage Sister & Me
Food Building, east wall
This has become a favorite stop at the fair and this year's addition is a perfect hot handful of food. It's like a Midnight Sandwich with an Iron Range accent: These are pretty little squares of peppered and flaky pastry packed with porketta, cheese curds — though not a lot — mustard and pickles. The side of sonora crema — a sort of smoky Sriracha-like sauce — is optional.