PHOTOS BY BRENDA JOHNSON / HEAVY TABLE
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The love. The joy. The brutality. The calories. The Minnesota State Fair comes but once a year, and THANK GOD for that, because it’s a real whirlwind of a bear of a beast of a project for completists like the Heavy Table Wrecking Crew.
This year, instead of tackling all new foods with straight up reviews, our writers and photographers took Heavy Table subscribers on a journey through 10 themed “flights” of eating and drinking at the Fair. (We’ve previewed the State Fair Sweets Flight for you below.)
The culinary field trips include:
Flight #1: Stunt Foods | Amy Rea
Flight #2: State Fair Barbecue | Piercarlo Valdesolo
Flight #3: State Fair Sweets | Stacy Brooks
Flight #4: A Dairy Tale | Jeanne Lakso
Flight #5: Blue Ribbon Brew | Louis Livingston-Garcia
Flight #6: Classic State Fair Foods | Amy Rea
Flight #7: Tour de Vegan | Stacy Brooks
Flight #8: Compare and Contrast: Classics Edition | Amy Rea
Flight #9: Healthy Fair Fare | Jeanne Lakso
Flight #10: ‘That’s So Bad It’s Remarkable’ | James Norton
FLIGHT #3: STATE FAIR SWEETS
By Stacy Brooks
My third-rate superpower is that I can consume nearly limitless quantities of dessert. When other people push away their pieces of triple chocolate cake, complaining about its richness, I go in for seconds.
My quintessential food day at the State Fair would consist of Mouth Trap cheese curds and as many desserts as possible. If you’re of a similar mindset, this flight is for you: hits and misses from this year’s new treats, plus some old favorites.
Best newcomer: Hot Indian Kulfi ($5)
This Indian ice cream on a stick is a delight. Available in three flavors (almond/cashew/pistachio, mango, and saffron/almond/pistachio), it’s made with condensed milk for a smooth mouthfeel. The mango flavor is fruit-forward enough to almost be mistaken for a frozen piece of fruit, and the almond/cashew/pistachio version has an appealing intensity, the nuts and warming spices giving it a savory quality. Plus, each amply-sized kulfi is a mere $5, making it the best bargain in the new foods lineup.
Biggest disappointment: Snack House Deep Fried Ice Cream ($8)
An ice cream/fried food mashup sounds like the perfect fair food, and this looks so promising: a slab of ice cream covered with corn flakes, deep-fried, and artfully garnished with raspberry sauce and sprinkles. In reality, the vanilla ice cream is low-quality and artificially flavored, the breading has an unpleasantly grainy texture, and the raspberry sauce and sprinkles don’t add much of anything besides color for press photos.
Had the most potential: Blue Moon Dine-In Theater Lemon Cookie Tortilla Chips ($9)
The Blue Moon Dine-In Theater has produced some of my favorite State Fair desserts, including snow ribbons (RIP) and smoked soft serve. This year’s endeavor involves tortilla chips made from lemon sandwich cookies, served with a center-of-the-cookie-cream dip topped with a dollop of lemon curd. The dip is quite good—they’ve really nailed the balance of tart to sweet, and it has a nice creamy texture. Unfortunately, the chips are chewy instead of crisp, and so dry that they seemed overbaked. Better luck next year.
Also had some potential: Sara’s Tipsy Pies Minty Magic Tart ($8)
These little tarts are certainly made with care, with a frozen creme de menthe-spiked filling, freshly applied dollop of whipped cream, and sprinkle of Andes mint pieces. The filling worked for me: the bracing mint flavor served as a much-needed palate cleanser, and it has an interesting lightness that falls between ice cream and whipped cream. If only the crust was good—it was frozen solid and nearly impossible to cut with plastic cutlery. Grasshopper pie traditionally has an Oreo crust, and I wish they had opted for that approach.
Most reliable crowd-pleaser: Nordic Waffles S’more Waffle ($9)
The combination of a classic Nordic waffle with a beloved dessert flavor isn’t much of a swing, but it definitely gets you on base. The waffles are thinner and softer than their American counterparts, making them an optimal foldable vessel for chocolate spread, marshmallows, and crumbled graham crackers. This easily could’ve veered into sugar overload terrority, but the restrained hand with the chocolate makes the s’mores waffle a reliable hit.
Lifetime achievement award: Sonny’s Fair Food Deep-fried Cookie Dough On-a-Stick ($10)
This is the platonic ideal of a State Fair food: chocolate chip cookie dough threaded onto a skewer, dipped into a sweetened batter, and deep-fried. The gooey, chocolatey globs of sugar and fat will short circuit the pleasure center of your brain, bringing you to a state of pure bliss. For some people, one bite is enough. But me? I’m eating the whole thing.
Hungry for more? Back us on Patreon and get the complete collection of State Fair flights plus food news, reviews, photographs, and more for Minneapolis-St. Paul and beyond, every Friday morning.