Sharing a bench with a jostling crowd of strangers may not have the same cachet as sitting down to a table topped with a white linen table cloth, but a pairing at the Minnesota State Fair can be as classic or sophisticated as a recommendation from a sommelier. The criteria for a pairing at the Minnesota State Fair involves more than taste. Proximity, portion, and price are key factors to a perfect State Fair pairing.
Sweet Martha’s Cookies and Milk
As long as there have been cookies people have been dunking them in milk, thereby transforming the texture of the cookie and flavoring the milk. It’s a classic pairing at home, but at the State Fair it goes beyond just having milk — for Sweet Martha’s cookies, you have to ensure you have enough milk. A regular ($5) or large ($6) cone of cookies comes piled high, often requiring two hands and sometimes the assistance of a friend to balance. A bucket of cookies ($14) is filled with an entire sheet, approximately 4 dozen cookies. For that many cookies one glass of milk from Sweet Martha’s ($2) just won’t do. Next to the barns is the all-you-can-drink milk stand where you can get a bottomless cup of chocolate or regular milk for a dollar.
Cider Freeze and Peach Glazed Pork Cheeks
Pork and apples are about as classic a food pairing as they come. The hefty serving of tender pork cheeks dished up by Famous Dave’s ($5) brings a bit of heat and a lot of bulk — pair it up with the $1 Cider Freeze from the Agriculture Building. The Freeze lasts a shockingly long time, and it is as cooling and naturally sweet as the cheeks are hot, meaty, and spicy.
Roasted Corn and Lemonade
Nestled at the base of the Grandstand, the Roasted Corn stand fills the air with smoke and sweetness. Two ears ($3 each) can easily be held in one hand by the husks that are pulled back and wrapped with a napkin. Across the street at the Fresh Lemonade and Cheese stand (the one with a giant lemon on top) is the lemonade that is a perfect pair with an ear of corn. You can get a regular ($3.50) or a jumbo ($5) — either way, the tart attack of the lemonade is a natural complement to the mellow sweetness of the corn.
Summit-on-a-Stick and a Flowering Onion
The Fair’s finest flowering onion ($8, with free sides of ranch, cheese, or ketchup) can be had near the haunted house. Once you’ve obtained it, wander over to the Summit stand at the International Bazaar, queue up, and then order a Summit-on-a-Stick ($7.50). The hole-y souvenir paddle holds three 7 oz. glasses filled with EPA, Oktoberfest, and Horizon Red. Armed with three different beers, you’re set to conquer the giant onion, an item that might otherwise get boring; sipping three different beers helps to keep each bit of fried onion goodness compelling to the end.
Pronto Pup and a Pickle-on-a-Stick
A pairing doesn’t always mean a food and drink. The Pronto Pup ($3.50) and pickle on a stick ($2.50) is the perfect State Fair double fist. Located in front of the Frontier Saloon is the Pickle Dog stand; as fate would have it, it’s right next to a Pronto Pup stand. You can turn around and watch people get launched in the ejection seat and you take alternating bites of your meal on sticks. A side of chips on a stick would be the only thing that could make this a better pairing.
Wish I’d known about the cider freeze – it sounds perfect with the pig cheeks!
I’d add: Walleye Cakes (from Giggles) and a Summer Shandy.
Also since I can think of no good reason to eat a flowering onion, I’d substitute cheese curds with the Summit.
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