One in 164,694 (People): A Day at the Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is called “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” for good reason. All walks of life come together in St. Paul during the two weeks leading up to Labor Day — Minnesota’s last summer hurrah. It seems that Minnesotans either hate or love the Minnesota State Fair. My husband falls in the former camp and I in the latter. Thankfully, my boys have adopted my point of view, and we gladly deal with the crowds in order to enjoy our annual pilgrimage to this great tradition.

Entrance to the Minnesota State Fair

Planning our annual trek to the Fair requires careful research into the newest foods, attractions and exhibits. We have our Fair food favorites, many of which we share to maximize the diversity of our unhealthy diet throughout the day, but we also enjoy trying at least one new food every year, too. Personally, I cannot leave the Fair without at least one order of cheese curds. Mind you, not just any cheese curd will do — for me, it has to be the cheese curds from the “Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds” stand, located on Dan Patch Avenue.

The Original Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at the MN State FairThe Original Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at the MN State Fair    The Original Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at the MN State Fair

The crepes from the French Creperie have become one of our return-to favorites, as well – freshly-made crepes, still warm and wrapped around your choice of fillings. The strawberries with whipped cream were refreshing after deep-fried veggie fries and cheese curds.  Note the posted instructions regarding how to properly eat a crepe, the last one most important of all: “Ask yourself if you can have another one!”

Strawberry-whipped creme crepe from the French Creperie at the MN State Fair

While the Midway is not the primary focus of our visit, we always pick a few rides to round out our Fair experience. Since I have one son who inherited his father’s “I hate spinny ride” genes, that leaves me as the ride companion of last resort for my other son. Amazingly, my stomach stayed strong after our first few rounds of Fair food, as we spun round and round, stuck to the wall of the “Area 51” ride, followed by Crazy Mouse and another roller coaster. We bypassed the swings this year, which in the past years have been at a humane height to enjoy the overhead views of the Fair as you spin somewhat reasonably high above it all. This year, the Stratosphere was the featured swing ride and I could not even make out features on riders’ faces with my naked eye as the ride lifted the double swings to a height that made my stomach churn from far below. Reading the week before how the swings had multiple occasions of stalling and leaving riders 100 feet in the air, I vetoed swings as an option this year.

MN State Fair Midway  MN State Fair Midway

In addition to the food and the rides, we always look forward to walking the animal barns and gazing at the variety of cattle, horses and more. This year, we discovered llamas but missed getting to the poultry barn.

Outside the Horse Barn at the MN State Fair  Cattle Barn at the MN State FairLlama at the MN State Fair  Llamas at the MN State Fair

In the Swine Barn, no petting the piglets this year due to the threat of swine flu. But, fair goers could still gaze at this year’s biggest boar, Cornhog — all 1200 pounds of him!

MN State Fair  The Largest Boar at the MN State Fair

We also stopped by the Miracle of Birth Center, where calves, piglets, lambs and other farm animals enter the world during the Fair. It is touching to see a calf just minutes old struggle to get to its feet as its mother continues cleaning it and encouraging it to stand. Maybe it is the mother in me that left me lingering on the scene . . . because when I turned to find my teens, they had long since disappeared to wait on a bench outside the building, ready for our next food stops.

Miracle of Birth Center at the MN State FairMiracle of Birth Center at the MN State Fair

We continued to graze on our favorite Fair foods, along with a few new nibbles, throughout the day. An original Pronto Pup and the Corn Roast — classics that never grow old! Falafel-on-a-stick was something we tried last year that required a return visit this year, along with Mediterranean lemonade (we decided it edged out the fresh-squeezed variety this year in terms of flavor).  Among the new tastes for us this year, a camel slider (which we all agreed was relatively non-descript and not worth a return visit), Hawaiian-style Mexican torta from Manny’s Tortas (my son gave that a thumbs up and the enthusiastic torta crew encouraged a return trip next year!), and my favorite new food, a wine slushy (incredibly refreshing toward the end of a hot day at the Fair)!

Pronto Pup at the MN State Fair  Manny's Tortas at the MN State FairThe Corn Roast at the MN State Fair  Wine Slushy at the MN State Fair

After the animal barns, time to visit the Agriculture and Horticulture Buildings, walking past an eye-catching pond garden by the Minnesota Water Garden Society. In the Ag-Hort Building, Crop Art is one of our favorite creative exhibits. Categories include wearable crop art, although comfort did not appear to be a relevant factor in the design!

The scarecrows were equally imaginative in their design and use of materials.

Scarecrows at the MN State Fair

Scarecrows at the MN State Fair

Despite groans from the boys, I insisted on the annual visit to the Dairy Building to visit the butter heads. How often do you get to view 90-pound blocks of butter carved into the likenesses of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the other dairy princesses!

Butter Heads of the Dairy Princesses at the MN State Fair  Butter Head of Princess Kay of the Milky Way at the MN State Fair

Crowds?! Yes. Hot, sticky weather?! Sometimes. And, since it is Minnesota, cold, miserable weather?! Perhaps. (The last year we went during that weather we ended up viewing more of the horse show than we ever had before inside the arena to stay warm!) But, is there any better event that combines the interests of travel, garden, eat?! I think not. Until next year . . . perhaps we will see you there?

Crowds at the MN State Fair

Ciao! ~ Kat B.

There’s Just Something Better About Farm-Fresh Eggs

Whenever our friends’ hens go on a laying binge, we happily purchase their overflow!  A standard supermarket egg, organic or not, cannot compete with the color and taste of an egg that is only a day or two old.  Making a frittata is a perfect way to showcase those extra-special farm-fresh eggs.  This is a recipe I had saved from an old issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Hearty O’Brien Frittata

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine (Kat B.’s modifications noted in italics)

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup diced peeled baking potato
  • ½ cup shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 4 egg whites, lightly beaten (couldn’t let those farm-fresh babies go to waste – Kat B. used four full eggs rather than 4 whites and a yolk!)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoon reduced calorie margarine (Kat B. says real butter makes things better!)
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • ½ cup diced bell pepper (green or red)
  • ½ cup diced Canadian bacon (or ham)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (Kat B. believes double the garlic never hurt anyone!)
  • ¼ cup fat-free sour cream

Directions:

  1. Place potato in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until tender; drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. Combine ¼ cup cheese, egg whites and egg yolk in a bowl (or the 4 whole eggs if making Kat B.’s version); stir well.  Set aside.
  4. Melt margarine (Kat B. says butter) in non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add potato, onion, bell pepper, bacon and garlic; sauté 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in egg mixture; spread evenly in bottom of skillet.  Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until almost set.
  6. Wrap handle of skillet with foil; place skillet in oven, and bake at 450°F for 5 minutes or until set.  Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.  Bake an additional minute, or until cheese melts.  Top each serving with sour cream.

Serves 2.

Hearty O'Brien Frittata made from farm-fresh eggs (photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)
Hearty O’Brien Frittata made from farm-fresh eggs
(photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)

I doubled the recipe when I made the frittata in the photo — Isn’t that color beautiful?!  Bon Appétit!

Kat B.