Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Minnesota State Fair

When Pete and I moved to Minnesota twenty years ago with our then 4 month old daughter, Taylor, one of the first things we had to check out was the Minnesota State Fair. Nothing had prepared me for this event that we call "The Great Minnesota Get Together". I had been to other state fairs, but, besides the awesome cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, I don't remember much from any of them. Most of them were made up of carnival rides, barkers for the yak woman, and games that seemed impossible to win. This fair was almost wholesome in comparison....and everyone went to it. Oh, there is a midway at this fair, with rides and maybe even the yak woman, but I don't know from that area. As you may have guessed, we go for the food.

The fish taco with mango salsa--our first food purchase--and the best of the day!

For many years, we had it down to a science. We always caught a special "fair bus" that would take us to and from the fair, thus avoiding the nasty traffic. Once there, the first food purchase was always a bucket of fresh french fries. Nowadays, we can find the fresh fries at Five Guys, so we went on the hunt for some new things. I had read about the fantastic fish tacos being sold in the food building, so that was the first stop we made. It was a huge taco--fried tilapia, shredded cabbage, cheese and mango salsa all wrapped up in a spinach tortilla. It was all sorts of wonderful.

Taylor and her boyfriend, Tyler, opted for some jalapeno poppers for their first stop.

Now, the state fair isn't all about just food. We have the required farm animals and 4H buildings (it amazes me what the 4H kids are into from an early age...talented bunch). We have machinery hill, with all of its farm equipment, and we have a fine arts building that houses the seed art, paintings and other artwork from some very talented Minnesotans. Then we have the unique.

I'm not sure if Spamville is exclusive to the Minnesota State Fair, but it would make sense since Spam is made in Austin, MN. Here we found all things Spam including, but not limited to, deep fried Spam curds. We did not try them.

And we have the traditional.

Here we listened to Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones. If you look close, you can see some couples doing the polka in front.

I insisted on a burger with fried onions from our "usual" place. Unfortunately, I mixed up the place. So while I was eating this ho-hum burger, Pete was next door enjoying our usual burger, freshly grilled and much tastier. He allowed me a bite, but no picture.

Check out all of the men in line for the 1/4 pound bacon on a stick. We opted out of this one, too.

Here, a Minnesota gopher welcomes us to the fair.

 This place sold all things tie-dyed. The owner told me that earlier in the day, some young kid actually asked him if he sold rolling papers.

Of course we had to try fried potatoes of some kind. These fresh "chips" were to die for.

It's not the fair without at least one thing on a stick. These Pronto Pups were first served in 1947.

And we had to have some deep fried cheese curds.

Worth a second picture. :)

We split some ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

And we had to have mini-donuts.

While Pete and I checked out the fine arts building, Taylor and Tyler played games on the midway.

The last stop of the day was to see the butter sculptures. Twelve young women were Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists. They were sculpted in butter. Enough said.

And so, another state fair and another summer are done. It seemed like the very next day the furnace kicked in for the first time. Now the leaves are turning all sorts of beautiful colors and everyone is back to school and work. Autumn is my favorite time of year. What is yours?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dry-Rubbed Ribs and Fresh Pan Fried Fish

It was definitely unplanned, my little hiatus from blogdom, but I'm guessing blog block hits the lot of us eventually. With the heat of the last weeks of August, a few minor, but annoying medical procedures, and the stress of ordinary life, the blog just went by the wayside. Luckily, cool weather has blown into town and, while my next few weekends are busy, I'm pretty sure I can fit a few posts into the mix. Let's start with what I didn't share from this oh-so-short summer. We'll begin with 4th of July weekend.

We are lucky to live on a lake all year, but the best time to be on the lake is when we can share it with friends and family. This year, the 4th of July was especially nice, since we had several relatives come to visit with my mother-in-law, Alice. She had a great time. And we had wonderful food.

I wasn't sure if I wanted my ribs to have a dry rub, or a I did both. The dry rub won the popular vote.

I found a great recipe for a dry rub from my friend DeeCook, You can find it here: Oven Baked Pork Ribs

Easy stuff. Just be sure to cut off that membrane on the back of the ribs first, then rub the spices all over and put it in a foil pan. Cover it up real tight, and bake it at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Then just finish it off on the grill. Superb.

For the saucy ribs, I just mixed some honey into original Open Pit Barbecue Sauce. Kind of old school, but my favorite sauce. Next time I'll share my homemade BBQ sauce.

Later, we sent our guests out to catch some fish. They actually caught quite a few right off of the dock, then cleaned them up and fried them. Quite the treat!

I'm happy to say that I had no part in the preparation of this's not often that someone cooks for me, so I was happy to just supply the drinks.

We set up a make-shift kitchen outside and kept the mess to a minimum.

Alice can't cook anymore, but she was still able to provide instruction on how to make the batter. Dip the fish fillets in flour first, then in the batter (simply beat together 2 eggs and blend in a can of beer). Finally, dip it in some seasoned cornmeal. We used some salt and cayenne pepper.

Keeping it on the grill meant no odor in the house. :)

Serve it up on a vintage McDonald's plate, add a few grilled potatoes, and you have a perfect meal!

Belle waits for some treats to drop to the ground.

And a good time was had by all....

Stay tuned for the final days of summer....the State Fair edition!