My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Minnesota Cooks at The Fair

This year I’ve attended the Minnesota State Fair three times. Three times! I think I’ve only been to the fair five times in my life tops, but this is the first year I really found joy in the fair. I used to think of it as a place where you can spend tons of money, eat crap for food, and feel claustrophobic in big crowds. Well, although I still spent tons of money and ate some crap for food, I found ways to enjoy it.

First, have a plan. Start with the food (don’t we all eat something at the fair?). Use the fair food finder here or find great resources like Vegan Express, Heavy Table, or Star Tribune. Then, wedge in activities like riding the giant slide or the Sky Glider or meandering through the Midway.

Second, learn something. Do you want to become more eco-conscious? Learn about wildlife in Minnesota? Learn how to work with polymer clay? There are plenty of activities throughout the fairgrounds where you can enrich your life.

Finally, find a place to relax. Sit down and enjoy a free concert, watch your favorite radio personalities live on the air, or simply people watch. This will give you time to rest your feet, regroup, and let your food digest. Listening to the calming music of Ecuador Manta erased any stress I had:

Yesterday Ryan and I spent ten hours at the fair and by having a plan, learning, and relaxing, we were able to make it through the day without a problem. It was a big day for foodies at the fair because of the seventh annual Minnesota Cooks event where consumers, chefs and farmers gathered together to share ideas.

I attended two food demonstrations, a morning session with Marshall Paulsen from Birchwood Café and Jon Radle from Grand Café, and an afternoon session with Heather Hartman from Spoonriver and Dick Trotter and Lisa Scribner from Trotter's Café and Bakery.

For the morning demonstration, Marshall Paulsen used vegetables from Svihel Farms to make a refreshing Cobb Salad with Poached Chicken and Honey Vinaigrette. Jon Radle used cornmeal from Riverbend Farm along with Svihel Farms corn for corn grits that were topped with beef tenderloin from Thousand Hills Cattle Company. Going through the list of ingredients, it was exciting to see how many local farmers these chefs supported. Although I didn't try a sample, the marinade used for the beef sounded delicious: coffee, dark beer, ancho chile powder, herbs, oil, salt and pepper. I will be trying that marinade on some tofu in the near future.

The afternoon demonstration showcased fruits and vegetables from Natura Farms in a Roasted Summer Vegetable Pizza and a White Velvet Cake topped with Raspberries. Dick Trotter and Lisa Scribner really showed that it's great to think and buy local by using local fruit whenever possible and even using gouda from Eichten Farms on the pizza.

Heather Hartman's Wheatberry-Arborio Risotto with Grilled Vegetables proved that risottos can showcase other grains. She used local wheatberries from Sunrise Mill Farms to lend a different texture to the dish and topped it with grilled vegetables from Natura Farms. I was dying to try it, but alas, no samples made it to the front row.

It was fun to see the chefs in action and to listen to the banter among the panelists. Senator Al Franken proved that the squeaky wheel gets the grease by repeatedly stating his hunger status and as a result, was quieted with pieces of bacon and beef. Although her handlers were trying to move her onto her next commitment, Senator Amy Klobuchar remained down to earth and approachable while promoting her fight for better food in our school lunchrooms.

Heavy Table has a beautiful picture essay from the day’s events.

Check out my fair food intake. Please don't judge me!

1 comment:

  1. I am just so jealous! It sounds like you are having such a great time at the fair!


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