A little threat of severe weather can’t get between me and my fair food – we still managed to get a hearty serving of the fair and its food. The first day is always a little overwhelming – the sights, the sounds, and a list full of new foods with nothing crossed off.
A hard left out of the tunnel entrance lead us organically down to the Spam wagon and to what may have been inorganic Spam Fries.
But guess what? I don’t care what they were made of (as long as it’s not crickets.) Factory ham beats crickets every day and twice on Sunday. But anyway, these Spam Fries; salty, crispy on the outside, hammy spammy on the inside . Great! I liked them with ranch, because they didn’t seem unhealthy enough on their own.
Adjacent to the Spam is the highlight of the Fair year in and year out, the Milwaukee Bucks Milk House. Two new flavors this year; chocolate peanut butter and salted caramel. Both were really good with the edge going to the chocolate peanut butter – like a melted Reeses in your mouth. The only major issue is that the boys can each drink at least a milk-a-piece so even with my trademark 4 milk carry – I’m not left with enough milk to satisfy my craving. It’s ok, it’s worth it to raise a couple milk drinkers.
Brad & Harry’s Cheese Curds are next and since we have them every year (and almost every trip) the new game is, “find a cheese curd that looks like something.” This batch had this:
Back to the new foods list and over to Water Street Brewery for Yardbird Nachos.
These were pretty good. Rich and really filling to eat alone (which I did). Turns out “chicken cracklings” are basically deep-fried chicken skin (maybe they were battered a little too) so they’re basically the best part of your bucket of fried chicken. The toppings were great too with some nice fresh salsa. Give these a try.
Time to feed the kids some more and what better than a 12″ corn dog (which I ate half of because that’s what dads do – or that’s what I do – either way).
Tropics at the Fair was the next target to cross our path and I moseyed up the bar and ordered some deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich bites. I talked to the owner as well and got you all some insider information – the cheese is battered in bread batter – something they came up with. When you cook it, it turns into bread around the cheese – deep-fried grilled cheese bread.
Last stop for the day was appropriately Saz’s for dessert. Monkey Business.
Two little dessert burritos were excellently prepared. The burritos may have even been banana flavored – I think – I couldn’t exactly tell. Either way, they were crispy and full of everything good. Peanut buttery, bacon jam, caramelized banana. These were great. Soooo rich though. Please don’t be me – don’t eat them both yourself. I ended up couched for a good 2 hours after we got home from overdoing it today. Tara never wants to share these weirder things with me. Don’t get me wrong – she encourages me to get them…and life insurance. Weird.
Be back soon.
A year of waiting and it’s finally that time again; the Wisconsin State Fair is back later this week. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since last August and I’ve done my best to keep myself in tip-top fair feasting shape. From Naked Chicken Chalupas to Mac & Cheetos – I eat the best and worst of what’s out there just to be prepared for these 10 days in August each year. And my colon is already quivering after reading this year’s new food list.
I know it can be difficult to plan your food choices at the fair; the dollars and calories add up. So, in hopes of helping, I’ve commented on all 67 new foods. The best, the worst, and the rest. Enjoy!
(My comments are in italics.)
The Best (no particular order)
- All American Grilled Breakfast Sandwich – We are taking the all American Breakfast Sandwich (with bacon, egg and cheese) and sandwiching it in between two grilled hash brown patties. At Siggy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.
- Doesn’t sound as good as the grilled donut breakfast sandwich (of 2015) was, but in the spirit of KFC’s infamous (and sorely missed) “Double Down” I’m all for replacing buns with other options.
- Yard Bird Nachos – A complete southern fried chicken dinner in nacho form! Totally “chipless” nachos using deep-fried chicken cracklings as its base! Smothered with Wisconsin cheddar & jack, mashed potatoes, Water Street Brewery amber beer-marinated and house-smoked pulled chicken with special spice rub. Topped with homemade corn salsa, house-pickled jalapenos and sweet peppers. At Water Street Brewery.
- Substituting those empty tortilla chip calories with some good old wholesome fried chicken cracklings (???) is a great start. Topping it Smothering it with mashed potatoes & co is a great finish.
- Deep-Fried Grilled Cheese Sandwich Bites – Tender morsels of grilled cheese bites deep fried to perfection and served with a creamy tomato dipping sauce. At Tropics at the Fair.
- Sucks you right in by dropping a hot “tender morsels” on you right off the bat. Hard to not want these in your mouth. Sometimes simpler is better and I believe that’ll be the case here.
- Housemade Cheddar Tots – 4 housemade Wisconsin Cheddar Potato Tots, drizzled with Saz’s Original BBQ Sauce, topped with all natural Duroc BBQ pulled pork and chives.
- So I was actually a big fan of the “cheesy tots” that they served at Burger King briefly (big surprise I tried those, right?) so when I saw Saz’s was taking a stab at them and that there was pulled pork on top – I was in. Take my money yesterday Saz’s.
- Monkey Business – You’ll go bananas for our caramelized banana burrito! Stuffed with house-made bacon jam and creamy peanut butter, then deep fried, drizzled with Wisconsin honey, and finished with a sprinkle of chipotle cinnamon sugar – this funky monkey means business! At Saz’s BBQ.
- Our first dessert entry on the list. Extra points for wrapping this up burrito style to allow for clean eating (although I wish it was fried à la Chimichangas). Still 10:1 odds that this ends up down the front of my shirt and/or pants. Hot bananas!
- Spaghetti & Meatballs Mozzarella Sticks – Albanese’s famous spaghetti & meatballs wrapped in a wonton with mozzarella and fried to golden goodness. Served with Albanese’s famous red sauce. Finalist in the 2017 Sporkies. At Albanese’s Roadhouse.
- I’m a big fan of making homemade mozzarella sticks with egg roll skins and string cheese. This seems pretty close to that but if they pull of the cheese-noodle-meatball ratio correctly we could have a winner.
- Three Little Pigs Ravioli – Completely noodleless, handmade bacon ravioli stuffed with 3 different styles of pork! 6 slices of handwoven bacon stuffed with homemade bourbon bacon jam, house smoked pulled pork shoulder, and pancetta. Complemented by cream cheese, Wisconsin smoked gouda, scallions, onion and brown sugar. Served with homemade cherry bourbon bacon BBQ jam. At Brew City.
- “Completely noodleless…” That’s right, F!@# noodles, who needs them…not us! We have something called bacon here in the US of A. And this dish is an all-around stellar exhibition of the majestic hog’s versatility in meat offerings. I think this is going to be a good one.
- Wisconsin Cheese Curds & Brat Taco – Johnsonville brat deep-fried with Ellsworth white cheddar in a fried tortilla shell and topped with slaw and sriracha mayo. At Poncho Dog.
- (Read slowly and softly): Taco, deep fried, brat, cheddar, deep fried…And it’s topped with slaw. I’m a big slaw guy. Especially when used as a topping.
- SPAM Fries – Spam fries take a traditional can of Spam to the next level. Deep-fried and served with a tasty dipping sauce. At SPAM.
- Is there a level beyond “a traditional can of SPAM”? I mean isn’t Spam really already “next level?” It’s meat in a can. It’s revered in Hawaii. It rhymes with lots of words. I think it’s already there. But either way, I’m willing to try this and let you know where it lands.
- Breakfast Dog – Crispy bacon-wrapped all beef hot dog topped with cheese, scrambled eggs, chives and drizzled with sriracha for that extra little kick. At Siggy’s Wild Dogs Saloon.
- Hot dog for breakfast? Wrap a sausage link in bacon and maybe we’ll tango.
- Cinna Dog – Savory meets sweet in this corn dog rolled in cinnamon sugar. At 3B Corn Dogs
- Hot dog for dessert? Try harder.
- Corn on the Beach – Roasted corn on the cob meets the island life in this corn on the cob topped with chili powder, melted butter, cotija cheese, fresh cilantro and lime. At Tropics at the Fair.
- Nothing really wrong here, I just don’t like thinking about eating corn at or on the beach. I keep thinking about crunching down on little sand and I hate it.
- Goat Meat Wrap – A delicious, unique wrap that bursts with flavor! At Wisconsin Dairy Goat Products.
- I don’t want my goat meat wrap bursting with anything. I don’t want it at all in fact. Sorry goats…or should I say you’re welcome.
- Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Olives On-a-Stick – The ultimate State Fair experience!! Our award winning, green queen olives stuffed with cream cheese, individually wrapped with real bacon, dipped in a seasoned, crunchy batter and served with ranch for dipping and kick up the taste with sriracha! Green olives + cream cheese + bacon = cheesy, salty, crunchy “Baconlicious Awesome Olives!” At Fried Fruit & Fried Olives.
- I’m sure I’ve said you can wrap anything in bacon and deep fry it and I’d eat it one or twenty times in the past. It’s just that I am not an olive guy. They taste like dirty salty socks. Hard pass.
- Cricket Nachos – Think eating bugs is gross? Think again! Insects are good for the environment and for you. Cricket nachos have all the flavor of regular nachos but are high in protein and gluten free! Crickets are a sustainable protein that require less water to grow, providing an eco-friendly way of eating. Be proud to say, “I Eat Bugs!” At All Things Jerky.
- I thought again, and again, eating bugs is still gross. I mean don’t get me wrong, if we’re all eating cricket flour derived snacks some day because we live in a post-apocalyptic world where that’s all you can eat; well then I’ll personally write a thank you letter to “All Things Jerky.” I’ll commend them for being a pioneer in the bugs-as-food industry and for saving mankind. But until then, keep this away, far away, get it out of the fair. Remember what I said about sand in my mouth up above re: “Beach Corn”? Times infinity for this dish. Sick. Sorry Earth. Not yet. Not yet.
- The Wild Dog – All beef hot dog topped with grilled onions, cheese and thousand island dressing. Siggy’s Wild Dogs Saloon
- I wouldn’t say no.
- Apple Pie Nachos – Cinnamon and sugar nacho chips topped with apple pie filling, caramel, whipped cream and walnuts. At Jayme’s Chipstix.
- I like nachos and I like pie.
- Bacon Ravioli – Handmade bacon ravioli filled with cheese. At Brew City.
- Familiar formula that works; replace something with bacon; serve, eat repeat.
- Bacon-Wrapped Pork Shish-Kabob – Pork, wrapped in bacon and put on a stick. At George’s Fun Foods.
- Don’t pork yourself!
- Ball Park Tots – Tailgate heaven meets on top of these tots with hot dogs and baked beans. At Knucklehead.
- Always been a fan of beans and wieners.
- Banana Boat – Banana Boat will remind you of the days of being a kid sitting around a campfire and enjoying this banana stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate chips. At Knucklehead.
- Something is off in that description – read it again. Like you were a kid traveling to a future to enjoy this banana thing and then coming back to the campfire so you could remember it someday for this sentence…Confused? Me too. But I’d eat it.
- Beer-Battered Bacon-Wrapped Cheddar Sausage On-a-Stick At Apollo’s.
- Of course.
- Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders – Two beef burger slider patties, topped with cheddar cheese, bourbon-bacon sauce and coleslaw on a pretzel slider bun. At Budweiser Pavilion Grill.
- I love sliders. And there’s that slaw again!
- Bowtie, Basil & Balls Walking Pasta – Three homemade cocktail meatballs simmered in our house tomato sauce. Finished with fresh basil and bowtie pasta, secured with a toothpick and served with garlic bread. At Pitch’s BBQ & Miss Katie’s Diner.
- Haha, balls. Nice alliteration but I like my pasta sitting.
- Budweiser Pavilion Triple Threat – A tower of sliders represents three Wisconsin State Fair staples, each with a special flavor twist and served on-a-stick! The Budweiser Pavilion Triple Threat includes 3 savory sliders – one Smoked Jalapeno, Bacon and Cheddar Brat Slider, one Budweiser BBQ Pulled Pork Slider, and one Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger Slider – stacked and skewered in the Wisconsin State Fair On-a-Stick tradition.
- More sliders! Yippee! Skip the cheap stick trick though – no way it works on that pulled pork one.
- Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich – This sandwich features grilled buffalo chicken topped with pepper jack cheese and blue cheese dressing. At Siggy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.
- Maybe. Maybe not.
- Buffalo Chicken Nachos – Classic, crispy nachos topped off with buffalo chicken. At Slim’s PBR Park.
- More buffalo chicken.
- Buffalo Mac & Cheese Quesadilla – A quesadilla grilled to golden brown and stuffed with shredded buffalo chicken, queso mac & cheese, bacon and crushed Doritos. Served with jalapenos and a side of blue cream cheese. At Mexican Grill.
- Even more buffalo chicken. Awesome adders though – almost made the best list. I’ll probably eat this.
- Caramel Macchiato Gelato – Skip your morning cup of joe and get your frozen caffeine fix with a Caramel Macchiato Gelato. Our rich Caramel Macchiato Gelato, which is blended with a tantalizing caramel chocolate chips, perfectly paired with an extra rich and creamy caramel sauce, then lavished with our heavenly fresh whipped cream, is topped off with exquisite espresso beans and a homemade wafer to perfect this Italian wake up call. At La Coppa Artisan Gelato.
- Too fancy for the fair?
- Carne Asada Fries – Fresh cut fries topped with carne asada, queso cheese, guacomole, pico, sour cream and jalapenos. At Mexican Grill.
- This would work. I choose steak discerningly at the fair though.
- Cheddar Corn Dog – The cheese is built-in in this corn dog. At 3B Corn Dogs
- Sounds good but doesn’t seem new.
- Chicken ChimiWrap – Two different chicken flavors of deep-fried bliss! Buffalo or Southwestern Chicken mixtures wrapped in a flour tortilla then deep fried. At PBR Park.
- Gimme a chimi any day!
- Chicken Parmesan Sandwich – Inspired by the classic Italian dish of the same name, this sandwich makes all the flavors of Chicken Parmesan portable for you to enjoy the rest of the Fair. At Albanese’s Roadhouse.
- Lacking in creativity.
- Chocomela Nachos – Hold the queso and bring on the sweetness with Chocomela Nachos, our scrumptious dessert nachos! Our homemade cinnamon sugar tortilla chips are made to delightfully dip in our salted caramel and milk chocolate gelato classics. Topped off with whipped cream sweet chocolate coating, and a salty peanut sauce with peanut pieces. At La Coppa Artisan Gelato.
- Another dessert nachos. This one might be a nice change of pace to cool things off a bit. I think “salty peanut sauce with peanut pieces” might just be a fancy way of saying chunky peanut butter but I might try it to find out.
- Cinnamon Caramel Apple Mini Donuts – Our original mini donuts dusted with cinnamon sugar, topped with chopped cinnamon apples and Ghirardelli caramel, finished off with a generous crown of homemade vanilla bean whipped cream. At The Donut Family.
- Nothing here NOT to like.
- Cricket Chips – Gluten free and high in protein, these chips feature one cricket per chip. At All Things Jerky.
- Is one cricket per chip a good ratio? ‘Uhhh, Hi, excuse me, waiter? There’s a cricket on my chip. There’s one on every chip in fact…’ Barf.
- Deep-Fried Cherry Pie Wonton – Deep fried spring roll stuffed with cherry pie filling and topped with sprinkles of powdered sugar, drizzles of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream! At Leadfoots Race Bar & Grill.
- Did I mention I love pie – in any and all formats (as long as there aren’t crickets).
- Deep-Fried Nutella – Your favorite hazelnut cocoa spread is even more scrumptious in this deep-fried confection. At Granny’s Cheesecake & More.
- Just throwing a dollop of Europe’s Peanut Butter in the deep fryer? Not sure how it works, but I’m likely going to find out for you.
- Donut Ice Cream Sandwich -Two of your favorite desserts collide to create this ultimate dessert.
- Nice but they have these at Miller Park.
- Door County Popper On-a-Stick – This bell pepper is stuffed with a creamy coleslaw and served on a bed of shredded carrots and cheddar cheese with a side of shrimp cocktail sauce. At Door County Fish Boil.
- Ehhh, mmm, uhhh. I don’t know. Maybe. It does have slaw.
- Drunk Tots – These dots are drunk on the flavors of beer cheese and bacon that top this snack. At Knucklehead.
- Welcome to the club.
- Fat Elvis Shake Shake Shake – A milk shake fit for The King! Peanut butter cup and banana ice cream, along with fried bacon bits, blended into a milk shake then topped with whipped cream, bacon bits, chocolate sauce, and a deep-fried mini Elvis, served in a peanut butter and chopped peanut-rimmed cup. At Slim’s Lakefront Brew Pub & Eatery.
- This sounds great and really filling. Wish there was a mini size.
- Fire Tots – Tossed with cumin and topped with curry ketchup, these tots will leave you begging for water. At Knucklehead.
- Asking for trouble. Pass.
- Gator Breakfast Burrito – The Gator Breakfast Burrito is worth waking up for. A warm tortilla wrapped around a mix of scrambled eggs, tater tots, chunks of cajun spiced alligator sausage and shredded cheddar cheese. Topped with your choice of sour cream and salsa. But don’t worry — if you over slept, this Gator Burrito is great for lunch and dinner, too! At Exotic Meat Grill.
- Rather not.
- Great Balls of Fire Sandwich – A sandwich that explodes with so many flavors of spicy Hungarian sausage, garlic sour cream sauce, stuffing balls, pulled pork and creamy coleslaw. At Rupena’s.
- Stuffing balls and coleslaw. This almost made the best list – not sure I have the intestinal fortitude – at least not whilst walking around the fair with a gut full of everything else.
- Grilled Garlic Butter Shrimp On-a-Stick – Grilled, slathered with garlic butter, and served on a stick, this treat will make you feel like you are at a backyard cookout instead of the Fair.
- Island Torpedo Sandwich – A sandwich boasts a combination of ground beef and italian sausage topped with red sauce, queso blanco cheese and an island pepper mix. At Tropics at the Fair.
- White cheese sounds better in Spanish.
- Mousse-Stuffed Gelato Cones – This chocolate confection is sure to conquer all your sugary cravings. At La Coppa Artisan Gelato.
- Mousse – French for fluffy and slightly unfulfilling.
- New Zealand Green Shell Mussels – 4 large, steamed New Zealand Green Shell Mussels topped with fresh lemon and black pepper. At Joey’s Seafood & Grill.
- Not a fair food in my mind. Maybe in a coastal state.
- BBQ Pastrami Brisket Biscuit Sandwich – Don’t miss our brisket, don’t even risk it, to make it even better, we serve it on a biscuit! At Usinger’s.
- I like these things separately but not sure they belong together.
- PB&J Smoothee – A creamy blend of peanut butter, strawberries, bananas and non-fat milk. At Caribbean Smoothees.
- Maybe we’ll make it at home.
- PBRs (Pastrami Beer-Brined Ribs) – PBR never sounded so good! PBR-brined ribs, rubbed in a homemade pastrami spice rub then smoked til tender, then slathered with Horsey BBQ sauce. At Slim’s PBR Park.
- I’m sure PBR makes them tender. It makes me tender.
- Popcorn Shrimp – This full of flavor classic is sure to please Fairgoers of all ages. At Shrimp Shack.
- These were new to me when I was 7 at the Chancery and thought I was getting real popcorn with my dinner.
- Pretzel-Wrapped Brat – A giant Johnsonville brat on-a-stick, wrapped in pretzel dough and deep-fried. Brushed with butter and lightly salted and served with your choice of hot cheddar cheese or dusseldorf mustard. At Gertrude’s Fresh Pretzels.
- I choose hot cheddar cheese. And this. I’ll get this.
- Rancho Tots – Ranch, green onions and bacon are the stars of this tater tot dish. At Knucklehead.
- I’m kind of over the endless combination of tots and toppings.
- Grilled Ribeye Steak & Rice – This steak is marinated, grilled and served with rice. At Chan’s Chicken On-a-Stick.
- Not something I’d get at the fair. Or from a place called “Chicken On-a-Stick.”
- Root Beer Pops – It’s that old fashioned flavor of Sprecher Root Beer, but even more refreshing for those hot summer days. At Sprecher Root Beer Everything.
- Ok, I suppose.
- Russian Imperial Stout Maple Bacon Cupcake – Cupcake infused with Sprecher’s Russian Imperial Stout, topped with maple frosting and bacon bits. At Sprecher Landing.
- The rootbeer float cake won the Sporkie last year. This has potential.
- Sangria On-a-Stick – Frozen sangria pops. A refreshing, adult delight made with Copa Di Vino wine, club soda, fruit juices and fruit puree. Choice of red or white wine. At Leadfoots Race Bar & Grill.
- I’m partial to the beer pops.
- Southwest Chicken Nachos – These nachos are given a kick with our delicious southwest seasoned chicken, which is sure to make your mouth water. At Slim’s PBR Park.
- Not standing out.
- Steak Shish-Kabob – Tender and juicy cut of beef served in classic fair-style. At Butcher Boys and George’s Fun Foods.
- What’s “classic fair-style”?
- Strawberry Basil Wine Slushie – This is an adult summer refreshment in a glass! Copa di Vino white wine blended with shaved ice, frozen strawberries, fresh basil, and basil infused simple syrup. Just try and drink only one of these beauties…bet you can’t! At Slim McGinn’s Irish Pub.
- Cost: 1 man-card. (I’d probably like it though.)
- Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos – Fresh jalapenos stuffed with Saz’s BBQ Pork and Wisconsin cheddar cheese, wrapped in bacon and deep-fried to perfection. Served with a side of Saz’s Spicy White BBQ Sauce. At Saz’s BBQ.
- Sound good but too spicy for my blood.
- Swiss, Tomato & Spinach Grilled Cheese – Simple spin on a classic sandwich with delicious results! At Siggy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.
- I’m sure it’s fine.
- Triple Cross Tots – These tots are topped with beer cheese, bbq and ranch for triple the flavor. At Knucklehead.
- More tots…
- Unicorn Twinkie – Deep-fried twinkie with cotton candy filling topped with bright pink and blue icing with edible glitter sprinkles. At 3B Smores.
- For the kids.
- Wild Boar BLT Sandwich On-a-Stick – We’ve taken an old time classic and made it State Fair worthy! Deep-fried wild boar bacon surrounded by crisp iceburg lettuce, sandwiched between slices of thin crunchy toast, topped with a grape tomato and served on a stick. Other sandwiches don’t stand a chance! At Exotic Meat Grill.
- Curious on this one – “deep fried wild boar bacon”.
The marathon is over. And by marathon I mean 11 days of fair. We’re now four days removed from the last day of the fair (and our last visit) and I’ve pulled myself together enough to write one final blog post. Watching the Olympics over the past week I’ve realized the fair really is like a marathon, you’ve got to pace yourself and you’ve got to be ready for it. You don’t prepare for a marathon by sitting on the couch and you don’t prepare for the fair by sitting on the couch either (but you totally could; which is why the fair is better than a marathon hands down, no debate, all day every day). Unfortunately, this marathon left me with weight gain, mild bouts of narcolepsy, and what can only be described as “food-on-a-stick-elbow.” All worth it – obviously.
Anyway, it was hard to top the excitement (and deliciousness) of the Sporkies but we still hadn’t had enough fair so here are a few more highlights from days 3 and 4:
Chocolate Dipped Crullers on a Stick (from Grebes). Fun fact, Crullers were mentioned in the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz and may have been a metaphor for a Tornado due to their twisted shape.(1) They’re a metaphor for flippin’ delicious in my mind.
The Pabst Blue Raspberry Beercicle was so good we had to go back for another. This time the Citrus Shandy version. Just as good and maybe better. Sorry kids, none for you. Bonus points for noticing the lady slamming the silver bullet in the background.
Deep Fried Cheese Balls on a Stick. You know I wasn’t going to pass on these. They were excellent. Nice creamy melty white cheese on the inside, excellent light and crispy batter and a tangy dipping sauce. Everything working here. That being said, if you want fried cheese – stick with the deep fried curds for a more classic taste and better value.
Breakfast Tots and Donut Grilled Cheese – can’t think of a better way to start the day.
Mac-Bottom Pizza. The slightly more traditional sibling to the Chili-Mac-Bottom Pizza we had for the Sporkies. It was huge but this one was lacking a little as the Mac & Cheese didn’t pair with the mozzarella, tomato sauce, pepperoni and sausage as well as without the one with excellent Chili and unique toppings.
Pre-Sporkies we needed to find some non-food fun. Seemed like the perfect time to finally try the “Personality Handwriting Analysis”. The Televac 6000 was so old – even my pictures came out black & white. I thought the dot-matrix printer was a nice touch even if our analysis wasn’t quite spot on.
Judging the 2016 Sporkies at the Wisconsin State Fair today was amazing. Period. End of blog.
Ok, it’s not the end, because this is probably the all-time pinnacle of my state fair experiences. So, I’ll do my best to give you a taste of it. First off, huge thanks to the Wisconsin State Fair, especially Amber and Chelsea there who made this happen for us (and did enough sleuthing on the interwebs to figure out Tara and I were married and equally crazy for fair food). Also thanks to the celebrity judges for making us feel welcome up on stage and to emcee Kyle Cherek (of Wisconsin Foodie fame) for making it easy for us to contribute to the commentary. And finally, a big thanks to all the chefs and food creators that made these (and all) the amazing and unique foods that make the Wisconsin State Fair the best. There were no losers here today because these people are delivering happiness to the masses – in the form of fried, sticked(?), wrapped, dipped or maybe something new no one even knows about yet. This was an awesome experience that I may have actually in fact been born for (as some have suggested) and not something I would have ever imagined getting to participate in. It was extra special to do it with my partner in fair-ing and my better half – Tara (scoring some points here hopefully). So that’s my acceptance speech I guess. On to the food!
After waiting giddily backstage for a little while, we took our seats (myself right next to Packer Hall of Famer and inventor of the Lambeau Leap – Leroy Butler). First out was the Chili-Mac Bottom Pizza. I was too excited (and nervous) to remember to take a picture so here’s a State Fair photo of it:
I’d describe it as pizza loosely, but I’d describe it as delicious tightly, as in yeah, it was really good. A deep fried crispy-breaded mac and cheese “patty” on the bottom with an awesome toppings including a really good chili with nice chunks of beef and some kind of coffee rub. I wanted some more time with this one. Maybe some alone time. We scored it pretty high.
But in rapid fire succession the next finalist was brought out and I followed suit of the other judges and reluctantly relinquished my half eaten pizza. Next up was the Fiesta Cookie Dough on a Stick. Just like the other cookie doughs on stick I’ve ravished in other trips to the fair but this time with a rich chocolate dough dipped in chocolate and covered with fairly spicy chili pepper bits. It was hot in my mouth but the cold chocolatey dough balanced it out pretty well. I probably would have finished this one too but would have paid dearly as we were only on number two.
Third, the Mountain Man Bloody Mary Burger. A third pounder made of Antelope, Bison, Boar, Elk, and Venison with some bloody mary sauce that tasted like bloody mary and a nice skewer through it. They did a nice job on this – I liked it. It wasn’t special enough to be a winner but I’d eat it any day.
I was starting to slow down but the food wasn’t. Fourth up was the Thanksgiving Day Burrito. The pictures of this one gave Tara the most pause – it didn’t look like it would be that great – tan tortilla, tan mashed potatoes, tan turkey, darker tan stuffing and darker tan gravy. Red cranberry sauce on the side though. Turns out this was really solid though. All the components were quality, I just thought it maybe needed to be deep fried. And I’d really rather eat it in November than in August.
Fifth. Sam’s Klement’s Racing Sausages Corn Dog. The five Brewers’ racing sausages – Hot Dog, Bratwurst, Chorizo, Italian and Polish all with their own section within a corn batter. I’ll give it this, the best corn batter I’ve ever had. And I love sausage (____ <– insert immature joke here). But I think I liked the Hot Dog and Brat the best, the others didn’t seem to belong to me. But this did when 2nd place and the fairgoers fave. So you should probably try it. I ate it all to get the full experience. See video of us commenting on it here (at the 1:40 mark). And how I feel about what I said here.
Really getting full now but we were getting to the best part. Sixth was the Elvis Chicken and Waffle Sandwich. I really like the idea of this (and a couple of the judges really loved it) but i think it had too much going on for my liking. The banana peanut butter waffles – good. The chicken with maple siracha sauce – good (actually the fried chicken itself was some of the best I’ve ever had). But I don’t know put it all together and I was overwhelmed. Still an impressive offering nonetheless.
On to dessert for seven, Sprecher Root Beer Float Cake. The most beautiful of all the dishes from first glance, it was a slice of cake that looked like a frothy mug of root beer. It tasted as good as it looked too. It was really good and spoiler alert – it won. I’d recommend you go get yourself one (probably to share).
The final finalist (and third place winner in a tiebreaker vs. the waffle sandwich) was the Deep Fried Old Fashioned. I think this was my personal favorite just for the excellent effort of turning a classic Wisconsin drink into deep fried classic fair fare. It looked beautiful and really did a great job capturing the flavors of an old-fashioned. It was really rich though and definitely another good one to share.
So that’s it! That was our Sporkies Experience. It was really memorable and a lot of fun. Here’s some more pictures:
And here’s another news clip I found online (we don’t say anything in it but I can definitely be seen chewing some food with purpose).
Monday came quick and it was time to think about getting back to the fair. I decided to go ahead and go to work (I know, right?) and then meet the family there right after. As I sat in a meeting towards the end of the day, all I could think was, “What is wrong with you people? Stop talking. Don’t you know I’m trying to get out of here and eat some fair food!” Of course they didn’t know. But they should’ve seen it in my eyes. Or maybe I should wear a shirt to work that says something like, My Other Job is Fairing or I’d rather be in West Allis. On 2nd thought I’d probably be fired or at very least ostracized from future water cooler talks. Oh well.
Anyway, we got right into things with a quick left out of the tunnel back to Spam for some Spam Curds. I eat these things because I’m caring about sharing – with you the reader. But honestly, I didn’t mind them at all. At first glance they looked like odd little tater tots.
But bite into one and there’s that tender hammish “meat.” Ellis actually mowed down on a good dozen of these, pounding his stroller tray for more between each one. Be glad the inside is slightly out of focus.
Of course we both had to wash it down with some Bucks’ milk. It’s starting to become a challenge for me to get my share of milk with Beckett hitting 3 at a pop, Ellis chugging one, and myself just left with whatever I can carry. Parenting is full of sacrifices and this might be at the top of the list. (They’re worth it).
Something sweet seemed like a good idea for the next course and the Elvis-on-a-stick presented itself to me (and you don’t say no to the king). It appeared and tasted to be battered and deep fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Beckett got jealous and since we had a coupon in the bargain book, we treated him to a cookie dough on a stick (guess who finished it – clue, it wasn’t him).
After spending some time in the animal barns we went to seek out some more food – after all it had been like 30 minutes. Tara peeled off to get some Brad and Harry’s cheese curds (a tradition) and I was left with the kids wondering what the heck I was gonna to do. So, I went off the reservation a bit and impulse bought some deep fried cajun shark bites on a stick.
I don’t really know what possessed me to get this besides that they were deep fried bites of something on a stick. I was actually enjoying them though when I started thinking that it’s not really normal to eat a carnivorous animal, am I right? I mean I guess it’s the perfect circle of life – or at least proves human supremacy at the top of the food chain (unless you’re a fan of shark week) but still I couldn’t help but wonder what had this shark eaten in its short but ultimately productive life (productive in that it became fair food of course). In the end, it kinda grossed me out. I finished them of course but needed a beer at The Micro to wash ’em down. I went with Mob Craft’s Hope Gose the Grapefruit and found it both refreshing and well-balanced for one of the many hoppy / fruity combo beers you can find these days.
Still hot and bothered we searched out the PBR Beercicles I was so excited about. They were available at the new PBR Park (a nice venue with all things PBR!)
All they had left was the Pabst Blue Raspberry – but it wasn’t actually Blue Raspberry – just a play on words with your standard red raspberry. Good choice there. And good choice by us! This was an amazing popsicle – they actually had to card us to sell it to us and it was clear that it was made of beer. Cold crisp PBR! And just the right amount of raspberry flavor. Man this thing was good. Highly recommended!
Tara and Beckett rode the Sky Glider while I contemplated a Bacon Cinnamon Roll. I didn’t get it but am pretty sure I will at some point. It felt like time to go home. Being dinner time though, we thought, “well, we need dinner, we’re at the fair, we have to get something before we go.” We’ve always been intrigued by “Island Noodles” as we walk past it every time we enter and exit the fair. There’s always a long line so they’re probably good right? Well just because there’s a population of fairgoers that do something, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. There’s also a population of fairgoers that think, “no tattoo is a bad tattoo” and that smoking while pushing a stroller is perfectly acceptable. That being said, the Island Noodles were actually fine – good by any wok fried standard even. But not something to get at the fair. We shared a carton as we walked back to the car and as I ate the broccoli and carrots mixed in with the noodles- it just felt wrong. Healthy and wrong.
And that’s it for Day 2! Time for a good night sleep. Tomorrow is the Sporkies! We’ll be live on stage at 11AM! I’ll be the guy that can’t stop smiling.
Like a couple of old snowbirds, we completed our day at the fair and made it home for a nap by early afternoon. It’s not the heat but the humidity that gets you they say. And they’re right. With the dew point working its way up from “uncomfortable” towards “intolerable” and the current temp one-upping the forecasted high we knew it would be a challenge today. Throw in 2 temperamental kids, one large man-child (yours truly) and a _____ lady on hand (MadLib it); we had to get in and get out for opening day at the fair.
But none of that or the 30 minute line to get in could keep us from doing our best to take in some of the tastes, sights, and smells on day 1 of the 165th running of this grand old fair.
A delicious donut breakfast sandwich kicked off the fairtivities for Tara. (Reviewed last year here)
Next stop Spam! A new and welcome edition to the Wisconsin State Fair (but apparently a regular at the Minnesota State Fair in its home state). I went with the Spam breakfast sandwich over the SpamCurds to try and eat more chronologically thru the day. You get to customize the sandwich with your choice of Spam flavor (yes, Spam has multiple flavored and bacon seemed appropriate to me). Aside from being on your standard bottom-shelf grocery store hamburger bun, I had no issue with this no-teeth-needed sandwich (continuing the old folks theme). I think I like the idea of Spam – the general Spam aura and vibe – better than the actual product itself.
On to the institution that is the Bucks’ Milk House to cleanse the pallete. They went back to the more traditional starting lineup of Chocolate, Strawberry, Root Beer, and Banana, but kept Orange Creamsicle from the previous year. Maybe they thought last year’s flavor shakeup was a mistake (kind of like signing Greg Monroe – or maybe he’s the Orange Creamsicle – I don’t know). The bigger news is that the milk is no longer $.25! It’s $.50. Yeah my world is upside down as well. I can’t complain though – it’s been $.25 since at least 1994 (I remember because Herb Kohl came to our elementary school that year and all I wanted to ask him was where I could buy that milk outside of the fair).
Needing to continue rehydrating, we naturally made a stop @theMicro for some Beermosas. They’ve got a great selection this year and it’s fun to think about what would go well with some refreshing OJ. We’d recommend the Royal Nektar or Grapefruit Raddler.
The 9.5%ABV Nektar also makes for great nook cleaner (kidding).
A trip to the so-hot-it-could-melt-your-cheese Giant Slide put me within spitting distance of Saz’s and those Deep Fried Bread Pudding Bites I had my eye on. There would be no spitting though – these puppies were tasty vittles. Crunchy on the outside, soft and pudding-y on the inside (always great to combine textures in my book). I won’t pretend I know what the exact flavors and spices were (vanilla, nutmeg, caramel perhaps) – but you can take my word for it – these are a great dessert choice this year at the fair. And they do get Glamour Shots treatment.
A Cranberry Cookie for the kids and a Billie’s Special Baked Potato for the adults were enough to put us into that full and hot feeling where nothing more good can happen. So, we made plans to leave the fair; but not before grabbing a three pack of cream puffs to-go and getting those requisite every-trip deep fried cheese curds for the mile long walk back the car. Fresh out of the fryer curds aren’t really the best choice for walking across the hot asphalt Milwaukee Mile race track – sun beating down. But its key to keep that blood thin and pumping when you’re eating like that – so why not.
Next trip tentatively planned for Monday 8/8.
I was writing up a blog post about my training regimen to prepare for the fair tomorrow when Tara and I were blindsided by the most amazing news you could possibly imagine. I can barely type anymore I’m so excited. Here’s the message we just got from @wistatefair:
And here’s some more info on the 2016 Sporkies in case you’re interested (you definitely should be). Come see us judge these amazing new food entries Wednesday, August 10th at 11am!
This is the culmination of all our deliciously hard work eating our way through the Fair for the last 12 years together (and blogging about it here for 5+). Seriously, in order of amazing things it goes, birth of kids, getting married, being named a Sporkies judge.
Off to the fair in 12 hours!!!
Holy blue ribbon cow crap, we’re just a week away from the 2016 Wisconsin State Fair! The wind is changing, the skies are bluer, and my hands are shaking with excitement – the deep fried summer solstice of food season is finally upon us. (Note: for those not familiar, food season is actually a full 12 months long and is celebrated each year with an 11 day festival known as the Wisconsin State Fair.)
My thoughts on the approach of the fair and all it has to offer are best described by the opening line of R Kelly’s 1994 hit song Bump n’ Grind:
My mind is, in fact, telling me no; binge eating fair food is a terrible idea for my waistline, cholesterol levels, my ability to sit upright after a day at the fair and probably my overall long term health. But my body, my body is definitely telling me yes. Yes to eating until I can’t eat anymore, until I can barely walk back to the car, until I bite into that wood stick in the center of whatever delightful food surrounds it.
And the best place to start things off is with the new food list.
My top 5 new targets this year are as follows:
- Mac Bottom Pizza: Deep-fried, homemade mac n’ cheese bottomed pizza – completely crustless! Topped with homemade pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and sausage. At Brew City. No commentary needed on this one – its goodness should be self explanatory.
- Deep-Fried Corn on the Cob: Beer-battered, deep-fried corn on the cob is served on-a-stick. Choice of seven different seasonings. At Adeline’s Corn. Corn on the cob is a rare state fair classic that isn’t deep fried. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT SHOULD’T BE! Kudos to this idea.
- SPAM Curds: Diced SPAM with cheese that has been breaded and deep fried to a golden brown and served with ranch dressing. At SPAM. There are several things at work here – good things. One, Spam is popular in Hawaii, Hawaii is awesome, therefore Spam is great; I believe this is called the transitive property of equality – it’s math and/or logic so it must be true. B., one of the best free (or paid for that matter) museums I’ve ever been to is the Spam Museum in Austin, MN – it might be the best thing about MN. And thirdly. this just fits the bill as something that belongs inside of me.
- Deep-Fried Bread Pudding Bites On-a-Stick: Homemade, old world bread pudding rolled in a vanilla custard batter, deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Served on a stick with a side of our smoked sea salt caramel dipping sauce. At Saz’s Ribs. I used to think Bread Pudding was gross – soggy bread, bleh – but it’s actually really tasty and obviously deep frying it could only make it better.
- Beercicles: Homemade PBR beer popsicles available in flavors such as Citrus Shandy, Pabst Blue Raspberry and Not Your Father’s Root Beer Floatcicle. At Slim’s PBR Park. Sometimes you need to cool off at the fair, and this seems like an excellent way to do that. Plus, PBR!
This list is just the start. Hoping for good weather and short lines! See you next week.
But, back to cream puffs, seriously, whoever designed these things was a real jerk. I already have a hard time eating messy things in public, but cream puffs take it to another level, by making you look like to just went on a cocaine bender. These reasons are why I choose to take my cream puff home and devour it in private.
I was extra excited about the fair this year, because last year during the fair I was stuck in what seemed like an endless pit of morning sickness that wouldn’t quit. Not only could I not enjoy the delicious fair food, but I couldn’t enjoy any BEER. Sad. So, I made up for lost time by indulging in what could only be described as a “butt load” of beer. My favorites were beermosas at the Micro, and an Eastside Dark beer float at the Lakefront tent. I could go on about the the tasty food I enjoyed, but I’ll let Adam share his food expertise on that subject. My favorites though, were The ‘donut breakfast sandwich’, ‘truffle tots’, and ‘smoked gouda fries’.
I also like that when you see a “Team Cream Puff” employee out on the grounds, it’s like seeing an animal in the wild. You keep your distance, and proceed with caution.