THE BEST OF THE BUNCH
Liquid: Frozen Blu
I've said this once, I'll say it a million times: this beer is itself worth the price of admission. I am not a beer girl, but this stuff is oh so good. Located just to the North of the two story Lulu's Public House, the Schell's stand serves blueberry beer topped with blueberry beer foam and it is arguably the best thing I've had at the fair. Ever. Yes, I am considering going back this evening, handing over my $10 ticket, and getting myself a Blu. It's THAT good.
Grub: San Felipe Fish Taco
My friend Anne Kingston turned me on to these and I am eternally grateful. San Felipe's taco is a huge, soft tortilla, wrapped around a crispy, battered filet of tilapia and topped with crunchy coleslaw and some secret sauce I could pour on just about anything. Pro tip, if you don't like your entrees sweet, ask them to skip the mango salsa, which is more like mango jam.
Liquid (sort of): Lingonberry float
Sorry Anne, and Rick Nelson, I thought this complicated concoction was just ok. They top scoops of lavender hued lingonberry ice cream with lingonberry syrup and seltzer water, then a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry. It's almost too much, and the tiny, mushy berries were a distraction rather than a treat. For over $6, I've had better.
Grub: Salad Named Soo
By all accounts, The Rabbit Hole's Midtown Market restaurant is a top notch Korean spot with a tremendously talented chef. The Rabbit Hole will take up residence in International Bazar's Midtown Global Market stand for the remainder of the fair. On a hot day like Friday, their "salad" seemed like a refreshing choice, and for the most part it was: Cubed watermelon sits in a bath of kicky chili honey lime sauce and sprinkled with mint, cilantro, pea shoots and almonds. The flavors were spot on, but the problem here is with the execution. I don't know about you, but I prefer my herbs chopped. A giant leaf of prickly mint is not appealing, and entire sprigs of cilantro, stem included, just get in the way rather than enhance the dish. I don't want to have to do my own chopping, especially in 90 degree heat, and without a knife. Also, according to the State Fair's web site, the salad was supposed to include arugula, which would have made it more of a, well...salad.
Liquid: Espresso Float
I was so excited about the espresso float from Java Jive, but it turned out to be an over priced disappointment. While the flavor was good, I just cannot get over the price. This place has a couple of strikes against it. First of all, their system is all wrong. The same kid that takes your order also fills it, which makes the lines move at an imperceptible "speed." When I was finally handed my $8.50 cocktail of chilled espresso and vanilla ice cream, the cup was barely half full. Um, no. Short changing me on my espresso is never a good idea. When I asked him to put some more coffee in it, the only adult in the booth (presumably the manager/owner) gave me a crusty look. Sorry lady, for that kind of dough, you better fill that puppy to the rim.
Grub: Duke's Poutine
I would not have chosen this item, but I was able to try it at the Taste of the Fair a week before the actual Fair started. Some poutine, like the one from Rabbit Hole, available this weekend at the International Bazar's Midtown Global Market booth, utilizes fantastic French fries that would be wonderful on their own, and tops them delicately with a few choice items. Not at Duke's. These are the bottom of the barrel fries, so fleshy in color you might question if they ever saw a moment in a hot grease bath, and ladle them with some of the worst Thanksgiving gravy this side of the Iowa border. The only discerning flavor was black pepper, and the mouth feel can only be compared to something they might serve you in a rural hospital post jaw surgery.
Liquid: Lemon Kombucha
I'll make this simple: unless you love the taste of watered-down lemon Pledge, stay away from the $3-for-a-dixie-cup serving of Lemon Kombucha at Produce Exchange.
On another note, I noticed that, in what I can only assume is an effort to expedite the entire stuffing-your-face process, several vendors, including Blue Barn and The Rabbit Hole, had dishes pre-prepared and lined up at the ready. This would be fine on a crazy busy State Fair Saturday, but on slower days it does not bode well for the dishes. The French toast from Blue Barn, for example, boasts electric blue pop rocks sprinkled liberally on top of home made whipped cream, but after the dish is plated, it has only a few minutes before the blue sparkle of the pop rocks becomes streaks of neon aqua in a sad heap of cream, which is the sorry mess I was handed. Again, great flavors, poor execution.
So there you have it folks. The good, the bad, and the mediocre. Let me know your faves.. or least faves.