When Minnesota State Fair historians look back on 2017, the year will surely be remembered for its bounty of memorable new foods. From beautiful baked goods and stunning ice creams to imaginative breakfast, lunch and dinner items, a handful of savvy operators set out to impress, and succeeded; the highs tower as tall as the new selfie-bait Ferris wheel.

Of course, the Great Minnesota Pig-Out wouldn’t be the same without flaunting some amusing but ill-advised attempts at social media fame — and fortune. There are plenty of ho-hum additions to the deep-fried pantheon that probably won’t generate even a flicker of buzz. (Memo to fair officials: Why not focus on new foods’ quality rather than quantity?) Prices continue to creep up — no surprise there — but it’s refreshing to witness the emergence of a few genuine bargains.

As for Thursday’s by-the-numbers data, it took this critic 11 hours, 19,000 steps and $463 (almost entirely in cash, although credit card acceptance is on the rise) to assess 56 new food items at 44 stands on the fair’s opening day. Here they are ranked, starting with the four star winners.

★★★★ out of four (Exceptional)

Slow-Roasted Pork Mole Tamale

A must. Chef Mark Haugen smothers a fresh corn tamale in a complex mole, succulent pork that’s braised in its own fat and a lively roasted-corn/black-bean salsa with cool pops of pineapple. One word: Wow. $10.
Location: Tejas Express Map it

 

S’more Fun Ice Cream