When the 2016 Minnesota State Fair opens next Thursday, a long-missing dietary attraction will be returning.
The fair will be getting a kosher-certified food stand. Not just any vendor, either, but the fairgrounds’ top-selling food purveyor: Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar.
Rabbi Avi Olitzky, of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, is the founder of MSP Kosher, a free kosher supervision service.
“We want to help those who keep kosher to experience broader opportunities here in the Twin Cities,” he said.
Olitzky and Sweet Martha’s co-owner Martha Rossini Olson have been working together over the past year. The certification process was a simple one, said Olitzky.
“It took very little tweaking, because they make their cookies with such wholesome products,” he said.
Olitzky noted that some products sold at the State Fair — Dippin’ Dots, for example — are stamped with a kosher symbol, but they’re not produced on site.
“I’ve lived here for eight years, and I’ve been dreaming that my family would have something to eat at the fair,” said Olitzky. “My children are probably the most excited. They’ve never had Sweet Martha’s at the fair.”
In the past seven years, the all-volunteer group of rabbis has certified a number of Twin Cities businesses, including the Herbivorous Butcher, Just Truffles, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Sebastian Joe’s and the kosher hot dog stand at Target Field.
As with previous certifications, Olitzky said he chose Sweet Martha’s, and its cones and buckets of bite-size chocolate chip cookies, because of its wide name recognition.
“We like to start with fan favorites, something that people trust and know,” he said. “We wanted to reach out to Sweet Martha’s because it’s such a big seller at the fair.”
That’s an understatement. Sweet Martha’s sales hit $3.3 million during the 12 days of the 2015 fair, up from $2.9 million in 2014. The vendor, which debuted at the fair in 1979, is opening its third fairgrounds outlet next week.
Olitzky said that he hopes that other State Fair vendors will follow Sweet Martha’s example and seek out kosher certification. Tops on his wish list?
“Fresh Cut Fries,” he said. “It’s just potatoes, and oil, and as long as the oil is kosher, it’s not a problem.”