Here's what's happening, food- and drink-wise, this weekend in the Twin Cities:
Starting Thursday: Of course the big news is the opening day of the 12-day Minnesota State Fair. No confirmation on whether the fair is actually the world's largest temporary food court (perhaps the Guinness folks should be alerted) but the fair does boast more than 450-plus different noshes and libations across 320 acres.
Can't decide? Follow my rundown on 10 don't-miss returning favorites; you can find it here. For a peek into one of the fair's great food traditions, the church dining hall, go here. Oh, and if you want to get my bite-by-bite take on the new foods on the fairgrounds, follow me on Twitter, and watch for my story here.
The fair is forever crawling with freebies, although most fall into the throwaway category. But here's a delicious alternative: a free taste of shrimp ceviche from the Taste of Mazatlan food truck. Chef Marino Maganda of Pueblo Bonito Resorts in Mazatlan will be manning the truck from Thursday through Monday; find it parked on Wright Avenue between Cooper St. and Underwood St. Don't forget to toss your name in the raffle for one of five all-inclusive Mazatlan vacations.
Another reason to hit the fair on opening day (next to the Thrifty Thursday admission discounts, of course) is the opportunity to meet and greet Taste editor Lee Svitak Dean. She'll be handing out favorite Taste recipes and answering questions from 11 a.m. to noon at the Star Tribune's building, located at the foot of the Grandstand ramp.
Oh, and one more freebie: Every day from 1 to 2 p.m. (through Aug. 28), Kemp's will be offering samples of three ice cream flavors -- Funnel Cake A-Fair, Pistachio Fruit Party and MinnieAppleLicks -- and asking samplers to vote for their favorite. The winner will be added to the company's Hometown Favorites product line next year. The booth is located near the Kidway.
Thursday: As a part of "Eat Local Month," vegetable-seeking locavores can save a few bucks at a one-day-only sale at the Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, with 10 percent off the price of produce grown in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Membership not required.
Friday: Drop by the opening of the Tangiers, the North Loop's latest restaurant/bar. But plan ahead: the opening weekend festivities require reservations (both Friday and Saturday nights' doors open at 8 p.m.) and must be secured by the end of the day Thursday. Hit them up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday: It's Minnesota Cooks day at the fair, and speaking of worthy fair freebies, there's none better than the Minnesota Cooks calendar. It's the rare calendar that makes for great bedside reading, not to mention one that includes delicious recipes. But that's always the case with this effort from the Minnesota Farmers Union. The 9th-annual edition is as gorgeous as ever -- thanks to photographer Katie Cannon (that's a sample of her work, above) -- and, like its predecessors, it features stories about Minnesota chefs and Minnesota farmers.
The day's big event is a live-action version of the calendar, bringing together farmers and chefs, with the former providing ingredients for the latter as they cook up a storm. Because it's Minnesota Cooks and not Twin Cities Cooks, there's always an admirable mix of metro-area and outstate practitioners.
In another wave of freebie love, there are delicious samples for the audience.
The day kicks of at 9 a.m. with a fruit-carving demonstrating by a half-dozen students from Le Cordon Bleu, and then the program -- at the Minnesota Cooks Stage in Carousel Park -- continues with hourly presentations, including:
10 a.m.: Mike and Brandon Braucher of Sunshine Harvest Farm with Steve Lott of Big River Pizza in Minneapolis; and Karla Pankow and Elizabeth Millard of Bossy Acres with Helen Walden and Theresa Cook of Anodyne Coffeehouse in Minneapolis.
11 a.m.: Baylor Radtke and Mike Magnus of Victus Farm with Tony Beran of Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar in Duluth; and Lisa Ringer, Anna Jaffray and Kaitlin Knutson of Two Pony Gardens with Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer of Corner Table in Minneapolis.
Noon: Brian and Lisa Petersen of Greenleaf Gardens with Jennifer Richards and Jeremy Olson of Rainbow Cafe and Catering in Pine Island; and Kate Wall and Lynne Reeck of Singing Hills Goat Dairy with Ian Gray of the Gray House in Minneapolis.
2 p.m.: Tom and Karen Bunkowski of Bunkowski Farm with Josh Hanson of Spanky's Stone Hearth of Frazee; and Dave Massey of Northwoods Organic Produce with Dick Trotter and Lisa Scribner of Trotter's Cafe in St. Paul.
3 p.m.: Erin Rupp and Kristy Allen of the Beez Kneez Honey with Abby Boone of the Lynn on Bryant in Minneapolis; and Eric Larson of Stone's Throw Urban Farm with Hai Truong of Ngon Vietnamese Bistro in St. Paul.
4 p.m.: A bonus show will feature a "Mocktails Happy Hour!" hosted by Easy & Oskey DIY Bitters Kits, with recipes for crafting non-alcoholic cocktails.
The day's emcees are Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities Public Television and Strip Club chef/co-owner J.D. Fratzke, with a high-powered taster panel that will include Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken.
The calendar is available on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Minnesota Cooks Stage in Carousel Park; after the event, find it at the Minnesota Farmers Union building (Dan Patch Av. between Cosgrove St. and Cooper St.), until supplies last.
Sunday: Following the Bachelor Farmer and Smack Shack, another North Loop-er is getting into the street fair act. This time it's Borough, featuring a pig roast, live music, beer from 612 Brew, an appearance by the crew from Travail Kitchen and Amusements, all from noon to 6 p.m. Tickets $25 (which buys entry, a plate of food and a beverage), buy them here.