Let the calorie counting begin.
Every year in June, the Minnesota State Fair unleashes its official list of new foods to a hungry public. More than 50 items made the new-in-2015 roster (Fifty! Used to be that a dozen was a big deal.) That boosts the level of fairgrounds snackables to more than 500 choices, sold at 300-plus locations.
If a major theme has presented itself, it’s heat. Not temperature-hot, but spicy-hot.
Someone should alert California-based Huy Fong Foods, because the company’s brand of Sriracha sauce, a Thai-style hot chili sauce sold in a rooster-adorned bottle, just went mainstream.
Consider the fair’s list: Sriracha-covered meatball sliders. Sriracha drizzled over chicken or corn-tomato croquettes. Cream cheese-infused Sriracha smeared on a hot dog bun. Sriracha tarting up a pineapple-orange-spinach slaw. Even Sriracha drizzled over soft-serve vanilla ice cream.
We’re talking Dockers-level ubiquity here. Foisting that much Sriracha upon the notoriously spice-averse Minnesota public is not unlike the universe-shattering moment when salsa replaced ketchup as the nation’s most-reached-for condiment.
The new-food roundup included other culinary buzzwords, including “gluten-free” (in the form of blueberry-sweet corn corn muffins), “dairy-free” (a frozen strawberry concoction on a stick) and, inevitably, kale. Of course, at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, America’s No. 1 Power Food gets the battered-and-deep-fried treatment, and it’s served with a “sweet Thai chili sauce.” That sounds like a suspiciously close cousin to, yes, Sriracha.
The announcement came with photos, but no taste test. Still, the usual battery of rib-stickers are present and accounted for, including both deep-fried spare ribs and deep-fried baby back ribs, a meatloaf-scrambled egg hash, prime rib in a cone, cupcake-shaped macaroni-and-cheese (garnished, naturally, with Cheez Whiz) and mashed potatoes topped with roast beef, grilled chicken and gravy. (Lipitor sold separately.)
A so-bad-it’s-probably-fabulous “salad” of chopped Snickers bars, Granny Smith apples and vanilla pudding inspires thoughts of type 2 diabetes. Ditto a bevy of bread pudding sundaes, as well as a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar with a caramel and bacon center.
And now, a silent moment of thanks for the fairgrounds’ proximity to the Mayo Clinic.
Bacon, by the way, is another one of the list’s darlings, making its way into maple-glazed funnel cakes and sweet corn-cream cheese croquettes.
On the subject of ice cream, be on the lookout for a pickles-and-barbecue sauce version and another that combines chocolate with jalapeños. Also, vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce and salty puffed corn and espresso floats with hazelnut ice cream.
Oh, and there’s an awfully promising-sounding brown butter-coffee ice cream. Produced by Izzy’s Ice Cream for the Hamline Church Dining Hall, it’s a clever marriage between the fair’s long-standing butter sculpture tradition and the church basement’s irreplaceable cup of coffee. Nice, right?
Three cheers for the vendors showcasing made-in-Minnesota ingredients, including wild rice (incorporated into an English muffin egg sandwich), Spam (the pride of Austin, Minn., returns to the fairgrounds in a bevy of sandwiches) and turkey jerky from Josef Abel Meats in Mound.
And God bless carnie-inspired purveyors for coming up with catchy names: Tikka-on-a-Stikka (chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, then char-grilled), Totchos (Tater Tots served nachos-style) and MinneSnowii (Hawaiian-style shaved ice).
I’m definitely looking forward to the samosas from Hot Indian Foods and the egg-topped kimchi-curry poutine and the (talker alert!) roasted pig tail from the Rabbit Hole. Both are fair newcomers, both have permanent homes at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis and both are the kind of inventive, quality-minded vendors the fair should be actively recruiting.
Too bad that they’re time-sharing a booth; Hot Indian Foods goes first, through Sept. 1, and the Rabbit Hole follows through Labor Day.
Other intriguing-sounding items include the frozen mash-up of tart cherries, cream and dark chocolate from JonnyPops, the berry-rhubarb hand pies from newcomer (and farmers market regular) Sara’s Tipsy Pies and the shore lunch from the Blue Barn.
But first, time to stock up on the Alka-Seltzer.
Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib