Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five Things: Heritage Square

  1. Before it was Heritage Square it was Teen Fair, then Young America Center, then Youth Expo. In 1975 the name -- and the concept -- was changed to Heritage Square. Out with the lava lamps, in with ye olde pioneers.
  2. In 1976 (the Bicentennial), all Heritage Square vendors were required to wear "historic" costumes!
  3. Heritage Square is now home to the Minnesota State Fair History Museum, a must-see attraction for any self-respecting state fair buff.
  4. Heritage Square is "only" open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, so pace yourself accordingly. (The main fairgrounds are open from 6:00 am until midnight. But hey, there's a lot to do and see in only 12 days!)
  5. Heritage Square's entertainment stage is sponsored by the August Schell Brewing Company -- the perfect fit, given that Schell's, based out of New Ulm, was founded in 1860. Can't get much more "heritage" than that.
What's your favorite Heritage Square destination?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sausages by Cynthia at the Minnesota State Fair

Do you ever walk by Minnesota State Fair concessions and wonder about the back story? Who are the people who run these places? What do they do when they're not at the fair? And when you find that dream food, there's the big one: can I get this the other 353 days of the year, and if so, where?

Those of you with a thing for sausage, you're in luck. Sausage by Cynthia will sell you sausage and jerky via phone, and is even available to cater parties! (They can also provide cow parts such as kidneys and spines for classroom science projects!) The Forster family of Plymouth, Minnesota has been producing sausages for three generations at their smokehouse and sausage processing plant. This stuff is truly made in Minnesota. And if you're wondering what the "Minnesota" sausage is, as advertised on their sign? It's sausage made with wild rice.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Five Things: Ole's Cannoli

  1. The name -- Ole's Cannoli -- symbolizes that perfect blend of Swedish and Italian food traditions! In other words, Italian cannoli accompanied by hot Swedish coffee. How's that for perfect Minnesota State Fair combinations?
  2. Co-owner (with her mother, Pam Olson) and Roseville native Marta Lindey now lives in San Francisco, where she perfected her cannoli business chops at local street fairs. Luckily for Minnesota cannoli connoisseurs, the Bay Area foodies gave them a big thumbs up. And as an aside, how come I was never lucky enough to come across these when we lived in San Francisco? Now I've got to wait until August to get my Swedish coffee and cannoli fix!
  3. It took three years to land a concession spot at the Minnesota State Fair.
  4. How do they stuff so many cannoli in such short time? With a sausage filler!
  5. New business, new baby: Marta Lindsey was pregnant with her first child during the first year of the stand. (and random suggestion for the Lindsey family: wouldn't a cannoli costume make a wonderful first Halloween costume?)
Did you get a chance to enjoy Ole's Cannoli in 2012?

Follow  Ole's Cannoli on Facebook or on Twitter, and visit them at their cute Swedish cottage in Heritage Square.

Photo: Minnesota State Fair.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I See RC

I love RC Cola. The taste is okay, but I think the real reason I like it is because it reminds me of the fair. I rarely drink RC elsewhere (save the full sugar soda for special occasions, like the fair!), but we've been going to this RC stand -- on Underwood near Dan Patch -- for years! The price is right, the lines move fast, and it made it into our roster of Minnesota State Fair traditions. You can always pick up RC Cola at a grocery store, but it always tastes better when enjoyed on hot August day at the fair. And it's cheap enough that you'll have money left for that extra bag of mini doughnuts or a last swing through Ye Olde Mill.

The booth is run by American Fountain Services LLC, owned by Scott Palmer and Richard Redding. As for RC Cola itself, it was invented in Georgia in 1905.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Break the Routine with Poutine

Fair goers tend to be split into two groups when it comes to food. There are those who have their set list of must-eats, beloved favorites that are essential parts of the annual fair tradition. Never mind that they've been eating the same exact items since they were old enough to chew. There's only so many things one can eat in a day (or in 12 days) and no time to clutter it up with new-fangled fried items on sticks when there's cheese curds and corn on the cob to be enjoyed! (disclaimer: I tend to fall into this category, although I like ogling the new stuff.) Then there are those who look to the fair for the novel and new. Where else, after all, are you going to be able to eat bacon ice cream or fried cheesecake?  Many of the newest fair food creations aren't exactly something you can pick up at your local drive-through or downtown bistro. 

One of the new-in-2012 fair foods manages to straddle the line between new and traditional. This summer, in fine fair tradition, Duke's Poutine did its part to further clog fair attendees' arteries. While new to the Minnesota State Fair, Duke's Poutine's feature item -- its poutine -- is a favorite food in Quebec, and seems lately to have taken the upper Midwest by storm. And why not? Duke's Poutine does indeed seem like a quintessential Minnesota fair food, like something we should all have been eating for decades. The basic recipe: take french fries, add gravy, top with cheese curds. If not for the large moose on the stand, you'd think this was invented in Brainerd.

So if you missed Duke's Poutine in 2012, get yourself over to their stand and order yourself some this coming August. After all, what can be more Minnesotan than fries and cheese, eh?