Yep, it’s here … well, almost here. The Minnesota State Fair opens on Thursday and I am not prepared at all. Typically I have lists upon lists that cross reference new foods, old favorites and the best route to try it all in one day (or two or three).

This year I’m taking a more laid-back approach and instead of rushing from booth to booth, I’m going for the Minnesota Cooks event on Sunday, Aug. 30. I’ll cheer on the local farmers and chefs as they pair up to create fresh dishes for the judges and the crowd. Check out the lineup on their website: it starts at 9 a.m. and should wrap up around 5 p.m. and features dishes like Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Walleye & Wild Rice Croquettes and Cauliflower Fritters with Cheddar Cheese Sauce.

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Since samples at the Minnesota Cooks event won’t be enough to fill me up, I’ll have to seek out some fair offerings, both in the new foods category and the healthy-ish foods category. Here are my top-three picks (FYI, cheese curds are a given):

New Foods:

Spam Burgers in 5 Flavors:
I seem to have this thing with Spam and the fair. After years of skipping the fair, the one thing that enticed me back was the Spam burger. And a few years ago I got weirdly excited about the debut of Spam bites. This year it’s the Spam burger again, but in new flavors like bacon, jalapeno, hot & spicy, hickory smoke and black pepper. Which one should I try?

Pretzel Croissant Sandwich (French Meadow)
I love croissants, I love pretzels and I love sandwiches. Although French Meadow’s Reuben Pretzel let me down back in 2009, I’m willing to give it another shot with this creation.

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Grandma Deb’s Snicker Bar Salad (The Blue Barn)
I know this is a Minnesota “salad,” but growing up, it wasn’t something my family made. As an adult I’ve tried it and what’s not to love? Snickers and green apples tossed in vanilla pudding and whipped cream – sounds delicious!

Healthy-ish:

Salad Named Soo (The Rabbit Hole) – Available Sept. 2 – 7 only
OK, OK, so this is a new item that happens to be a healthy item. I love The Rabbit Hole and Chef Thomas is constantly coming up with new menu items so it’s no surprise that they are debuting three new items at the fair this year, including this watermelon salad made of cubed watermelon, fresh basil, mint, arugula and almonds drizzled with chili honey lime sauce. Talk about sweet and spicy!

Roasted Sweet Corn (Corn Roast)
One year I sat on the grass and watched people at the corn roast. There was always a line and people were genuinely excited about roasted sweet corn. It’s local, it’s delicious and it’s on a stick … kind of. Order it without the butter to save fat and calories or just book an extra session at the gym. It’s your corn and your choice!

Sweet Potato Taco (Potato Man & Sweetie)
Another new item doubling as a healthy option, these tacos have mashed sweet potatoes, black beans and sautéed onions in vinegar-based coleslaw. Heck, this sounds like something I make at home! Order it without the flour tortilla and it makes for a good gluten-free option.

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What are you looking forward to at this year’s fair?