MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This is the year of simplicity. Simple, well done food that fits the Minnesota State Fair is really popping for me. Have I gone too fancy? Am I desperate for the antidote to deep fried and on-a-stick? I don’t think so. The State Fair has always been a salute to farming: and at their best, the vendors at the state fair are really giving tribute to that history by showing what the farming of today can really look like on the plate.

But most of us only pick a couple new foods to try at the fair, and to help you spend your money wisely, here are my Top 4 New Foods at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair:

4. Nordic Waffles at Nordic Waffles in the West End: These are thin, sweet, heart-shaped waffles that serve as almost a taco shell for sweet or savory wraps. Mine were hot, crispy, and perfect for walking around the fair and sharing with a friend. The $10 Norwegian smoked salmon with cream cheese & green onions is a perfect breakfast or lunch, while the $8 Berries & Cream was a perfect hot day dessert, with a mix of strawberries, raspberries and vanilla cream. Also available in turkey chipotle club, vegetarian, s’mores, cinnamon/sugar/butter and bacon/egg/cheddar.

3. Mangonada Shaved Ice at Minnesnowii Shave Ice in West End Market: What an upgrade to the snow cone. Freshly shaved ice almost melts in your mouth, and this is a flavor combo that absolutely delighted this food critic as well as my 10-year-old son. Spicy, sweet, cold, hot, a hint of salt, a hint of lime. Wow!  Mango-flavored shaved ice, drizzled with Mexican chamoy sauce for some heat, and a dusting of Tajin chili/lime powder. Then there are mango tapioca bobas and a tamarind candy straw. All of this for $6.

2. Birchwood Heirloom Tomato Sweet Corn BLT at Farmers Union Coffee Shop: You won’t find this on the “official” list of new State Fair items, but this Heirloom Tomato BLT is an absolute knockout. Served on a ciabatta made from Bakers Field Flour in Northeast Minneapolis, two giant heirloom tomatoes are served with a crisp lettuce leaf, and thick-cut pepper bacon. It’s the extras that make this special, though: a sweet corn/chipotle cream sauce and a pesto aioli. $12 and worth every penny.  I could eat this every day.

1. Grilled Peaches at The Produce Exchange: I know, I didn’t want this to be my favorite because it’s so simple, but it’s also so perfect. The Produce Exchange is legendary for their impossibly sweet and juicy Colorado Peaches. Hiring brilliant pastry chef Alexandra Motz to amp up the offerings by grilling those peaches was, well, brilliant. For $6 you can get a simple naked grilled peach – the fire caramelizes the sugars from the peach and makes it special. But for $9 you can get an herbed goat cheese that is simply magical. Freshly chopped rosemary, basil, and parsley sit on top of a melon ball-sized dollep of soft, goat cheese. The earthiness of the cheese, sweetness of the peach, plus the char and a drizzle of honey – it tastes like summer on the farm.

Honorable Mentions

Messy Giuseppe: At Mancini’s al Fresco
Irish Tater Kegs: At O’Gara’s
Wood-Grilled Elote  At Tejas Express, Food bldg.
Turducken Sausage Sandwich:  Giggles’ Campfire Grill

Sadly this wasn’t an exhaustive search of the new foods, as I’m only one man, and I could only eat so much. But here are some other new things I’m looking forward to trying:

Bananas Foster French Toast:  At Hamline Church Dining Hall
UpNorth Puff Pasty Sausage Sister & Me, Food bldg.
Swedish Meatball Smörgås  Blue Barn, located at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center
Smoked Soft Serve Ice Cream:  Blue Moon Dine-In Theater
Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl: At CafCaribe
Earth Wings®:  French Meadow Bakery & Café

Jason DeRusha