Well, I finally made it to the State Fair this year... and let me tell you how lucky we are to have gotten the break in the humidity in time! We left home around 12:30 PM completely energized by the weather. If we could just bottle this day....
We pick the Tuesday of the Fair to take a romp through Crazy Grazin' Day, and to try stuff we normally wouldn't try. I mentioned the other day that I was a little disappointed in the offerings, as too many seemed to be centered around sweets and not enough protein. I can add one more disappointment to that list after yesterday.
The advert says "Select Food Vendors will offer SMALLER PORTIONS at SMALLER PRICES (Side note; note the bigger letters for the descriptions of small) so you can go Crazy Grazin' through the Fair!" Except that very few of the portions we tried were smaller. The prevailing theme of what My-Sugar-Na and I discovered was a standard portion for a buck less. Sure, it was nice to save a buck on something I might normally not eat, but with regular sized portions, we got full more quickly, and therefore couldn't graze as we would have preferred. With that said, the list of food we did try will be a little shorter than last year.
- Miss Katie's Diner/Pitches BBQ Onion Rings ($3.25) - I believe this was only a quarter or fifty cents off the regular price. They were nice. Thin strands, not too greasy. This was My-Sugar-Na's appetizer (though I had a few). We ate them when I stopped at...
- Benno's All Beef Hot Dog ($2.50) - A full-sized dog on a pretzel roll with onions. Would have liked to be able to put some brown mustard on it (preferred over yellow), but the bun was soft, the dog was hot and the onions not-too-strong. Nicely done.
- NOT ON THE LIST - Near Benno's was The Micro, a stand serving microbrews. The first one that I had on the day to wash down the dog and onion rings was Hop Cream from the Capital Brewery ($6.75). I prefer lighter bodied beers, and thought the "cream" in the description would qualify. It was a little more bold than I would have preferred, but I still enjoyed it. Walking around in the sun made me feel warm, and cold beer is cold beer.
- Mike Murphy's Turkey Legs BBQ Turkey Sandwich ($4.00) - I don't eat turkey. Yucky. But my beautiful bride doesn't know any better, so she bought a sandwich. She said that it was very good.
- Island Noodles Glazed Chicken Noodles ($5.00) - My-Sugar-Na took one bite and turned up her nose. She likes Noodles & Company, so I don't know if she thought she was getting that, but this was a smushy stir-fry, low on chicken, high on broccoli and celery. I wouldn't order it again, but I didn't think it was as horrible as she did... therefore, I finished it.
- Pork Shoppe 1/2 Pork Burger ($2.00) - This was the first place we went to that adhered to smaller portions (the full pork burger is $4.00). My wife (notice a trend? This gets reversed later in our story) tried the half sandwich and gave me a bite, and it was very good. I thought it could have used a touch more spice, like a sprinkle of cayenne, or maybe just some more salt, but we both really liked it. And we are both starting to get full.
- WI Bison Producers Bison Tostada ($3.00) - My-Sugar-Na and I each had one. In terms of taste, the bison was fine. But it was too tough for a tostada. When you take a bite, the tostada crisps off, you get the sour cream, lettuce and beans, but then you are wrestling with the meat like a dog going after a pull toy. Somehow, success was met without crumbling the rest of the tostada. The tough meat was too bad, because it tasted good. But if others who had never tried buffalo before thought the meat too tough, they may not try it again, defeating the purpose of the WI Bison Producers showcasing their meat. Getting fuller, about to call a halt....
- Slim McGinn's Irish Pub Reuben Roll ($1.75) - Another vendor who actually sold a smaller portion. My history with reuben rolls goes back 10 years. When Miller Park first opened in 2001, proclamations were made by the Brewers and the local media about the incredible concessions available. There would be new stands, categories, tastes, etc., etc. I admit to going a little overboard, but I attended (including the preseason games at Miller Park) six of the first seven games, and I fell in love with the reuben rolls. It was something I had never had at the ball park, and they were, just, wow. Then the Brewers hit the road, and I attended the first game on the next home stand. I made my way to the stand, asked for an order of reuben rolls and was told that they were out. "How can you be out on the first game of a home stand?" queried I, but I was met with a blank stare. I wrote a letter (Side note; Remember the olden days when people actually wrote letters? How quaint) to the Brewers and Stadium SportsService, and the response was that "Food options are continually being reviewed". I never saw them at the stadium again. The one that I had at Slim McGinn's flooded my mind of memories of Valerio de los Santos, Ruben Quevedo and Alex Sanchez.
- WOW Concessions 1/2 Apple Pie on a Stick and Small Iced Cappuccino ($5.00) - My wife had the apple pie (which was actually in a bowl) and I had the cappuccino. She liked the pie, although admitted that she was probably too full to eat it. I loved the coffee. It had lots of ice, and was the right combination of coffee and cream (and my wife surprised me with a shot of raspberry syrup, too.)
Having probably eaten a little too much, we waddled home around 3:00 PM and started immediately parking cars. The neighborhood was filled with cars looking for spots (it was also a discounted admission day). It helped getting out there before the neighbors got home from work, and had 10 cars parked quite quickly. Then it slowed down. A while later the neighbors (seeing our success) started getting into the act. It took a little more time than we thought, but we did land 14 cars by 6:00 PM or so (when all the cars are small, I can squeeze one more in along the side of the house). This raises our total to 79 for the first six days (three more cars than last year, but $9 less revenue).
As soon as we got that last car nestled in there, we headed back to the Fair to see if the invisible hand stamp might have been sweated off while parking cars. Luckily, it was still viewable. Back to the food!
- Cafe Inssbruck Apple Strudel ($1.50) - This was for My-Sugar-Na, who is more into sweets than I am. But that didn't stop me (as long as we were in the Cream Puff Pavilion) from having....
- NOT ON THE LIST Cream Puff ($4.00) - What? You think I'm not human?
- Tropics at the Fair Jamaican Red Hot ($3.50) - I like sausages, so I thought this would be good to try. And it was, mostly. The sausage was a smoked sausage with a sweet-hot salsa. It hit my spicy zone. The only problem was that the sausage could have been heat-hotter. Not sure what the regular price was for this sausage, but it might be something I'd get on a future trip to the Fair.
- Machine Shed Restaurant Deep Fried Smuckers PB&J ($3.00) - I admit to looking at the Fried Butter, but I hadn't heard one person that had tried it speak highly of it. They also had a combo that included the Fried Butter, a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger and a third item. But I was here to graze, so I had the PB&J... and I was surprised with how much I liked it. It kind of tasted like melty peanut butter on an English Muffin, and there was just enough jelly to sweeten it up. My mouth was very happy, except that within 30 minutes I'd had a sticky cream puff, a spicy dog and a gooey PB&J. My mouth needed a palette cleanser.
- NOT ON THE LIST - Back to The Micro for another beer. I asked the bartender for a suggestion of a wheat beer, and I ended up with a Cream Puff Ale from the Milwaukee Brewing Company ($6.75). Now we're talking! Not bitter at all, not heavy, but absolutely hit the spot... hard. Another one I will file in the memory bank.
- Budweiser Pavilion Patio Cincinnati Chili Hot Dog ($2.50) - When I think of Cincinnati Chili, I think of thick chili ladled on top of a plate of spaghetti, mounded with cheese. What I got was a thin hot dog with Hormel chili and cheese. I guess I didn't expect spaghetti, but before ordering, I was curious where the "Cincinnati" would come from. I didn't get my answer. I was disappointed with my garden variety chili dog.
We did more than just eat, by the way. My-Sugar-Na again went in search of the kissing dogs (armed with enough $1 bills to make any stripper drool) but no dogs were kissing. I got a new pair of sunglasses, my wife got a whole armful of "I love My Pomeranian" crap. We met up with some friends, and listened to the Dueling Pianos at the Starlite Pub and Cafe.
The entire day reinforces my love for the State Fair. From the familiar (seeing the row of temporary concession trailers along the Grandstand) to the new (the microbrew tent) to the hokey (See 40 reptiles for $3). There really is something for everyone, but more important, there is always something for me.