Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mill City Farmers' Market (My Own State Fair)

I've decided.  I am not a state fair person.  That statement is approaching sacrilege here in Minnesota where state fair pride is strong, going back for generations in many families.  People here take the fair seriously; they take vacation days from work to attend.  All of the local news stations broadcast from and about the fair for the duration and there is even a Minnesota State Fair app. It is not unheard of to spend multiple days at the fair each season, which I am sure helps the fair to earn the highest annual attendance in the country.  

I've tried it and I just can't muster the necessary excitement.  People say the food is what the fair is about.  Others say the crafts are it.  Some go for the music.  Many people's fondness for the fair is based on the animal barns.  I like food, crafts, music and animals, so it is strange that I can't get excited about the fair.  

I realized last year that I like my food on the healthier (less stick-centric) side, my crafts in smaller quantities and my music without a grandstand.  So, I have started a new tradition: my own state fair inspired day at the Mill City Farmers' Market.  This weekend Paul and I celebrated the second annual occurrence of my alternate state fair experience.

We got to see a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes on display at this stall.
A neat aside, the stall was being run by Amish women.

The beets were a beauty to behold. 

Like the real state fair, the crowds were heavy.
The masses were snapping up the chocolate croissants from this booth like they were Sweet Martha's cookies.
We opted for a loaf of sourdough bread to be used for sandwiches featuring our garden tomatoes.

My breakfast consisted of a fantastic salad from the Chef Shack.  The salad had wild mushrooms, fresh corn and a side of roasted beets.  I added a few of their homemade condiments for good measure (pickled cauliflower, quick pickles and sauerkraut).  My salad paired nicely with Salty Tart's caramelized onion and cheese roll.  Paul thought it went well with his pulled pork hash, too.

For dessert (you can have dessert after breakfast on pretend State Fair day), I bought the sea salt chocolate nugget from the French Nugget Co.  I was tempted to pick the lavender but the sea salt version ultimately won me over.

And, to fully balance the meal, we also had some of these tiny grapes.  The scale doesn't translate well in these photos, but the grapes are half the size of the usual grocery store sized grapes.

The market had a variety of craft vendors, including this weaver who was hard at work.
We also enjoyed seeing the work of Guillermo Cuellar Pottery.  I very nearly bought a large lidded canister, but I am going to stew on it a bit longer.
Same goes for the lovely woodworking of Jim Benson.  He makes spoons that are a delight to hold and a pastry scraper that I was mightily tempted by.

Speaking of temptation, Paul and I were also tempted by the mushroom log kits at Cherry Tree House Mushrooms.  I am interested in giving the shitake kit a try at some point.  I think it is only a matter of time before one of these comes home with us.

The only state fair categories not covered yet are music and animals.  Well, rest assured, we covered those, too.  These young gentlemen provided  classy background music for our breakfast.  While we ate, we watched all of the cute doggies and their owners browse the market.  We even saw a long haired Weimaraner and a long haired Dachshund!  
I think part of the reason why people like the state fair so much is that the usual rules do not apply.  The general consensus is that when you are at the fair, you can eat whatever you want.  Plus, when you are at the fair, you are there to absorb all that it has to offer.  I am happy to have approached the market with the same mentality.  It feels a little like being on vacation for a morning!

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