A Greener Visit to the MN State Fair

A Greener Visit to the MN State Fair - Dara & Co. - August 2010 - Minnesota (cross post)

The Minnesota State Fair is almost underway, and once again has a lot to offer in terms edible and educational opportunities in 2010. This year at the fair you can learn more about how we can reduce our impact on the environment by how we maintain our diets, homes, and communities. Below I've put together a list of events and food items that can give your annual fair experience a new, greener twist.

Attend Minnesota Cooks on Tuesday, August 31
Minnesota Cooks is an annual local food event that shares information about local farmers, local food, and local chefs. The program, which runs 9 a.m.-5 p.m., is broken into hour-long segments. Each hour, two local chefs are paired with a local farmer and local ingredients. The chefs create dishes to feed celebrity tasters and provide samples to hungry audience members. They share information and field questions from the audience. I've attended the past three years and have learned a lot about local foods in Minnesota. Stop by Carosel Park and learn more about food made in our state.

Stop by the Eco-Experience
Presented by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Eco-Experience showcases renewable energy and exhibits on air, water, land, green buildings, organic agriculture, and renewable energy. Check out the Sustainability Stage schedule for daily events.

Visit the Minnesota Grown Booth
The Minnesota Grown booth educates fair-goers about the diversity of Minnesota products and where people can find them. It's located in the ag/hort building.

Sample Locally Produced Food:

  • Wild rice burgers, wild rice sausage, waffle fries, and wild rice corndogs at Minnesota Wild Rice Specialties
  • Minnesota wild rice sausages with beef or pork and jalapeno cheese at Sausage by Cynthia
  • Buffalo kabobs at Minnekabob
  • Minnesota wine, ice cream, and sausage made with Minnesota wine at MN Wine Country
  • Bison jerky and meat sticks from the MN Buffalo Association
  • Elk meat cookbooks, elk jerky, elk snack sticks, and elk summer sausage from MN Elk Breeders
  • Minnesota apples, apple cider, apple sauce, and frozen cider pop from MN Apples
  • Honey (liquid, spun, creamed, comb, whipped) in glass and plastic containers, honey jams, honey jellies, honey candy, cookies, ice cream, honey nut fudge ice cream, and honey nut frozen yogurt from MN Honey Producers Association

Consider Public Transportation
Free parking with free bus service to the fairgrounds is available at various locations within a short distance of the fairgrounds. Park & Ride operated, 8 a.m.-midnight, daily.

Consider Biking

This bike map shows the location of the State Fair bike corrals and recommends routes.

[where: Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota]

I *Heart* my Penguin

I'll admit it. I have a thing for sparkling water. However, my passion for sparkling water was beginning to conflict with my passions for reducing waste and saving moo-la.

Therefore, as a yuletide gift in December, gerg lovingly bestowed upon me a SodaStream Penguin.

I was a touch overwhelmed when I opened the box because it was so mysterious and different. I was all like, "It doesn't use electricity, it uses carbonators. What the hell is a carbonator? Is that what's in the Guinness can?"

Well, it was easier than pie to assemble, and we've been using it regularly for months now, and for the following reasons, we like it:
  • We can make as much sparkling water we want, on demand, baby.
  • We can use tap water.
  • It arrived with 2 attractive glass carafes for storage and use. Perfect for the fridge and for table settings.
  • Our friends and family like learning how to use it - instant party favor.
  • The carbonators last a long time. My first one just ran out after 8 months of use. It ships with 2 carbonators, so we're set for awhile.
  • It's shaped like a penguin, and it honks at you when the carafe is properly carbonated.
  • It's kind of like a robot, and I dig robots.
  • After a year's worth of use, it will have paid for itself.
Now that the first carbonator is empty, we'll need to exchange it sometime soon. We know we can do it through the SodaStream website, but if you know of a local option for exchanging the carbonators, please holler at me.

FYI, the thing in the Guinness can is a patented widget: "The purpose of the widget is to release the CO2 from some of the beer in the can to create the head. The widget is a plastic, nitrogen-filled sphere with a tiny hole in it."

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

We Need so Damn Many Things To Keep our Dazed Lives Going

Walking around Uptown, I heard a AC unit wigging out, and it reminded me of the first few bars of the Stereolab track below. Upon re-listening, I remembered that Stereolab is totally boss. I dig jazzy math rock beats. SERIOUSLY.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Why I Love Cooking With Dog

When I was a kid, I watched the Frugal Gourmet and Yan Can Cook on Saturday mornings instead of cartoons. (I actually wrote a letter to Jeff Smith asking him why he used granite instead of marble for his pastry board - I'll find it and post it).

I wasn't allowed to cook much, but I was always underfoot in the kitchen observing. As my mom and dad lugged their instruments out of the house to head to band practice, I plotted and raided the kitchen, fixing silly recipes based on what my mom had in the pantry and refrigerator.

When my best friend's mom married a chef I was so pumped...until I learned that by the time he got home, he was burned out, and kept to cooking simple recipes. Still, I learned a lot from him about the magic of tomato paste.

Finally, in 2nd grade, I decided I was going to be a chef.

This decision was firm until my junior year of high school, when I met a chef who gave me some advice, "If you want a family, and you want to live a normal life, save cooking for a hobby. I work every night, every weekend, every holiday. I never see my kid." My stomach knotted. Yes, I loved cooking, but was I willing to sacrifice my other dreams to become a chef?

I talked it over with my mom, and we agreed that I would pursue my other interest - writing. That worked out, in the long run. I write for a living, and most of what I write about is related to agriculture and food. I consider that a win.

My enthusiasm for cooking remains. My kitchen is my other refuge, and I have a real passion for learning about ingredients, from who grew this tomato to how a handle bone-in short rib.

And while I watch cooking programs, I still mainly watch the PBS programs - America's Test Kitchen, Mexico - One Plate at a Time, and Avec Eric are among my favorites.

I was recently introduced to this YouTube cooking program, which reminds me of the shows I watched as a kid on PBS. It's simple, straight-forward, and focuses on showing a home cook how to prepare something special.

Plus, the dog is hilarious.

[where: Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota]