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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, April 21, 2014

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Deep-fried PB & J: Sweet, salty, gooey and delicious.
Deep-fried PB & J: Sweet, salty, gooey and delicious.
Pierogi: Cheese, potato and yum.
Pierogi: Cheese, potato and yum.
Our heaping plate of spiral-cut potato chips.
Our heaping plate of spiral-cut potato chips.
Deep-fried beer. Pass.
Deep-fried beer. Pass.
Wisconsin's own cheese curds.
Wisconsin's own cheese curds.
Sweet and delicious, a chocolate-covered banana could be the healthiest thing you eat all day.
Sweet and delicious, a chocolate-covered banana could be the healthiest thing you eat all day.

Grazin' through the State Fair

I try really hard to watch what I eat. But, once a year something comes along that is laden in unavoidable unhealthiness, and despite my best efforts my healthy eating habits go straight out the window.

We know it. We love it. It is the Wisconsin State Fair.

It's no secret that fried food is the crown jewel of the fair, with mullets coming in as a close second. Each year the items get more and more creative and more and more ridiculous, and this year some friends and I set out to try all the sweets, treats and fried fattiness we could stand in an afternoon.

So, strap on your feed bag and promise yourself you'll go to the gym ... tomorrow. Here's our list:

Grilled cheese – The grilled cheese is a staple of any well-balanced Wisconsin diet. I usually take mine with a large bowl of tomato soup and typically between the months of November and March, but hey, it's always a good time for cheese. A perfect balance between cheese and buttery toasted bread, it was a great item to break the fried food seal.

Honey ice cream with butterscotch coating – Chocolate will overrule butterscotch any day with me, but my friend Samantha dove right into this one. She didn't say much of anything for the next 15 minutes so we assumed it was probably pretty good. "Refreshing," was about all we could get out of her. The coating was nice and thick, so the ice cream stayed inside and she managed to eat the whole thing without it dripping all over her.

Fried beer – In theory, it sounds like a perfect marriage of two of the world's greatest creations. In reality, not so much. Even a dip in some hot cheese couldn't save this one. It was a fail all around, with each of us agreeing it tasted like stale, yeasty bread, but wet. Try it if you feel the need to say you did, otherwise, dip some bread in your beer instead.

Cheese and potato pierogi – Did I mention it's cheese and potatoes? Oh-so good. If you've never had pierogi, the best way to experience them is to make good friends with a Polish family and invite yourself to dinner. The ones at the fair don't compare to homemade, but they are a nice break from the super fatty items. They're surprisingly light and flavorful.

Spiral-cut potato chips with ketchup for dipping – After we put in our order, they ran out and had to make more. Everybody's eating them! If peer pressure isn't enough motivation for you to give them a try, perhaps this review will. They're a great deal considering you get a heaping plate of them for a couple bucks and they are perfectly cooked – not too greasy, not too dry.

Roasted corn – This is a butter-soaked fair staple. I usually reserve this item for my walk to the car on my way home because no one can eat corn on the cob and not end up with a load of crap in their teeth (not that anyone at the fair will look at you twice if you do). "Roasted corn is the most reliable food item at the fair. It will never let you down," exclaimed my friend Matt. I have to agree.

Deep-fried PB & J – This is a personal favorite of mine. "A delicious, gooey, three-way marriage of sweet, salty and heart attack," to quote my friend Kristin. The only complaints from the group were that it needed more guts and less breading.

Cream puffs – The belle of the ball, cream puffs are impossible to eat, but worth every bite you can manage to get in your mouth. I've never been able to eat one without using a fork and I've never been able to finish an entire puff. "There's something about how refreshing the cream puff is when it's hot outside. It's not too sweet, and it's a cool treat," said Matt. He went on to recite an entire poem he'd dedicated to the cream puff, but I won't subject you to that.

Deep-fried cheese curds – As is the case with bubblers, people living outside of our state lines will look at you like you're speaking of an alien planet when you mention the curd. Curds are our thing, and deep-fried cheese curds are curds on steroids. So, let the Illinii and Minnesotans remain skeptical. More curds for us.

Chocolate-covered frozen banana dipped in crushed nuts – You're going to look a bit dirty eating this, but it's totally worth it. it's the perfect cool-down on a hot summer day, and since its main ingredient is fruit it'll be the healthiest thing you eat all day. "It was crooked but I worked with it ... It was a nice way to end the day," said my friend Samantha. I'm still not sure if she meant the shape of the fruit or the act of eating it.

You only have a few days left – find a full list of food on the State Fair website, and get out there and support our Wisconsin farmers!

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