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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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In Festival Guide Commentary

The Wisconsin State Fair cream puff is a 90-year tradition. (PHOTO: Molly Snyder )

In Festival Guide Commentary

The Pfister Hotel's cream puff features a touch of honey. (PHOTO: Molly Snyder )

Take the Milwaukee challenge: State Fair vs. The Pfister Hotel cream puffs


For 90 years, the Wisconsin State Fair has sold cream puffs. For the first time ever, executive Chef Brian Frakes offered the creamy pastry at The Pfister Hotel's cafe.

Seven OnMilwaukee.com employees tried both puffs and picked their favorite. It was extremely close, with four votes going to the Fair and three to The Pfister. One of the tasters was on the fence and, at the last minute, declared the Fair his favorite, but only by a horse hair.

Those who picked The Pfister's cream puff usually preferred the size – a bit smaller – but the addition of honey made it controversial. Some liked it, some didn't.

Here's more from the cream puff aficionados. And consider deciding for yourself – both puffs are available through Sunday.

Nick Barth

Lead developer

Pick: Wisconsin State Fair

As traditions go, a cream puff at the State Fair ranks with a hot dog at the ballpark. Each is part of and adds to the experience. The Pfister's cream puff is smaller, richer and cleaner than the State Fair's familiar cloud-like version, but a huge, sweet mess of a puff is part of a Wisconsin summer. Gimme the original.

Carolynn Buser

Social media manager

Pick: Wisconsin State Fair

The art of the cream puff is a delicate balance between airy and creamy. Well, and sugar. Both have plenty of that I am sure. I felt both of the cream puffs had the consistency down well, although the original State Fair cream puff was a little lighter and just felt fluffier to me. I did enjoy the addition of honey to The Pfister version, even though I prefer the original State Fair cream puff overall.

Jason McDowell

Art director

Pick: The Pfister Hotel

I like The Pfister's better. The honey adds a more complex, sweeter flavor without increasing the headache factor. The size also reflects a more humanized portion (not that I'm saying it's a "healthier" portion).



Matt Mueller
Staff writer
Pick: Wisconsin State Fair

There's a lot of things to like about The Pfister's cream puff. It's cutely sized, the dash of honey is a nice twist and the puff itself is light while also being strong enough to use as a little spoon for the cream. All in all, it's a pretty good puff and a more than worthy competitor (I've actually been weighing the pros and cons of both for 24 hours, more heavy deliberation likely necessary for such a light dessert).

In the end, though, I'm going to have to go with the State Fair. It's still tops in monstrous, messy desserts. Between the nice dousing of powdered sugar on top and the cream – the squishy, fluffy heart of the matter – State Fair's is an overall sweeter puff, and when it comes to most desserts, I'm simply not satisfied unless I can hear future Matt crying about the future diabetes that current Matt is dooming him with.

Molly Snyder
Senior writer
Pick: The Pfister Hotel

Although I enjoyed the absurdity of trying to speed eat 18 cream puffs yesterday during the Wisconsin State Fair's cream puff eating contest, I prefer the taste and size of The Pfister's puff. I also loved the addition of honey both because I'm fond of the sweet, unusual taste but also because I know it comes from Chef Frakes' bee hives located on the roof of the hotel.

Bobby Tanzilo
Managing editor
Pick: Wisconsin State Fair

The Pfister has dished up an extremely worthy challenger to the State Fair cream puff. It's got a lot going for it. It's a much saner portion size, the cream is tastier than the Fair's over-sugared version and the more conservative dusting of powdered sugar means it can be consumed with considerably less mess. What I didn't love -- though I encourage the experimentation -- was the addition of a drizzle of honey on the top, which changed the entire flavor. However, the one thing that the challenger can't provide is the key to the State Fair cream puff: the experience of eating it at the fair, making a mess of yourself, the mild feeling of euphoria mixed with guilt, the getting back in line for another.

Andy Tarnoff

Publisher

Pick: The Pfister Hotel

I like cream puffs as much as the next guy (and I have even competed in the State Fair cream puff eating contest), but I do find them a bit sweet for my liking. I really didn't know there was an alternative to the iconic offering from State Fair, but I was pleasantly surprised by the puffs from The Pfister. I liked that the filling is considerably less sweet, and that the overall product is smaller. The honey drizzled on top brings back a little sweetness, but in a less in-your-face sort of way. Clearly, you can't go wrong with the State Fair tradition, but if I had my pick, I'd go with the slightly more refined Pfister puff.


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