Each year when State Fair rolls around, there are a couple sites on the grounds that I have to visit. One of them is Cracovia for potato pancakes and some polka.
Another is the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, which offers a wide range of Wisconsin specialties that have become favorites for the entire family. And judging by the crowd that’s always in the building, lots of other families, too.
Here are seven must-try dairyland delicacies you don’t want to miss in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion.
Ice cream sundaes
At the top of the list, of course, are the ice cream sundaes dished up by the Washington County Future Farmers of America. This big booth is always rocking because the fresh ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, strawberries, cherries or maple syrup are delicious and inexpensive at $4 each.
You can get a grilled cheese in a few sites in the Wisconsin State Fair Park, but the ones hot and fresh at the Real Wisconsin Cheese Grill taste just like the ones mama used to make and it’s fun to see them all sizzling away on the grill. They're $3 a pop or two for $5.
The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association always has some tasty items on offer at its booth in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion and the cranberry cannoli are among the best. A cranberry cream filling is piped into a chewy cranberry oatmeal cookie shell and then dipped in dark chocolate. Surely, that’s all you need to hear to be convinced.
Call it a frankfurter or a wiener or whatever you want but the ones in the natural casings made and sold by Milwaukee’s own Usinger’s Sausage in the pavilion are delectable and a Brew City tradition, and these quarter-pound sausages come with sauerkraut, of course, for $4. For the same price you can also choose a 1/4-pound brat, Italian sausage (with peppers and onions instead of kraut) or a smoked cheddar jalapeno brat. Pop around to the other side of the booth to find some sinful looking reubens.
Goat milk cheese curds
There’s almost nothing more Badger than cheese curds and these, on sale at the Wisconsin Dairy Goat Products booth in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion are delicious and a nice different twist on a familiar favorite. An 8-ounce bag of curds made by La Clare Family Creamery in Malone is $5.
You thought I was going to send you for a potato, didn't you? I figured you're already on to those fair classics, so instead, how about a pasty, homemade by The Pasty Oven in Florence. For $5 you can choose between chicken and potato, veggie or the traditional beef and pork. As the Cornish miners who brought them over when they came to Wisconsin knew, these babies are filling, so one will do the job for lunch.
I’ve arguably saved the best for last. Egg nog plus chocolate? And months away from Christmas? It feels so wrong that it’s just so right. Buy two – you can work it off at the gym tomorrow. They're 75 cents a cup.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.