Remembering summer this first day of winter: The Great New York State Fair [classic article]

I’ve been to fairs and fests all over the world and I have to say: I think the eating, drinking and atmosphere at The Great New York State Fair is the very best! Today is the first day of winter and last night was the longest night in the history of, well, Earth. Did ya hear about that? Yeah, it’s a scientific fact. Between that and locked out of my house in my pajamas today, I’m longing for the sunny days of summer. Walking around New York‘s state fair in Syracuse is just the best!

Before you even get in the gates, it’s an event. Between the prosthelytizers and the tin foil hatters enjoying their First Amendment rights, you have a much more colorful welcoming scene than in Maryland . . . that’s for sure. I got some shots in the slideshow.

There’s a Taste of New York whole area as soon as you get in — smart, you don’t have to search for it like at my state fair — giving away lots of samples. Of course, there’s an unwieldy line for samples and that’s not my bag. I did manage to try a couple little items that weren’t inspiring crowds, probably for hot sauce.

The Great New York State Fair has a well-conceived liquor plan: they have little booths and bars all throughout the grounds. Unlike many fairs that have the beer tent or other segregated area, this normalizes and doesn’t fetishize the consumption of alcohol. So, dad gets a beer and is able to walk around the fair with his family. (Same with mom.) He doesn’t have to pound them back, either, because when he wants another one, it will be available.

Local beers were for sale as were local wines made into slushies! That’s fun and not overly precious. On a hot day, they go down well!

Also speaking of drinking, there’s an ode to New York’s state beverage, milk, with a milk bar for the kids! I hear non-alcoholic bars are soon going to be all the rage, so I can see this being developed for adults. Upstate Farms makes a caramel apple milk that goes into the category of, “Where’s this been all my life?” and also, “As a diabetic, I have no business falling in love with this beverage.”

I’ve never been as excited about the ribbon-winning food entries at fairs, because if I can’t taste them myself, I have no interest in them.

Funny carved cheese sculptures make me wonder what they do with them afterwards . . .

Not everything was a big hit with me. Salt potatoes are an upstate New York thing, but as far as I can tell, they’re rough little potatoes boiled in salt water. That’s it. It’s kind of how my mom used to cook for us when she was headed out for the evening.

Now, what was a hit — it should go national! — is the Robert Baker Cornell Chicken. Robert Baker was an ag prof at Cornell, also Keith Olbermann’s alma mater. He invented this crispy/juicy method of cooking chicken with an herb coating. It’s great! He also invented chicken nuggets — which I think suck, I only eat them when I’m formally dressed and have to eat in a car. He also invented chicken and turkey hot dogs, which I also think suck, but I have my own preferences, I guess. It’s his Cornell chicken that should have brought him fame and fortune!

On your way out, there’s a convenient store selling all the goodies you ate all day, as well as New York cookbooks.

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