Looking for something good to eat at the fair? Check out these food reviews

Published 9:12 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

It is an annual Tribune tradition to taste food every year at the Freeborn County Fair. Here’s what we tried this year:

Tandoori Chicken, Parmesan Cream Sauce Gnocchi, Pita Chips with Hummus and Mushroom Sauce Gnocchi from Praeliza Fusion Kitchen.

Praeliza Fusion Kitchen

Gnocchi, $12
Pita Chips and Homemade Hummus, $5
Chicken and Beef Shawarma Roll Combo, $15

We’ve worked with Freeborn County Fair Board member Troy Thompson for at least five years now on our food-tasting tradition. Troy rounds up food vendors willing to participate, and we never really know what we’re going to get until we show up the first day of the fair, and he starts bringing in food.

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This year, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Praeliza Fusion Kitchen out of Albert Lea, which is a first-year vendor at the fair.

The truck is run by husband-and-wife team Praveen Raj and Elizabeth Braun, who have lived in Albert Lea for two years. Raj, who is originally from India, has 15 years of experience as a chef and brings with him the best of many different types of cuisines, including Italian and Middle Eastern.

Shawarma Roll

They have already been out doing catering and events and started with fairs this year.

“I want to give people some different flavor,” Raj told me when I went back to the food truck to learn more.

The food he creates is classified as fusion food, which is created by combining various cooking techniques from different cultures to produce a new type of food.

On Tuesday we tried the Tandoori Chicken and Gnocchi, which combined different spices from India, including curry, a personal favorite of mine.

We also tried gnocchi with a Parmesan cream sauce and another with a mushroom sauce. Then there was the Shawarma with both chicken and beef and the Pita Chips with Homemade Hummus.

One thing that was true about everything we got from their truck was that each item all had tremendous flavor — and boy, was it good!

Look for the food truck with the globe, and you’ll know you’re at the right place.

— Review by Sarah Stultz

Benny’s Bigfoot BBQ: Smoked Chop, Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, Bacon Mac-n-Cheese, Pork Belly Bites.

Benny’s Bigfoot BBQ

Smoked Chop, $10
Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, $10
Pork Belly Bites, $10
Bacon Mac-n-Cheese, $7

Benny’s Bigfoot BBQ smoker is smoking, and the shaded patio is open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily near the Grandstand! Ben Berhow, an ALHS graduate and his family (wife Marie, his dad and his mother-in-law), will welcome you with their genuine friendliness and perfectly smoked pork and sides!

A whole seasoned loin goes into the smoker and the smoked bone-in chop is cut directly from the loin/rib (previously they used pre-cut chops). It is cooked to perfection and is a very healthy sized portion.

The pork tenderloin sandwich was served on a bakery fresh bun and was truly delicious.

They have three different sauces to choose from: the two house sauces are the traditional BBQ sauce, which is sweet and smoky, and the Texas Gold is a mustard-based sauce that pairs nicely with the smoked pork. They also offer a classic hot sauce that is not made “in house.”

The smoky bacon mac-n-cheese was absolutely wonderful and just the right size for a “snack” or side dish when there are so many other good things to eat, too!

Their most popular items tend to be the Pork Belly Bites because it is easily shareable and the Bacon Mac-n-Cheese. They said that the mac-n-cheese is always requested at every catering event that they do!

— Review by Michelle Rasmussen and Lisa Foley

Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que Pork-topped Baked Potato, $10

Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que

Pork-topped Baked Potato, $10
Pork nachos, regular $10, bucket $15
Loaded pork sandwich, $9

Piggy Blues Bar-B-Que. The name conjures up delicious smells and flavors. Piggy Blues is well known for outstanding barbecue in our area, and they did not disappoint at our Freeborn County Fair food tasting.

The pork-topped baked potato was fabulous. Shredded pork topped a baked potato the size of a softball. Add in sour cream, nacho cheese and generous slices of jalapeno, and it was topped off to perfection.

Pork nachos from Piggy Blues, regular $10, bucket $15

Another Piggy Blues favorite was the pork nachos. A mound of nacho chips was topped by flavorful and succulent shredded pork, nacho cheese sauce, salsa and sliced jalapeño.

They also had a loaded pork sandwich (filled a good 2 inches high with shredded pork!) with kettle chips. Choose from a spicy or sweet barbecue sauce.

Josh, the owner, states he’s been a part of the Freeborn County Fair food scene for 21 years.

— Review by Valerie Kvale

JoyBowl from ChillJoy Ice Cream LLC

ChillJoy Ice Cream LLC

JoyBowl $7

ChillJoy Ice Cream LLC started business in 2019 with flavored ice creams and edible cookie dough by Cory & Kayleen Peterson. They are local Albert Lea folks that only do events in Albert Lea and the Freeborn County Fair because they both work full-time jobs in addition to their ice cream business.

New to their menu for the 2023 Freeborn County Fair is the JoyBowl. And I have to say that it brought us JOY! The bowl is lined with waffle cookies and the middle is filled with soft serve ice cream (twist, vanilla or chocolate). Chocolate syrup (or your choice of syrup) was drizzled over the concoction and then it was topped with a colorful array of sprinkles.

When asked what their most popular item was, Cory said “definitely cookie dough.”

— Review by Michelle Rasmussen and Lisa Foley

Check back for more reviews on Wednesday.