Geddes, N.Y. — Today is Apple Day at the New York State Fair. That’s all well and good, but Central New York is heading into our own apple season. We can go to our myriad orchards to pick apples over the next several weeks. What’s really important on this sunny Saturday … what REALLY matters to us at the Fairgrounds … is we can get strawberry milk at the Dairy Building’s Milk Bar.
I’m making a big deal about this because last year the pink milk disappeared the same day it arrived. It’s that popular. Milk Bar officials were trying to get more than the 750 gallons they received last year. Those strawberry taps went dry after 13,714 cups. We’ll see.
I’m hopeful you don’t get a text alert from syracuse.com later today breaking the news to you lactose-tolerant folks that the Fair has once again run out of strawberry milk.
In a meeting to plan our State Fair coverage, my boss lifted a line from the classic movie “Animal House” as a parental-like suggestion: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Charlie.” To which I replied, “Why not? It’s the Fair.” After all, I write about food and drinks for syracuse.com and The Post-Standard, and I rely on readers to tell me what’s good. That’s what I do at the Fair too. If you find something that makes your belly smile, text me at 315-382-1984 and I’ll give it a shot. I might join you for a meal or drink and pick up the tab if I write about it.
Snack: A couple of readers — Adam and Heather Van Hoose — texted me last Sunday from the Midway to see if any vendors sold German pretzels. Their 16-year-old daughter is a picky eater, and she wanted an oversized salty pretzel, even though she’d probably take one bite and give the rest away to her younger sibling.
I suggested Peachey’s Baking Co. because we’ve been raving about their donuts since the mobile bakery first drove onto the Fairgrounds in 2019. I figured they could buy a pretzel that would be discarded and then fill the void with a donut.
Later that night I got a text thanking me. “We got one. It was unreal,” Adam wrote. Turns out their daughter ate nearly the entire 8-by-6-inch soft twisted pretzel. She left one bite for Dad.
I had to try this one out for myself. Instead of a donut for breakfast yesterday, I bought a pretzel, with a cup of yellow mustard on the side. Thinking I would take a bite and give the rest to a stranger like I so often do, I ate the whole damn thing.
Adam and Heather, I owe you a pretzel for letting me know these are legit.
Lunch/Dinner: This is the second year Cinder BBQ from Frisco, Texas, has planted its smokehouse near the end of Restaurant Row, and it’s the second straight year that it creates lines that meander across the street.
“Man, people out here love good barbecue, don’t they,” said Cinder’s Taraile Stinnett.
We do, Taraile.
For this year’s Fair, he added a whole slow-roasted chicken stuffed with his smoked macaroni and cheese. It’s $40, but it filled up these three hungry he-men.
I’m sure I could tackle that bird and wolf it down myself. But then I would be too full to test food for at least a day. So for today’s main plate, I went with the Texas Soul Sundae ($20). Taraile pushes two scoops of his brisket burnt beans into the bottom of a 20-ounce cup. Then comes a scoop of the smoked mac & cheese with a final layer of brisket and the Cinder barbecue sauce.
The brisket is the obvious star of this dinner in a cup, but the smooth pasta serves as a smoky binder that keeps everything together. This meal tastes great, but it’s also incredibly portable. I took it with me as I researched who was selling cheap beer. This meaty parfait made it through three stops.
Beer of the day: The Beer Garden is taking this long weekend seriously. The drink special is an Ithaca Lakeside Lager.
“Let’s get it started right with a lager you can wear while sitting in your favorite inner tube,” said Erinn McDowell, the Garden’s cruise director. “Come grab one and wander on down to the sea lion show where you can get splashed and feel nostalgic for summers of old.”
>> JAMS Funk Fest 2k23 Youth Performances, 12:30 p.m. at Chevy Court
>> Brownskin Band – JAMS Funk Fest 2k23, 1:30 at Chevy Court
>> Fallout From WAR – JAMS Funk Fest 2k23, 2:45 at Chevy Court
>> Trump Tight 315 – JAMS Funk Fest 2k23, 4 p.m. at Chevy Court
>> The Blacklites – JAMS Funk Fest 2k23, 5:15 p.m. at Chevy Court
>> Brick – JAMS Funk Fest 2k23, 6:45 p.m. at Chevy Court
>> Claire Rosinkranz, 2 p.m. at Suburban Park
>> Dazz Band – JAMS Funk Fest 2k23, 8:15 p.m. at Chevy Court
>> Quinn XCII, 8 p.m. at Suburban Park
Tickets: Entry to the fair is $6 for an adult. Seniors 65 and older get in free. So do kids 12 and under. You can buy tickets online in advance. You won’t be able to pay cash for tickets at the gate — you’ll need to purchase them on your phone, or using a kiosk at the gate. Your best bet? Get them ahead of time.The fair is offering a new “frequent fairgoer” ticket this year. It’s $20 and gets you access every day.
Hours: The Fair is open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. Buildings are open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. The Midway is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but it closes at 9 p.m. on Labor Day.
Parking: Parking will run you $10 per car this year, up from $5 in previous years (you can thank New York’s lawmakers for that). You can pay with EZ Pass Plus or with a credit card at entrance to the parking lot. You can also buy parking passes in advance online.
Other rules: Smoking is only allowed outside the gates in designated area. You can bring coolers with food and non-alcoholic drinks. No pets are allowed, unless they are working dogs or in a competition. Visitors must wear a shirt and footwear. Alcohol will not be served after 10:30 p.m. each day.
State Fair newsletter: Stay up-to-date on all New York State Fair news, food, music, schedules and more with our free newsletter.
Charlie Miller finds the best in food, drink and fun across Central New York. Contact him at (315) 382-1984, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. (AND he pays for what he and his guests eat and drink, just so you know.) You can also find him under @HoosierCuse on Twitter and on Instagram. Sign up for his free weekly Where Syracuse Eats newsletter here.