Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rachels State Fair Preview!


I confess, I absolutely adore the Minnesota State Fair.
From the endless not-so-good-for-me food options to the stellar people watching opportunities to the wandering around for hours looking at random stuff; I love it all. But I mostly love corn dogs and free swag.

The Minnesota State Fair runs this year from August 25 through September 5th (Labor Day).

The first thing I want to bring to your attention is the "Blue Ribbon Bargain Book" - this little gem of specials and deals is only $5 and completely worth the $$ even if you only visit the State Fair once this year. All of the coupons in the book are worth at least 30% off and there are plenty of two-for-one deals too. You can pick up a Blue Ribbon Bargain Book at any of the locations that sell pre-fair discount tickets, such as Cub Foods and also during the fair (while supplies last) at the State FairWear Gift Shops and Bargain Book & State Fair Poster Carts.

Now, lets get to what you were all waiting for......the food!
Our Minnesota State Fair preview included a sampling of the new foods that will be available this year and I wasn't disappointed to see all of my major food groups represented.

The Hits!

Tot Boss

  • If you know me at all, you know I'm a huge fan of tater tots. Basically, if tots are available on a menu, then tots are going to happen. I am thrilled that my favorite food truck will now be serving their delicious tots at the Minnesota State Fair. In addition to all kinds of tot configurations, Tot Boss also offers gluten-free tot options, You can find the Tot Boss Food Truck on the east side of Underwood Street between Wright and Dan Patch Avenues. 

Grilled Cheese Bits from O'Garas.

  • Deep Fried White Cheddar Cheese blended with beer batter - Sign me up! Add the Bloody Mary mix marinara sauce and you are definitely winning. You do not want to miss the opportunity to try these - absolutely delish! 
Minnesnowii Shave Ice 
  • I'm typically not a huge fan of shave ice but this shave ice is a whole different story. With 100% sweetened condensed milk drizzled over delicious flavored shave ice, this is a perfect option to cool off on a warm day at the state fair. Exclusively available at the state fair is the Maple Bacon Shave ice topped with bacon bits and a maple syrup drizzle - I promise it tastes as mouth watering as it sounds. 
Honorable Mentions 

Minnesota Corn Dog from Gass Station Grill 
  • This is not your typical Corn Dog! Custom ground sausage on-a-stick made with blueberries, apples, wild rice and cayenne, is a new take on a old state fair favorite and was quite delicious. 
Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread from the Blue Moon Dine-In Theater
  • You can always count on the Blue Moon to come up with fresh and fun new foods for the state fair. Full disclosure: I don't particularly like French Onion soup. That being said, I did find this to be tasty and an enjoyable eat! Definitely worth a try - I mean, we ARE talking cheese and bread here. 
Rustic Beef Pastry from French Meadow Bakery and Cafe
  • Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese in a flaky butter crust. If you are looking for something a little bit different and more refined than your typical State Fair food, this is your perfect food! The goat cheese pairs really wall with the spinach and beef and with the spices mixed in, this is a very enjoyable dish. 
All in all, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by all of the new foods at the state fair this year - something for everyone to try! 

Did you know that there is a lot of great shopping opportunities at the Minnesota State Fair? 
There are eleven different shopping neighborhoods including the Grandstand, Pet Center, Warner Coliseum and Fan Central to name a few. There are nearly 800 vendors represented, many of which are local businesses in Minnesota. 
I can pretty much guarantee to you that whatever you are looking for, you can probably find it at the Minnesota State Fair. 

Some of the vendors that were featured at the preview were: 
  • Birchberry Native Arts and Food. Beautiful foods and items inspired by the White Earth Tribe. The wild rice that is sold is hand harvested at the White Earth Reservation by the community members. I especially enjoyed the baby moccasins which were very well made and would make a perfect baby shower or new baby gift. You can find Birchberry Native Arts and Food in the International Bazaar. 
  • The Holly House Boutique. New this year to the Minnesota State Fair, the Holly House Boutique is a seasonal boutique showcasing local artisans handmade items including pillows, soaps, signs, pottery and so much more! There are gifts that would be perfect for the whole family with price points from $1.95-$199. One of their most popular items are the hockeypuck bottle openers - sounds like a great stocking stuffer to me! You can find Holly House Boutique in the Grandstand on the upper level. 
  • i like you is already one of my favorite stores in Northeast Minneapolis so its awesome to see them represented at the state fair as well. i like you features locally made items by Minnesota artists and crafters such as t-shirts, magnets, postcards and all kinds of other fun things. They also have an awesome deal in the Blue Ribbon Book so make sure to check that out! i like you can be found in the West End Market. 
  • Machine Age Lamps specializes in lamps, industrial tables and steampunk style art light fixtures that are designed from salvaged early American factory parts. All of the pieces that you find at Machine Age Lamps are one-of-a-kind and works of art. You can find Machine Age Lamps in the West End market. 
  • Wish Boutique is also new this year and specializes in apparel items that represent Minnesota! Fun designs for men and women, this is your booth to find fun new apparel items and gifts at the state fair. Wish Boutique is located in the Grandstand on the upper level. 
Make sure to check out the Minnesota State Fair website ( for so much more information about this years state fair and I hope you have a fantastic fun time at the Minnesota State Fair! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S7 Preview - Rachel goes Tech!

Rachel in the Cities here!

I recently had the opportunity to preview both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Gear VR headset, thanks to Verizon being an overall awesome company. 

To begin this story, I should mention that I am not a "tech" person; I own technology such as a flat-screen tv but generally only when I am forced to. Case in point, I used my huge big-box tube television until last year when it finally broke and I didn't have any other options than purchasing a flat-screen smart tv. 

So, I was a little nervous but also excited to try out the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Gear VR headset. 
In full disclosure, I did enlist the help of a friend that is much more tech savvy than I am to assist with this adventure. 

But before I start the full review.......this is what I look like with the Gear VR headset on. 

Sidenote: After wearing the headset long enough to take a photo, I then read the instructions which explicitly not to wear the headset without the phone attached so I guess I'm living dangerously. 

And no, I did not use this photo for my Tinder profile, but now that I think about it, maybe I should!  

Moving on to the actual review....

I have been an iPhone owner for many years so I wasn't expecting much from the Samsung Galaxy S7 but I was immediately corrected. The phone itself is easy to handle and close to the same size as my iPhone 6c. I found it incredibly easy to navigate and loved the huge screen and that it was so lightweight. 

One of the things that I was most impressed with was the photo capabilities - one of my favorite social media apps is Instagram and I use my iPhone to take photos in lieu of a camera. I was thrilled with the quality of the photos, especially in low light settings. Of course I had to try out the selfie quality and was surprised to find that the Samsung Galaxy S7 has a selfie flash! Better quality selfies, I'm sold! 

Verizon had provided some information on product features which includes that the Samsung Galaxy S7 is water resistant. I was too tempted not to try dunking the phone in a sink filled with water for a couple minutes just to test it out, and what I found was that the Samsung Galaxy S7 passed that test with flying colors. To say I was surprised was an understatement, especially as I recalled an incident where my iPhone managed to take a dip in the Saint Croix river last summer and the results were definitely not the same. 

Overall, I would highly recommend the Samsung Galaxy S7 - even to the diehard iPhone users like me. Its got great features and a camera that produces better quality photos than the iPhone. 

Onto the Gear VR headset guys, this is really really cool. 
Admittedly, I am not a gamer but I might become one if I owned one of these. 

I was a little skeptical of how "real" the virtual reality would actually feel but I found that it really does feel like you are in the virtual world. You can actually turn a full 360 degrees and see the virtual world in all directions. The headset is not heavy and was very comfortable to wear. 

I tried out a couple different virtual apps including Jurassic World: Apatosaurus, Streetview VR, Woofbert VR, and Bait. One of my favorites was the Woofbert VR which allowed you to tour a museum and learn about the different pieces of art. 
My only criticism or challenge was that it took a bit of time with the different virtual apps to figure out how to maneuver or play using headset. 

Overall, both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Gear VR headset exceeded my expectations. I would definitely recommend both products and I want to thank Verizon again for giving me the opportunity to test these out. 

Now, everyone run over to the Verizon store and grab yourself one of these today!