With Labour Day approaching, Andrew and I felt like taking a little trip. We weren’t sure where to go, but decided that it had to be relatively close to Montreal, in America, and somewhere we’ve never been. A few days before the weekend, Andrew said, “I know, let’s go to Syracuse, New York!” and I said “….”. But then he told me we could eat at Dinosaur BBQ and stay at an art deco hotel and I said “Okay!”. And then when we found out that the New York State Fair was also going in Syracuse, well, I ran to the car.
And so we woke up early on Saturday morning and drove to Syracuse, checked into the hotel and then headed straight to the fair. I grew up making annual trips to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto – The CNE or The Ex – eating fried foods in the food building, petting farm animals in the agricultural building, buying tickets for The Polar Express or the swings. There isn’t a big fair like that in Montreal, so I hadn’t been in awhile and was starting to miss it. I don’t care so much about the rides anymore, but the food. Oh, the food.
We were impressed with the food at the State Fair! Not only was it affordable (The prices at the Ex tend to be of the I can’t believe I just paid $6 for a crappy frozen corndog variety), but the quality was great.
In order of consumption we shared the following: deep fried corn (an oilier, saltier version of boiled corn on the cob), a corndog (perhaps the best corndog I’ve ever eaten – the cornbread batter was thick and sweet), pork sausage on a bun piled high with onions and hot peppers, a Saranac soda in Shirley Temple flavour, crab cakes, pulled pork from a pig that was just came off a spit, salt potatoes (a Syracuse specialty of new potatoes boiled in salty water and swimming in butter), fries, salt water taffy, fried dough andddd a sno cone. Oof.
But we didn’t just eat (although mostly we ate). We walked around the fair grounds and soaked up pure, unfettered Americana. There was a massive butter sculpture in the dairy building and pretzel art in the art competition. I paid $1 to see the “world’s tiniest horse”. I was convinced it would be a hoax, but there was indeed a tiny, living horse. He looked a like a baby miniature pony. I still felt a bit duped.
I did not spend $3 for a personality handwriting test; I’m not that much of a sucker. We spent about 5 hours at the fair, and by the time we made the long walk over highway overpasses and through the vast fields that were being used for parking lots, we were strung out on sugar and fried foods, sweaty and sticky. Andrew may or may have not possibly eaten a mealworm in a salt potato. But still, we felt good. We want to go back next year.
We also made sure to explore Syracuse itself. After recovering from the fair, we had a nice drink at Al’s Wine and Whiskey and in the morning, got coffee from Freedom of Espresso and walked around the quiet city. I’ve been to enough upstate New York cities to recognize this vibe – a seemingly deserted downtown core studded with the occasional incredible art deco building, just enough to remind you of a glorious, more affluent past. We visited the Erie Canal Museum, which was surprisingly interesting (I say surprising because history museums often turn me into a whiny baby), and then squeezed in one more ridiculous meal, this time at Dinosaur BBQ (A rack of ribs, mac n cheese, collard greens, coleslaw, BBQ beans and cornbread. Sigh.) before hopping back into the car and heading back towards Canada. The drive was a nice one, all big farm fields, gas stations with good American snacks, a small stop at a thrift barn where I bought a 1/2 pint milk jar for a dollar.
See you at the fair in a year?
(A few more pictures are here.)