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Rochesterfest vendors hope crowds like Spam a lot

By Elliot Mann

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

As Dave Kooistra, his wife Fran and their three children paced through the north entryway of Rochesterfest, a large navy blue trailer with bold yellow lettering caught their eyes.

Spam curds.

Rochesterfest’s latest deep-fried offering to likely make a Mayo Clinic doctor flinch comes by way of Austin, from business partners Tim Duren and Kevin Arnold. They first debuted the local delicacy at the Minnesota State Fair, where this year they hope to open a Spam-themed store alongside their food stand.

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The curds are commonly billed as Spam meat meets cheese curds — small square bites of Spam covered in a particular batter that adheres to the meat and is then deep fried.

The stand offers ranch dressing and barbecue sauce as toppings.

"It’s kind of like bite-size Spam," Kooistra said, after taking his first bites.

His 17-year-old son J.D. compared the curds to a cheddar bratwurst.

Fran said she usually prefers to cook from scratch — grinding her own flour even — but will cook Spam as an easy family meal. With so many belly-busting options at Rochesterfest, the family figured they would give the deep-fried squares a try.

"If you’re gonna have cheese curds, you might as well have Spam," Fran Kooistra joked.

Rochester resident Kay Eichhorn tried the curds for the first time Monday. She compared the texture to that of McChicken.

"It’s good for somebody who wants something deep fried, but something that is easy to bite through," said Eichhorn, 45.

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Not everyone was taken by the novelty though.

Byron resident Travis Bain walked by with his 5-year-old son Brody. They proceeded past the Spam trailer.

"I’ve never had some (Spam)," Bain said, laughing after he was told about Spam curds. Instead, the Bains made their way to the cheese curds line.

The stream of Spam customers was light but steady on Monday.

Duren expects a strong turnout this week. Three generations of the family held down the Spam stand — 16-year-old son Matt, and Tim’s parents, Steve and Jeanette.

"It’s our first day, so we’ll see how it goes," Tim Duren said.

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