The day was dreary and gray, the roads slick with rain, when the MilMag staff received a mysterious package in the mail. The cardboard gave no indication of its purpose, its sender — it spoke only of mystery and danger. Then we realized that we had it upside down, so we flipped it and the other side said, “State Fair Pumpkin Spice Cream Puffs.”
We realized the importance of this package and set about putting together a crack team of swashbucklers, ne’er-do-wells, fashionistas, and interns. This all-star battalion tasted the puffs and then met under cover of night on the lonely fields of Zoom, to avoid the ravenous mobs that surely would have attacked if they had seen the early-access puffs.
We began our discussion with the most crucial aspect of all when it comes to the cream puff — flavor.
ALLI (digital editor): The pumpkin spice is very apparent.
ARCHER (managing editor): I’m tasting a significant amount of pumpkin here. It’s not mild.
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CHELSEA (senior designer): It’s like an airy pumpkin pie. A pumpkin pie that just disappears in your mouth.
CHRIS (executive editor): That real strong, sweet pumpkin pie flavor.
ALLI: I think it tastes more like a pumpkin spice latte than a pumpkin pie.
BRIANNA (editorial intern): It tastes like a cream puff primarily, but it has pumpkin undertones.
CHRIS: Maybe we don’t even know what the hell pumpkins tastes like.
ARCHER: I’ve never eaten a pumpkin.
CHRIS: Who eats pumpkins? I mean, without all the sugar and the spices, right? So what do we know? Maybe pumpkin doesn’t even taste like anything. Maybe this is like … what are you laughing about?
ALLI: Are you having an existential crisis about what pumpkin is?
CHRIS: No. I don’t know. No.
We got slightly off track for a few minutes, but we eventually came to a consensus about the pumpkin flavorings. This puff is best likened to a pumpkin pie. It has the strength and the sweetness of a pie, not simply the spice of a pumpkin-spice drink like a latte or a pumpkin ale. But the light texture of the puff doesn’t have the same heaviness of a pie, and it retains the airiness of the original State Fair puffs.
With the flavoring determined, we moved on to presentation — a slightly less pressing concern, but ultimately an important factor.
ALLI: What does everyone think of the color?
ARCHER: Kinda looked like it wasn’t meant to be eaten.
CAROLE (editor-in-chief and publisher): A color not found in nature.
CHELSEA: Artificial orange.
LINDSEY: I would have preferred less actively orange.
ALLI: It looks like the cream puff is ready to go hunting.
So we didn’t like the color. Although, we understand that a darker orange might have looked worse, and there obviously weren’t that many phenomenal color options to go with on the autumn orange palette. But we must say that the color did not appetize.
We moved past that negative moment to determine final decisions and all-around verdicts.
CAROLE: I am a cream puff fan. I am not a pumpkin spice fan. Fortunately, the pumpkin spice flavor is mild enough that I can ignore it and enjoy this cream puff.
CHRIS: I’ve been skeptical, but the pastry part is better than the ones I’ve had before. This is probably my most enjoyable cream puff.
CHELSEA: My kids are licking the plate.
SKYLER (editorial intern): I don’t normally like pumpkin spice flavored things, so it’s not my favorite, but it’s pretty good.
LINDSEY: I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was going to be excessively sweet and heavy, but it wasn’t. Overall, it was solid, but I think I prefer the non-flavored to the pumpkin.
ALLI: With this, I think it’s more important to like cream puffs than pumpkin spice. If you like pumpkin spice, but you don’t like cream puffs, this still won’t be your thing. But if you like cream puffs and you’re not big on pumpkin spice, you’ll dig this.
With that, we were ostensibly done with the task before us, but something felt unfinished, as though we had forgotten a necessary portion of our work, and then we realized that there was more to this story than the simple spice of pumpkins. There was a potential franchise sitting in front of us. A world in which the State Fair makes flavors and flavors and puffs and puffs all year round for us to enjoy. And so our quest continued.
BRIANNA: Do you think they’ll end up doing holiday flavored cream puffs year-round?
ALLI: Maybe if Archer writes all our suggestions down in the article and they read it.
[ARCHER BEGINS TYPING FURIOUSLY]
CHRIS: An eggnog one for Christmas?
BRIANNA: Or gingerbread.
LINDSEY: Peppermint for Valentine’s Day?
CHELSEA: Green for St. Patrick’s? Mint with some cocoa powder on top?
ARCHER: Or how about a turkey cream puff? … Like for Thanksgiving?
[10 SECONDS OF DEAD SILENCE]
ALLI: All right, let’s wrap this up.
We began to close out of our laptop screens to return to our lonesome work-at-home stations, when Chris stood up from his chair, raised what was left of his cream puff high above and began to intone in a deep and stirring baritone.
CHRIS: Milwaukeeans and their cream puffs will not be separated by mere dollars or mere lines. Not in times like these. Not when we can get pumpkin spice cream puffs for four bucks. I’d eat it again. Yeah, I’d eat it again.
At that point, Archer had taken out a guitar and was strumming a soulful ballad in the background. Chris sat back down.
CHRIS: OK, bye.
And like that, our taste testing journey ended. We had completed our quest, tasted the puffs, and returned triumphant to spread the good news:
The pumpkin spice cream puffs will be available for curbside pickup starting Thursday, Oct. 1 through the following Sunday, Oct. 4 at Wisconsin State Fair Park. They’ll be available 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
The Fair “strongly recommends” that you order in advance, so click here, or call 414-266-7111 to log your order.