The Big Tex Choice Awards are just around the corner. We know you’re excited. We’re excited, too. This gluttonous event provides the perfect excuse to gorge on gastronomic atrocities without feeling the sharp twinge of guilt associated with eating saturated fat coated in sugar that’s topped with more saturated fat.
It’s your civic duty, as a Texan, to devour that deep-fried-skillet-potato-melt-in-a-boat. Raise a glass of Kool-Aid Pickle-Dilly sangria and toast to tradition. Chase it with a cavity-inducing cotton candy taco and then pat yourself on the back. Nice work. You did it. You’re an upstanding citizen.
The fried-food tournament started in July with 49 entries from 30 concessionaires. It was narrowed to 31 semi-finalists, based solely on anonymously provided copy describing the gut-bombs. Then came a preliminary tasting round. And now, there are 10.
On Sunday, August 26, a panel of judges will determine the three winners in the following categories:
Best Taste (sweet)
Best Taste (savory)
Want to try the dishes before the fair takes off? Head to the event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 26. Tickets cost $125 and can be purchased here.
The finalists, descriptions courtesy the vendors:
Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice) by the Garza Family (sweet)
Cinnamon-spiced rice ball battered and coated in crispy puffed rice cereal. It’s deep fried and then sprinkled with powdered vanilla and paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s topped with caramel sauce and powdered cinnamon.
Cotton Candy Taco by Justin and Rudy Martinez (sweet)
Graham cracker waffle cone batter is pressed into a crunchy taco shell. The shell is coated with a marshmallow glaze, then stuffed with chocolate, toasted marshmallow, and organic cane sugar cotton candy. It’s topped with chocolate cookie crumbles, two chocolate cream-covered biscuit sticks, and marshmallows.
Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie by Clint Probst (savory)
Shredded cheddar cheese and cream are mixed into mashed potato pillows. Each potato ball is filled with shepherd’s pie filling made with ground beef, mixed vegetables, and rich beef gravy.
Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a Boat by Tom Grace (savory)
Buttery skillet potatoes are griddled until golden brown. They add diced, griddled breakfast sausage patties, and pack the meat and potatoes around a mini Babybel cheese loaf. It then gets a quick roll in seasoned flour and goes into the fryer. The deep-fried skillet potato melts are served up in the potato skins they came from and topped with melted cheddar and crispy bacon bites. A sour cream chipotle sauce is drizzled across the top.
Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce by Winter Family Concessions (savory)
Black-eyed peas, white rice, spicy smoked sausage, green onions, and a “secret blend” of spices are mixed with bread crumbs and eggbeaters and formed into a cake. The mound is breaded in an egg wash made from flour and panko bread crumbs. It is then deep fried. The cake is topped with a black-eyed pea relish, and garnished with pickled okra. It’s served with a side of Jackpot Sauce.
Fernie’s Orange You Glad We Fried It?! by Winter Family Concessions (sweet)
Layers of chiffon orange cake, dairy-fresh whipped cream, and citrusy orange preserves are blended to form a custard-like filling. The mixture is spooned into flaky puff pastry dough, folded turnover-style, and sealed with a pastry crimper. The pastry is fried into crescent-shaped pillows and then lightly dusted with powdered sugar. The dish is served with dipping sauce.
State Fair Fun-L Cake Ice Cream by Tom Landis (sweet)
This ice cream was created by Howdy Homemade. The ice cream tastes like funnel cake and has funnel cake pieces and powdered sugar mixed in. It is topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and strawberry sauce.
Sweet Bakin’ Bacon by Ed & Eddie Campbell (sweet)
A cream-filled sponge cake is wrapped in savory bacon and then dipped in a funnel cake batter. The treat is deep fried until golden brown and dusted with powdered sugar to finish.
Texas Fried Hill Country by Justin & Rudy Martinez (savory)
Fried mozzarella is paired with basil and sandwiched between two slices of green tomatoes. The dish is breaded with seasoned breadcrumbs and flash fried. Each dish is served on a bed of greens and topped with balsamic drizzle and local Texas honey.
Texas Twang-kie by Chris & Sherry Howard (savory)
Cornbread cake is hollowed out and filled with Tex-Mex grilled chicken and white bean chili. Each twang-kie is served with cornbread fries and more chili for dipping.
Click on the gallery to peek at the dishes.