Top Ten Fried Foods Compete for Big Tex Choice Awards

big tex choice awards
Texas Fried HIll Country submitted photo

Ten finalists have been named for Big Tex Choice Awards, and the Big Three winners will be crowned August 26 in the categories of: “Best Taste – Sweet,” “Best Taste – Savory,” and “Most Creative.” The competition began in early July with 49 entries represented by 30 concessionaires.From those entries, 31 were selected as semi-finalists. Each entry was evaluated on four Fair-food elements: uniqueness, creativity, presentation, and taste. Now, the top ten finalists must present themselves to a prestigious panel of celebrity judges in hopes of securing one of the top spots. If your favorite entry did not make the final cut, concessionaires can still choose to introduce their creation at their stand as a new food during this year’s Fair.

This year’s competition sponsor, Vistaprint, is increasing the stakes by providing a one-year subscription to customized marketing products for the concessionaire who claims the “Most Creative” title. This will give the winner access to the tools they need to look professional and inspire them with different ways to market themselves.

“Vistaprint is excited to support Texas’ small businesses at this year’s State Fair by highlighting examples of creativity and innovation in the food services industry,” said Erin Shea, North America Manager at Vistaprint. “Small food businesses are big job creators in Texas, and we want to celebrate the value they provide to local communities throughout the state.”

Ten Finalists Competing In Three Categories

The ten finalists competing for the titles of “Best Taste – Sweet,” “Best Taste – Savory,” and “Most Creative” in the 2018 Big Tex Choice Awards competition are listed below.

Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice) by the Garza Family (SWEET)
A delectable cinnamon-spiced rice ball is formed, battered, and coated in crispy puffed rice cereal. The ball is then deep fried to golden perfection. This scrumptious indulgence is sprinkled with powdered vanilla and complimented with a Texas-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream. To serve, a mouthwatering drizzle of caramel sauce and powdered cinnamon crowns each tasty treat.

Cotton Candy Taco by Justin & Rudy Martinez (SWEET)
This sweet s’more creation begins with a graham cracker waffle cone batter that is freshly-pressed into a crunchy taco shell shape. The inside of the shell is coated with a marshmallow glaze, then stuffed with chocolate, toasted marshmallow, and organic cane sugar cotton candy. We then top off this handful of sweetness with chocolate cookie crumbles and two chocolate cream-covered biscuit sticks with marshmallows.

Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie by Clint Probst (SAVORY)
We mix shredded cheddar cheese and cream into our savory mashed potato pillows. Each potato ball is filled with Grandma’s shepherd’s pie filling made of ground beef, mixed vegetables, and rich beef gravy. Our special seasoning creates an explosion of flavors and textures as the filling and creamy potatoes mix with each bite.

Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a Boat by Tom Grace (SAVORY)
This is a tater tot on steroids! We start with buttery skillet potatoes griddled golden brown. We then add diced, griddled breakfast sausage patties and pack the tasty potato mixture around a mini Babybel® cheese loaf! It then gets a quick roll in our special seasoned flour and goes into the fryer. In just a few minutes, you have a wonderful crunch that finishes in the smooth melt of cheese! 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 and served on the side for dipping!

Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake State Fair photo

Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce by Winter Family Concessions (SAVORY)
This iconic New Year’s Eve southern “good luck” dish takes a dip in the deep fryer for a unique and mouthwatering spin! The classic ingredients of creamy, nutty black-eyed peas, fluffy white rice, spicy smoked sausage, aromatic green onions, and a secret blend of special spices are combined with bread crumbs and eggbeaters and formed into a generous Texas-sized cake. This rich and savory cake is breaded in an egg wash that includes flour and panko bread crumbs. It is then deep fried to a super crunchy exterior and soul satisfying interior. The Texas-sized cake is topped with a zingy black-eyed pea relish, garnished with pickled okra to complete the southern deliciousness, and served with a side of Jackpot Sauce.

Fernie’s Orange You Glad We Fried It?! by Winter Family Concessions (SWEET)
One bite and you will be THRILLED! Layers of moist chiffon orange cake, dairy-fresh whipped cream, and citrusy orange preserves are lightly blended to form a refreshing custard-like filling. The mixture is spooned into flaky puff pastry dough, folded turnover style, and sealed with a pastry crimper. The pastry is quickly fried into little crescent-shaped pillows of citrus bliss and then lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Each dish is served with two sublime dipping sauces and garnished with a double citrus twist slice.

State Fair Fun-L Cake Ice Cream by Tom Landis (SWEET)
We capture the essence and flavor of a funnel cake and combine it with the creamy smoothness of ice cream. Created by Howdy Homemade, this super premium ice cream has funnel cake flavor infused into it with funnel cake pieces and powdered sugar mixed throughout, and on top of, the dish. It is available with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and strawberry sauce. Try to settle for just one scoop!

Sweet Bakin’ Bacon State Fair of Texas photo

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)
Texas Fried Hill Country is the best of everything that would come out of the Hill Country in Central Texas. Fried mozzarella is complimented with locally-grown basil, sandwiched between two slices of juicy green tomatoes, and hand-breaded with seasoned breadcrumbs and flash fried to gooey perfection. Each dish is served on a bed of field greens, finished with balsamic drizzle and sweet local Texas honey.

Texas Twang-kie by Chris & Sherry Howard (SAVORY)
A savory twist on an American classic! It ain’t sweet, but it’s perfect. This cornbread cake is baked to moist perfection, hollowed out, and filled with a culinary masterpiece of Tex-Mex grilled chicken white bean chili! Each twang-kie is served with cornbread fries and more chili for dipping.

The 14th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards will be August 26 at 2 p.m. in the historic Tower Building at Fair Park. A limited number of seats are available for $125 each. All proceeds from the Big Tex Choice Awards ceremony will be donated to the State Fair of Texas Scholarship Program. Over its 26-year history, the State Fair of Texas Scholarship Program has awarded scholarships to more than 2,200 students for a total of more than $11.3 million. Eligible recipients include graduating high school seniors around the state of Texas who have participated in competitive youth livestock events held at the State Fair, as well as graduating seniors from five Dallas ISD high schools in the Fair Park-area, State Fair of Texas seasonal employees who have worked three or more Fairs, or their dependents. Due to the events charitable cause, a portion of each ticket is tax-deductible.

Since its inception in 1886, the State Fair of Texas has celebrated all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment. The State Fair of Texas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with all proceeds helping to preserve and improve Fair Park; underwrite museum, community, and scholarship programs for inner-city youth and students pursuing agricultural careers; and help improve State Fair operations. The 2018 exposition runs September 28 through October 21 in Fair Park. Visit for more information.

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Jo Ann Holt
Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.