Things to Do

The State Fair’s Tastiest Offerings: Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists

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Tony Maples Photography


The 14th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards finalists have been announced for this year’s State Fair of Texas. And, although many of you may think these awards simply feature the most extreme in food fads, the truth of it appears to be tastier than that.

On August 15, the Fair announced the awards finalists, which included such things as a “Texas Twang-kie” and none other than a “Texas Fried Hill Country.” All of the finalists are competing in three categories that include “Best Taste — Sweet,” “Best Taste — Savory,” and “Most Creative.” Here’s a quick synopsis of the food conglomerations for which you should prepare your taste buds.

Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists Bring Their A-Game to 2018

Photo: Facebook/Terry Bloss

Cotton Candy Taco (Sweet Category)

A graham cracker waffle cone holds this amazingly sweet treat! Formed into a taco shape, it’s then filled with a marshmallow glaze, topped off with chocolate, a roasted marshmallow, and finally, organic cane sugar cotton candy. To finish it off, two biscuit sticks, which are covered in chocolate cream, as well as chocolate cookie crumbles and marshmallows, are added to the top.

Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice, and also in the Sweet Category)

Coated in crispy rice cereal (think “Snap, Crackle, and Pop”), this battered, cinnamon-spiced rice ball is a deep-fried food lover’s delicacy. Paired with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, the ball is also sprinkled with powdered vanilla and a caramel sauce drizzle before being topped with a powdered cinnamon crown.

Fernie’s Orange You Glad We Fried It?! (Sweet Category)

A flaky puff pastry dough turnover filled with a custard-style filling of orange preserves, chiffon orange cake, and fresh whipped cream, this little number gets a powdered sugar dusting before you pop it in your mouth. It also comes garnished with a citrus slice and two dipping sauces.

State Fair Fun-L Cake Ice Cream (Sweet Category)

This Howdy Homemade ice cream comes infused with funnel-cake flavor, not to mention powdered sugar and funnel cake pieces mixed in as well as atop the dish. Tasters can also try it with whipped cream, powdered sugar, and strawberry sauce.

Sweet Bakin’ Bacon (Sweet Category)

Wrapped in bacon and dipped in funnel cake batter, at the center of this mouth-watering treat is a cream-filled sponge cake. It’s deep fried and comes with a powdered sugar dusting.

Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists Bring Their A-Game to 2018

Photo: Facebook/Robert Miguel Radio

Texas Fried Hill Country (Savory Category)

This aptly-named dish is made of fried Mozzarella which is nicely sandwiched between slices of breaded, juicy green tomatoes, complemented with locally grown basil, and flash-fried. The result is gooey goodness topped with sweet local Texas honey and a balsamic drizzle, served on top of field greens.

Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a Boat (Savory Category)

These consist of mini Babybel cheese loaves surrounded by buttery, grilled skillet potatoes as well as diced and griddle breakfast sausage patties. The entire creation is fried and served in the potato skins from which they came. They’re topped with bacon bits and melted cheddar as well as a sour cream chipotle sauce over top and on the side as a dip.

Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce (Savory Category)

Black-eyed peas, spicy smoked sausage, bread crumbs, eggbeaters, fluffy white rice, green onions, and a special secret seasoning blend combine to form into a generous cake. It’s then breaded and deep fried for a crunchy exterior and garnished with a piece of pickled okra, topped with a black-eyed pea relish, and served with a side of what they call “Jackpot Sauce.”

Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists Bring Their A-Game to 2018

Photo: Facebook/Gulf Coast Grill

Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie by Clint Probst (Savory Category)

Fairly self-explanatory, but far from mediocre, this is ultimately a potato ball filled with shepherd’s pie. However, the potato mixture includes cheese and sour cream (Mmm, you had us at “cheese”). You can’t forget the delicious beef gravy that fills the mix, creating quite the taste sensation.

Texas Twang-kie (Savory Category)

According to the State Fair of Texas website, this uniquely named food consists of cornbread cake which “…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. A savory twist on an American classic!”

Taking place on Sunday, August 26 at 2 p.m., the 14th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards will happen in the Tower Building at Fair Park. Tickets for the event are $125 and can be purchased at (but hurry, because this event is generally a sold-out show.) In terms of bang for your buck, it’s one of the best food shows you’ll ever get the chance to participate in, and all of the proceeds go to the State Fair of Texas Scholarship Program.