By Shari Goldstein Stern
You can have your cotton candy, hot dogs, candied apples and popcorn. But for those of us dyed-in-the-wool chocoholics with discriminating taste, chocolate nut bars are nice, sort of, but certainly not the to-die-for first thing you have at the State Fair of Texas.
On a quest for more indulgent chocolate at the Fair, some of us chocolate purists set out on a journey. Our mission was to find chocolate vendors who quietly serve their confections while under the unmistakable aromas of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, Abel Gonzales’s beloved treats and Jack’s French Fries. For some passionate chocolate groupies, these sanctified treats rank high on the quality, creativity and taste scale, and this chocoholic knows a thing or two about chocolate. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
Deep Fried Love is a vendor you do not want to miss when the moment calls for fabulous chocolate. Denise Garza DeLaCruz, Lakewood resident and Woodrow Wilson alumna, and her family opened their business, “Deep Fried Love,” in 1983. Her signature offering, “Heavenly Deep-Fried Brownies” are, in fact heavenly. The opulent brownies are as rich and chocolatey — while not too rich or too sweet — as you’ve ever had. It’s like the best from-scratch chocolate cake ever. Three of the brownies are deep fried in dough, which perfectly blends flavors and textures with the chocolate and, when they’re drizzled with a fabulous chocolate syrup and served with a Blue Bell vanilla ice cream cup, you’ll want to take a nap afterward under a tree at the lagoon. “Heavenly Deep-Fried Brownies” is named the Number 1 favorite among the State Fair Chocolate Obsessed (SFCO). This earns a spot in the “to-die-for” category.
Denise was one of this year’s Big Tex’ Choice semi-finalists for her “Chocolate Tres Leche,” which you may choose to have later in the day at the same booth. Again, the same perfect chocolate cake is fried inside the otherwise traditional layers of tres leche cake, and the outcome is phenomenal. Denise’s new concoction isn’t chocolate, but it’s an otherwise yummy surprise. Fla’Mango Tango was Big Tex Choice’s winner for Most Creative Sweet. It’s a creamy mango twist, fried and drizzled with a kicky citrus glaze. Topped with whipped topping, it’s served with a side of strawberry mango sorbet.
Who knew that if only you looked for it, amazing, home-made fudge is right under your nose at the Great State Fair? Monica Newbury is a Lakewood resident and Woodrow Wilson High School alumna. For the past 10 years she has sold outrageously good, homemade fudge in the Arts and Crafts tent for Frontier Fruit & Nut. The chocolate pecan (her most popular) has a creamy, buttery smooth texture with crunchy, fresh pecan pieces in rich, dark chocolate fudge. Monica was an owner of the restaurant formerly known as Salihs on Peavy Road for many years.
Now if you go see Margaret Pouliot at Frontier Fruit & Nut in the Embarcadero, you can get some of the same company’s fudge. You’ll recognize Margaret because she resembles Meryl Streep, which she hears a lot. She’s worked for the owner, John Glowinkowski, for 37 years. Do not walk away from that counter without some of the most spectacular fudge on the planet. “Death by Chocolate” fudge has three kinds of chocolate: in, out and on top that do a little soft-shoe dance in your mouth.
Of course, entering the Tower Building during the fair means you must come hungry. We’re talking head-spinning choices in some seriously large servings of utterly good-to-great dishes, like fried chicken, tacos, pizza, barbecue ribs, fried ribs, Greek food, Asian food and Denise’s family with Deep Fried Love, featuring the same sweets as her other booth, along with traditional Tex-Mex specialties and her award-winning Tres Leches.
The folks at Fruteria Cano in the Tower Bldg. havethought of everything. In addition to their beautifully fresh chocolate dipped strawberries, served individually or on a skewer, they have brilliant, fresh fruit arranged in a variety of shapes and sizes, like a pineapple “tree” and melon cups. After licking chocolate off your fingers, you can lick pineapple juice running down your arm.
The next savvy chocolate connoisseur we encountered had birds chirping around his head when he described Quick Fried “Black Gold” Truffles (pictured — chocolate, not mushrooms) as, “A truly unforgettable, decadent treat. The combination of cookie crumbs, white chocolate chips and cream cheese with breading consisting of vanilla wafers, corn flakes, cinnamon and nutmeg makes for a unique taste experience. It is topped with fresh whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a juicy cherry to take it to new heights.” He gets carried away, but the truffles look like another slice of heaven.
He said the Deep-Fried Oreos at Stiffler’s Sweet Spot on Nimitz have a fried outer shell with gooey chocolate and crème inside that make a perfect contrast. The SFCO had a great time at Highland Park Soda Fountain (yes, the real one!) with the Peanut Butter Cup Snookie. He called it “a warm, fresh-baked peanut butter cup cookie with vanilla ice cream that is topped with caramel and chocolate drizzle, whipped cream and a cherry.”
Unfortunately, even a team of SFCOs can only eat so much chocolate in a 12-hour day at the Fair, and there are those pesky deadlines. Next year, we’ll check out The Fudge Company, Deep Fried Nutella custard stuffed French toast, Deep Fried Energy Bites, Pearlie’s Parfaits and anything else new, and we’ll report back. This is the final weekend of the State Fair of Texas in Fair Park. For ticket information, visit bigtex.com.