By Karissa Condoianis
The final countdown to three of the most coveted food titles in all of Texas begins. The State Fair of Texas is proud to present The 19th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists.
On Sunday, August 27, three winners will be crowned in the categories of: “BEST TASTE – SAVORY,” “BEST TASTE – SWEET” and “MOST CREATIVE.” The competition began in early July with an impressive 57 entries represented by 37 concessionaires. Of those entries, 36 were selected as semi-finalists.
Each entry was evaluated on four Fair-food elements: uniqueness, creativity, presentation and taste. After some tasty tests and delicious dishes, votes were cast, and the results are finally in! Now the top 10 finalists must present themselves to a prestigious panel of celebrity judges in hopes of securing one of the top spots. If a favorite entry did not make the final cut, fret not, concessionaires may still choose to introduce their creation at their stand as a new food during this year’s Fair.
Without delay, the State Fair of Texas is happy to announce the 10 finalists that will be competing for the titles of “Best Taste – Savory,” “Best Taste – Sweet,” and “Most Creative,” in the 2023 Big Tex Choice Awards competition.
DEEP FRIED CHEESY CRAB TATER BITES, Isaac Rousso
This delicious dish starts with a blend of minced crab meat, shredded potato, cheese and spices that are formed into tater bites. As they go in the fryer, they become golden brown, and you can smell the seasonings coming together with the crab meat. A cheesy Cajun sauce is simultaneously made, which starts off with the holy trinity: onions, bell peppers and celery. These ingredients are sautéed perfectly with melty American cheese and a secret Cajun spice mix. As it all comes together, crawfish are added to enhance the flavor experience. These delicious golden tater bites are ladled with rich, silky, cheesy crawfish sauce on top, making sure each bite is topped with Cajun gold.
DEEP FRIED PHO, Michelle Le
Bringing a southern flare to this popular traditional Vietnamese comfort food that is both rich and savory. Deep Fried Pho is handcrafted, rolled up and deep-fried Texas style!
This unique combination creates a perfect balance between flavorful and refreshing. With every bite, you get a harmonious and succulent mouthful of noodles, slices of beef, fresh herbs, bean sprouts and a taste of aromatic pho broth that has been slowly simmered for hours. To tie this experience together, it is served with a side of pho broth for dipping, lime, jalapeños, cilantro, hoisin sauce and sriracha for a spicy, fiery kick!
LOADED FRIES PIZZA, Tom Grace
Daily, fresh-made pizza dough is classically hand-tossed and stretched onto a giant 16-inch pizza screen. After ladling on a healthy amount of Texas’ favorite condiment, house-made buttermilk ranch dressing, the pie is covered with a layer of freshly shredded mozzarella. Then a pile of yummy, crunchy, salted French fries is added, and in comes a smothering blanket of cheddar cheese! Finally, nothing tops off cheddar fries better than a ton of crunchy chopped bacon. This bakes, and out comes your loaded fries … on a pizza topped with some fresh chopped chives. Dive into this tangy, cheesy, crunchy, satisfying, one-of-a-kind pizza pie.
OX’CELLENT SOUL ROLL, Kerston and Shawn Thorns
Savory beef oxtails are slowly simmered for hours until rendered tender, juicy and full of flavor. Then, tasty chunks of potatoes are added to savory smoked gouda and mozzarella paired with rich butter, celery, bell peppers and sweet onions. The hearty beef mixture is rolled into a light and flaky, crispy spring roll, and then deep fried. Served with piping hot, crispy and tender southern hush puppies and garlic chili sauce. Come take a bite of this classic Southern staple with a twist.
TURKEY RIBS! Abel Gonzales
A new twist on holiday classics. Take the best part of turkey you never knew you loved, gently fry it and serve it with stuffing seasoned fries, homemade giblet gravy and a secret salsa recipe. Visitors can also order it Texas Style with BBQ sauce fries, jalapeños and pickles. Guests crave it come the holidays, but they can only get it during the great State Fair of Texas!
BISCOFF® DELIGHT, Stephen El Gidi
Immerse yourself in the realm of a classic New York-style cheesecake coated with Belgian chocolate. Each bite reveals the symphony of an outer layer adorned with crushed Biscoff® cookies, offering a delightful crunch. To elevate this edible artwork, a drizzle of Lotus Biscoff® spread cascades gracefully, imparting a caramelized touch. Finally, a crowning glory is bestowed upon this culinary marvel with a perfectly placed Biscoff® cookie that entices you to embrace pure indulgence.
BOURBON BANANA CARAMEL SOPAPILLAS, Cody and Lauren Hays
Hot and delicious traditional sopapillas topped with vanilla-caramel-infused bananas, sweet bourbon syrup, crushed candied pecans, sweetened mascarpone cheese, crumbled Nilla Wafers and dusted with powdered sugar.
FERNIE’S FRIED CHERRY PIE IN THE SKY, Christi Erpillo and Johnna McKee
A pie tart mold is lined with flakey, buttery pastry dough, then layered with tender, crumbly shortbread cookies, juicy and tart-sweet cherries, a layer of blended shortbread cookies and finally topped with more light, airy pastry and hand-crimped forming the cutest pie.
After a quick dip in the fryer, the luscious dessert is topped with a butter almond shortbread crumble, giving the taste of a favorite cherry cobbler and tangy cherry pie. Presented with the iconic pairing of Blue Bell® vanilla ice cream drizzled with cherry preserves, clouds of whipped cream and garnished with sugared dark sweet cherries. This divine dessert is cherries from heaven!
SWEET ENCANTO, Tony and Terry Bednar
Sweet Encanto is the ultimate sweet delight that is sure to satisfy even the sweetest tooth. A round waffle is lightly sweetened with caramel dulce de leche, which is swirled perfectly on a wafer. A specialty cream with slices of strawberry, kiwi, peach and shredded coconut is added. Then this is topped with raspberry jam and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to indulge in the best flavors of Latin America and taste the magic of Sweet Encanto!
TRAIL-ADE, Ruth Hauntz
If the Texas heat is bringing you down, Trail-Ade is the perfect remedy! This delightful blend of summer fruits, crisp cucumbers and fresh mint blended with homemade lemonade is the ideal elixir to cure what’s ailing you. Trail-Ade is a fruity, refreshing, nonalcoholic cocktail served in a souvenir cowboy boot cup to be enjoyed anywhere: after a trail ride, in a saloon and especially while strolling through the State Fair of Texas fairgrounds. As Big Tex would say, “These boots were made for walkin’!” Trail-Ade, it’s boot sipp’n good.
These finalists will go head-to-head for the three titles on Sunday, August 27. This year’s Big Tex Choice Awards event will be closed to the public, but folks can follow along with the 2023 Big Tex Choice Awards event by tuning into the action live on our social media channels — @StateFairofTX.
The 2023 State Fair of Texas, themed “Explore the Midway,” will open on Friday, Sept. 29, and will run through Sunday, Oct. 22. Head to BigTex.com/Tickets to purchase season passes and premium tickets.