Dallas, Texas – In a stirring crescendo to an annual culinary pageant, the State Fair of Texas has unveiled the esteemed finalists for the 2023 Big Tex Choice Awards, a competition that has been both a tradition and gastronomic adventure since its inception in 2005. This vibrant event beckons fairgoers from far and wide, as the concessionaires weave their culinary magic to compete for the distinguished laurels that render the State Fair an unforgettable experience each fall.
The meticulous selection process of the finalists witnessed 19 savory and 17 sweet concoctions, each pitting against the other in a battle of creativity, texture, and flavor. After a judicious evaluation, ten delicacies have triumphed to advance to the grand stage at the State Fair, where they will vie for one of three coveted accolades: “Best Taste – Savory,” “Best Taste – Sweet,” and “Most Creative.”
State Fair of Texas 2023 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists
2023 Savory Finalists:
Deep Fried Cheesy Crab Tater Bites:
A culinary composition that intertwines tradition and innovation, this sumptuous offering commences with a mosaic of minced crab meat, shredded potato, cheese, and a select blend of spices. These ingredients harmoniously meld into tater bites that, when plunged into the cauldron of a fryer, emerge golden brown. The aroma of the seasonings engaging in a dance with the crab meat is both tantalizing and evocative. Concurrently, a rich cheesy Cajun sauce is forged, its genesis involving the culinary holy trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery. Sauteed to perfection, and amalgamated with melty American cheese and a clandestine Cajun spice mix, the addition of crawfish elevates the gustatory experience. Each bite is anointed with this rich, silky concoction, imbuing every morsel with a flavor often referred to as Cajun gold.
Deep Fried Pho:
In an ode to the marriage of cultures, Deep Fried Pho translates a popular traditional Vietnamese comfort food into a Southern culinary spectacle. Replete with richness and savor, this dish is meticulously handcrafted and deep-fried in true Texas fashion. The result is a melange that stands in a delightful equilibrium between flavor and refreshment. Each bite unveils a succulent tapestry of noodles, tender slices of beef, verdant herbs, crisp bean sprouts, and a hint of aromatic pho broth that has languorously simmered to perfection. To elevate this gastronomic experience, it is accompanied by a pho broth for dipping and garnished with lime, jalapeños, cilantro, hoisin sauce, and sriracha, lending a spicy and fiery resonance.
Loaded Fries Pizza
In a grand 16-inch display of culinary audacity, the Loaded Fries Pizza materializes from the practiced hands of expert chefs. Hand-tossed and meticulously stretched, the daily fresh-made pizza dough becomes a canvas for gastronomic artistry. A generous ladling of Texas’ beloved house-made buttermilk ranch dressing forms the base, followed by a layer of freshly shredded mozzarella. What ensues is a textural harmony of crunchy salted French fries, draped under a smothering blanket of cheddar cheese. The pièce de résistance arrives in the form of crunchy chopped bacon, a topping that brings a whole new dimension to cheddar fries. When baked to perfection, the final product manifests as an unparalleled pizza experience, enhanced by the tangy freshness of chopped chives.
OX’cellent Soul Roll:
The OX’cellent Soul Roll takes a culinary voyage through tradition, transforming the savory goodness of beef oxtails into a contemporary delight. Simmered gently for hours, the tender, juicy meat is united with crumbled homestyle cornbread, rich butter, celery, and sweet onions. Rolled into a light, flaky spring roll and served deep-fried, this dish invites a flavorful exploration of Southern cuisine, accented with a unique twist.
A holiday staple is re-envisioned with Turkey Ribs, seizing the hidden treasure of turkey in a new culinary adventure. These ribs, fried to tender perfection and accompanied by stuffing seasoned fries, homemade giblet gravy, and an enigmatic secret salsa, tantalize the senses. The Texas Style variant brings an additional edge with BBQ sauce fries, jalapeños, and pickles. A timely delicacy indeed, this dish transforms a seasonal craving into a must-have at the great State Fair of Texas.
2023 Sweet Finalists: A Celebration of Desserts
A journey into indulgence begins with this classic New York-style cheesecake enveloped in Belgian chocolate. The crunch of crushed Biscoff® cookies complements the outer layer, whilst a drizzle of Lotus Biscoff® spread offers a caramelized embrace. Crowned with a strategically placed Biscoff® cookie, this dish stands as a testament to edible creativity.
Bourbon Banana Caramel Sopapillas
These hot, delectable sopapillas serve as a vessel for an amalgamation of flavors. Topped with vanilla-caramel-infused bananas, sweet bourbon syrup, crushed candied pecans, sweetened mascarpone cheese, crumbled Nilla Wafers, and a dusting of powdered sugar, they weave together traditional taste and inventive flair.
Fernie’s Fried Cherry Pie in the Sky
In an exemplary rendition of a beloved national dessert, Fernie’s Fried Cherry Pie in the Sky has been heralded as the zenith of culinary excellence within the realm of traditional American treats. Composed of a delicate and flakey buttery pastry crust, its interior is masterfully layered with crumbly shortbread cookies, juxtaposed by the tang of succulent cherries, and topped with a further light, airy pastry. The intricate hand-crimping at the border forms an aesthetically appealing presentation, a prelude to its richness within.
After an ephemeral but transformational immersion in the fryer, this lavish dessert is adorned with a butter almond shortbread crumble, effusing the flavors of both cherry cobbler and tangy cherry pie. Served with an iconic accompaniment of Blue Bell® vanilla ice cream drizzled with cherry preserves, and ethereal clouds of whipped cream garnished with sugared dark sweet cherries, this dessert transcends earthly delights and invites one to partake in what can only be described as cherries from heaven.
Representing a Latin American culinary celebration, Sweet Encanto beckons to those with a craving for the ultimate sugary indulgence. The foundation of this tantalizing confection is a round waffle, elegantly infused with a spiral of caramel dulce de leche on a crisp wafer. A medley of specialty cream, adorned with slices of strawberry, kiwi, peach, and accents of shredded coconut, is harmoniously blended. Topping this ensemble with raspberry jam and a drizzling of sweetened condensed milk makes it an unparalleled opportunity to revel in the rich, vibrant flavors of Latin America. Sweet Encanto is not merely a dessert; it is an experience in taste and culture.
The sweltering summer in Texas calls for a special remedy, and Trail-Ade has emerged as the quintessential solution. A refreshing amalgamation of sun-kissed summer fruits, crisp cucumbers, and a touch of fresh mint, masterfully blended with homemade lemonade, creates an elixir that both revitalizes and delights. Served in a souvenir cowboy boot cup, Trail-Ade encapsulates the spirit of Texas. As the emblematic Big Tex proclaims, “These boots were made for walkin’!” This nonalcoholic concoction is the perfect companion for trail rides, saloon visits, or leisurely strolls through the State Fair of Texas fairgrounds.
The State Fair of Texas, a heralded event of culture and community, opens its gates on Friday, September 29, and continues to be the epicenter of culinary discovery through Sunday, October 22. The fair beckons all to explore these novel and nostalgic tastes, embodying both the heritage and the contemporary creativity of Texan and American culinary artistry.