New Dishes at This Year's State Fair of Texas, Ranked

A lucky few got to taste this year's Big Tex Choice Awards finalists at an event Sunday in Fair Park.EXPAND
A lucky few got to taste this year's Big Tex Choice Awards finalists at an event Sunday in Fair Park.
Kathy Tran

On Sunday afternoon, the State Fair of Texas hosted the annual Big Tex Choice Awards, where a panel of judges tasted 10 new dishes — each a finalist in this year's competition — that will be served at the fair, which opens Sept. 30. This year, there were three awards: best tasting, savory; best tasting, sweet; and most creative.

We sampled all the dishes (and one drink), and we have some thoughts. Here's our ranking, from best to worst, of this year's Big Tex Choice Award finalists.

Fernie’s Fried Texas Sheet Cake by Winter Family Concessions: "Start with a Texas-sized slice of fudgy chocolate brownie cake generously coated in ground cocoa puffs, panko and cinnamon sugar. The coated brownie is fried, giving it an ooey-gooey molten center with a crunch outside. The delicious fresh-from-the-fryer brownie is then glazed with a rich, dark icing made with Dr Pepper®. The chocolatey glaze soaks into the warm brownie while cascading down the sides. The cake is served with chopped Texas pecans, a dollop of whipped cream and garnished with a fresh strawberry carved to mimic a Lady Bird Johnson rose."EXPAND
Fernie’s Fried Texas Sheet Cake by Winter Family Concessions: "Start with a Texas-sized slice of fudgy chocolate brownie cake generously coated in ground cocoa puffs, panko and cinnamon sugar. The coated brownie is fried, giving it an ooey-gooey molten center with a crunch outside. The delicious fresh-from-the-fryer brownie is then glazed with a rich, dark icing made with Dr Pepper®. The chocolatey glaze soaks into the warm brownie while cascading down the sides. The cake is served with chopped Texas pecans, a dollop of whipped cream and garnished with a fresh strawberry carved to mimic a Lady Bird Johnson rose."
Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

1. Fernie’s Fried Texas Sheet Cake
If you ask us, this chocolatey creation should have won best tasting in the sweet category. A chocolate brownie cake is coated in Cocoa Puffs, panko and cinnamon sugar, deep-fried and slathered in a chocolate ganache made with Dr Pepper. A dollop of whipped cream on top gives it an added dose of creaminess. The chocolate ganache was deliciously warm and gooey, as was the interior of the cake after spending a minute in the deep fryer. This was our favorite treat this year, and it comes from a vendor that's racked up years of Big Tex Choice Award nominations. Of all the dishes in this year's competition, this is the one we'd spend money to eat again.

Fat Smooth by Tami Nevins-Mayes: "Three delicious Belgium mini cream puffs on a skewer are dipped in a Café Du Monde® beignet batter. They are then fried until golden brown, dusted in powdered sugar, and drizzled with a chocolate and caramel sauce."EXPAND
Fat Smooth by Tami Nevins-Mayes: "Three delicious Belgium mini cream puffs on a skewer are dipped in a Café Du Monde® beignet batter. They are then fried until golden brown, dusted in powdered sugar, and drizzled with a chocolate and caramel sauce."
Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

2. Fat Smooth
This doughy, gooey creation also could have won best tasting, sweet, rather than the judges' baffling selection (more on that later). The beignet-batter cream puffs, filled with a sweet cream filling, explode on the first bite, and the warm, creamy interior mixes with the chocolate and caramel sauce on top to create an incredibly indulgent treat that will leave you pleasantly sticky.

Deep Fried Froot Loops by Gracie and Milton Whitley: "A classic cereal with a State Fair twist! Sweetened Froot Loops® are folded into whipped marshmallow, dipped in a creamy batter, fried to a golden brown, and then topped with a drizzle of glaze and powdered sugar."EXPAND
Deep Fried Froot Loops by Gracie and Milton Whitley: "A classic cereal with a State Fair twist! Sweetened Froot Loops® are folded into whipped marshmallow, dipped in a creamy batter, fried to a golden brown, and then topped with a drizzle of glaze and powdered sugar."
Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

3. Fried Froot Loops
We thought this dish was a shoe-in for most creative, but alas, the judges disagreed. These sweet pastry pockets are filled with melty marshmallow filled with Froot Loops, deep-fried and topped with glaze, powdered sugar and even more Froot Loops. It was reminiscent of a particularly gooey, indulgent Pop Tart, and it's a fun treat for anyone who loves marshmallows or desserts made with the sugary cereals we all grew up eating.

The Tamale Donut by Justin Martinez: "Take a traditional tamale and turn it into a not-so-traditional donut! Our 'Classic Pork' Tamale Donut starts with slow-cooked pork carnitas, blended with authentic 'made-from-scratch' masa. Each dish is hand-formed into the donut shape and fried until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The 'Classic Pork' Tamale Donut is finished off with a drizzle of homemade creamy jalapeño salsa."EXPAND
The Tamale Donut by Justin Martinez: "Take a traditional tamale and turn it into a not-so-traditional donut! Our 'Classic Pork' Tamale Donut starts with slow-cooked pork carnitas, blended with authentic 'made-from-scratch' masa. Each dish is hand-formed into the donut shape and fried until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The 'Classic Pork' Tamale Donut is finished off with a drizzle of homemade creamy jalapeño salsa."
Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

4. Tamale Doughnut
This doughnut, made with from-scratch masa and slow-cooked carnitas, was a fun savory take on the tamale. The drizzle of jalapeño salsa gave it a nice spicy, creamy boost, and it's an easy snack to eat on the go while you wander the fairgrounds.

Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick by Sherry and Chris Howard: "Homestyle, perfectly spiced chicken noodle soup is deep-fried and served on a stick. Each bite-size ball will have an indention for a spoonful of savory broth sauce to complete the harmony of the best chicken noodle soup you’ve ever had, and certainly the first on a stick! Each dish is served with a side of crackers."EXPAND
Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick by Sherry and Chris Howard: "Homestyle, perfectly spiced chicken noodle soup is deep-fried and served on a stick. Each bite-size ball will have an indention for a spoonful of savory broth sauce to complete the harmony of the best chicken noodle soup you’ve ever had, and certainly the first on a stick! Each dish is served with a side of crackers."
Courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

5. Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick
As counterintuitive as it seems to dip something deep-fried into a liquid, this dish was a fun take on everyone's favorite cold-weather comfort food. A lot of deep-fried creations at the fair don't really taste like the dish they're based on, but this one definitely had a chicken noodle soup flavor, and the salty broth the balls are dipped in was a nice touch.



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