State Fair of Texas

Big Tex Choice Awards are Back with 10 New Fair Foods

Texas Pumpkin Poke Cake, Michelle Edwards
Texas Pumpkin Poke Cake, Michelle Edwards The State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas is back, y'all. After a yearlong hiatus, that means The Big Texas Choice Awards are back too with 10 new savory and sweet treats to try.

Karissa Condoianis, the vice president of public relations for the fair, revealed the finalists Wednesday.

"Our senior concessionaires have outdone themselves yet again this year with an assortment of treats that are as inventive as they are delightful," Condoianis said.

Of the 43 entries, 32 made it to the semifinals and 10 made it to the finals. One concessionaire, Ruth Hauntz, has treats in both the savory and sweet categories. Her business partner Juan Reaves is beyond happy to be back at the fair.

"We are very excited to make the finals again. We knew the competition would be especially challenging since COVID-19 gave us unwanted extra time to dream up new culinary creations," Reaves says. "Having two finalists is truly a surprise and a welcomed blessing. The current format is why we entered on savory and one sweet. They both have a chance to be winners."

The 10 finalists:
click to enlarge Crispy Crazy Corn, Ruth Hauntz - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
Crispy Crazy Corn, Ruth Hauntz
The State Fair of Texas
In the savor category, first up is Crispy Crazy Corn by Ruth Hauntz. It's sweet whole kernel corn that is individually battered, fried and dashed with a secret seasoning. They then add slow-smoked pulled pork, and top it with tangy pineapple slaw and a drizzle of jalapeño crema and cilantro.
click to enlarge Deep-Fried I-35, Clint and Gretchen Probst - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
Deep-Fried I-35, Clint and Gretchen Probst
The State Fair of Texas
Up next is Clint and Gretchen Probst's Deep-Fried I-35. It's described as a Texas road trip on a plate. Fried kolache dough is topped with smoked beef brisket. Peach juice combines with Dr Pepper to make a sweet and tangy barbecue glaze, which is garnished with peach slices and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
click to enlarge Deep-Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls, Gourmet Royale - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
Deep-Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls, Gourmet Royale
The State Fair of Texas
The Gourmet Royale family is bringing Deep-Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls to the fair. Using a family recipe that has been handed down four generations, the base is a dark, rich and savory roux that represents the true essence of New Orleans. The balls are loaded with Gulf shrimp, stewed chicken, blue crab meat and andouille sausage. The balls are then rolled in a Saltine cracker and breadcrumb batter, deep-fried and topped with chicken fried okra spears. The balls are served with a side of dark gumbo roux sauce along with a small bottle of hot sauce.
click to enlarge Lucky Duck Dumplin’, Bert Concessions - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
Lucky Duck Dumplin’, Bert Concessions
The State Fair of Texas
Bert Concessions has brought us Lucky Duck Dumplin’, a pastry filled with cream cheese, duck bacon and roasted sweet corn. These dumplings are crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside with a balance of salty and sweet. Three dumplings are served alongside a sweet and spicy Thai chili glaze. finished with fresh basil and nestled in a small hand-held tray.
click to enlarge Pork Shots - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
Pork Shots
The State Fair of Texas
Pork Shots by Glen and Sherri Kusak at Hans Mueller starts with a sausage base wrapped in bacon, forming a tiny bowl filled with creamy mac and cheese. It is sprinkled on the outside with a secret sweet and spicy barbecue rub.
click to enlarge The Armadillo, James Barrera - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
The Armadillo, James Barrera
The State Fair of Texas
The Armadillo by James Barrera is a from-scratch cookie butter semifreddo (semi-frozen) ice cream sandwich. The treat is drizzled with cookie butter and sandwiched between two deep-fried armadillo-shaped cookies that are made with a branding iron. For a finishing touch, the state's official small mammal is dusted with buttery sugar.

Ruth Hauntz also made the finals with Brisket Brittle. This confection has the rich, buttery, crunchy, sweet texture of an old-fashion peanut brittle. The peanuts are, however, replaced with brisket to give a hint of heat.
click to enlarge Deep-Fried Halloween by Issac Rousso - THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
Deep-Fried Halloween by Issac Rousso
The State Fair of Texas
Issac Rousso has created an October-themed treat: Deep-Fried Halloween. It starts with a large chewy pretzel dropped in the fryer, bathed in candy corn syrup, topped with rainbow sprinkles and powdered sugar. Orange and white buttercream icing is piped on top of that, then stacked with Halloween candies, like M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces, Mini-Twix, OREO cookie crumbles and candy corn. That's all topped with a marshmallow whipped cream and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup as the crown, which is topped off with Hershey’s chocolate syrup caramel sauce and candy corn drizzle.
click to enlarge Fernie's Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake - THE TEXAS STATE FAIR
Fernie's Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake
The Texas State Fair
The Winter Family Concessions has the Fernie’s Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake. Lightly glazed, old-fashioned cake doughnuts are broken into chunks and blended with pieces of toffee and velvety custard, creating a bread pudding-like consistency. It's then deep-fried for a crunchy exterior and gooey butter cake interior. Before being served, it's topped off with toffee and a dollop of mocha coffee whipped cream.

Finally, the Texas Pumpkin Poke Cake by Michelle Edwards (see photo at top) is a Texas-shaped pumpkin cake with a vanilla glaze, caramel, topped with fluffy whipped cream, and lightly sprinkled with secret spice.

Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until the fair start on Friday, Sept. 24, to eat these treats because this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards event will be closed to the public. But if you are too curious to wait you can watch the event live on The State Fair's social media channels @StateFairofTX, Sunday, Aug. 29.

The 2021 State Fair of Texas will runs through Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.