Oh, these fried praline sweet potato poppers weren't finalists in this year's Big Tex Choice Awards? That makes total sense. TO NOBODY!!!!!!
Kyle Wall, inventor of these fried lovelies, said that he guessed fair officials thought this idea "wasn't weird enough to be in the competition." I could almost praline pop someone in the jaw for making a statement like that.
His praline sweet potato poppers are baked sweet potato that's been mashed up, mixed with some marshmallows and rolled into a ball. Then he freezes them, dips them in beignet-type batter, fries them and cinnamon-sugars them. Wall says they're, "like a fried sweet potato pie."
This was Wall's first entry into the Big Tex Choice Awards competition. His family has run a concession stand at the fair for over 30 years, serving up pizza, Frito pie and nachos. This year, he thought he'd try something different.
When you enter a submission into the competition, the first round of judging just narrows the field based on a short description of your product. The fact is, the competition has become so large that the judges simply can't taste every entry. (I bet if they need help with that next year, some of you guys would volunteer, right?) So, a couple of sentences decide whether your product will move on to the next round or not.
Senior Vice President of Food Service at the State Fair of Texas, Carey D. Risinger explains: "We had 41 entries for the 2011 Big Tex Choice Awards this year. We had a panel of a variety of staff members of the Fair that reviewed the candidates. Through a series of evaluations cut the group down to the top 20 with no tasting. From that point the panel would taste each of the 20 items in a blind taste series. From the tasting sessions the group was cut down to the final eight that you saw at the contest."
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Obviously every entry can't be a finalist. But for these poppers to not move to the tasting round seems cuh-razy to me. I mean, come on. When you hear "fried sweet potato anything," the only logical response should be, "THROW THAT IN MY FACE MOUTH!" (Maybe that's why I'm not a judge, though. Pretty sure I'd yell that after the word "fried" in any entry.)
Update: Correction here -- the poppers did, in fact, make it into the tasting round. I received an email from Kyle Wall this morning that clarified that the first round judges did, indeed, taste his poppers. But not the final round judges. Wall says, "The judges of the Big Tex competition did not taste the Poppers because I didn't make it to the final round of eight, however, I did make the round of twenty, and some of the state fair employees did get to try them." So, they did taste his product and he still didn't make it into the finals? This is even crazier to me. Let's all meet at his Pizza & Nachos stand to decide for ourselves how awesome fried Thanksgiving tastes. Yay poppers!
I'm really glad Wall is serving these up even though he wasn't a finalist this year. They're bound to be like a bite of pure, glorious Thanksgiving. Sign. Me. Up.