I love the State Fair of Texas. I also love fried things. Which means I have a deep, undying love for the Big Tex Choice Awards. And for the last few years, I've been so excited to go to the competition to get a chance to try all the new fried ridiculousness.
This year was different.
None of the new items sounded that interesting to me. Which is batshit crazy, right? I mean, the words "Deep Fried Thanksgiving" should trigger some serious interest. That is not a normal food. But when we've already deep fried Coke and queso and Pop Tarts and Snickers and butter, why would it be shocking to deep fry what tasted like extra salty Stove Top Stuffing?
Isaac Ruosso's Deep Fried Cuban Roll won Best Taste this year. You might remember Isaac as The Fried Pop Tart Guy. His fried Cuban was good. It was fine. But it wasn't circus-acty enough. Honestly, most of the line-up this year could have easily been a bunch of new additions to the Chili's menu. "Yes, can we get the Fried Spinach Dip Bites, the Fried Cuban Roll, one of those Texas Fried Fireballs? Ooh. And a skillet queso."
So disappointing. If you go to the State Fair of Texas to spend 15 tickets on an appetizer you could get at Chili's, you're doing it wrong. Fair food is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be something you can't get anywhere else. A certain booth that has the perfect funnel cakes, the corny dog you can't live without. The Fried Chocolate Covered Strawberry Waffle Balls you wait all year for. Every year.
After tasting it, I thought the Deep Fried King Ranch Chicken Casserole should have won for Best Taste out of this group, but that's probably because I love King Ranch Chicken and on top of that it was shaped like Texas and had a Texas Flag stabbed into it. THEY FRIED TEXAS. It's part delicious, part carnival, part Texas. Which is the exact point of all of this.
The judges this year were Mike Hashimoto (Dallas Morning News), Jacquielynn Floyd (same) and The Ticket's Corby Davidson. Hashimoto and Floyd kept their cool during the judging, but after about three fried items, Davidson started looking like he might be quietly and respectfully shitting his pants due to fried + fried + fried.
And the sad part was, his unconfirmed pants-shitting wasn't even worth it. There are so many better fried options worth shitting your pants for at the fair. This year, Fried Jesus, aka Abel Gonzales aka Fried Coke Man and Fried Butter Man and Fried Cookie Dough Man and Fried PBJ Man, brought us Fried Nutella. Sounds promising. But it tasted just OK. And when there is Fried PBJ to be had -- you should absolutely get that instead. That Fried PB&J is better than punching a douchebag in the E-Cig. Share it. It's delightful.
And really? Southern Style Chicken-Fried Meatloaf? You just fried sadness. And I'm pretty sure it's just because, after so many years of this competition, we're starting to run out of ideas. Frying sadness was the only option left. I think it's time to change the game.
The current competition gives two awards: Best Taste and Most Creative. Best Taste is straightforward. But that Most Creative award -- that's bullshit. And here's why: the Most Creative winner doesn't have to taste the best. It just has to be the most creative concept. Which is why Fried Beer won Most Creative in 2010, even though it's warm beer inside a hot pocket. It was certainly the most creative thing there -- deserves the award. It's not the food's fault that the award itself is really dumb.
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So, here's what we do: Dearest State Fair Deciders, please change the categories next year to reflect what your fairgoers really need to know. We need to change the awards to Best Taste: Savory and Best Taste: Sweet. You could have four competitors in the savory competition, four in the sweet, and at the end of the day, we know which new fair foods are worth spending millions of tickets on and risking diabetic coma.
And, I'm not sure who's choosing the final competitors in this final eight that get to be judged, but maybe let's try getting some more new blood in there next year. I love Christi Erpillo (Fried Peaches, Fried Cocktails, Fried King Ranch Chicken Casserole), Abel Gonzales (Fried Butter, Fried Coke, Fried Cookie Dough, Fried Etc), Mark Zable (Fried Beer, Fried Spinach Bites), Butch Benavides (Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll, Texas Fried Fireball, also note that he should win award for Best Hair (Facial and Otherwise)), Isaac Ruosso (Fried Pop Tart, Fried Pork Wing, Fried Salsa, Fried Cuban Roll) and Justin Martinez (Fried Bubblegum, Fried Thanksgiving Dinner). But, it's time for some new competitors to throw their hats into the ring. Let's do this, other vendors at the fair. It's time to step up and compete for fried glory!
The competition is great for press for our fair. And it's really fun. The vendors are doing their best to come up with new, inventive foods for you to judge. Now it's time to get some new blood in that competition and give them some categories that make more sense.
If you decide to keep the same categories next year, I'm going to bribe Abel Gonzales into making Fried Trashcan so he can take home that Most Creative award.