Ah yes, Monday mornings. Typically fueled by coffee and rage, maybe a sore ankle from having to take a furious sports walk, they are never a welcome or enjoyable experience. Except for this week, when all the ugliness of a regular Monday morning was replaced by all the beautiful smells and fresh-fried air of the State Fair.
Instead of going to work or yelling at The Price Is Right, a select few Tex-Mex enthusiasts, whose friends clearly did not read Scott's guide to eating anything but Tex-Mex, gathered inside the Contest Kitchen in the State Fair's Creative Arts building, all of them ready to dominate their salsa-brewing brethren in the annual Tex-Mex Contest.
Participants arrived around 10 a.m., pulling proud wagons filled with towers of foil-covered pans and mason jars of all sizes containing salsas of all colors and Scoville units. As contestants greeted each other with familiarity and display tables filled up with homemade salsas, tacos, enchiladas, chili, tamales, desserts, and various dips, it was clear this contest has a bit of a cult membership. There might have been a secret handshake, maybe some matching tattoos, perhaps talk of shanking a newbie behind the corn dog tent with a stale tortilla chip. Or not. It was early, I might have misheard.
The judges, including Dallas chefs Brian Luscher and Jeana Johnson, marched in mid-morning and took their seats, ready to thrown down the spicy hammer of judgment. Small portions were heated and brought to the judges' tables, slowly filling the Contest Kitchen with smells that I strongly believe should happen at 10 a.m. more often.
Ninety minutes, dozens of tiny bowls and whispery conversations behind Styrofoam plates later, winners from each category were announced and the Tex-Mex elite of DFW residential kitchens emerged, victors of the State Fair of Texas. Cue Eye of the Tiger. Or Guacamole by Texas Tornados. Even though that song isn't really about guacamole. Spicy.
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Here are the winners: