Leave it to Texans to leave no food unfried. The annual list of the eight finalists for the State Fair's Big Tex Choice Awards is in -- and as per usual, all of the finalists are fried to golden perfection.
With no further delay, the top eight finalists are Deep Fried S'mores Pop Tart, Deep Fried Frozen Margarita, Fernie's Fried Club Salad, Fried Beer, Fried Chocolate, Fried Lemonade, Texas Fried Caviar and Texas Fried Frito Pie. The winners will be chosen before the fair kick's off -- but all entries will be available to try at the fair.
Last year, Abel Gonzales' whipped, battered and fried butter took the prize for the Most Creative dish. How could he not when his creation inspired the Fried Butter Boogie? He's back again this year with another entry -- Fried Chocolate. Don't let the simplicity of the name fool you, Gonzales is offering a fried concoction that would make any pastry chef drool. Gonzales stuffs a white chocolate mini candy bar and a cherry into a brownie, dips it into chocolate cake batter and then deep fries it to perfection. It's then topped with powdered sugar and a rich cherry sauce and served with chocolate flavored whip cream. One, please.
At first glance, Isaac Rousso seems to have phoned-in his entry -- the Deep Fried S'mores Pop Tart. Rousso is simply battering and frying an established product and drizzling it with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. We're not denying that it sounds good, we just don't think he is winning any creativity awards here.
Fernie, last year's winner for Best Taste, is back with a really tempting offering -- Fernie's Fried Club Salad. Fernie wraps ham, chicken, lettuce, carrot, cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese and bacon in a 12-inch spinach tortilla and deep fries that sucker until it's lightly crispy. It's then topped with deep-fried sourdough croutons and served on a bed of lettuce. Dressings are offered on the side. It sounds great, but also sounds incredibly difficult to eat while standing up, surrounded by hundreds of fair-goers. That being said, Fernie is offering fair-goers a relatively healthy offering that shouldn't clog your arteries while standing on the Midway -- until it's fried that is.
Texas Fried Caviar should probably be called Fried Texas Caviar since what is being fried are black-eyed peas and not fish eggs. But I digress. Allan Weiss is frying the peas that are laced with spices and Old Bay Seasoning. The Texas Caviar is available in regular or spicy. This might be a good alternative for food on-the-go as they sound like you can simply pop some peas into your mouth while strolling around the Midway.
It's hard to beat Frito Pie and, dare I say it, I don't know that it needs to be fried. But this being Texas and, more importantly, the Texas State Fair -- it seems you can't get into this competition if you're offering isn't dipped in grease. Enter Fried Frito Pie -- chili covered in a corn chip, battered and fried. Or, as some call it: A smooth medley of hot, meaty, crunchy, salty, cheesy, oozing goodness.
We've had fried liquids before. Remember Fried Coca-Cola? Yum. Tami Stiffler has something as equally tempting -- Fried Lemonade, or something close to it. Stiffler is frying up a baked lemon-flavored pastry made with Country Time lemonade, topping it with a glaze of powdered sugar, lemonade and lemon zest. It doesn't sound as refreshing as a glass of the real stuff, but it sounds awesome nonetheless.
This year, the fair has two treats for the over 21 crowd: Deep Fried Frozen Margarita and Fried Beer. The margarita is funnel cake batter mixed with margarita ingredients and then fried. It's then dusted with a tangy lemon-lime mixture and lightly spritzed with south of the border flavor. We aren't sure what south of the border flavor means -- but we like margaritas so we'll likely throw caution to the wind and give this one a shot. Finishing touch -- it's served in a salt-rimmed glass.
Last, but certainly not least, is Mark Zable's Fried Beer. Zable fills a pretzel pocket with beer and fries the pretzel to a golden brown. As you bite into the pretzel, the beer, probably a little warm at this point from being dipped in simmering oil, is said to be prone to escaping and serving as a dipping sauce. Hopefully, the hot beer doesn't escape on your chin and leave you with third-degree burns. The mixture of beer and pretzel is as old as time. Finally, it's available, together, in one convenient bite-sized morsel. The reward outweighs the risk here. Bring. It. On.
Predictions: Abel Gonzales repeats as Most Creative with his Fried Chocolate while Nick Bert brings home the prize for Best Taste. Of course, that's a total guess as I haven't tasted a single thing, yet. The final round of the competition is over Labor Day where three lucky judges will pick the winner. We will, of course, have an update for you.