|The new Big Tex, complete with custom boots.|
In 2010 and 2011, Grav and I traveled to Dallas
We also talked with several of these vendors, who shared with us how important the Big Tex awards are for business. The ten items that make the list are proudly shared with the media and with patrons through informational booklets and signs displayed at each winning booth, placards that contain the
|The informational booklet you get when you walk into the|
fair contains coupons to use with your fair coupons (tickets)
- pick one up and see if what you want to try has a discount.
Grav and I didn't expect to find too many new foods... after all, in 2011 alone we cataloged 80 items in just eight hours. But we were delighted to discover so many new takes on old classics. To our surprise and delight, this year's State Fair also featured a number of non-fried items, from pineapples and fruit cups to corn on the cob and Funnel Cake Ale.
1. Golden Fried Millionaire Pie. Of course, I have to start with a pie, and this one's a doozy. Pineapple, pecans and sweet cream are wrapped in crust and deep fried, topped with whipped cream and served with more pecans and a caramel drizzle. Tasty and surprisingly light.
3. Chocolate maple bacon Amazeballz. Now, to be completely upfront about it, this concoction exists outside of the State Fair of Texas. You can actually order these moist cake balls at this website. But for the State Fair of Texas, the company has put together three loud fair flavors -- chocolate, maple syrup and bacon -- to entice fairgoers.
4. Fried Collard Greens. Sometimes, maybe, a dish goes too far. But if you think about it, stuffing greens in a wonton and dropping it in the fryer makes sense. Maybe.
5. Deep Fried Milk and Cookies. This sounds very exotic, but isn't as crazy as you might thing -- in fact, it utilizes the same sort of concept as the Deep Fried Klondike Bar from last year's Arkansas State Fair. Take Oreo ice cream (cookies already in milk), deep freeze, batter, fry and serve. Voila.
7. Deep Fried Sweet Tea. Impossible? Actually, no, it is possible, with a little creative thinking. These squares are actually a sweet tea custard that's frozen, battered, frozen again, deep fried and doused with sweet tea concentrate.
9. Fried Beef Brisket. I didn't think you could improve on beef brisket, but this is an attempt to do so. Tender slices of beef brisket battered and fried, drizzled with barbecue sauce, served with onion rings drizzled with ketchup.
10. Southern Fried Meatloaf. Well, meatloaf does seem like something you can batter and deep fry easily. Think of a break-apart version of chicken fried steak. It's served with a brown sugar-ketchup glaze and gravy on the side. Now, I heard it came with garlic mashed potatoes, but I didn't see that (though there was a line and they may have run out). One of this year's Big Tex finalists.
2011's Salsa Balls, but hotter. If you like, you can have more Sriracha on the side. Questioning of your sanity's up to your dining companions.
14. Fried Potato Ball. This Cuban-inspired dish (also known as Para Rellena) pairs mashed potatoes with a Creole-spiced beef center, deep fried and served with a Cuban sauce. Crispy on the outside and extraordinarily filling.
15. Fried Sweet Texas. Can't make up your mind on your favorite Texas sweet? Mash them together and see what you get. This is pie dough filled with pecan pie filling, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie filling, deep fried, topped with pecans and served with Blue Bell Ice Cream -- all in a serving a little larger than your average pie
16. Spinach Dip Bites. A 2013 finalist, these are dollops of spinach and artichoke dip coated in tortilla chips and deep fried and served with a side of salsa -- from the folks that once brought us fried beer.
18. Bennie's Deep Fried Stuffed Gordita. A lovingly fried pouch of dough, opened up and stuffed with chicken or beef, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato,cheese and sour cream. A handhold full of wonder.
*I actually heard someone coming up to the stand ask if a flower was in the batter. I don't know what to make of that.
23. Earl Campbell Hot Rope. The Heisman Trophy winner from Tyler, TX came up with his own line of sausages, and this is reportedly the hottest. Simple, straightforward and served with Gulden's mustard, this is a nice spicy eight inch link guaranteed to get you sweating.
|Deep fried macaroni and cheese|
29. Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potatoes. Elevating the potato skin to a new level, these are fingers of baked potato stuffed with cheese, bacon, and butter in a spicy batter, served with ranch dressing or sour cream.
30. Jerky. What better says Texas than jerky, anyway? Several vendors around the fairgrounds sell the dehydrated spice meat in all sorts of flavors (including Dr. Pepper) and animals (elk, moose, pork, chicken and even possum in addition to the traditional beef).
31. Fudge. The Fudge Company has been serving up fudge at the State Fair of Texas for 32 years. These big slabs of chocolate, chocolate nut, peanut butter chocolate, pecan chocolate and other sweet flavors are available each year -- and if you're lucky, you can see fudge being made in person. You can also order it online.
32. Smoked Turkey on a Stick. Forget the mess of gnawing on a turkey leg. These are succulent chunks of turkey breast, deliciously marinated and roasted and served with Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce.
33. Smirnoff Ice Preparada. Unlike so many frozen alcoholic beverages out there touting fruity flavors, this one's fresh, matching your fruits of choice with a Smirnoff Ice of choice and some pepper on the top. I saw dozens of these going around on our visit.
36. Deep Fried Mexican Firecrackers. Spicy chicken, cheese and jalapenos wrapped tightly in corn masa, deep fried and served with TNT sauce. HOT.
37. Lava Flow. Not spicy, but probably a good thing to drink if you try one of the above Firecrackers, it's a bend of Pina Colada and strawberry in a whipped cream-topped smoothie.
39. Frappe Vino. Okay, this isn't something you'll find on the midway but something available in the Grand Place. Yes, someone's making wine slushees, and you can, too. Free samples, by the way, if you're 21 or older.
41. Cajun Peppered Pineapple. The idea of this is so foreign to me, I had to give it a separate listing. Apparently Cajun spices and pineapple go together like chocolate and strawberries. Who knew? Well, folks in Texas knew.
44. Jalapeno Cheese Hot Link. Not quite as hot as the Earl Campbell Hot Rope, this eight inch sausage still packs a punch and comes served on a stick with Gulden's mustard.
45. Tamale Balls. These seem very simple and straightforward, yet they require a great deal of effort -- as anyone who's ever made tamales by hand knows. These tamales are made by hand, crushed, mixed with masa and spices, formed into balls, frozen, deep fried and served up hot.
46. Fletcher's Corn Dogs. Okay, these aren't new, but they are good, and they are legendary (think the State Fair of Texas answer to Randy's Superdogs). Battered right before being fried, they're hot and fresh and so good there's ALWAYS a line out into the thoroughfare. Expect a wait.
47. Corn on the Cob on a Stick. Well, it's kinda simple, right? Except you can add to it for no extra cost, a dousing in butter and/or topping with about half a dozen different spices. I'm still hoping someone starts caramel-coating these things.
48. Chocolate covered cashews. Texans love their nuts, and that's apparent all over the campus of the State Fair of Texas. Chocolate-covered ones are sold out of barrels, perfect to take home.
49. Beer. Just beer. In Texas, everything's bigger, including the selection of ales, stouts, bitters and IPAs you can find on the State Fair of Texas campus. The Magnolia Beer Garden is a tree-covered expansive patio that caters to those who venture beyond Busch and Michelob. This is a great place to discover local brews.
50. Barbecue Stuffed Baked Potatoes. Massive one pound potatoes packed with almost as much beef brisket soaked in sauce, with cheese and sour cream and chives. This is my kind of fair food.
51. Peppered Fruit Beverages and Smoothies. These fresh-squeezed fruit delights are served up with a pepper-encrusted straw for a strong spicy burst of flavor. Yes, this is a thing.
52. Giant Greek Salad. Yes, I talked about this before, and yes, it's still my favorite thing at the State Fair of Texas. The Greek To Me folks just know how to put a good Greek salad together right, and the thing is MASSIVE. This is the only food I consumed in its entirety this visit. I mean, lettuce and tomatoes and olives and bell peppers and onions and Feta and a great Greek dressing? Can't beat that.
53. Jack's Frys. They're long hand-cut fries that are fried and served hot. That's all. Does there need to be anything else? Jack doesn't seem to think so.
54. Papa Loca. We call these Tater Twisters here in Arkansas, but it's the same idea -- a potato spiral-cut and skewered then deep fried.
55. Texas Nachos Supreme. Other than the little flag, I'm not really sure what makes them Texas. It's a pile of tortilla chips covered in beans (and meat if you want it), nacho cheese
56. Pineapple Rings in a Cup. Yeah, I'd buy the crap out of this. Five coupons ($2.50) for a big cup of fresh-cut pineapple rings and bits. That's all -- no pepper, no sugar, no salt and no batter. Cheap and refreshing.
shipped from Sutter's, but then you don't get to see this neat machine work.
59. Frozen strawberry margarita. This year's list has a lot more alcohol than normal, no? Well, we weren't testing everything, which is good, since by this point in the list I'd be under the table. Anyway, this is a classic, and it's something I haven't included before, so it's here.
60. Fresh Hot Mini Tacos (Taquitos). Little bitty fresh corn tortillas topped with spiced meat, onions, lettuce and peppers. Addictive, quick to eat and fresh.
62. Deep Fried Oreos. Yes, they've been around a long time, but not quite like this, These are wrapped in dough rather than dunked in batter, and they are huge. You really can eat just one, but they don't sell them separately, so go share with someone, why don't you?
65. Churros. Who doesn't love a churro? Rather than the extruded pre-packaged mess we often get at Mexican restaurants, this is a fresh made deep fried and cinnamon-and-sugar coated golden rod of gorgeous desserthood.
68. Fresh Squeezed Lemonade. Bigger in Texas? Sure, where lemonade is sold in cups and TUBS. I could totally do a tub of lemonade right now.
71 items seem like a lot, but we shot a lot more. Let's end with a Deep Fried Snickers Bar (okay, THERE's your #71) and a reminder that the State Fair of Texas comes to an end October 19th. Better get down to Dallas. Learn more about the big event at bigtex.com.