Food & Drink

Deep-fried lobster pops? Bacon brittle? Must be time to think about State Fair food

One of the 2017 winners of the Big Tex Choice Awards: The Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger, which won for ‘Most Creative’ and ‘Best Taste — Savory.’
One of the 2017 winners of the Big Tex Choice Awards: The Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger, which won for ‘Most Creative’ and ‘Best Taste — Savory.’ Special to the Star-Telegram

Yes, it’s still July, but it’s already time to talk State Fair of Texas food.

The fair announced the semi-finalists for its 14th annual Big Tex Choice Awards this morning, 31 of them across “savory” and “sweet” categories.

You know what that means, right? Fried food. Deep-fried food. But not all of it is fried. There are even some things with fruit in them, like Fruity Dessert Nachos. And then there’s the meeting of two worlds, as in “Orange You Glad We Fried It?”

But here’s the list of “Deep Fried”: Deep Fried Bodacious Bacon Bombs, Deep Fried Chicken Tetrazzini Parmesana, Deep Fried Ranch, Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie, Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a Boat, Pico Frito (deep-fried pico de gallo), Deep Fried M&M’s, Deep Fried Raspberry Brie-ret.

Although “deep fried isn’t in their names, Southern Fried Chicken Nachos, Texas Fried Hill Country and the aforementioned Orange You Glad We Fried It? all sound like they have deep-fried potential.

Not all descriptions were available at press time, but here are a few (edited for space): “Texas Fried Hill Country” consists of “Fried Mozzarella complemented with locally grown basil, sandwiched between two slices of juicy green tomatoes hand breaded with seasoned breadcrumbs and flash fried to gooey perfection. Served on a bed of field greens, finished with balsamic drizzle and sweet local Texas honey.”

“Orange You Glad We Fried It?!”: “Layers of moist chiffon orange cake, dairy-fresh whipped cream, and citrusy orange preserves are lightly blended forming a refreshing custard-like filling. The mixture is spooned into flaky puff pastry dough, folded turnover style and sealed with a pastry crimper.” Then it’s dusted with powdered sugar, served with two dipping sauces and garnished with a double citrus twist slice.

“Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a Boat” is described as a tater tot on steroids: buttery, grilled skillet potatoes; diced, griddle breakfast sausage patties; packed around a mini Babybel cheese loaf. Then it’s fried. “ In just a few minutes you have a wonderful crunch that finishes in the smooth melt of cheese! The deep-fried skillet potato melts are served up in the potato skins they came from. The perfectly fried crispy potato skins are topped with melted cheddar and crispy bacon bites. A sour cream chipotle sauce is drizzled across the top and served on the side for dipping.”

The 31 semifinalists will compete in August to win one of three titles: “Best Taste — Sweet,” “Best Taste — Savory” and “Most Creative.”

“The contest kicked off in mid-July with an impressive 49 entries represented by 30 concessionaires,” says a release. “It is required that all competitors have at least one year of experience as a concessionaire at the State Fair of Texas to enter the competition.”

Next comes a second round of preliminary judging, then a final round with the Top 10 entries competing. And the 14th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, in the Tower Building at Fair Park. Tickets are $125 at and the event usually sells out. That entry price gets you a lot of food and a party atmosphere, and all proceeds go to the State Fair of Texas Scholarship Program.

Last year’s winners were Tom Grace & Edna Sutton’s Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger, which won for both “Most Creative” and “Best Taste — Savory,” and the Gulf Coast Fish Bowl from Mansfield’s Clint Probst, who has been a finalist several times and won “Best Taste — Sweet” for this “drinkable aquarium”: a snifter-style glass with a bottom layer of Nerds “gravel,” filled with a “specially formulated blue alcoholic punch” with Swedish Fish “swimming” through the ice, all garnished by a pineapple slice and a straw big enough to suck up all the ingredients.

The fair itself runs Sept. 28 through Oct. 21 at Fair Park. Here’s the full list of semi-finalists:

Corn Dog AleBacon Brittle
Deep Fried Bodacious Bacon BombsCherish Erbert Champagne
Deep Fried Chicken Tetrazzini ParmesanaCotton Candy Taco
Deep Fried Lobster PopsDeep Fried M&M’s®
Deep Fried RanchDeep Fried Raspberry Brie-ret
Deep Fried Shepherd’s PieFrosty’s Frozen Hot Chocolate
Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a BoatFruity Dessert Nachos
Fried Cup of Corn “Elotes”Kool-Aid® Pickle-Dilly Sangria
Fried Kool-Aid PicklesOrange Julia’s Beermosa
Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot SauceOrange You Glad We Fried It?!
King Crispy Coconut Crab SlidersState Fair Fun-L Cake Ice Cream
Pico Frito (Deep Fried Pico de Gallo)Supra Stuffed Mini Sopapillas
Southern Fried Chicken NachosSweet Bakin’ Bacon
Texas Fried Hill CountrySweet Crispy Rice (Arroz con Leche)
Texas Twang-kieTexas Thai Delight

The Roll Tide

This Mansfield resident is like the LeBron James of creating funky fair food.