There’s no such thing as a boring meal with the Martinez family of Arlington.
And once again the father-son duo of Rudy and Justin have come up with a unique creation to satisfy (and perhaps startle) the taste buds of visitors to the State Fair of Texas, which begins Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 21.
The Cotton Candy Taco.
Yes. It is exactly what the name says, cotton candy in a taco shell. Adding salsa might not be recommended — but this is, after all, the State Fair so anything goes, right?
The Cotton Candy Taco is designed to satisfy a sweet tooth, with its graham-cracker-flavored shell stuffed with chocolate, toasted marshmallow, and organic cane sugar cotton candy. The taco is coated in marshmallow glaze, then topped off with cookie crumbles, marshmallows, and two chocolate-covered biscuit sticks.
“My wife and I do a lot of online searching, and look for ideas when we travel. We noticed a West Coast treat, flavored cotton candy,” Justin, 38, said. “We thought it’d be really cool to bring the concept to the State Fair.”
Of course, he and Rudy had to add their own special flair.
“I’m always calling my dad and bouncing ideas off him. We wanted a different twist, so we decided to go with a S’mores twist,” Justin said. “We thought about a waffle cone, but then we decided to shape it into a taco shell.
“The scary thing is every time you decide to do something, you have to make sure you can produce thousands.”
From early indications, they better not waste any time because it looks to be a popular item. The Cotton Candy Taco won the Most Creative award at this year’s 14th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards.
They’re no strangers to winning awards with their culinary creations. They also had their Texas Fried Hill Country named a 2018 Savory Finalist, as was their Tamale Donut in 2017, along with a 2014 creation called Fried Sweet Texas.
The Texas Fried Hill Country, which will also be new at the fair, consists of two sliced green tomatoes, a slice of mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, batter, bread crumbs, balsamic dressing and honey. And, of course, like everything at the State Fair, it’s deep fried.
Fried Sweet Texas, no longer served (though everything has a possible comeback, the duo say), is a combination of what they feel are the best desserts in Texas. Pecan pie, peach cobbler, and buttermilk pie are deep fried together.
The Tamale Donut, which they plan to bring back after a leave of absence, features shredded pork, homemade salsa, and creamy jalapeno sauce. Again, fried, of course.
“That jalapeno sauce really makes it,” Rudy, 69, said. “Oh man, is it good.”
The idea to create novelty foods came to them when they were walking around the State Fair in 2008 and noticed all the goodies being served. They went home and began working on their first entry, Fried Jelly Bellies. It made it into the top eight in the awards (there was only one category then).
Rudy said some novelty items have a “wow factor” that fades after a year or two, but others have staying power. While it remains to be seen where the Cotton Candy Taco lands, one thing they created years ago remains very popular — the Fried Thanksgiving Dinner. Yep, it’s deep-fried turkey and dressing.
“There are many people who come in every year just for that,” Rudy said. “A former Dallas Cowboy, Dwayne Harris, who doesn’t play here anymore would come in and get two every year when he was here.”
Justin’s wife, Megan, helps with design and marketing. Even his 3-year-old daughter, Lila, is a part of the annual family event.
“Every year we take a photo of her in front of Big Tex,” Justin said.
They don’t stop with food. Rudy and Justin have also been awarded for beverages, their Original State Fair Brew, including their Funnel Cake Ale winning Most Creative in 2014.
“We noticed a beverage had never won this before, so we went way out there,” Rudy said. “Justin said ‘Let’s put white powder around the rim.’ I wasn’t sure, but he was right. People loved it.”
Since then they’ve introduced Pumpkin Spice and Strawberry Belgian Waffles flavored ale. This year they’ve created Lemon Basil Champagne Shandy.
In 2015, Rudy and Justin opened Trio On The Green, an outdoor pavilion at the State Fair. It offers all of their tasty favorites, plus a place to sit and relax in the shade under three large oak trees.
“It’s not your typical concession stand, and it’s gotten a great reception from State Fair folks,” Rudy said.
But then, one wouldn’t expect it to be typical, since they hardly serve typical fare. But then, again, this is the State Fair of Texas, and when it comes to food, typical is missing from the vocabulary.
And that, Justin said, is part of the challenge — and enjoyment.
“The fun part is coming up with the ideas,” he said.
Justin said ideas are generally started at least a year in advance. Yes, they are already working on something special for next year.
“We’re working on a project we can’t disclose just yet,” he said with a wry smile. “But let’s just say we’re going to continue to be creative.”