After a timely critique by a panel of first-time judges, the State Fair of Texas has announced the winners of the 2014 Big Tex Choice Awards, and its outcome will not surprise craft beer fans one bit: Funnel cake ale won first prize for Most Creative.
Justin Martinez created the brew in a collaboration with Dallas brewery Community Beer Company. Hoo-rah craft beer.
Winner for Best Taste went to the fried Gulf shrimp boil, created by competitor Clint Probst.
This year's contest saw a number of groundbreaking moves, with judges culled from the top tier of foodie blogger circles: Top Chef contestant Tiffany Derry, BBQ Snob and Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, Dallas lifestyle blogger Cynthia Smoot, and 1310 The Ticket personality Donovan Lewis. The emcee was also a newbie: Hawkeye from 96.3 KSCS.
The judging panel also included for the first time a regular-person judge, one Tim Bennett, who won the "Why I Should Be a Judge Contest" by submitting a video (seen here), which was screened during the contest's opening ceremonies. Also for the first time, people were allowed to buy tickets to attend the judging; approximately 300 people were in attendance.
And last but not least, it was the first time a beer was submitted as an entry. Beer has made an appearance previously, in 2010, when an entry called fried beer won for Most Creative. That was a novelty item with beer enclosed in a ravioli-type snack that was fried.
The judges were served the funnel cake ale first, with much tittering accompanying the idea of a beer being served at 10:20 am. Next came the chicken-fried baked potato; the combination of bacon and cheese enticed the judges.
That was followed by fried Gulf shrimp boil, which earned lots of instantaneous raves, and "breakfast for dinner," a kooky melange of breakfast items inside a tortilla.
From there it was on to the sweet: Texas bluebonnet, a sweet muffin-scone with blueberries and cream cheese, and fried sweet Texas, with pie crust, pecan and buttermilk pies, and peach cobbler.
Wisely, they saved hot and spicy for the finish, with Texas tacos followed by fried Sriracha balls. No one's palate could recover from that combination of chicken, chilies and Sriracha.
To fill the time while the judges judged, they announced two people's choice awards, with first and second prizes going to fried bacon cinnamon roll and fried peaches and cream.
This year's finalists hit on big foodie trends such as tacos, craft beer and Sriracha sauce. The State Fair's official descriptions are as follows:
Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potato
The inside of a baked potato, mixed with butter, bacon and cheddar cheese, gets a spicy battered coating to create a combination of fried crispy crust and creamy loaded baked potato. Served with a ranch dipping sauce.
Deep Fried "Breakfast for Dinner"
A 10-inch flour tortilla stuffed with eight breakfast items — scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, ham, onion, cheddar cheese and gooey cinnamon roll bits — is deep fried and served with creamy country gravy, salsa and a pico-queso dip.
Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet
A blueberry muffin scone-style batter, stuffed with cream cheese, blueberries and white chocolate chips, is baked and deep fried. Topped with whipped cream, white chocolate chips, powdered sugar, blueberries and blueberry glaze.
Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil
Baby Gulf shrimp, diced red potatoes and onion are rolled into a ball around a cocktail shrimp, dusted with fish fry and fried. Served with remoulade sauce.
Fried Sriracha Balls
A mixture of shredded chicken, corn, green chilies, tomatoes and Sriracha gets rolled into balls, coated with tortilla chips and fried.
Fried Sweet Texas
Pie dough, pecan pie, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie are all deep fried, then served with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.
Original State Fair Brew – Funnel Cake Ale
English-style summer ale with flavors of toast, sweetness and vanilla — all flavors you find in a funnel cake.
Twisted Texas Tacos
Beef brisket coated in a barbecue-spiced buttermilk batter and deep fried is served in a flour tortilla, with Mexican cheese, okra and tri-color slaw. It comes with a side of chili and country gravy.