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State Fair of Texas Announces 2022 Big Tex Choice Awards Food Competition Semi-Finalists

State Fair of Texas concessionaires are officially off to the races with a new lineup of incredible, edible innovations for the public to taste at the Fair this fall. The 18th Annual Big Tex® Choice Awards offers another year of exciting bites for all appetites. The 2022 lineup is bursting with flavor – whether you love savory or sweet, you’re in for a treat this year. After much deliberation in the first round of judging, the scores have been tallied and the results are in; 36 semi-finalists have been named to move forward. Comprised of 19 savory and 17 sweet entries, these semi-finalist contenders are one step closer to the main event, where they will compete for one of three winning titles: “Best Taste – Savory,” “Best Taste – Sweet,” and “Most Creative.”

The State Fair of Texas opens on Friday, September 30, and runs through Sunday, October 23, 2022.

2022 BIG TEX CHOICE AWARDS SEMI-FINALISTS

SavorySweet
Bayou BowlCha-Cha Chata
Cajun Lobster Bisque CroquettesCrunchberry® Shortcake
Chicharron Explosion NachosDeep Fried Buc-ee’s®
Crispy Dilly DogDeep Fried Honey
Deep Fried BLTDeep Fried Praline Cheesecake Eggroll
Deep Fried Brisket Cheese SticksDeep Fried Rocky Road with Blue Bell Ice Cream®
Deep Fried Lasagna RollDeep Fried Southern Dessert Dumplings
Deep Fried Texas Country CookoutDeep Fried Strawberry Shortcake Crunch Roll
Dim Sum Loco BurritosDoh-Muff
Fried Charcuterie BoardFat Elvis
Fried Soul Food EggrollFried Texas Fruit Salad
Holy BiscuitLa Bluebonnet
Shaking Beef SaladPeanut Butter Paradise
Southern Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie Waffles SlidersRaspberry Chipotle Sopapilla Cheesecake
Texas Hot Bull RideSmoked Bacon Wrapped Cookie Dough Balls
Texas Ranch Hog WingsThe Ultimate Brookie Monster
Texas SlideTriple Lemon Bliss 
Texas Twosome 
Turkey Leg Taquito 

SAVORY
Bayou Bowl

A loaded bayou explosion! We take our three-cheese macaroni and top it with shrimp and lump crab after being cooked to perfection in garlic scampi butter. Then, we drizzle this culinary creation with a mouth-watering cajun cream sauce, accompanied by a piece of succulent andouille sausage and a side of perfectly toasted French bread to sop up all the Cajun goodness. Let’s geaux to the bayou!

Cajun Lobster Bisque Croquettes

‘Croquette’ is French for a fancy, filled tater tot! Our Cajun Lobster Bisque Croquettes are lightly seasoned potato balls filled with a mixture of rich lobster meat and creamy brie cheese. They are then fried golden brown. Three generous croquettes are served with a side of our Cajun lobster bisque for dipping – a rich and creamy lobster soup—based dipping sauce that is the perfect complement to the croquettes. The whole order turns the heat up when we top it off with our Cajun seasoning, because…well because this is Texas! Get an order of three, mon cheri!

Chicharron Explosion Nachos

Fresh pork rinds are fried to a golden crispy crunch and then seasoned with just the right number of Cajun-style seasonings to insure a mouthwatering kick. Next, we spread smoked beef fajita meat all over the crispy nachos and cover them with delectable freshly made queso. To make this an explosion of flavor, we then top these chicharron nachos with a full serving of savory chopped beef barbeque.  

Crispy Dilly Dog

We take a juicy dill pickle, core it, and fill it with an all-beef hotdog. Then, the creation is dipped in freshly made corndog batter. We roll it in perfectly seasoned breadcrumbs and then fry it to a golden crisp. Once out of the fryer we complete this masterpiece with a drizzle of zesty chipotle mayo – you could say it’s a big DILL!

Deep Fried B.L.T.

Crunch into the simple pleasure of the Deep Fried B.L.T.! Crispy bacon is folded into a 12” tortilla along with a heaping pile of shredded cheddar cheese to bind all the corners. The rectangle-shaped tortilla gets dunked into the deep fryer, just long enough to get a golden-brown crunch and a melted bliss of cheddar and bacon. We then use that deep-fried goodness as our sandwich bread by cutting it in half and layering cool crisp lettuce, two juicy red tomato slices, and mayonnaise in between. Finally, we pair it with fresh-cut garlic parmesan chips for a truly notorious B.L.T!

Deep Fried Brisket Cheese Sticks

We collaborated with our Italian cousins in Sicily to create this Texan-Italian fusion dish that’s the perfect “eat and walk” State Fair food – the Deep Fried Brisket Cheese Sticks. We take classic mozzarella and dress it with slow-smoked chopped brisket. Then, we dip it in an egg wash, dredge it with the family’s secret seasoned breading and drop it in the fryer. To finish, we dust them with grated parmesan and serve them with our savory smoked marinara dipping sauce.

Deep Fried Lasagna Roll

Our ribbon pasta is covered with the perfect mixture of ricotta, parmesan, provolone, and fresh mozzarella cheeses, then topped with our amazing homemade meat sauce. Next, we add more cheese and delicately hand roll the pasta creating delicious layers of flavor. The lasagna roll is dipped in a cheddar and herb batter and fried golden brown, creating a crispy yet flaky crust. We then garnish the roll with a touch of marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, creating a mouthwatering burst of flavor. Served with a side of Deep Fried Zucchini Fries, this dish gives you a taste of Italy with a Texas twist!

Deep Fried Texas Country Cookout

This hearty dish includes an array of flavors celebrated throughout the great state of Texas! We start with a healthy serving of well-seasoned pulled pork, then mix in a generous amount of herbed goat cheese and homemade special sauce. Our tasty Texas-sized patty is then coated in breadcrumbs to give it just the right amount of crunch in every bite. To finish, we place a dollop of coleslaw and potato salad on top of this deep-fried masterpiece, drizzled with sweet homemade jalapeño BBQ sauce, giving you that delicious Texas tang!

Dim Sum Loco Burritos

The east meets southwest with Dim Sum Loco Burritos! Dim Sum means “touch of the heart” and this culinary masterpiece is a touch of the heart – deep in the heart of Texas. Traditional Tex-Mex flavors of smoked shredded pork, lightly fried diced potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and mildly spicy, super melty pepper jack cheese are rolled burrito-style in egg roll wrappers and deep-fried to a crunchy golden brown. The flavors are complex and loaded with umami with lingering flavors of cumin and chipotle. These burritos are then served with charred beer-battered sweet, smokey Shishito peppers and a thin, salty meaty broth garnished with cilantro and diced green onions as a dip for both. Each dish comes with a fortunate cookie, is decorated with a Texas flag, and served in a food tray lined with fiesta tissue to celebrate all the cultures coming together in this one spectacular dish. Trust me, you won’t need the fortune cookie to tell you this is the best thing you’ll eat at the Fair!

Fried Charcuterie Board

Meats, cheeses, fruits – oh my! Chopped-up fresh mozzarella, salami, and crisp green apples are tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian herbs. Then we wrap the ingredients in a wonton wrapper and fry it to a golden crisp, topped with creamy goat cheese and a drizzle of hot honey. Everyone’s favorite appetizer rolled into one perfect bite!

Fried Soul Food Eggroll

A twist on a southern staple that is guaranteed to become a State Fair favorite! An eggroll is filled with tender, barbecue-flavored marinated chicken and combined with grandma’s old-school flavored collard greens and mac ‘n cheese. The eggroll is then deep fried to golden perfection and topped with a fusion sauce bringing together Southern and Asian flavors that perfectly complement the dish.

Holy Biscuit

This mouth-watering southern explosion starts with a perfectly cooked golden-brown biscuit. Then, we stack our slow-smoked shredded brisket and ladle fire-roasted street corn queso on top of the biscuit. Then, we add thick-cut bacon drizzled with Texas honey with a little bit of kick. The masterpiece is complete when we top this incredible biscuit off with crispy pickle French fries. Your taste buds will go crazy with the savory-sweet crunchy combination of flavors all in one bite.

Shaking Beef Salad

An iconic dish taken to a whole new level – Big Tex’s level, that is. Shaking Beef is a French-inspired Vietnamese dish, we take beef and cut it into small cubes – the size of playing dice – before sautéing. We then mix in cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, pepper, and soy sauce, into the skillet.  

Southern Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie Waffles Sliders

If you enjoy chicken and waffles or have been dying to try the classic combination, come indulge in our new Southern Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie Waffles Slider. This curated twist on a classic recipe incorporates a crispy fried chicken filet sandwiched between sweet, thick, and fluffy Belgian waffles stuffed with our heirloom sweet potato pie recipe, which has been handed down three generations. The waffles’ extra deep pockets absorb the warm buttery maple sweet syrups after it is topped with crispy, savory bacon.

Texas Hot Bull Ride

Nashville Hot chicken ain’t got nothing on Texas Hot Bull Ride! We took shrimp and battered it up with a special Texas seasoning. Then, it was tossed in our hot and smoky with a smidgen of sweet special sauce. To cool its heels a little, we served up a side of zesty ranch dressing. Texas Hot Bull Ride is sure to take your tastebuds for a wild ride. Hold on tight, partner!

Texas Ranch Hog Wings

After one bite of Texas Ranch Hog Wings, you’ll start to believe that pigs CAN fly! We take fall-off-the-bone pork and season it with our secret blend of spicy ranch salt. Then, we drizzle the creation with our special homemade sauce and garnish it with fresh green chives. Talk about being in hog heaven!

Texas Slide

You’ve waffled before, so time to waffle again. We create slider buns out of waffles. Then, we fill the slider with chicken and steak and add sauteed bell peppers, onions, provolone cheese, and a secret sauce. To finish it off, the sliders come with syrup.

Texas Twosome

Two Texas favorites collide into a taste explosion. Texas grilled cheese meets Mexico’s Pepper Belly, also known as FRITO pie, for a match made only in Texas. We grill Texas toast and add a thick layer of American cheese, stacked high with Fritos, chili, and jalapeños to add a Texas kick. Only in Texas can two state favorites come together to give you a savory treat that requires no need to dip the chip and has enough cheese to make Wisconsin jealous.

Turkey Leg Taquito

A turkey leg – with a twist!  We shred a turkey leg and blend the mixture with cheese, bacon, and jalapeños. Then, we wrap the mixture around a tortilla and deep fry it. The creation is then served with a side of chips, queso, BBQ hot sauce, and Texas Hot Sauce. Talk about giving a traditional Fair favorite a twist!

SWEET

Cha-Cha Chata

Sidestep all the others ‘cause it’s finally here – we have the milkshake that will make you Cha-Cha Chata all night long! Inspired by the cha-cha dance, our recipe starts with a triple-step of two kinds of milk and vanilla ice cream blended to perfection with our family’s top-secret (but famously delicious) horchata recipe. The creamy drink is then poured into a cup rimmed with caramel and cinnamon goodness and topped with a Texas-sized dollop of whipped topping. To bring even more flavor to your tastebuds, we dust our Cha-Cha Chata with crushed candy, a sprinkle of cinnamon galletas de gragega, and deep-fried arroz con leche bites. Take hold of the churro straw and take a sip, we promise it will cha-cha change your life!

Crunchberry® Shortcake

Our Crunchberry® Shortcake is a sweet sensation that will make the Cap’n proud! Large fresh strawberries are dipped in our thick, rich shortcake batter and fried until golden brown. Each strawberry is its own little shortcake! These soft, sweet strawberry pillows are served with a generous portion of whipped cream for dipping and crowned with a drizzle of strawberry syrup and – you guessed it, topped with Cap’n Crunch Crunchberries®! The result is a soft, sweet, creamy bite with a punch and some crunch!

Deep Fried Buc-ee’s®

Buc-ee’s® holds a special place in the heart of every traveling Texan, so we’re taking our personal favorite and their number-one selling snack, Beaver Nuggets®, to the next level… deep-fried. This delicious sweet and crunchy snack is woven into a batter then deep-fried to perfection, dusted with powdered sugar, and drizzled with silky caramel topping and Beaver Nugget sprinkles. Deep Fried Buc-ee’s® – power to the Beaver!

Deep Fried Honey

Have you heard the buzz? There is a new fried food in town… nature’s perfect sweet treat, as only Texas can imagine – Deep Fried Texas Honey. Raw and all-natural Texas honey is wrapped and deep fried, producing a perfect caramelized honey treat. The creation is then topped with powdered sugar, our own cinnamon sugar concoction, and of course raw Texas honey from Texas’ own Rescue Bee Ranch for a dessert that’s as sweet as can bee!  

Deep Fried Praline Cheesecake Eggroll

A dessert like none you’ve had before, this Deep Fried Praline Cheesecake Egg Roll is sure to be a sweet escape! Rich and creamy praline cheesecake filling is wrapped in an eggroll wrapper, then deep-fried to golden perfection. We take the eggroll and drizzle it in our delicious homemade praline sauce, and top with candied praline pecan crumbles to please even the sweetest tooth!

Deep Fried Rocky Road with Blue Bell Ice Cream®

The wait is over – Deep Fried Rocky Road is here! Rocky Road Kettle Fresh Fudge is coated with fluffy, lightly sweetened batter and deep-fried to perfection, stacked high, and drizzled with chocolate syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Mini marshmallows and chopped cinnamon glazed nuts are sprinkled atop with powdered sugar. The dish is accompanied by a single-serve Blue Bell Ice Cream® Homemade Vanilla ice cream cup.

Deep Fried Southern Dessert Dumplings

These delightfully indulgent dumplings are a mashup of two southern favorites, sweet potato and pecan pie with a twist that might make even grandma jealous! Actual pieces of sweet potato and pecan pie – yes, including the crust! – combined with morsels of dark chocolate are folded into a won-ton wrap, deep-fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. Like any good dumpling, we serve them with a special sauce, our homemade rum-raspberry chipotle dipping sauce.

Deep Fried Strawberry Shortcake Crunch Roll

Our crazy delicious Deep Fried Strawberry Shortcake Crunch Roll is dipped into our homemade pink waffle batter infused with strawberry purée and fried to perfection. We drizzle the top with cream cheese icing and cover it with our addictive strawberry crunch – consisting of vanilla Oreo cookies, strawberry JELLO mix, and melted butter. Then we carefully dust the crunch roll with confection sugar and garnish it with a fresh strawberry for the sweetest taste of Texas.

Doh-Muff

We take a yeast doughnut stuffed with Bavarian cream and coat it in banana nut muffin batter. Then, we drop the doughnut into the fryer. Once it’s deep fried to that perfect golden crisp, we top the creation with pecan butter glaze, fresh bananas, and strawberries. It’s up to you to decide if it’s a doughnut or a muffin, but one thing’s for sure – it’s a sweet treat you’re sure to love.

Fat Elvis

This mouthwatering explosion starts with a blend of creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly whisked together. To start, we take a warm out-of-the-oven biscuit and spread a thick coat of peanut butter and jelly onto the biscuit. We layer delicious marshmallow fluff and fire toast it just for a second to give it a golden-brown campfire taste. As thick-cut juicy bacon comes off the griddle, it finds its home on top of the marshmallow fluff. At the same time, the fried plantain bananas are coming out of the fryer caramelized and ready to complete this delicious decadent food experience. You’ve never tasted a biscuit like this!

Fried Texas Fruit Salad

A delicious twist on a classic family-gathering dish. We combine chopped cinnamon apples, tart cherries, and luscious peaches with strawberry cream cheese. We then add just a touch of candied jalapeños (the unofficial fruit of Texas) to provide a hint of sweetened zing. All this yummy goodness is balled and rolled in a crunchy batter to excite your tastebuds, then deep-fried to a beautiful golden finish. Lastly, the spheres are dusted with finely ground cocoa caramel and a powdered sugar mix, then topped off with a drizzle of in-house almond icing for a heavenly Texas taste experience.

La Bluebonnet

This decadent drink is inspired by our iconic Texas bluebonnets which have served as a natural photo backdrop for many memorable life moments. Freshly squeezed citrus juices and blueberries are folded into a sugary base and then shaken well to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Then, we pour it over refreshing ice and top with an optional lemon-mint-berry twist.

Peanut Butter Paradise

Man cannot live by bread alone – he must have peanut butter. Our Peanut Butter Paradise starts with deep-frying a honey bun. Then, we inject caramel into the honey bun and top it with creamy peanut butter. We continue to layer the treat with some fan-favorite peanut butter treats, Reese’s Pieces, Crushed Butterfinger crumbles, topped off with peanut butter cups, drizzled caramel, and a cloud of powder sugar. Just another day in paradise!

Raspberry Chipotle Sopapilla Cheesecake

Sweet raspberries and spicy chipotle are blended with cream cheese to create a sweet treat with Texas heat. Spicy cream cheese filling is topped with our homemade sweet raspberry glaze, topped with a crispy buttery sugar-coated crust. Served with a drizzle of raspberry compote, whipped topping, and chopped pecans., with candied jalapeños available upon request.

Smoked Bacon Wrapped Cookie Dough Balls

If it’s even possible, we found a way to make chocolate chip cookies even better. We start with a made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookie dough and roll it up into a ball. Then, we wrap these cookie dough balls in a generous slice of bacon and smoke the spheres. Served with a smoked chocolate dipping sauce, this dessert takes a love of cookie dough to the next level.

The Ultimate Brookie Monster

The Ultimate Brookie Monster is the ultimate in dessert decadence. It’s like a dessert hall of fame party on one saucer. It starts with crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies, layered with Oreos and marshmallows. Then, the creation is covered in triple-chocolate brownie batter and baked together into a super brookie. The fun begins when we batter and deep fry the super brookie, shower it in powdered sugar, and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. To finish, we top it with cheesecake crumbles and strawberry sauce.

Triple Lemon Bliss

Pucker up buttercup for this ultimately blissful lemon lover’s delight! This creamy, tart pastry is a zesty, refreshing treat for your tastebuds and as bright as the Texas sun. We start by giving delicate, sweet ladyfingers a quick flash fry, creating two ultra-light and crispy cookies to sandwich two distinct layers of lemony goodness. Then, we add a layer of fragrant lemon bars that have been gently folded, ensuring each bite will have alternating flavors of the buttery, crumbly shortbread and tangy, sweet lemon curd. Next, we add a layer of moist, light, citrusy lemon pound cake and finish by topping with the other ladyfinger with a layer of rich, mouth-watering lemon cream cheese filling. It is garnished with lemon candies for that extra lemon crunch. When life gives you lemons, eat Triple Lemon Bliss!

The contest kicked off in June with an impressive 51 entries represented by 36 concessionaires. 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. With food as a cornerstone of the annual State Fair, these contenders are more than just successful small business owners; they have proven themselves to be authentic representations of the dedication and passion brought to the table each year.

The unique selection process used in the annual competition is headed up by a panel of internal judges and requires “blind judging” from start to finish, meaning the panel does not know which concessionaire is behind each recipe. This allows for the scoring to be entirely based on the food entry itself and leaves no room for bias toward concessionaires, since their identities are not revealed to the panel. To vie for a spot in this semi-final round, contestants put their creativity to the test by coming up with an enticing name and description for their original concoctions, in addition to submitting a photo of their creation. Faced with a solid list of tempting treats, the judges based their choices solely on which food name, photo, and description looks and sounds the most appealing to their personal palette, just like a fairgoer might do while at the Fair.

Over the next several weeks, the second round of preliminary judging will begin, and these edible creations will have to prove to the panel of judges that they are just as delicious as they look and sound. The tasting round will judge each semi-finalist on, at minimum, four main ingredients of a finalist-worthy concoction: uniqueness, presentation, creativity, and, of course, taste. The judges will also have to defend their rankings against the seemingly simple yet crucial question – how likely is a fairgoer to buy the item? By mid-August, anticipation will be at an ultimate high when the Fair-food finalists are announced. The top 10 entries will compete in the final round at this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards ceremony. Even if your cuisine of choice doesn’t make it to the main event, concessionaires can still choose to introduce their food at their stand as a “new food” during this year’s State Fair.

Start planning your visit to the 2022 State Fair of Texas now at BigTex.com/Plan

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