I avoid reading anything that starts with, “It’s that time of year again . .” because whatever time of year “it” is, it happens every year and should be of no surprise to anyone. But here I am writing that it is, in fact, that time of year again: The State Fair of Texas starts Sept. 27 and runs through Oct. 20. Time to get excited.
I grew up in Fort Worth so my big “time of year” was in frigid February for the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. The highlight of that was the ballpark-style nachos served with slightly stale chips drowned in hunter-orange canned liquid cheese from Ben E. Keith. As my palate matured, I added canned pickled jalapeños on the side. Woo, look at me.
Food offerings at state fairs have improved every year since fairs first became part of our American vernacular around 1840. Rural celebrations of agriculture and community have always included recipe and product judging and sampling, though butter sculptures and fried butter (a 2009 SFOT Most Creative winner) are decidedly modern additions.
Many of the 2019 State Fair of Texas food offerings are predictably fried, delicious, and zany. You should try them all, though, because these offerings are the manifestations of hours and hours of research and development, and, in some cases, decades-long family traditions. And while you’ve probably already read about this year’s fair fare, you haven’t seen them paired with a song, which is my schtick. So, here we go.
Winner: Best Taste – Savory
Ruth’s Stuffed Fried Taco Cone
Joan Jett – I Hate Myself For Loving You
This easy-to-eat-with-one-hand is a cone-shaped corn tortilla filled with cilantro-lime rice and tender, flavorful beef barbacoa garnished with fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco and salsa verde. The tortilla is crispy but holds together as you eat it and, like an actual ice cream cone which it resembles, the deliciousness is packed into the very tip of the cone, so every bite has flavor.
Winner: Best Taste – Sweet
Big Red® Chicken Bread
Run DMC – It’s Tricky
A wacky take on chicken and waffles, this dish offers a crispy fried chicken wing that’s moist and well-seasoned sitting atop a Big Red-flavored doughnut that tasted like bubble gum. Like I said, tricky. The creators of this are the Reaves brothers, two-time Big Tex Choice Award Winners and state fair vendors since 1979. In an emotional moment after they were announced as winners, one of the brothers announced that their father, “Smokey John” passed away the previous morning, making this win more special.
Winner – Most Creative
Jimmy Buffett – Last Mango in Paris
If you like mango, you’ll like this. A delicious, flaky pastry filled with mango puree is complemented with a refreshing mango strawberry sorbet that’s sophisticated and cold, like many French things.
Start dieting now to try the new Calypso Island Shrimp, Deep Fried Bayou Fruit Bites and the Peanut Butter Cup Snookie as well. All so delicious!