State Fair Brings Deep-Fried Flavors

On the way to the Big Tex Choice Awards, unexpected flavors made it into the celebrated recipes.

Peas, carrots, green beans, okra, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas play significant roles in this year’s savory finalists.

But don’t fret about so many ingredients from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “vegetables” food group. The State Fair of Texas hasn’t gone on a health food kick.

The best tools for impressing Big Tex Choice Award judges remain the deep fryer and a creative mind.

After the judges did their work, my young bride and I got to try all of the finalists –an experience that sent us home feeling like we had spent all day at the fair overindulging.

Here are our assessments:

The Winners

Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake won for “Best Taste-Savory.” We had to agree, though I’m not usually a fan of black-eyed peas and my wife doesn’t eat them at all. Somehow adding rice, sausage, onions, and secret spices produced a deep-fried “cake” so good, we wish we could serve it for New Year’s.

Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice) won for “Best Taste-Sweet.” Rice puddings don’t usually impress me, but this deep-fried one, served with ice cream and caramel sauce, scores with rice crispy cereal shell surrounding a creamy sweet interior.

Cotton Candy Taco won for “Most Creative” and left us saying, “Wow.” Wow, because it tastes so much like s’mores. And wow, because it’s so sweet you have to wonder whether anyone older than 12 could eat more than a bite or two.

Other Favorites

Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt In A Boat puts a deep-fried ball of potato, cheese, and sausage on top of a potato skin. My wife suggested it might be too much potato. Too much potato? Is that even possible?

Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie. I like shepherd’s pie with its meat, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Deep fry it so I can eat it as finger food? Yes, please.

State Fair Fun-L Cake Ice Cream comes from Tom Landis and his team of special needs workers at the Howdy Homemade Ice Cream shop on Lovers Lane. He ranks this flavor – a pleasing mix of funnel cake pieces, powdered sugar, and ice cream – as one of the team’s “first two masterpieces” along with its signature Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip.

Fernie’s Orange You Glad We Fried It?! If you want something sweet, but not nearly as sweet as the other choices, this deep fried orange cake is a super tasty option.

Just Skip Them

Texas Fried Hill Country. I didn’t hate this version of fried green tomatoes, but I wouldn’t try it again, either.

Texas Twang-Kie. This mix of cornbread and chicken white bean chili tasted good but tended to fall apart. Better eat it with a fork.

Sweet Bakin’ Bacon should have had us with the word, “bacon!” Instead, this donut-like treat had us turning back to the other sweets.

See you at the fair. Look for us in line for a Fletcher’s corn dog.

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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