This year, I dare you: Order the winners of the State Fair of Texas’ Big Tex Choice Awards and turn them into a progressive dinner.
It’s a lot of calories.
Not a lot of vegetables.
But it works:
Start with a Cha-Cha Chata, a horchata milkshake voted “Most Creative” by a panel of six.
Then move into the fried sausage board. It’s the 2022 winner for Best Taste – Savory and was created by 22-year-old concessionaire Josey Mayes, whose family has been at the state fair for 73 years.
Finish off with dessert, a decadent deep-fried dish called Peanut Butter Paradise, which bills as “best flavor — sweet.” It comes from first-time Big Tex Choice Awards finalists Chris Easter and Nicole Sternes. It’s rare for newbies to win.
All three award-winning dishes will be served at the State Fair of Texas from September 30th to October 23rd, 2022.
As the judges sampled each dish, “amazing” was the word of the day. This word was used more than a dozen times to describe the five savory and five sweet foods they tried.
Most creative: Cha-Cha Chata – a horchata milkshake
Maricsa Trejo, co-owner of La Casita Bakeshop in Richardson and one of the judges, said the cha cha chata milkshake was one of her favorites.
“First, I’m lactose intolerant, but I’ll eat the whole thing,” she says. She makes horchata at La Casita, but found the Garza family’s State Fair drink to be better than hers. It’s a horchata vanilla ice cream milkshake with a caramel cinnamon rim. Each cup is served with a churro and some fried bites of arroz con leche, a dish that won the Garza family a 2018 Big Tex Choice Award for Best Taste – Sweet.
“It’s my whole childhood in a cup,” says Trejo.
She grew up attending the State Fair of Texas with her five sisters and even spent her 21st birthday at the fair.
The Garzas have been winners or finalists in the Big Tex Choice Awards four times. Her most recent win was for the “most creative” dish of 2019, a fried mango sorbet dessert cleverly named Fla’Mango Tango.
Best taste – tasty: Fried sausage board
Mayes’ fried charcuterie platter was inspired by her love of making meat and cheese appetizers for her friends. Her winning dish consists of mozzarella, salami, prosciutto and green apples tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then wrapped in wonton wraps and deep fried. Each little pocket is topped with goat cheese and hot honey.
“The generation that grew up with lunchables really took it to a whole different level,” said Karissa Condoianis, senior vice president of public relations, during the press conference.
Mayes’ family has been at the fair for four generations. Hiawatha Williams, fair judge and founder of Williams Chicken, said after trying the fried sausages, “You’ll be here for 73 years.”
Karbach Brewing co-founder and contest judge Brad Batson called the fried sausages “really creative.”
Best Taste – Sweet: Peanut Butter Paradise
Easter and Stars’ award-winning dessert is a fried honey bun – and then some.
Each sweet bun is injected with caramel, topped with creamy peanut butter and sprinkled with Reese’s Pieces, crushed butter fingers, peanut butter cups and more.
“Once you take a bite, it’s delicious and all you can think about is paradise and heaven,” says Sternes.
She and her husband Easter are co-owners of Southside Steaks & Cakes, less than a mile from Big Tex’s boots, just outside the State Fair of Texas. You’re new to the Big Tex Choice Awards and seemed shocked to win.
“We were honored to be a finalist for the first time because we’re part of the tradition now,” says Sternes.
Judges warned that trade fair visitors must share Peanut Butter Paradise: It fills you up.
Judges at the 2022 Big Tex Choice Awards were Rob “Big Rob” Maiden, captain of the Mavs ManiAACs; Lance Barrow, formerly of CBS Sports; Bruce Sifford, Chairman of the State Fair; and Trejo, Williams and Batson.