Texas Taste Test: Walkin’ in the deep-fried wonderland of the Texas State Fair | Features | | A.V. Austin

October 20, 2009 at 5:16 am (Uncategorized)

Ah, the State Fair of Texas. So much to see: the Auto Show (the new Dodge Challenger is the first evidence in 20 years that Detroit still knows how to build a muscle car); the livestock (nothing is more delightful than the expression on the face of a surly teen who has to spend his one weekend in the big city all year monitoring a cow’s bowel movements); the crafts (don’t panic, everyone—Confederate flag belt buckles are still in plentiful supply). But most of all, there’s the food. The State Fair of Texas bills itself as the “Fried Food Capital of Texas,” which is sort of like being the “French People Capital of France,” but who can resist spending an afternoon walking around in what smells like the inside of a pancake? Not The A.V. Club. Before the fair ended its run today, the Texas Taste Test crew took a drive up to Big D to sample some of this year’s most feted delicacies at the 2009 Big Tex Choice Awards. We left 30 pounds heavier and 100 percent more satisfied, with a grease-stained notebook filled with mini-reviews of all the insane concoctions that (thankfully) you can only get at the fair. See you next year, Big Tex.

state fair big tex foodSweet jalapeño corn dog shrimp
It was difficult to tell at first exactly what this was going to be. We were picturing a more-or-less standard corn dog, only made with ground shrimp and seasoned with jalapeño. In fact, it was a deep-fried whole jumbo shrimp, slathered in a syrup-thick sauce that combined mild spice with way too much sweetness. A classic example of a good idea ruined by a botched execution; our first big disappointment of the day. Grade: C [Image via Flickr]

Country-fried pork chips
Brought to us by the fair’s première vendor of Teutonic Texas treats, these were a resounding success after the disappointment of the corn dog shrimp. Essentially, these were nothing more than very thin, very tender slivers of pork loin, lightly fried and highly seasoned. The server’s suggestion that they be eaten with (shudder) ranch dressing would have ruined what turned out to be one of the lightest, tastiest snacks of the entire fair. Grade: A [Image via Flickr]

state fair big tex foodChicken-fried bacon
This was sold at the same stand where we found the country-fried pork chips, so we picked up a basket. Whoever named these the 2008 Best Taste Winners must have been seriously off their medication; chicken-fried bacon proved to be the very definition of too much of a good thing. The thick-sliced bacon fried in a crazy heavy country batter was so rich that one of our testers could only eat a single slice, and another managed only a single bite. At the risk of offending The A.V. Club’s bacon-is-God readership, this was where bacon jumped the shark. Grade: C- [Image via Flickr]

state fair big tex foodFried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich
This Elvisian nightmare, on the other hand, was just disgusting enough to be enjoyable. Since it’s made out of more or less wholesome ingredients, it’s only the frying that makes this 2005 Best Taste Winner into a holy terror: It’s impossibly thick and heavy, about the size of a deep-fried Bible. However, the people behind it are master fryers, and they give it an irresistibly crunchy texture. If you can avoid thinking about what it’s doing to your arteries, it’s absolutely scrumptious. Grade: B+ [Image via Flickr]

Texas fried pecan pie
Although it got a lot of attention when it was announced, this one petered out and didn’t take home any of the big prizes. The reason? It’s all about quality ingredients, baby. Instead of deep-frying whole slices of pie, the makers opted for mini-pies—which are easier to make, but skimp on the pecans and the gooey filling. An attempt to compensate by ladling on whipped cream and caramel sauce is an obvious distraction. This was merely good when it should have been great. Grade: B-

state fair big tex foodFernie’s deep-fried peaches and cream
This year’s Best Taste Winner was a revelation—and actually even better than it sounded. The name is somewhat deceptive: Though we didn’t get to see it being made, it was light and delicate (as if it had been pan-fried instead of deep-fried), and the ‘cream’ is actually a light icing served on the side. But the seasoning mix (containing ginger, coconut, and cinnamon) is perfect, the peaches are fresh and crisp, and there are all sorts of toppings (whipped cream, powdered sugar, and raspberry sauce), as if it’s somehow not sweet enough already. Subtle and delicious, and far and away the best treat of the day. Grade: A [Image via Flickr]

state fair big tex foodDeep-fried butter
We felt almost obligated to try this one. On the one hand, the extended middle finger it offered to the very concept of moderation and healthy eating was off-putting. However, it did win Most Creative this year, and it’s the brainstorm of the man who created 2006’s big winner, Fried Coke. But to our eternal shame, once we finally got to the place where it was being sold, we just couldn’t pull the trigger. Various excuses were formulated: Some of us were turned off by the very idea of eating what is essentially fat-soaked fattened fat, while one of us argued that he could eat fried butter, but he just couldn’t bring himself to eat sweetened, flavored fried butter. And even though it did have the longest line of any concession we’d seen that day, honestly, we just didn’t have the guts. Let those of you who spent the previous three hours wolfing down deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches cast the first stone. Grade: N/A [Image via Flickr]


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