It’s finally here, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the highly-anticipated decision that denotes the ultimate achievement in fair food. Presenting guests with an ample assortment of tasty treats, this year’s finalists proved that there is no shortage of creativity when it comes to the Big Tex® Choice Awards. After tasting all eight foods and carefully evaluating each item, the all-star panel of judges has made its tallies and cast its final votes. Drum roll please…and the winners are: Best Tasting goes to Christi Erpillo for Fernie’s Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly, while Isaac Rousso takes the title of Most Creative for his Smoky Bacon Margarita. In addition to their winning titles, both champions received a set of Michelin Defender LTX tires as an added bonus.
A finalist in nine of the past 11 competitions, Christi Erpillo is no stranger to the Big Tex Choice Awards – or the State Fair of Texas for that matter. Serving as concessionaires at the Fair for 47 years now, Christi’s family is known for first introducing the funnel cake to the State Fair of Texas in the early 1980s. Taking a unique spin on a traditional dessert, Fernie’s Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly turns carrot cake into a heaven-filled roll. Golden-baked bread swirled with cinnamon has been flattened and filled with moist carrot cake, plump raisins and crunchy julienned carrots. Rolled with a light coating of cream cheese and then breaded in a mixture of panko, graham crackers, cinnamon and nutmeg – holy moly this is far from your typical dessert!
With two finalists in the Big Tex Choice Awards this year, Isaac Rousso hit home with the Smoky Bacon Margarita. An unconventional pairing of flavors adds a subtle smoky taste to a traditionally tangy drink. Undisputedly a frontrunner in the creative category, this drink takes the smokiness of freshly-cooked bacon and infuses it into a frozen lime margarita. With just a hint of smoke, this creation still captures the zesty citrus flavor of a traditional margarita. Finished off with a pinch of bacon crumbles on top, this thirst-quenching drink is served in a collectible souvenir cup for an added funky flair. Fairgoers can sip on this refreshing beverage and cool off from the Texas heat! Contains alcohol – must be 21 years of age.
With such a solid list of contenders in the final eight, this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards posed quite a challenge for the judges, who were tasked with picking only two winners. Going up against these winners, and proving to be very worthy opponents, the other foods that made it to the final round include: Chicken Fried Lobster with Champagne Gravy by Abel Gonzales, Cowboy Corn Crunch by Isaac Rousso, Deep Fried Alligator’s Egg Nest by Cassy Jones, Fried Beer-Battered Buffalo by James Barrera, Lone Star Pork Handle by Justin Martinez and Pretzel-Crusted Pollo Queso by Allan Weiss.
The annual event requires several judges to complete the ever-so-difficult job of taste-testing all eight finalists. This year’s judges were: Devin Harris, Dallas Mavericks point guard and member of the 2009 NBA All-Star Team; Drew Pearson, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and host of “Big Game Sunday”; Dan Rodo, YouTube phenomenon and host of new TV show “Let’s Go! DFW”; John Tesar, renowned chef and owner of local restaurants Knife, Oak and El Bolero; Tiffinni Young, Dallas native, community leader and Dallas City Councilwoman for District 7. Serving as the sixth judge, audience member Bridget Russell was lucky enough to get her name picked from the random drawing and fill the spot of special guest judge. Leading the awards ceremony as emcee was talk show host Donovan Lewis of Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket.
Although all of the judges were crowd-favorites, the real show-stopper was a surprise celebrity guest who helped announce the winners while making his first-ever public debut – none other than Big Tex…the mascot. That’s right, the State Fair introduced a Big Tex mascot, complete with cowboy gear and that traditional Texas style everyone loves so much. The Fair’s newest friend serves as a continuation of the “Texification” project, an initiative that began in 2014 to further emphasize the feeling of Texas pride throughout the fairgrounds. Guests will be able to meet the mascot during this year’s Fair, where he’ll be making special appearances and posing for photo ops!
For the first time ever, the Fair is holding an additional food competition – one that lets you decide who wins. Fairgoers can vote for their favorite Big Tex Choice Awards finalist in the all-new fan favorite contest, launching during the 2015 Fair. If you missed out on the big event and didn’t get to taste all the finalists at the Big Tex Choice Awards, don’t worry – you’ve still got 24 days to try all eight items, plus the slew of other new foods being offered at the Fair this year. As another new addition, fair fanatics can pick up a food map that lays out the vendor locations for each of the finalists, making it easy to map out your route and hit all the hot spots along the way. Maps will be available at State Fair Information Booths, as well as online at BigTex.com. Once you’ve made your way through the concession stands, you can go online and cast your vote in the fan favorite contest, starting Opening Day, September 25. Be on the lookout for your top-pick – the winner will be announced the final weekend of this year’s exposition.
Celebrating a decade of decadence in 2014, the annual Big Tex Choice Awards ceremony opened its doors to the public for the first time. A limited number of State Fair fans got the chance to attend the event and serve as taste-testers for the food finalists in last year’s competition. Presented by Michelin®, the 11th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards built off of last year’s success and once again sold tickets to the event, with all proceeds going to the State Fair of Texas Youth Scholarship Fund. Over its 23 year history, the Youth Scholarship Program has awarded scholarships to more than 1,600 students for a total of more than $4.5 million. Eligible recipients include graduating high school seniors from around the state of Texas who have competed in State Fair livestock events, as well as graduating seniors from five Fair Park area schools – Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, James Madison, Lincoln, North Dallas and Woodrow Wilson High Schools.2015 Big Tex Choice Awards
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About the State Fair of Texas
Since its inception in 1886, the State Fair of Texas has celebrated all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment. The State Fair of Texas is a nonprofit organization with all proceeds helping to preserve and improve Fair Park and underwrite museum, community and scholarship programs for inner city youth and students pursuing agricultural careers. The 2015 exposition runs September 25 through October 18 in Fair Park. Visit BigTex.com for more information.
About Michelin North America
Dedicated to the improvement of sustainable mobility, Michelin designs, manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, heavy-duty trucks and motorcycles. The company also publishes travel guides, hotel and restaurant guides, maps and road atlases. Headquartered in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America (www.michelinman.com) employs more than 22,750 and operates 20 major manufacturing plants.