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Cotton Candy Taco, Hoppin’ John Cake among winners in State Fair Big Tex awards

The 14th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards, presented by Vistaprint, were announced on Sunday and, as usual, there were some creative food offerings on the table.

The winners: : “Best Taste – Savory” goes to the Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce by Winter Family Concessions, while the Arroz con Leche (or Sweet Crispy Rice) by the Garza Family took home “Best Taste – Sweet,” and “Most Creative” presented by Vistaprint goes to the Cotton Candy Taco by Justin & Rudy Martinez.

Here’s a breakdown of the winner, which will be available for tasting the the upcoming State Fair of Texas.

Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce by Winter Family Concessions (SAVORY)

As long-time State Fair of Texas concessionaires, the Winter Family is back for their 48th year at the Fair. They have produced 13 finalists in the Big Tex Choice Awards with their Fried Peaches and Cream winning in 2013. Taking home the title for Best Taste – Savory, this entry is a unique take on a traditional New Year’s Eve “good luck” dish. The classic ingredients of creamy, nutty black-eyed peas, fluffy white rice, spicy smoke sausage, green onions, and a secret blend of special spices are mixed with bread crumbs and eggbeaters to form a Texas-sized cake. Then, the cake is deep fried and topped with a zingy black-eyed pea relish, garnished with pickled okra, and served with a side of Jackpot sauce.

Arroz con Leche (Sweet Crispy Rice) by the Garza Family (SWEET)

The Garza Family has been introducing new food to the Fair since 1983, when Trini Garza’s wife opened their first concession stand. They were Big Tex Choice Awards finalists in 2012 with Trini’s Deep Fried Divine Chocolate Tres Leches, and this year marks their first win for Best Taste – Sweet. Arroz con Leche is a delectable cinnamon spiced rice ball formed, battered, and coated in crispy puffed rice cereal. The ball is then deep fried to golden perfection. For Trini, his dish is another way for him to highlight his family’s cultural traditions.

Cotton Candy Taco by Justin & Rudy Martinez (SWEET)

Justin and Rudy Martinez are veterans of Fair food. In addition to having concession stands at the Fair since 1978, the pair has previously won three Big Tex Choice Awards, including 2014’s Most Creative for their Original State Fair Brew – Funnel Cake Ale. Claiming their second Most Creative win, this year’s sweet creation starts with a graham cracker waffle cone batter that is then squeezed into a crunchy taco shell shape. The taco is then coated with a marshmallow glaze and stuffed with chocolate, toasted marshmallow, and organic cane sugar cotton candy. The taco is topped off with chocolate cookie crumbles and two chocolate cream-covered biscuit sticks with marshmallows.

The annual event requires several judges to face the trying task of taste-testing all ten finalists. This year’s judges were Bobby Abtahi – City of Dallas Park & Recreation Board President; Uno Immanivong – Chef and Owner of Chino Chinatown in Trinity Groves and Red Stix in Legacy Hall; Alvaro Luque – President & CEO at Avocados From Mexico; DeDe McGuire – K104 FM “DeDe in the Morning” Show Host; Doug Pickering – Pitmaster of Ferris Wheeler’s BBQ; D’Andra Simmons – Founder and CEO of Hard Night Good Morning and TV Personality. Serving as the seventh judge, audience member Laurence Michlin of Prosper, was lucky enough to get his ticket picked from the random drawing and fill the spot of special guest judge representing all fairgoers. Leading the awards ceremony as emcee was once again local radio host Michelle Rodriguez of New Country 96.3 KSCS.

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