"That looks like a pterodactyl wing," laughed Harry Miller, a committeeman on the Commercial Exhibits Committee, as he regarded a giant slab of unidentifiable meat that was making its way to a judging table. Miller emcees the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo's Gold Buckle Foodie Awards competition each year, and he's very nearly seen it all in the four years of the annual food contest.
Deep-fried Moon Pies, meat sundaes, chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick...and this year, a slew of entries each more over-the-top than the last. The pterodactyl wing in question was a slab of reconstructed beef, pieces plastered on top of each other and held together with barbecue sauce on a giant bone: meat on a stick in its most primal -- yet unappealing -- sense.
It did not go over well with the judges, me among them. But neither had many of the entries that day. The fried cherry Kool-Aid was perhaps the worst, a ball of cake dough soaked in what tasted like straight cherry-flavored syrup and then fried to a greasy, powdered sugar-topped mess.
"Satan testicle?" responded Dallas Observer web editor Nick Rallo when I posted a photo of it to Twitter. Close enough.
Of a giant piece of pizza that was topped with too many meats to count, judge Steve Johnson of The Walton & Johnson Show joked: "This features all the animals that are on display at the Rodeo."
On the other hand, two of the entries at this year's Gold Buckle Foodie Awards -- which hands out awards to the Rodeo's various midway and fair food booths -- received perfect scores from the dozens of judges, most of whom are media personalities from around the city.
A table of judges that included DJs Roula Christie and Special K from KRBE cheered loudly when those perfectly scored entries were announced: an ice cream-filled cupcake called a Lemon Cream Frosty Bite from Custom Confections, and a truly Southern-fried red velvet cake from Far Fix Trinity LLC. Both entries -- which won blue ribbons, a plaque for their booths and $150 in Rodeo merchandise -- had been judged at the DJs' table.
Other winners this year included some old favorites and some new faces:
- Best Breakfast Food: Burton Sausage -- Classic Breakfast Taco
- Best Value Food: Ranch House Meat Company -- Pork Rib Plate
- Best Food-on-a-Stick: Burger Joint RCS Carnival -- The Big Rib
- Classic Fair Food: Saltgrass Steakhouse -- BBQ Pulled Pork Stuffed Baked Potato
- Most Creative Food: Custom Confections -- Lemon Cream Frosty Bite
- Best Fried Food: Far Fix Trinity LLC -- Fried Red Velvet Cake
- Best New Flavor: Aunt Edmoe's Cookies -- Fried Cookie Dough on a Stick
- Best Dessert: Stubby's Cinnamon Roll -- Cinnamon Roll with "The Works"
One of those new faces was that of Kimberly Revis of Custom Confections, a first-time competitor who was one of the only two to receive a perfect score. Of her Lemon Cream Frosty Bites, Revis explained: "My daughter loves cake and ice cream. And no one likes baked goods in the middle of the summer, so we thought of a way to put the ice cream inside the cupcake."
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"My daughter named them," Revis said, beaming proudly.
As an added incentive to try Revis's Frosty Bites and all of the other seven Gold Buckle Foodie Awards winners this year, the Rodeo has announced the I Ate All Eight Contest. Print out a scorecard of all the Gold Buckle winners, get your card stamped as you try all eight winning dishes and redeem your scorecard for a prize at the Social Media Hub at the southwest corner of the Main Arena in Hall C of Reliant Center.