...And we're back sugar-shock, fried oddity, foods-on-sticks lovers. There's plenty to look forward to this year in the magical land of rodeo cuisine. The 2018 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is officially open and for most of us what used to feel like yay funnel cakes now feels like yay funnel cake bacon cheeseburgers. Each year, rodeo food gets more and more creative as vendors exercise their uncanny ability to tap into our inner glutton.
Just yesterday, an illustrious panel of 39 local celebrity judges convened behind unguarded, almost closed doors to weigh in on the 2018 Gold Buckle Foodie Competition. They came from all walks of life, but mostly radio (38 percent), television (25 percent), publications (20 percent), and other (17 percent.) With a group like that, you can imagine the jokes were flying left and right.
Each table of judges tasted one to three different offerings per category. The eight categories were; Best Specialty Food (new category that replaced Breakfast), Classic Fair Food, Best Value, Best Food-on-a Stick, Best Fried Food, Most Creative Food, Best New Flavor, and Best Dessert.
The tables were set with the following:
- 1 ea. XL tube of baby wipes
- 2 ea. paper towel rolls
- 1 ea. XL hand sanitizer
- 2 ea. Styrofoam bowls of random grape clusters
- 1 ea. Styrofoam bowl of palate cleansing pickles
As a newcomer to this event, I wondered at which point the food fight would begin and whose job it was to start hurling cinnamon rolls.
On that note, one of our first tastes, and the winner for Most Creative Food was the Fried Bacon-Wrapped Cinnamon Roll from Fried What! I forsee this item being very popular because of;
A. the moist and yeasty cinnamon roll and,
B. it's wrapped in bacon… although it could have used more icing.
Several items later in the Classic Fair Food category, his father came along looking handsome as ever. Which goes back to the theory of why date the boy when you can have the man. The doughy, almost juicy cinnamon roll was bathed generously in icing, its sugar levels operating at lightspeed.
Saltgrass Steakhouse is certainly worth mentioning for its unique offering in the Best Value category. For $12 you get five barbecue pork ribs, generous helpings of green beans and mashed potatoes and… what's that… a surprise grilled chicken breast hiding beneath the ribs. The presentation was strangely reminiscent of the scene in It, when the little brother discovers Pennywise hiding in the sewer. The ribs were moist, the mashed potatoes were flavorful and the chicken wasn't totally hammered. All in all pretty decent.
Each person at our table thanked their lucky stars when the pizza-on-a-stick showed up. The sheer weight alone felt heavier than a newborn infant, and in the same way, I was terrified of it slipping out of my hands. The freshly baked bread was warm and well-seasoned. I was expecting pepperoni pizza filling inside and was just a little disappointed to find a cheesy, sweet pulled-pork center. As long as you're game for that flavor profile, it will most likely satisfy.
Buyer beware: the crunchy and arctic cold, liquid nitrogen-frozen whipped cream, "Nitro Whip" from Cowboy Kettle Corn is a novel idea and fun to eat until your mouth is coated in blue-colored waxy cream.
Two outstanding dishes from the Best Fried Food and Best New Flavor categories were the Fried Cookie Dough and Fried Cheesecake balls, respectively. Had they battled to the death I would have happily stood nearby to clean up the splatter. Each bite felt like a warm hug and DJ George from KILT/ 100.3 FM The Bull nailed the sentiment when he said exactly what we were all thinking; #blessed.
And the 2018 Gold Buckle Foodie awards go too…
Best New Flavor: Harlon's BBQ, Harlon's Stuffed Turkey Leg - J508
Most Creative Food: Fried What!, Fried Bacon-Wrapped Cinnamon Rolls - J302
Best Fried Food: The Original Minneapple Pie, Minnepumpkin Pie - CD202
Best Food-on-a-Stick: Sudie's Catfish House, Fried Bread Pudding on-a-Stick - RP95
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Best Specialty Food: All of Us, Chocolate Cobbler - E12107
Classic Fair Food: Biggy's, Spicy Turkey Leg - RCS Carnival
Best Value Food: Yoakum Packing, Bacon Blast Croissant - L256
Best Dessert: Fried What, Buckeye Sundae - J203