You know how you start saying a phrase to be funny, but it's not funny, yet you continue to say it because you kinda still think it's funny?
Well, everyone: It's my first rodeo!
Dad jokes aside, being that it is my first rodeo, last Thursday was my first opportunity to participate in the Annual Food Media Carnival of Gustatory Pleasure that is the Golden Buckle Foodie Awards. Essentially, everyone must taste and judge somewhere around 60 different dishes over the course of four hours. At first it's enjoyable, then it's tough to fit any more food in your belly, then you get loopy, then you get a second wind, then your body closes up shop for the day. But as I learned this year, we do it because we care about you, dear reader. We want to tell you exactly what you should eat this year at rodeo.
And boy, there are things you should eat:
Flamin' Hot Cheetos Division
If all else fails, throw a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheeto crumbs on your fair food. Offerings include:
- The Flamin' Hot Cheetos-covered caramel candy apple, which has the right idea (mixing sweet and spicy) but gets soggy quickly. (Candy Factory, RCS Carnival)
- The Hot Cheeto Cheese Big Daddy Dog, which I didn't get to try but I'd imagine is heartburn city. (Biggy's, RCS Midway)
- My favorite, Flamin' Hot Cheeto-dusted roasted corn. This item mixes the snack crumbs with warm melted butter. I only wish the corn was charred, but you can't have it all, I suppose. (Corn Shack, RCS Carnival)
- There's also a Flamin' Hot Cheeto cotton candy out there, though I didn't get to sample it. So, sugar and Cheetos. Got it. (Candy Factory, RCS Carnival)
Fruity Pebbles Division
And if the Flamin' Hot Cheetos don't work, just do Fruity Pebbles instead.
- Introducing Fruity Pebbles Shrimp on a Stick. It's fried shrimp coated in a chipotle aioli and covered in the cereal. Only for hardcore Instagram foodies. (Get Fried, Booth 17 RCS Carnival)
Ingenious Idea Division
- Pizza on a stick. I know, right? Imagine baked pizza dough stuffed with sauce and cheese and topped by pepperoni, wrapped around what looks to be something used to stir paint. Perfect for walking around the carnival, and so smart, and yet, as one of my fellow judges rightly called it, "a calzone." The invention comes from Swains Pizza on a Stick, a Florida-based vendor. We'll hear from them again soon ... (Swain's Pizza on a Stick, J505)
- Also, the Tajín Dole Whip taco. If you love the Disney-fied Dole Whip, you must try this. It's a pineapple Dole Whip with the spicy Mexican seasoning Tajín (something Disney lovers have already been doing, apparently) in a crunchy green shell. It's cute, fun to carry around, and so refreshing. Just hope it doesn't fall apart on you. (Nitro Treats)
- Finally, the Texas-shaped brisket nacho bucket. We're talking a bucket filled with corn chips—in the shape of Texas—covered in brisket, tomatoes, peppers, and sour cream. Another one I didn't get to eat (I had so much more sweet than meat on Thursday), but I'm all about compatible nachos. (Texas Tater Twisters, Booth 35, RCS Carnival)
Bucket List Division
- The aforementioned Swains Pizza on a Stick is back with arguably the most-discussed item from Thursday's glut-fest: bug pizza. As in, here's pizza with (dead) worms and scorpions on it. The worms and scorpions are crunchy and devoid of flavor—the only obstacle is looking a scorpion in the eye while biting into the slice; and the pizza is basically the kind you'd get at a school cafeteria. You're eating it because you want to say you've eaten scorpion. (Swain's Pizza on a Stick, J505)
- Chocolate-covered bacon. Not that radical, but it's good, and a perfect little snack. I imagine chocolate-covered bacon is on many people's bucket lists.
Just Plain Good Division
Here were my favorites from Thursday's eat-a-rama:
- Cinnamon-roasted pecans. I'd eat an entire family-sized bag of these. Sweet, smoky, and salty with a kick of earthy spice. (Sweet Feed, L0066)
- Nitro-infused crispy churros with a caramel drizzle. The visual itself is worth it, with cold smoke pluming from the dish. But bite into the icy, light, and crunchy churro and ... oh yeah. I loved this. (Cowboy Kettle Corn)
- Bacon-wrapped boudin ball. No matter how you spell it, delicious. (Harlon's BBQ, J508)
Here are the Golden Buckle Foodie Awards winners:
- Best Food-on-a-Stick: “Bacon Wrapped Pecan Smoked Sausage” – Holmes Smokehouse (RP60)
- Best Value: “Chicken and Ribs Platter” – Salt Grass (L0063)
- Best New Flavor: “Smoorcookie” – Totally Baked Cookie Joint (Carnival)
- Best Dessert: “Cookie Dough Parfait” – Aunt Edmoes Cookies (CD205)
- Best Fried Food: “Minnechocolate Pie” – The Original Minneapple Pie (CD202)
- Best Specialty Food: “Chocolate Cobbler” – All of Us (E12107)
- Classic Fair Food: “Hot Crunchy Cheetos Cotton Candy” – The Candy Factory (Carnival)
- Most Creative Food: “Unicorn Float” – The Candy Factory (The Junction)