When the State Fair of Texas starts this Sunday, the long list of deep-fried concessions will include a lowcountry dish making its Dallas debut.
Allan Weiss of Weiss Enterprises worked with a consulting company to develop deep-fried shrimp and grits, which the fair’s publicity department describes as “homemade grits…made with a blend of fresh herbs, cheese, and Cajun shrimp, coated in a secret batter and deep fried.”
“As far as shrimp and grits go, I like the way it tastes and so forth,” says Weiss, who could only spare a minute of phone time in the week leading up to the fair, the largest annual exposition in North America.
The State Fair also holds the distinction of staying open for more days than any other U.S. state fair, but it’s most renowned in food circles for its massive menu of deep-fried concoctions. In addition to the shrimp-and-grits, items new to the Fair this year include (please preface all of the following with the words “deep-fried”) chocolate-chip burritos; Spam empanadas; “pig toes”, or tater tots wrapped in bacon and a blackened tilapia fish ball.
Still, none of the above was judged worthy of competing in the Big Tex Choice Awards, which annually reviews eight finalists and anoints a “best tasting” and “most creative” concession; in 2010, the latter prize famously went to fried beer. Fried butter took the crown the previous year.
But veteran fair food chronicler (and my former colleague) Alice Laussade of the Dallas Observer has reported the 2013 contenders couldn’t measure up to the standard set by those deep-fried greats.
“Really? Southern Style Chicken-Fried Meatloaf?,” Laussade wrote in her coverage of the contest, which starred (you know the drill) Thanksgiving dinner on a stick, millionaire pie and King Ranch casserole. “You just fried sadness. And I’m pretty sure it’s just because, after so many years of this competition, we’re starting to run out of ideas. Frying sadness was the only option left. I think it’s time to change the game.”
Or, perhaps, keep looking toward the lowcountry. Stay tuned to Raskin Around to learn whether fried shrimp-and-grits emerges the fair’s runaway hit.