The awards seek to “recognize and honor the talented folks behind the counter of incredible foods offered at the fair,” with three honorees chosen by a panel of judges and a fourth category: “Fairgoer Favorite,” which will be selected by visitors.
Fair officials recruited three area judges — Will Reichelt, the mayor of West Springfield, Emily Meunier, executive chef at Theodore's Blues, Booze & BBQ in Springfield, and Hartford Courant food writer Leeanne Griffin — to taste 16 entries and choose winners in three categories: Most Creative New Food, Best Tasting Food and Best New Food.
Visitors can choose their favorite food from the 2018 entries through an online poll on the Big E's website through Sept. 29. The winning concession will be presented with the Big Eats trophy on Sept. 30, the fair's final day. (Past winners include deep-fried butter balls from Marion’s Fried Dough and loaded tater tots from Tots-a-Lot, both up for the prize again this year.)
The judges' picks are:
Best New Food
Messy Magnus: The Wurst Haus, on Commonwealth Avenue, loads beer-braised pulled pork with a touch of barbecue sauce onto an apple fritter to produce a sweet, savory and napkins-necessary sandwich. Judges praised its creativity, the quality of the apple fritter and the flavor of the pork.
Most Creative Food
Pulled pork-stuffed corn cakes: Scirrotta’s Cinnamon City’s housemade corn cakes are a meal in themselves, stuffed with roast pork and crowned with coleslaw and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Judges appreciated the hefty portion of pork, the crunch of the cole slaw and the corn kernels baked into the cake. Find Scirrotta’s stand along East Avenue.
Best Tasting Food
Cinn-a-roll mini doughnuts: The Donut Family on Commonwealth Avenue packs its diminutive doughnuts into a paper bowl and covers them with cinnamon cream cheese, sugar glaze and fresh whipped cream. Judges liked the presentation of the sweet treat, the “cinnamon roll” result that the flavors effectively showcased and the addition of the cream cheese to cut through some of the blasts of sugar.
Also Vying For Fairgoer Favorite
The Burger Bomb from Hofbrau Joe’s in the food court, served in a pool of goulash stew.
Loaded tater tots from Tots-a-Lot on New England Avenue, topped with cheese sauce, bacon bits, chives and sour cream.
Taco Chompers from the Chompers truck on Industrial Avenue: balls of fried ground beef and cheese rolled in tricolor tortilla chip crumbs and served with sour cream and salsa.
Upside down banana split from Barbie's Ice Cream on New England Avenue: strawberry topping, soft serve ice cream, caramel, bananas, vanilla, ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, sprinkles topped with cherry.
Supreme pizza from Barbie's: thick crust with red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, bacon, sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms.
Blueberry shortcake from Scirrottas Cinnamon City on East Avenue: shortcakes topped with blueberry compote, whipped cream and fresh blueberries.
Fresh fruit kebabs from Scirrottas: fresh, seasonal fruit on a skewer, plain or chocolate-dipped.
Fried Kool-Aid from Marion's Fried Dough on New England Avenue, described with a "cake like center and crunchy outside" topped off with Kool-Aid sprinkle.
Fried butter balls from Marion's: a sweet ball of butter wrapped in fried dough, topped with cinnamon and sugar or pizza sauce and Parmesan.
Loaded tater tot pizza from Rudy’s Pizza and Slush on Commonwealth Avenue: [Note: Judges tasted Rudy’s buffalo mac and cheese pizza.]
Acai bowls from Veggie Patch Smoothies on Commonwealth Avenue: acai base topped with banana, strawberry, coconut flakes, granola and Nutella, or “pure acai” topped with granola, blueberry, strawberry and honey.
The Flatliner Burger from West Springfield Lions Club on West Road: a double chili cheeseburger topped with fries, bacon and cheddar cheese sauce.
Frosé Martini by the V-One Craft Cocktail Bar in the Young Building: a frozen blend of V-One vodka, rosé wine, white cranberry juice and strawberry puree.
Dilly Dilly Dog from the Giant Corn Dog Factory, at the corner of Avenue of States and West Road: a cored-out pickle stuffed with a hot dog, battered and fried.
Piggy Mac from Ultimate BBQ in the Food Court: macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork and melted shredded cheese.