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Tamee and Tony Cardinali, of Cardinali Ice Cream, are winners of the first ever "Snackdown" fair food competition at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Their creation, "Spagetti Ice Cream," beat out seven other competitors. (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

PLEASANTON -- Lobster fries, macaroni and cheese stuffed burgers and the world's hottest ice cream. With these and nine other finalists vying for top honors, which spin on an old classic would lay claim to the perfect fair food?

Judges at the Alameda County Fair's first-ever "Snackdown" food competition answered the question Tuesday, sampling the mostly battered fare and rating the entries on appearance, creativity, taste and theme.

Tony and Tamee Cardinali's spaghetti ice cream took home the wrestling-style championship belt for the competition's overall award, as well as the trophy for the best tasting dish.

"Spagetti Ice Cream" is judged the winning snack at the first ever "Snackdown" hosted by KCBS radio’s "Foodie Chap"
"Spagetti Ice Cream" is judged the winning snack at the first ever "Snackdown" hosted by KCBS radio's "Foodie Chap" Liam Mayclem at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

To wow the judges, the Cardinalis gave a live demonstration of their creation, running homemade gelato through a custom-built extruder to create the "spaghetti," topping it off with a strawberry puree "marinara sauce," white chocolate "cheese" and mint "basil."

"We do it in front of the customer, so it's all about the show," said Tony Cardinali, a vendor from Huntington Beach. "People love it."

The Cardinalis also made the finals with the "World's Hottest Ice Cream," made with a blend of ghost peppers and Trinidad moruga scorpion chili peppers. Judges were cautioned not to eat the whole spoonful.

The inaugural competition, hosted by KCBS' "Foodie Chap" Liam Mayclem, also awarded trophies resembling a turkey leg and corn dog for best creativity and expression of the fair's patriotic theme.


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Nate Janousek, owner of the food stand Get Pickled, won the creativity prize with his Pickle Dog, a pickle deep-fried in homemade batter and stuffed with a kosher hot dog.

"It's everything you want in a hot dog," Janousek said. "I wanted to find something different. ... People come here looking for that one thing they can't find everyday. The food itself is an attraction."

Janousek's creation caught the taste buds and imagination of Passport Magazine food critic Jim Gladstone, who was mystified by how it was made.

Food judge Chuy Gomez reacts to a small taste of "The World’s Hottest Ice Cream" by Tony Cardinali of Cardinali Ice Cream at the first ever
Food judge Chuy Gomez reacts to a small taste of "The World's Hottest Ice Cream" by Tony Cardinali of Cardinali Ice Cream at the first ever "Snackdown" fair food competition at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

"It's definitely something I would come back for," Gladstone said. "It's super clever and great for kids."

Winning the theme prize was Jill Butler of Butler Amusements for a red, white and blue pizza -- a flatbread pizza topped with tomatoes, blue cheese and bacon.

"Everything's better with bacon," Butler said.

Other finalists included a California burrito with potato fries and "Drunken Pickle Poppers" infused with tequila.

Though he came up short in the voting, Tom Stroud was proud to show off his deep-fried grilled cheese sandwiches, an invention reminding more than one judge of the classic Monte Cristo sandwich.

"People don't come to the fair for salads," Stroud said. "They come to splurge."

Alameda County Fair spokeswoman Angel Moore said she hoped the event would help draw more visitors and promote a healthy (or not so healthy) competition among food vendors.

"This is a way we can challenge our vendors to do something unique every year," Moore said. "We will definitely be having it back."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.