I had a whole bit I wanted to post about how crowds are the worst, but honestly I had the nicest night at the Calgary Stampede yesterday and I can’t even muster up enough grump to write it down. Instead, I’m going to tell you about all the delicious, classic Stampede foods I split with Matt before we hit up the Strumbellas show on the Coke Stage (11 out of 10 performance, by the way!)
For those of you missing Stampede this year and grieving the midway snacks, you need to consider carefully whether reading this post will make you feel better as you vicariously enjoy the photos or if it will just make you more upset. Be forewarned!
We decided to warm up slowly with some mango fried fish tacos (3 for $12) from a popular Calgary Food truck, Happy Fish! They had some pretty fun items on their menu like clam chowder poutine and the “Mr. Crab”, which contained an entire deep-fried soft shell crab. We were happy with our tacos, though! Soft corn tortilla, fresh slaw and thin, crispy, perfectly battered slices of fish drizzled with a pulsed mango salsa. The slight greasiness of the fish was balanced really well by the tangy hit of citrus and mango. A surprisingly refreshing start to the deep fried madness, for sure!
Next, it was time for one of my favourites – a corn dog! We tracked down a booth selling maple bacon corn dogs in particular. $8 later, we had a greasy, crispy dog on our hands with a little container of maple syrup to go with it! Very difficult to dip after the first bite, but Matt sort of folded the cup to create a reservoir deep enough for us to stretch out our portion to the very end. There was no discernible bacon in the batter, but we didn’t mind – this was like a mapley, sweet hush puppy wrapped around a sizzling hot dog.
It was pretty steaming hot by that point and we’d had a lot of fried foods, so our next treat was my all-time favourite Stampede staple, a palate-cleansing pineapple whip ($5)! This year they were selling a “lava whip” as well – pineapple whip drizzled with strawberry sauce and sprinkled with crumbled coconut macaroons – but that didn’t sound nearly as refreshing as a good old cone of smooth, creamy pineapple soft serve. I introduced Matt to these a few years ago and it’s now gotten to the point where I have to fight for my half of the cone, so I think it’s safe to say he agrees these are a must-have.
After a brief break from eating to check out the barns and the Indian Village, we headed over to the BBQ-heavy section of the grounds closer to the grandstand. We were overwhelmed by all the different award-winning BBQ options (and the long, long lines), but upon peeking into the beer garden we noticed most of the vendors were represented in there and without huge swarms of people crowding around for food. It was early enough that there was no line to get into the beer garden itself, so we slunk inside and picked up a $13 Stampede Brisket Sandwich from the Blazin’ BBQ Rib Truck. It was a huge pile of very simple and juicy smoked meat on a white roll. The meat was like butter between my teeth and I loved the way the roll soaked up all the grease that tried to escape into the container. We agreed that we would have appreciated it more if we were full of overpriced tall cans of beer, but it was delicious all the same!
After that it was time for one more sweet treat – Bear Balls. These cinnamon sugar-coated fried treats are like mini donuts, but better! You can pick from a wide range of toppings, but we opted for the Mountie Balls ($12) – donut holes liberally drizzled with a cream cheese sauce, cherry pie filling, white chocolate chips and a generous portion of whipped cream. Easy to share and very easy to finish before you even realize you started eating them!
If you head down to the Stampede grounds on the second weekend this year, remember to save room for dessert!