The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Hard words to live up to, but the Calgary Stampede manages to do it every year, in my mind. A mix of carnival and rodeo, the Stampede sweeps into Calgary for 10 days every July, bringing Midway food, Grandstand entertainment, and bad decisions provoked by too many mini donuts in the beer garden (case in point: apparently several individuals engaged in al fresco sexual exploits outside a bar this week while being filmed, either knowingly or unknowingly).
Of course, my primary interest in the Stampede is the food. I combed through the Calgary Stampede blog archives and wrote a post on Calgary is Awesome about new and past Midway foods, and man am I sad that I missed some of these gems (and some not so sad I missed). For example:
2010: alligator pizza, pork parfait, hot beef sundae, deep fried jelly beans, deep fried strawberry shortcake, and deep fried Snickers.
2011: colossal onion (it really is colossal, like the size of my head), donut burger (it’s still around, and it’s still awesome), 10 kinds of poutine, ice cream sandwiches, and a turkeytini (a turkey parfait sort of situation I’m guessing).
2012: deep fried Kool Aid (I don’t know how this even worked but I am so intrigued), bacon and maple syrup funnel cake, whiskey fudge, taco pizza, deep fried cheese, and a pizza with crickets. Yes, crickets.
2013: double bacon corn dog, deep fried butter (again, how do they do this?!), flautas, chocolate-dipped jalapenos, cake on a stick, cinnamon fries, and bacon-wrapped cheese perogies.
2014: bacon-wrapped pork belly, chocolate-dipped cookie dough, crocodile sliders, deep fried Cheezies, fried pickle pizza, mac n cheese with truffle oil, crab, and sundried tomatoes, a ‘porcupine’ corn dog (a corn dog rolled in french fries), and a scorpion pizza. With actual scorpions.
2015: this year brought out things like mini donut pops (amazing! amazing! amazing!), the most expensive hot dog in the world ($100 gets you a foot-long brat infused with Louis XIII cognac, Kobe beef cooked in truffle oil, a lobster tail, truffles, and ricotta), a lobster corn dog, donut grilled cheese, a cactus burger, Jurassic pork mac n cheese, jalapeno poutine donut mini bowl, empanada chaat, and cockroach pizza. Of course.
You can see that deep frying is a mainstay – I don’t even want to know how many pounds of oil are used during these 10 days.
This year, I had the donut grilled cheese, a mini donut pop, and the empanada chaat. And maybe a jalapeno corn dog on the way out. The mini donut pop and the empanada chaat tied for best new Midway food (for those who don’t know, chaat is an Indian dish with fried chips, potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and spices). The donut grilled cheese (not pictured because it actually did not look that appetizing, all smushed donut and melted-on cheese) was actually pretty good; it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, and didn’t look amazing, but it was tasty – almost light, if you can believe that. I don’t know how they managed that, but I’m glad they did because that meant more food for me!
The donut mini pop was, in a word, amazing. So so good. It wasn’t too big (always a plus), and not too sweet either: the pop itself was a dulce, cinnamony ice cream, with pieces of mini donuts thrown in. I wish I had brought a freezer bag, honestly they were that good.
The empanada chaat…hm. For me this was not a win, maybe because I’ve had actual chaat and really like it. Instead of using potatoes and chips, they fried the potatoes into mini empanadas (they were kind of like potato samosas actually), and those were good, but then they topped the whole thing with chunks of fresh cucumber and tomato. I know veggies are supposed to be good, and really I love them as much as the next person, but they were just out of balance for me. The warm and pillowy empanada, nice spices, and then all of a sudden – cold acid from the tomatoes. It was strange. But I DO like how the Naaco truck has a mini-garden growing on the top of their truck! So cool, what an awesome idea.
My friend also had the donut burger (now upgraded to a maple bacon donut burger), and it has only improved. When I had it in 2011, the burger was sandwiched between two halves of a donut with a bit of cheese and bacon. This one was sandwiched between two whole donuts, and a whole lotta cheese and bacon. Apparently it was divine, and I was jealous.
In addition to the food (although really, what more do you need), there are games, rides, the rodeo, chuckwagon races, and the Grandstand show. I always love going to the rodeo and chuckwagon races (I love horses! Yay horses!), and I thought the Grandstand show was good fun (they had a Cirque de Soleil performer, some amazing basketball players who did flying leaps, turns, and tumbles through the air, the Young Canadians (singing, dancing, etc), and a shirtless cowboy on an aerial hoop (interesting but also confusing)). And fireworks! Lots of fireworks. Stampede will be coming to an end soon (the last day is this Sunday), and after this I’m already wishing I could go again to try more food. And maybe another mini donut pop.