CALGARY, CANADA. The competition for the best of the best extends beyond the Calgary Stampede rodeo. Fair food – kettle corn, cotton candy, and soda pop has evolved into a contest to be the creator of the “best of the fair” grub. This year’s Calgary Stampede midway offerings ranging from the deep fried cookies to deep fried squid and crabs on a stick to healthy Mexican Style street corn are no different.
“The most surprising hit food we ever sold,” says Salt Springs Concessions Scott Dennis, one of the largest food stand operators at the fair, “was the deep fried chicken feet. This year, hands down its the pickle dog.”
Dennis saying that they sell hundreds of Big Pickle Tornado’s a day.
Winning Fair Favorite the last few years, The Tornado Pickle Dog is tasty. A crisp dill pickle is paired with a hot dog, cheese and bacon spread, wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried. Better than expected. The pickle retains its crispness and the salty pickling brine is welcome on a hot day. Can be eaten as is or dipped into ketchup and mustard. Easy to eat on the midway.
Perfect for the person trying to avoid gluten products but still seeking deep-fried goodness, the Bacon Onion Bob wraps slices of sweet onion and bacon around a piece of Angus burger and, deep fries it.
Served with a mild, but flavorful Chipotle Sauce. Greasy but easy to eat.
Take a fresh, plump squid, soak it in seasoned batter, deep fry it and put it on a stick for maximum eating ease. All this treat needs is a bit of salt and pepper and a willingness to give this unique fair food a try.
The Happy Fish Catering truck also features Fish and Chips, fried crabs, clam chowder poutine and more.
If you travel through the Central Americas, roasted corn is often sold on the streets for a quick, savory and salty treat. This food truck brings this treat to the mid-way with a bit of a spicy twist. The roasted corn is brushed with Mexican crème, then covered with a mixture of cheese, chili powder, garlic, and cilantro, served with a lime wedge.
If you don’t like things spicy, and really with the heat, do you need it hotter, ask for just the créme, lime, and salt.
Maybe in Chicago, but Calgary? The International Pierogi food truck serves a variety of Polish inspired treats including Chicken Teriyaki and Chili Lime, both delicious.
However, a favorite is the mini-pierogies that are topped with juicy grilled chicken tossed in hot sauce, sautéed onions, creamy ranch dressing and a sprinkle of green onions. A side of sour cream cools down the heat.
This coconutty soft-serve ice cream, made from coconut husks, infused with black, activated charcoal, is delicious and refreshing. In the heat of the day, the ice cream is not overly sweet, with a mild coconut flavor. The charcoal serves not as a flavor but, enjoy this last, it does act as a digestif.
Served in either a cup or a cone, but the cup, due to some creatively applied dry ice, creates a smoking effect that is just too much fun.
Best of the Midway
With so many culinary choices, it is impossible in just a few days to enjoy it all. But this years winners of the best of the fair, according to the Concessions and Exhibits Committee, were:
Best New Food – Savoury – Big Coco’s Big Pickle Tornado hot dog
Best New Food – Sweet – The Sweetheart at the Peanut Butter Cupboard
Most Inventive – Flaming Hot Cheeto Corn – Fresh Roasted Corn on the Cob
Best International – Spicy Chicken from Arepa Boss
Best Vegan – Local Watermelon & Rasberry Bowl – Fresh and Local Farm Outlet
Best Carnivore – Pork Ribs from Prairie Smoke & Spice BBQ
Best Hot Dog – Stella Family Dogs
Best Sweet Treat – Caramel Apple Mini Donuts – Ogopogo Artisan Mini Donuts
Calgary Stampede 2019
Dates for the Calgary Stampede 2019 are July 5-14, 2019 and it is not too early to make your travel plans now. Fly into Calgary YYC. The trip from the airport to most downtown hotels is under twenty-minutes and should cost around $35, depending on where you stay. From the Hilton Garden Inn or Mariott Properties, the fairgrounds are about a twenty-minute, easy walk.
Tips to Stampede like a pro
Locals call it Cowboy Halloween as fair and rodeo-goers dress up in their finest Western wear. Make sure your cowboy boots are well broken in. If you are buying new, makes sure to buy quality. They will last a lifetime. Spend a few dollars and buy well-cushioned insoles for your boots. And good socks that are moisture wicking (though if your a real cowboy, you might go sockless). Regardless, the ground is hard. The boots are hard. Your feet begin to ache.
Do take a good cowboy hat, and leave the ball cap at home. It serves a couple of purposes, the most important protecting your face from wind, sun and blowing sands. Of course, you can “cowboy up” at any of the many Lammle’s retail western wear stores found around the fairgrounds. Though you are going to be paying “fair” prices and most of their shirts are made in China. Buy before you go – try PFI Western Wear – made in America
The Calgary Stampede is a family-friendly event. Dress appropriately – leave the short shorts and sleeveless T’s at home. Even if you are wearing cowboy boots and a brim.
If you need a break, take the whole family to the Big Four Roadhouse. A cavernous space that offers food, beer, games including Canada’s national pastime curling, and live music. It’s dark and cool with plenty of spaces to crash or for little ones to take a nap while mom and day enjoy a cool beer.