Our PR and Social Media Executive, Ellen, was in Canada when the Calgary Stampede rolled into town – so of course she had to check it out! Here’s what Ellen managed to try;
‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’ is one of the largest rodeos in the world. With it comes all the fanfare of carnival rides, concerts, First Nation displays of indigenous culture, and of course… lots and lots of greasy food. To kick off the 10 days of boot-stompin’ shenanigans, the gates were thrown open for free admission on day one. My partner, Sean, and I joined the throng of crowds moving towards the grounds, and set to scoping out the hottest food.
*Disclaimer: We didn’t manage all this in one day, so don’t judge us!*
First to the fork was a Cowboy Poutine from Poutine King. No trip to Canada is complete without this classic dish of chips, cheese curds, and gravy. The ‘Cowboy’ element – juicy BBQ pulled pork and crispy onions – made it one of the best versions we’ve ever tried! A tad pricey at $22, but we’d say it was worth it and rated it 10/10!
Cowboy Poutine by Poutine King
Branching out to international eats, we grabbed some chicken tacos, which proved to be the most disappointing dish of day 1. At $18 for three, these were massively overpriced. What’s worse was the pitiful ratio of chicken to pico de gallo, and excessive lime juice turning the whole thing sour. We didn’t finish all three, so scored them 3/10.
To consolidate our losses, we then moved on to steak on a bun. Although we were tempted by the wagyu, the $60 price tag did wonders to cull our appetites and make us opt for the $20 ribeye bun instead. Not being a massive fan of steak, I let Sean devour most of this one, and he awarded it a solid 9/10.
Next on the list is probably the greasiest of them all; the Colossal Onion. This butterflied whole onion is deep fried to look like a blooming flower before being loaded with nacho cheese sauce, bacon, and chives, with a generous pot of sriracha mayo nestled in the middle. The first couple of bites were delicious, but as to be expected with greasy food, this appeal quickly wore off. The thick batter also made this dish incredibly filling. We shared it between the two of us, though it could have easily fed five or six people. At $20 we rated it 7/10. Good for sharing, but not worth it for smaller groups.
The Colossal Onion
Speaking of big portions… have you ever heard of footlong fries? When we saw the sign my first thought was ‘but you don’t get footlong potatoes… how is this possible?’ – which we’ll attribute to the heat getting to me and nothing more. The menu offered a variety of toppings for these freak fries, including chocolate. We weren’t sure how to feel about that so opted for the ‘safe’ garlic parmesan. Boy, was that a misjudgement. The sauce was incredibly overpowering, leaving a bad aftertaste in its wake. We rated it a 6/10 since the fries themselves were okay. We might’ve gone for the sour cream and cheese instead if given another chance. At $16 per portion, we didn’t think it was worth ordering another.
To wash down some of the mains, we grabbed a drink from one of the maaaany lemonade stands dotted around the grounds. Considering bottles of coke and water were $5 each, we decided we may as well upgrade to something a bit different. With the lemonade came a selection of syrup pumps you could add. Sean opted for classic blue raspberry, while I went for coconut and strawberry. Both were delicious! Despite being a syrup, the drinks weren’t too sweet. The quarter lemon served in the cup made it extra refreshing. We scored it 9/10, with my only complaint being the price tag of $8 each.
Also dotted about the place was a variety of deep-fried dessert vans. Being from Scotland originally, I’m no stranger to a deep-fried Mars bar, but these menus put Scottish chippies to shame. The first dessert we got was a portion of Kit Kat fries. Four individual fingers, fried and smothered in chocolate sauce… this was a game changer. I will now be taking a Kit Kat with me to the chippy and asking them to recreate it. This will probably be a cheaper option considering Stampede charged $8 – but we still scored it 10/10.
Kit Kat Fries
Since we had one deep fried dessert, we figured it was only fitting we had another to compare it to, right? On a different day of course. We paid another $8 for a portion of four deep-fried Oreos. After the excitement of the Kit Kat fries, these fell a bit short of my expectations. There seemed to be an excessive layer of batter around the biscuits, and the actual Oreos failed to melt, making it a sort of a cakey ball with icing sugar on top. Definitely could have done with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Still, any Oreo is a good Oreo, so we gave them a 7/10.
Deep Fried Oreo
The hefty desserts were getting to us, so we grabbed a classic cone of soft serve to cool down. This was pretty unremarkable, and costing $6 each, we scored it 7/10. As we sat eating them, we did notice braver customers going for more extreme flavours, and eavesdropped on their conversations. Pineapple and Pink Lemonade apparently exceeded expectations. But the real show-stoppers were the Ketchup and Mustard ice creams. These … unusual… flavours were apparently not what people were expecting. Surprisingly edible, people commented on the weird aftertaste or tried dipping fries in it. The consensus was that mustard was better than ketchup, though we noticed most people only had a couple of bites before tossing the rest in a bin. At $12 per cone, we decided to just trust their judgement and pass.
Finally, we grabbed a slushie on the way home on day one. I chose red, thinking it would be strawberry or raspberry. Much to my surprise, it was cream soda flavoured. After the initial shock of the first sip, it sort of grew on me. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I enjoyed it though, ranking it 5/10. At $8 each, I’ll definitely be motivated to read the menu more carefully next time.
Despite the erratic weather, the Calgary Stampede drew in record-breaking numbers – including people like us purely there for the food. There was plenty we didn’t get to try, including a donut burger, pickle corndog, fruit loop pizza, whole-crab bao bun, and HUGE turkey legs, so I guess we’ll just have to check out Pewsey Food Festival and see how it compares! Yee-haw!