Bull riders, bronc busters, steer wrestlers, and motorcross madmen aren’t the only daredevils at the legendary Calgary Stampede. Every July, the world’s largest rodeo draws 1.5 million spectators, the majority of which fearlessly put their lives (and their livers) on the line to devour a wild array of only-at-the-Stampede food and drink. Whether it’s a two-foot tall desert, a Nitro-boosted coffee, or a fried pepper so hot it registers off the Scoville heat chart, this year’s Calgary Stampede menu at the Midway requires a daring appetite, a cast-iron stomach, and possibly even a medic on alert.
Like most country fairs, the carnival midway at Alberta, Canada’s Calgary Stampede serves up deep-fried this and deep-fried that, and plenty of stuff on sticks. But then they go the extra mile to cook up innovative and insane foods that double-dog-dare Stampede-goers to try. James Radke, Midway Operations Manager at the Calgary Stampede, says there are more than 60 new foods at the Midway this year, from a four-cheese-and-crickets grilled sandwich to Flaming Hot Cheeto Bowls, and some sort of bubble tea Big Gulp called a Unicorn Bucket.
“We try to create a great list every year that triggers an emotional response in people,” says Radke.
Here are our picks for the craziest cravings at this year’s Stampede, served only until July 15.
Because deep-fried Twinkies are no longer a novelty, the Calgary Stampede ups the ante with deep-fried Bacon-Wrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. For a burst of flavor, Pop Rocks Mini Doughnuts are slathered with a vanilla glaze and powdered sugar, then topped with colorful candies that explode in your mouth.
For more sophisticated palates, there’s the Smoking Charcoal Ice Cream in a Cup, comprised of ice cream made from coconut husks, which is infused with black, activated charcoal. Slightly more traditional creature comforts include fresh-dipped Cricket Caramel Apples covered with crunchy, oven-roasted creepy crawlies.
DOGS WITH A DIFFERENCE
Korean flavors are the big trend at this year’s Stampede, but none make food-hounds drool like the Bibimbap Dawg, an all-beef hotdog, topped with a fried egg, fresh coriander and Korean spices, garnished with thin carrots, Shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, cucumbers and green onions.
Too healthy? The Big Pickle Tornado dares to slice a huge dill pickle like a bun, stuff it with a hotdog, top it with cheese and bacon, then wrap it in a tortilla before it sizzles in a deep fryer. And for a twist on an old classic, the Red Velvet Corndog is a real time saver, as it’s both dinner and dessert served on a stick.
THEY’VE GOT THE MEATS
There’s nothing like a little mystery meat to make even competitive eaters think twice. Made just for the Calgary Stampede is a burger stuffed with kangaroo meat, and pizza fans are jumping for Avatara Pizzas’ roo-sausage slices. Tasty Jamaican veggies, dumplings, yams and tripe are served in a savory Goat’s Head Soup. The Sushi Doughnut looks like a sweet treat, but something smells fishy. Must be the smoked salmon, crab meat and fish roe toppings.
Organ meat lovers are falling for the bite-sized Cheesy Chicken Hearts, while heartier appetites are more satisfied with the gigantic One-Pound Meatball stuffed with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. None of the above are served on a wooden skewer, so the Giant Squid on a Stick is a must try, sprinkled with a choice of salt and pepper or curry-pepper seasoning.
The queasiest dare of all is a human (and bovine) nightmare. Prairie Oyster Balls are bull testicles – yes, real ones -- served on mini-doughnut “Bear Balls.” They’re drizzled with a blueberry compote, topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and sprinkled with – drum roll please -- crushed nuts.
No wonder rodeo bulls tend to be so testy.
The event and food that is the subject of this review were provided at no cost to the contributor.