After a great Capital Ex midway food tour with friends in Edmonton a few years ago, I started my own tradition of a midway food tour at the Stampede since moving here. It's one of those great nights where all dietary rationalizations go out the window and gluttony reigns supreme. If you still have a few bucks in your pocket and don't feel like you're going to fall over, then you need to try whatever culinary delicacy is beckoning you. It's always good to travel in a group for an escapade like this... to a certain extent, there is safety in numbers. When you're getting the tray of deep fried Oreos or the bucket of chocolate dipped bacon, it means that you get one Oreo or one strip of bacon or maybe just a bite of something... it's the only thing saving you from a fast free fall into the food coma. This way, you get to "enjoy" a bit more before your need for water and rest overwhelms you and puts a stop to the fun.
The Stampede, like so many other exhibitions now, features the newest and craziest additions to the midway food fare as part of the overall attraction to visit. You can see the new food features here and maybe add something to your midway hit list. (Though, after reviewing it again, it doesn't look like we tasted any of these! That said, there was plenty of indulgence and ridiculousness in our tour.)
The other part of this was that we really wanted to get out and support the Stampede after the recent and very devastating floods in Southern Alberta. The Stampede was hit hard by the floods, donning the slogan "Hell or High Water" in response to their recovery efforts, and the City rallied. The Friday night of Stampede was certainly testing the resilience of attendees as it again doused the grounds, even hailing at points. We certainly stayed and showed our support... come hell or any water.
Now to the food!
First up was my midway must-eat... the classic corndog with yellow mustard. $5. Good crisp exterior, sweet cornbread, zing of mustard. Yep. I didn't find the sweet corn dog until after too many indulgences, so I'll have to revisit that one later and compare.
We did spot the pickle juice shooters but I couldn't quite do it after I spotted the tray of neon green test tubes of juice in their display fridge. Am I failing the tour already??
Next, we were drawn to the Hot Wisconsin Cheese booth for "Cheese on a Stick."
For $5, we got a chunk of deep fried Wisconsin cheddar on a stick, served with pizza sauce. It was everything you could want in a cheese stick. Light batter, crisp and fried well. A gooey and warm cheese interior.
Always have to have mini donuts... $4 of yum.
After making our way through our entire midway tour last year, we only stumbled on La Poutinerie at the very end... and that was after the Colossal Onion ($15 of no-you-shouldn't). We found it early this year.
For $10, we tried the Quebec Poutine... a classic poutine made even more Canadian with a layer of maple syrup on top. It needed to sit for a few minutes to actually fully melt the curds. The maple was subtle. It was good but I don't think it would be on a must-eat list. And not for $10.
Then came the Mexi-Dog... a $7 hotdog covered with their "homemade" jalapeno sauce, bacon, caramelized onion, sour cream drizzle, and tomato slices. It had some zip with the jalapeno sauce but was incredibly messy. You need that Guy Fieri DDD lean for this one. It was worth a try but, again, probably won't be repeated.
Somehow I managed to buy lemonade from one of the few booths that doesn't even make it from fresh squeezed lemons. I couldn't believe it. It wasn't until after I paid that the attendant pumped the lemon syrup into the cup and added water that I realized what I did... what a rookie move on my part. That was $7 of seriously?!?.
Another must on my midway tour list is a piece of bannock from the vendor just outside of the Indian Village. For $5, you will get a nice piece of Indian fry bread called bannock. I like mine with raspberry jam. Great crispy exterior with a tender interior. Add the sweetness from the jam and I'm one happy gal.
Trying to push beyond our boundaries, we opted for the "Run Fatboy Run," deep fried mac and cheese balls, from The Reel Mac and Cheese Truck from Vancouver.
Another $7 delight, the mac and cheese balls were the poor man's arancini. More deep fried crunch, slightly smushy mac and cheese middle. For me, they needed the ketchup and they needed a bit more salt in the cheese sauce. It didn't stop us from polishing them off though.
Since we branched out, we rewarded ourselves with a classic and one that I love-love-love... Pineapple Whip in a cup. This stuff is crack. Creamy dreamy pineapple goodness and $5 will get you the cup. I've seen knock-offs on Pinterest in the last while but I think this needs to be left at the fairground. My waistline doesn't need Pineapple Whip year-round but it sure does enjoy it during Stampede week.
On our way out of the park, I found another one of the items from the new additions food list and that was the bacon caramel apple. At $7 or $8 (I can't quite remember), I was a bit shocked that there wasn't any real bacon on this one... or maybe I shouldn't have been shocked. After all, I bought it. Good caramel, great ripe green apple below... the bacon, however, offered very little other than a slightly salted crunch. Not bad but could be so much more.
Overall, it was a fun night of indulgence and perseverance at the Stampede grounds. At the end, we found ourselves tired, slightly soaked (despite the golf umbrella that we brought), and in desperate need of about a gallon of water each. Still, we were smiling. And while the corndog and the Pineapple Whip will always feature high on my Stampede food list, one item was so good that we kept talking about it... we decided we would add it to the rotation in future years... and I'm salivating as I write... and that is the Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese on a Stick. That was a winner.
I think it's time to go for another walk now...