I came. I ate. But I didn’t conquer.
Instead, I believe the 14 new Calgary Stampede midway foods I ate as a judge to name the best new ones for 2019 may have conquered me.
Flamin’ Ribbets – frog’s legs dusted with Flaming Hot Cheetos – a waffle cone taco shell filled with cotton candy, pizza topped with veggies and the veg-friendly Beyond Meat sausage and a corndog rolled in crunchy uncooked ramen noodles (with cheese added, naturally) were among the things on the menu.
Pass the Zantac.
However, this sometimes delicious and sometimes baffling endeavour has left me with a little ability to guide you on good eats on the grounds.
At Thursday’s Sneak-a-Peek, 10 food writers, influencers and food enthusiasts had a chance to judge a portion of the new midway foods for the year. We were joined by another 40 “tasters” who were able to cast ballots for their favourite new savoury and sweet dishes.
Judges picked the Bacon Onion Rings as their favourite. Three large onion rings are wrapped with bacon, battered, deep fried and drizzled with sauce. Served on skewer, they make for easy, portable snacking with all the key parts of a good midway food checked off.
Tasters crowned the Deep-Fried Chicken Skin their winner. We all know this is really the best part of fried chicken, so why bother with the meat, right? Chip-sized pieces of chicken skin get crisped in the fryer and then sprinkled with salt.
And everyone at the tasting agreed the Butter Beer Ice Cream (with cookie wand!) was the hands-down sweet winner. This should make for good Instagramming on the grounds, thanks to the dry ice tucked into the base of the cup that makes the dessert look like it’s smoking.
So, those are the official winners – watch for the plaques on the three booths denoting their wins.
And here are a few more categories I think should have been included.
Most “What Else Can We Combine with a Hot Dog” item:
The Snickle Dog.
Hot dog + pickle = sure.
Hot dog + Snickers bar = OK, little weird, but hey, salty sweet is a good thing.
Hot dog + pickle + Snickers, wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried: Um, no.
This was maybe the most divisive item at the tasting, with some people super into the salt, sour, sweet combination. The tangy pickle with rich chocolate Snickers was too weird for me.
Most “Let’s Just Throw Stuff Together to Make Something Wacky” food:
The Cherry Bomb pizza.
Imagine this: pizza topped with a sriracha-garlic sauce, pepperoni, more hot sauce and then, yup, off-brand pop rocks sprinkled on top. Not enough? The cherry on top of it all is … literally a maraschino cherry.
Most Creative Interpretation of the Word “Taco”:
The Italian Taco.
The “shell” is a Chicken Parmesan cutlet. The filling, pasta with marinara, cheese and a meatball. The cheese gets torched for added flavour and then ribbons of basil are sprinkled over top. It’s an Italian dinner in a portable form. I’m in. (This was my personal favourite of the bunch.)
Most “Looks Daring But Isn’t Really” dish:
Points for the name and the way these frogs’ legs are served – on a stick with legs splayed to look like an X – but other than the bragging rights that comes with saying you ate some amphibian, these taste just like a chicken wing.
Most “I’m Grateful These Weren’t Part of the Tasting” food:
The Octo Lolly.
Baby octopuses speared on a skewer. Yeah, I’m good, thanks.
For a deeper dive into what’s available, check out the rundown from when the foods were announced.
Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food and travel writer. She is very glad she didn’t have to try every single one of the new foods for this year’s Stampede.