So today my wife Marissa had some work done on her teeth, and she can’t eat anything solid today and maybe for the next couple of days.
Today is also the first day of the Calgary Stampede, which Marissa has never been to. Additionally, we also had two early bird tickets this year because we got drive-thru mini-doughnuts last year when there was no Stampede.
So I went alone, just for this evening since my wife couldn’t go, in order to ‘scout it out’ and report back to her about the food, the rides, and to prepare for when we go (if we go, depending on how she is/we are feeling).
These are my findings.
I entered the Stampede grounds armed with this page loaded up on my phone (for those who don’t want to click it, it lists the newest foods showing up this year). I walked around the stalls and ordered the foods that intrigued me the most, or the ones I thought Marissa might like if they were good, and unleashed my inner food critic. Here is how that went…
1. Sweet Terriyaki Cauliflower Wings (Mr. Vegetable)
I initially was very intrigued in these based on the picture, and knowing that my wife likes cauliflower (and I don’t dislike it). As you can tell when comparing the pictures, it’s barely the same food. No sesame seeds, no chopsticks, no green onion, and barely any sauce. The cauliflower pieces were way too big to comfortably eat. If there was more sauce, if it was tossed in it, and if the cauliflower pieces were about half the size they were, then this might be good. As-is, it just felt like eating mediocre deep-fried cauliflower, nothing special about it…
4 out of 10
2. Butter Chicken Bites (Tikka N Tequila)
Marissa loves butter chicken. We make it often, we try several different variations of it, we even have a nearby ‘butter chicken place’ that is her favorite in the city. So I had to try these and let her know how they held up. And they were great. Very similar to the picture (but with no discernable onions or peppers, both of which Marissa strongly dislikes) and delicious. Unlike the previous cauliflower wings, which felt like eating deep fried batter that happened to surround cauliflower, the puff shells were so thin and crispy they didn’t take way from the flavor at all.
8 out of 10
3. Mac Truffle Bites (Dumpling Hero)
Another things that my wife likes is Mac & Cheese, or Kraft Dinner. On our first Christmas after we got married, we started a tradition of making homemade mac and cheese on Christmas Day, and we have multiple different recipes for what that can look like. All that said, I couldn’t say no to trying these even though they weren’t one of the ‘new’ foods.
It looks exactly like what’s in the picture, which is nice. I’ve had truffle mac and cheese before, and often found the truffle flavor to be too overpowering in the dish, but here it was nice and balanced. The mac and cheese inside the balls was great, the sauce complemented it nicely, and the shredded cheese on top was unexpectedly critical to making it work (in a good way). I was already starting to get full when eating it, so I didn’t like it in the moment as much as I could have, but overall it was very well done.
7 out of 10
4. Street Corn Coconut (Drink a Fruit, from the fruit!)
A few years ago I ordered a half-a-pineapple filled with vanilla charcoal ice cream and it was excellent. Given the name of this stall, I assume it was from them (but can’t remember for sure), and so wanted to try this weird corn ice cream thing.
Sadly, I couldn’t really taste the chilli flakes, creamed corn, or powdered parmesan (though I never really notice that on any dish) beyond the strong vanilla ice cream in the coconut. The lime was great, especially squeezed on top of it, but it was dripping everywhere as it melted rapidly. This ended up being disappointing and felt like eating regular vanilla ice cream despite looking like so much more. It’s pretty sizeable, and I ended up having to throw half of it out to leave room to try one more thing.
But the umbrella was cool.
6 out of 10
5. Seafood Ramen Poutine
Poutine is another one of my wife’s favorite foods, though she usually prefers the classic Costco poutine. Additionally, nice ramen I want to like it more than I actually do, every time I’ve ordered ramen at a restaurant I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I thought maybe this spin on things might be neat.
And it is neat, the deep fried ramen noodles are crispy but not unenjoyable to eat. The dish is covered with fried squid and clam, as well as cheese curds, and there is a thick miso soup-like sauce pooled around the bottom. However, this is a fairly sizable dish, and the whole thing is all kind of stuck together, and most of the sauce is at the bottom where I can’t get to immediately, all coming together to mean that I was eating plain fried noodles most of the time (and the seafood, which was good). The sauce wasn’t bad either, but miso soup isn’t my favorite (purely preference) and so it alone wasn’t enough to convince me to finish the dish or take it home. I ended up throwing it out halfway through as well, though that’s honestly mostly because I was so full. Tip: If you ever go food scouting like me, go with at least 1 other person to share food with.
6 out of 10
And that is my first evening at the 2021 Calgary Stampede. I enjoyed myself, it wasn’t nearly as busy as it normally is since I was using an early bird ticket, and I also scouted out the rides for my wife (who really enjoys them). I hope we do end up going together this year, but we have a very busy July so we’ll see!
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