Reggie’ll Try It: Bang for Your Buck

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Determining what’s good bang-for-your-buck is always difficult, no matter what the discipline. Do you look solely at price, or do you also give consideration to other factors such as quality, amount of product received or ease of use?

One of my favourite places on Park during Stampede time is Weadickville, especially the Weston Bakery. Their $2.50 sausage rolls as well as 2 for $2 cheese sticks and various pepperoni sticks have gotten me through many a Stampede. You can also find $2 waters in Weadickville as well as $2 Frosters from Mac’s. For under $5, you can have yourself a very satisfying lunch. To me, that’s good value.

There’s also value to be had out on the Midway, although with the sheer number of items sold out there, it’s sometimes hard to find the true gems. For today’s #CSFoodie challenge, we were tasked with finding the Best Value on the Midway and were instructed to sample 9-10 items that might fit the bill, many of them previous contenders for various categories this year. The Fried Chicken Poutine from Waffles and Chix ended up walking away with the honours, but what about the rest?

Because good value is subjective, the series of reviews in this edition of Reggie’ll Try It! will be a bit different. Instead of rating the food, I’ll just offer my opinions on why these foods may offer a good bang-for-your-buck and leave it up to you whether or not you agree. Either way, I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!

01-FriedChickenPoutine

Fried Chicken Poutine by Waffles and Chix (Near the Agrium Western Events Centre)

Waffles and Chix’s Fried Chicken Poutine already earned one honour this year from our CS Foodie group: Best Deep Fried.

After trying it for myself, it’s easy to see why. Fresh cut fries, Alberta cheese, Southern fried chicken with white gravy and maple syrup all combine to create a flavourful Albertan take on an Eastern Canada favourite.

But why did it win again for Best Value? After all, at $10, it’s not exactly the cheapest option on the Midway. Well, for those ten bucks, you get A LOT of food. The portion is generous and it can easily feed 2-4 people. It’s easy to share with a bunch of extra forks (just ask the vendor; they’d be happy to supply them) and in fact, I did just that with random strangers today as I was wandering around the Midway trying to complete today’s objective, asking all of them for their opinions.

Everyone who sampled it during my adventures agreed that it tasted great and that the quality of the product was well worth the $10. And if you split it between 2-4 friends, it essentially brings the cost down to $2.50-5.00 per person, which isn’t bad.

02-Avatara

Shiekh Pizza by Avatara Pizza (Near Nashville North)

There are many options for pizza on the midway, but Avatara Pizza is one of the few places that you can get an entirely gluten free pizza, as well as pizza made with other food sensitivities in mind (they have lactose free, dairy free and vegetarian/vegan options).

Made with 100% organic ingredients, their products are super-healthy for you and come in half or full sizes (11 inches). Because it’s pre-sliced, it’s super easy to share with others as well.

The Shiekh pizza is made with hummus, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, feta cheese, banana peppers, parsley and fresh uncooked tomatoes. For this taste test, my friends and I went with the gluten free option. Flavourful and spicy, it’s a non-meat option for discerning palettes.

Prices vary depending on the size and product, although it’s important to note that the gluten free option costs an extra $2 and is only available in the full-sized option, which is something that needs to be considered before purchasing if you decide to go with one of those options.

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SaltSpring Noodle Bar Small Noodle Box by SaltSpring Noodle Bar (Near the BMO Centre)

Don’t be deceived: Even though we looked at SaltSpring’s small noodle box for this round, you do get a lot of noodles with it and this is a meal that can definitely fill you up. In fact, a few of us were asked to sample their offerings multiple times this week (Best International and Best Alternative Choice), and some of those who began their judging with an item from here first found it difficult to complete the rest of the day’s objectives as they’d start the day off full. 

Available in a variety of flavours (pictured above is the Malaysian Peanut, which combines their tasty satay sauce with peanuts and coconut milk), this dish is also one of the best gluten free options you can get on Park, as they are prepared separately to avoid contamination. Also, with SaltSpring, going with the gluten free option does not cost you any extra. That said, only some flavours are gluten free, so make sure you enquire or notify them in advance if that’s what you’re looking for so they can guide you to make the proper choices.

There’s enough to share with some extra forks or chopsticks (help yourselves as the utensils are displayed at the front of the booth), although the ease of shareability is somewhat compromised due to the small size of the container (have napkins available, just in case).

The small sized noodle box retails for $8 and the large for $10.

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Chicken Schnitzel by R&R (Near the BMO Centre and Coca-Cola Stage)

A staple out on the Midway, the Chicken Schnitzel booth has been around for as long as I can remember.

A seasoned five ounce natural chicken breast is tenderized, breaded and deep fried and then placed on a freshly baked kaiser bun with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise.

Having sampled it during the quest for Best International, I called it a chicken burger on steroids and I still stand by that statement.

At $7, I consider it one of the cheaper entrees on the midway, as it’s priced competitively against some of the other burgers, sandwiches and wraps available on Park. It’s enough for a meal on its own, and while there’s enough of it to share with friends, it is a little difficult to do so without a knife or other cutting utility, unless you’re all willing to bite off the same piece.

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Deep Fried Pie by Think Sweet Deep Fried Pies (In front of the Big Four Building)

This one won Best Sweet Treat this year, and after trying it myself, it’s easy to see why. Pie crust is stuffed with your choice from a variety of pie fillings (depicted above is blueberry). Deep fried and topped with cinnamon sugar, you have the option of adding soft serve vanilla ice cream on the side.

The portion is large and in my opinion it can be considered a meal on its own. Grab some extra forks, and it’s a dessert that many can enjoy.

The pie itself costs $7 and the optional soft serve ice cream is an extra $2 (bringing it to $9 total if you decide to go that route).

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Deep Fried Philly Cheesesteak by Pickle Petes (Near the Stampede Corral)

It’s a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich with all the traditional fixings such as cream cheese and onions, all deep fried (naturally). It was a contender for Best Deep Fried this year too.

Tender, moist and flavourful, this is a sufficient meal for one person. It was popular when I ordered it, and I had to wait about 10 minutes to receive mine.

At $7, again, it’s one of those entrees that’s priced competitively against other items on the Midway. And while the portion seems small at first glance, you do get A LOT of meat. That said, this one is a little harder to share with others without a knife; forks don’t cut it (literally). 

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Dole Pineapple Whip from Frozen Desserts (Multiple kiosks around Park)

A contender this year for Best Sweet Treat, the Pineapple Whip is another staple on the Midway. Cool, sweet and refreshing, this dessert is fat free. It melts on your tongue and is quite addicting.

It’s available at multiple kiosks on Park and at $4 for a cone or $5 for a cup, it’s priced competitively against some of the other desserts on the Midway, frozen or not. The cup option is easier to share with others using another set of spoons and you do get a lot of the product for the price. It’s my favourite dessert on the Midway next to the mini donuts, and I always make sure to have at least one of these every year.

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Mac and Cheese Wedges by the Bulls-Eye Cookshack (Near Nashville North)

I once had a friend who used to work a part-time job at the Stampede during high school, and she’d always make it a point to have the deep fried mac and cheese wedges for breakfast every day she was on duty. She swore by them, and it was one of her Midway favourites.

Another previous contender for Best Deep Fried this year, it’s a simple dish. They’re bite-sized macaroni and cheese wedges dipped in batter and deep fried. Make no mistake though, the cheesy flavour of the mac and cheese shines through, and it instantly invokes the same feelings of comfort you may have had when eating regular mac and cheese at home as a child growing up.

At $5, you get a lot of portions, and it being finger food, makes it easy to share with others. This was my personal favourite for Best Value out of all the items on this list.

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Wrap Daddy’s Wrap by Wrap Daddy’s (In front of the Big Four Building)

Their gluten free chicken wrap won Best Alternative Choice this year, although the vendor also offers beef and vegetarian options as well. Depicted above is the gluten free beef wrap.

At $10 per wrap, it’s a sizeable portion no matter which option you go with, and the fillings can easily be shared with others using forks (the tortilla on the other hand, a bit more difficult).

The gluten free variants use a different tortilla as well as minor substitutions for some of the other ingredients. That said, each wrap is made to order, so you know you’re not getting anything that’s been sitting under a heat lamp for a while.

Also, it’s important to note that the gluten free option costs an extra $1 as it isn’t easily displayed on the menu.

Reggie’ll Try It: Cool Refreshments!

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Right now, the long range forecast for the rest of Stampede 101 reads nothing but warm temperatures and sunny skies (knock on wood!). That means it’ll get hot down on Park, so what better way to beat the heat than with some cool refreshment from the Stampede Midway?

Today’s #CSFoodie challenge was to find the Best Refreshment on Park. Sugar Creek Kettle Corn Co. won it for their Lemonade Shake Up, but what else can be found on the Midway? Here are my thoughts on some of the things we were asked to look at in this edition of Reggie’ll Try It!

01-LemonadeRoastedCorn

Fresh Squeezed Lemonade by Fresh Roasted Corn (Across from Nashville North)

The first beverage I tried was this version of fresh squeezed lemonade. True to its name, this drink was made from a freshly squeezed lemon with water, ice and sugar, and a lemon slice included for good measure. It was tart but not overly so, and there were some undissolved sugar granules at the bottom of my cup. Refreshing and exactly what I was expecting from something akin to homemade lemonade.

My verdict:  Four out of five flapjacks.

02-IcedTea

Fresh Brewed Iced Tea by Ice Tea Hut (Near Erlton Gate)

I was privileged to be able to visit Boston last summer for a vacation, and they take their teas down there very seriously. I thought I knew iced tea, but that trip showed me just how naive I was.

So I was excited to be given the opportunity to sample some brewed iced tea here at the Stampede. Each iced tea serving from this vendor comes with a lemon slice as well as a tea bag. According to the vendor, the flavour increases the longer you walk around on Park due to the tea bag, and I was certainly able to taste the difference as I nursed it along on my adventures today. Unfortunately, the majority of the drink’s initial base is made with iced tea mix, so it’s not quite a 100% brewed iced tea.

I still liked it though, so four out of five flapjacks from me.

03-Slushie

Slushie by CandyTime (In front of the Agrium Wester Event Centre)

This one is mainly for the kids. It comes in two flavours: Red Cherry and Blue Raspberry. It’s the same kind of flavouring that you’ll find in some children’s hard candy as well as in cotton candy. I got the Blue Raspberry for this review, but no matter what flavour you get, you’re guaranteed to have a coloured tongue because of it.

I like to consider myself a bit of a slushie connoisseur (those things got me through college) so I was anxious to try this when I saw it on my list. Unfortunately, my sample was a bit crunchy, as the ice granules were quite large. So instead of being able to sip it leisurely, it was more of a slurp, crunch, chew and swallow. Based on experience though, it could have been the batch, but based on what I had today, I’d give it three flapjacks out of five. That said, I guarantee you that the kids wouldn’t mind. Flavourful and sweet, it will beat the heat.

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Pomegranate Passion by Booster Juice (Near the Sling Shot)

Booster Juice is a personal favourite of mine, and is an excellent alternative when looking for healthy drinks on Park. They have a variety of drink options all made with natural ingredients.

I had the Pomegranate Passion (snack size shown), which is made out of pomegranate, strawberries, raspberries and vanilla frozen yogurt.

It was a bit tart, and for a guy like me who has a sweet tooth, it’s hard for me to drink a lot of it at a time. But for those people who love tart and sour, it’ll probably hit the spot. And it’s super healthy for you too.

Verdict:  Four out of five flapjacks.

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Fresh Squeezed Lemonade by Lemon Heaven (All over Park)

Another lemonade that’s freshly squeezed, Lemon Heaven’s version allows for some variety as you have the option to add various flavour shots to your lemonade. You can stick with the classic original lemon flavour, or you can get cherry, lime or iced tea flavours added to it. There is also a diabetic-friendly option available on request.

Each drink comes with the lemonade, plenty of ice and a lemon slice. It certainly hits the spot and you will feel refreshed after drinking it.

I chose to go with the classic lemonade and it was the perfect combination of water, lemons and sugar. Not too tart and not too sweet, but you could still appreciate all the citrus-y goodness from the lemons. Five out of five flapjacks.

06-DoubleBaconCorndog

State Fair Lemonade by the Double Bacon Corn Dog booth (Near the Bell Aqua Ranch)

Yet another lemonade variety that you can find on Park, this one is also fresh squeezed and includes a lemon slice along with plenty of ice. Make no mistake though: You visit this booth for the Double Bacon Corn Dog. However, this beverage would make the perfect complement.

Subjectively, there wasn’t much to make this one stand out from all the other lemonades, but it gets the job done. I liked it, so four out of five flapjacks.

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Raspberry Iced Tea by Cheyenne Coffee Co. (In front of the BMO Centre)

Iced tea from a coffee company? You bet! And what’s more: This one is 100% brewed. You can taste that heavy tea flavour and texture with every sip.

You can get it plain or with a shot of raspberry syrup, which is what I did. Like an iced Italian soda, the syrup is pumped into the bottom of the cup and the tea poured over top of it along with plenty of ice. It’s up to you if you want to mix it up or not; I prefer to leave it alone as I like to enjoy the super-sweet flavour of the syrup on first sip.

If you’re a fan of brewed iced tea, this baby’s authentic and you will feel refreshed. Five out of five flapjacks.

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Fruit Shakes by Fruit Shakes (In front of the BMO Centre)

Made with hunks of fruit and lots of ice, this is an all natural fruit shake with no artificial flavourings or additions. You can get a Berry Blast (strawberries with blueberry, blackberry and strawberry puree, banana and ice), Mango Mania (mangos and mango puree, banana and ice), Caribbean Coloda (mangos with pineapple and coconut puree, banana and ice) and Extreme Peach (peaches, mangos with peach puree, banana and ice).

I went with the Mango Mania, and you could certainly taste the mangos. The portion was large, and it’ll definitely cool you down. Great value too.

Five out of five flapjacks.

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Ice Slush by Slush Zone (In front of the BMO Centre)

Unlike the other slushie drink above, this vendor offers a variety of soda flavoured ice drinks akin to the kind that you’d find at your local convenience store.

Mainly Coca-Cola flavours, this vendor is the only place I’ve ever seen in Calgary with a ice slush tap containing Cherry Coca-Cola. For that alone, it makes this booth worth a visit.

I ended up with a Sprite/Cherry Coca-Cola mix, and I have to say, this vendor managed to hit that perfect balance between carbonation, syrup and ice concentration. No heavy ice granules here. No, each sip was smooth as silk and each hit of this icy concoction would melt and dissolve as soon as it hit my tongue. It’s rare to come across ice slush perfection in this city (only a few places do it right, and if you ever manage to stumble upon such a place, make sure to bookmark it), and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this vendor has managed to nail it.

Five out of five flapjacks, and a bonus piece of sausage for having a water mister at the booth as well. Doubly refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.

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Strawberry Lemonade by Rick’s Elephant Ears and Funnel Cakes (In front of the BMO Centre)

There are at least two Elephant Ear booths on Park, but only one of them serves lemonade and that’s Rick’s. The lemonade here is also fresh squeezed, but its claim to fame is the Strawberry flavouring that you can get with it.

Mine was a little heavy on the syrup, so it was sweeter than some of the other lemonades I had to sample today. But me having a sweet tooth, I didn’t mind one bit.

Topped with ice and a lemon slice, it’s the perfect pick-me-up on a hot day. Five out of five flapjacks.

11-LemonadeShakeUp

Lemonade Shake Up by Sugar Creek Kettle Corn Co. (Near the Kids Midway)

The last lemonade drink of the day was the Lemonade Shake Up by Sugar Creek Kettle Corn Co. This lemonade is shaken (not stirred) with your choice of flavouring. What’s more is that it’s made with all natural ingredients and real crushed fruit.

I chose the Saskatoon variant (made with Saskatoon berries), and you can taste the difference in quality. Whereas some of the flavourings from other vendors are sweet and admittedly artificial tasting, you could immediately tell that the sweetening and flavouring in this one is based on real fruit. Great value as well.

I absolutely loved it and want to come back to sample the rest of the flavours. An enthusiastic five out of five flapjacks from me.

12-RootBeer

Root Beer by Big Barrel Root Beer (All over Park)

Last but definitely not least is a staple at Stampede. I’m talking about the Root Beer.

Served at many locations on Park, at $2 for the small size, it’s one of the best values on Park outside of Weadickville. Ice cold and refreshing, it’ll definitely hit the spot.

I love root beer and order it any chance I get, so five out of five flapjacks from me.


And that’s it for this edition of Reggie’ll Try It! There are many other options for cool refreshment on Park, and even the options above come in many different flavours and varieties. Lots of choice out there and preferences and tastes vary among each person, so I’m interested in hearing what your favourites are. Feel free to sound off in the comments!

Reggie’ll Try It: Alternative Choices!

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We all know that those who wish to be considered true Stampede Foodies must abandon all fear, shame and hope to fit into last week’s pants if they are to survive the delicious temptations out on the Stampede Midway.

And while it’s true that there are many savoury, succulent and sugar-filled treats out there, did you know that there are also many healthier options as well? Items that are tailored for those who may have food sensitivities or just want to try a lifestyle change with their diets? Things that are not necessarily deep-fried? Shocking, I know.

Today’s #CSFoodie challenge was to find the Best Alternative Choice on the Stampede Midway, and we had to eat our way through a few of the non-traditional (for lack of a better term) options out on the grounds. Wrap Daddy’s ended up taking the official honours for their Gluten Free Chicken Wrap, but what about the other items? Here are my thoughts on some of the things we were asked to sample in this edition of Reggie’ll Try It!

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Gluten Free Vegetarian Pad Thai by SelfSpring Noodle Bar (Across from the BMO Centre)

In general, SelfSpring Noodle Bar offers rice or wheat noodles with your choice of sauce. Their Pad Thai sauce is gluten free and can be made with gluten free noodles, which is all prepared in a separate wok to avoid contamination.

I had the Vegetarian Pad Thai with the gluten free option, and I have to admit, it was a very filling dish (and I just had the small size). Rather than chicken (which is what I’d normally get), there were lots of carrots and broccoli pieces instead. It’s spicy though (and I passed on the extra hot sauce too), so if that’s not typically your thing, then proceed with caution.

My verdict: Four out of five flapjacks.

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Gluten Free Majnon Layla from Avatara Pizza (Near Nashville North)

Fire-roasted organic falafel chips with hummus, bruschetta and parsley. It’s not a pizza, but it does make for a nice, light snack. Perfect for sharing on a hot day, it comes in half or full sizes. And it’s all gluten free.

It’s simple food although it may not be enough to fill you up if you’re famished. A solid three out of five flapjacks from me.

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The Veggie Burger from the Stampede Concessions Booths (In the BMO Centre)

Whenever someone says “concession booth” to me, I flashback to junior high school where we didn’t have a proper cafeteria and instead had a small room that served students anything that could be stuck and heated in a toaster oven.

Stampede Concessions, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast that serves a variety of different foods all year round at various events on Park, all of them tasty and reasonably priced.

The Veggie Burger is quite filling. Lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onions, mayonnaise and a vegetable patty come standard on this one, and not being a regular connoisseur of veggie burgers myself, I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this. In fact, I wanted to order another!

Verdict:  Four out of five flapjacks.

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Gluten Free Steak and Salad by Steak Hut (Next to Nashville North)

This wasn’t on Steak Hut’s standard menu, but if you ask nicely, they will serve you a steak and salad, which is completely gluten free. The steak itself is tenderized and seasoned to perfection. That charbroiled steak is served fresh off an open grill and tastes wonderful, complemented well by the cool garden salad.

The above picture literally shows a steak on a salad, but after the photo opportunity, the grill master offered to cut it up. He mentioned that they’ve had discussions on whether or not to make it a standard option, and it’s still up for debate.

Be warned that since this isn’t a standard menu item (yet), you’ll end up paying a little bit extra for it.

I loved it and it earned four out of five flapjacks from me.

04-falafel

Falafel by NC’s Gourmet Grill (Near the Rotary Dream Home and Nashville North)

Made with seasoned chick pea patties, vegetables, tahini-based sauce and served on a pita, it’s a falafel no matter how you look at it. Served hot and fresh, the portion is hearty and can easily feed one person. A great vegetarian option for those looking for some on Park.

A solid three out of five flapjacks from me.

02-WrapDaddy

Gluten Free Chicken Wrap by Wrap Daddy’s (Near the Big Four Building and Coca-Cola Stage)

Served in a flour tortilla cone with chicken bits, various vegetables and with optional sour creme and fried cheese, this food item has a gluten free option. You can try to devour it all in one go by folding it into itself, but it’s recommended you eat it with the provided fork first. It’s hearty and good enough as a meal on its own.

The fried cheese really makes this dish, as it reminded me of the crusted cheese on top of my mom’s oven-baked lasagna, which was my favourite part.

There’s a lot of drippings with this one, so napkins are highly recommended.

Also note that the gluten free option costs an extra buck.

Five out of five flapjacks.

Vegetarian Wrap by Wrap Daddy’s (Near the Big Four Building and Coca-Cola Stage)

Also by Wrap Daddy’s, the Vegetarian Wrap substitutes the chicken bits from its sibling above with some kind of protein-based meat alternative. In fact, as I had ordered both the chicken and the vegetarian wraps at the same time, I thought they accidentally mixed some chicken bits into this one and became worried for some of my vegetarian friends to whom I really wanted to recommend this to. It tasted too good to be true!

The taste and texture of the “meat” resembled pork or chicken so much that my meat-eater’s heart became quite confused. And conflicted! That said, if human technology has progressed to the point where even this omnivore can’t tell the difference, then I suppose I could be persuaded to try being a vegetarian for a little while myself, as long I was able to continue eating things such as this.

Again, this one can get messy with drippings so make sure to have some napkins available.

A hearty five out of five flapjacks from me.


And there you have it. While it was the Chicken Wrap that won it for Wrap Daddy’s, I would have still been happy if the Vegetarian Wrap had come out on top. Which just goes to show you how solid a menu Wrap Daddy’s has.

This was just a small selection of some of the alternative food choices that are available on Park. There are many, many other options out there that are suitable for those who are lactose intolerant, require diets with reduced sugar, or have other food sensitivities, so give some of them a try the next time you come to visit! If in doubt, make sure to ask your food vendor about the ingredients they use in their offerings and their food preparation methods. They’ll be happy to share and they encourage it.

And if you want to be completely safe, did you know that you can bring your own food to Stampede Park? There’s plenty of green space to enjoy a picnic lunch outdoors (my favourite spots are those near the river banks), and all of the venues on Park like the Stampede Corral, Big Four Building and Grandstand Building allow you to bring your own food to munch on during events (many of them free with admission). Everyone wants to ensure that you have an enjoyable, and most importantly, safe stay during your visit to Stampede.

Reggie’ll Try It: International Flavour Edition!

CSInternationalMosaic

For Stampede 101, I’m privileged to be chosen as one of this year’s volunteer Midway Food Judges. As a group, we’re responsible for choosing the “Best” foods out of specific categories from what’s available on the Stampede Midway.

Today, we were tasked with determining “Best International Flavour” for 2013. The Naaco TNT by The Naaco Truck ended up winning the honours this year, but how did the other food fair?

Fellow Stampede blogger Sky’s posted a great recap, but did I agree with the verdict? Disagree? Submitted for your consideration are my thoughts on the matter in this special edition of Reggie’ll Try It! where I put my life on the line so you don’t have to!


CSBurrito

Burrito Grande by Foods of Mexico (In front of the Stampede Corral)

It’s a burrito. Stampede 101 style. Loaded with beef and cheese, it’s everything you could ever want from this Mexican classic. You can choose to top it off with lettuce, tomato, onions and hot jalapeños. It’s filling enough on its own (it is grande size), but I wouldn’t recommend eating a whole one if you have seven other items to eat through like I did.

A solid three out of five flapjacks from me.

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Malaysian Peanut Chicken Noodle Box by SaltSpring Noodle Bar (Across from the BMO Centre)

Soft, chewy and warm, this rice noodle box is perfect for a cold day on Park. Cooked in water and not oil, this dish features their tasty satay sauce with peanuts and coconut milk, which complements each other nicely. It comes in small and large sizes, although for me, the small was filling enough.

My verdict: Four out of five flapjacks.

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Chicken Schnitzel by Chicken Schnitzel (Near the Coca-Cola Stage)

A classic at the Stampede, the Chicken Schnitzel booth has been there for as long as I can remember (and as a born-and-raised Calgarian, that’s a long time!). I’ve never tried it myself though, so I was super excited it was on my list of things to eat.

Boneless chicken thinned with a hammer, coated with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs, fried all together and sandwiched inside a freshly baked kaiser bun with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise, this is like a traditional chicken burger on steroids.

Very filling and great value for the price. A solid four out of five flapjacks.

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Chicken Souvlaki on Pita by Greek Food (In front of the Stampede Corral)

Warm, moist and tender chicken pieces make this dish, with a cool dollop of tzatziki sauce on top for good measure. Served in a pita with lettuce, tomato and onions. For those with sensitive palettes, this dish is perfect, as the chicken isn’t overpowering at all.

TIP:  Like most typical wraps, this one can get messy with drippings so napkins are highly recommended.

Four out of five flapjacks.

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Flautas by Los Compadres (Behind the Bell Aqua Ranch)

Pulled pork wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried and served on a bed of lettuce and cheese. Biting into one is like a thirsty person in the dessert who happens upon a bright red, juicy cherry tomato and decides to devour it whole. The explosion of juices is flavourful and exquisite, balanced well with the crispy texture of the tortilla. If I could eat nothing but this dish all day, I’d have no complaints.

Five out of five flapjacks for this one.

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Lamb Donair by Skewers Authentic Wraps (In front of the Stampede Corral)

Chunks of seasoned lamb with onions, lettuce and tomato served on a pita. I love donairs, although this one was missing the sweet sauce for some reason. I did find the lamb a bit overpowering though in terms of seasoning, but it will satisfy if you’re looking for something to fill the gap in between the Rodeo and the Evening Show.

This one rates a three out of five flapjacks from me, but I reserve final judgement upon trying it again another day.

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Sesame Chicken Noodle Box by Wok This Way (By the Erlton Gate)

By the time I got to this one on the list, I was feeling stuffed and had to recruit a friend to help me finish it.

This was a weird one. We both agreed that while the noodles balanced the flavourful chunks of breaded and fried sesame chicken well, there wasn’t anything spectacular about this dish that jumped out at us, and we quickly moved onto the remaining dishes. But as we both went back to work and I was compiling my final thoughts on today’s experiences, we both polished this one off without noticing, even though it was already cold (and I had already polished off five full dishes already on my own).

What does that mean? I’m still not sure. But the fact that we finished off this one so late in the day despite a full day’s worth of eating on my end earns it a solid four out of five flapjacks from me. Like a ninja, this one sneaks up on you!

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Naaco TNT by The Naaco Truck (Behind the Bell Aqua Ranch)

Cool, crisp, crunchy, sweet and spicy. Served in a faux-newspaper cone that invokes fond memories from my youth, this is a colourful cornucopia that excites the tastebuds and delights the palette.

Made with crispy noodles, puffed rice, tomatoes, cucumbers and a variety of other vegetables, sauces, spices and herbs, this is the perfect dish for a hot summer day.

TIP: This one can also dribble a bit at the bottom of the cone with drippings, so make sure to have some napkins handy.

A solid, well deserved five out of five flapjacks from me.

And there you have it! In this case, I did agree with the Naaco TNT walking away with this year’s honour of being chosen “Best International Flavour,” but for me, it was a tie between it and Los Compadres’ Flautas for the top prize, and I would have been happy with either of them winning today.

Congrats to all the competitors this year and tune in tomorrow as we’ll be looking at “Best Alternative Food Option!”

Reggie’ll Try It: New 2011 Midway Foods!

A new year brings new foods to the Stampede Midway, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which ones you should try first.

Thus, it’s time for yet another installment of Reggie’ll Try It! where I put my life on the line so you don’t have to!

Today, I’ll look at three of the new items you can find this year and offer you my thoughts.

First up is the Kubie Kornballs, which won the “Best New Food 2011” award.

At first glance, it looks like a normal corn fritter, but nothing could be further from the truth.  According to its description, it bills itself as “Bite-sized bits of sausagy, cheesy, garlicky goodness with a little jalapeno heat!” and it doesn’t disappoint.

I’ll be honest:  I’ve had corn fritters in my day and have always thought them bland so I wasn’t expecting much from these, and couldn’t figure out why the food critics would choose these as Best New Food, rather than something like the much-hyped Glazed Doughnut Burger.

But now I’ve seen the light: for me, the sausage (which is made in-house in Edmonton), really adds the missing ingredient to all corn fritters, which is meat (I usually eat mine with fried chicken), but it’s the jalepeno peppers that bring it home.  I’m not normally a pepper fan as I can’t handle the spice (which is why you probably won’t see me attempt the Ghost of the Big Four Burger challenge at Mavericks, maybe), but the peppers in this dish weren’t overpowering and make it unique.

4.5 flapjacks out of 5.

Next up is the Glazed Doughnut Burger, much hyped about and which gained its inspiration from American fairs in the South which typically makes them out of Krispy Kreme donuts.

It’s a sizeable beef burger sandwiched between two maple glazed doughnuts, the glaze of the variety that you can find at any Tim Hortons restaurant.  Bacon and cheese are optional, but because bacon and cheddar make everything better, those ingredients not being there wasn’t an option for me.

This thing has a lot of heft to it and will fill you up.  My first impression was that it tasted like a glorified McGriddle, but much, much better.  The maple glaze complimented the bacon really well, and the doughy texture of the doughnut accentuated the texture of the beef patty such that it didn’t detract from the entire experience.  In other words, it didn’t feel like you were eating doughnuts with meat.  It felt like you were eating a burger.

I liked this burger and will probably return for more. However, since the maple glaze seemed to be no different than you can find at a local doughnut joint, I was finding myself desiring to try different types of doughnut glazes like chocolate or vanilla sprinkles.  I will admit, I’m inspired to try this out at home substituting different doughnuts for the bread pieces in the burger.

A solid 4 flapjacks out of 5.

Finally, what better way to end the day than with some dessert?

Last on the menu is the Moowich, which, according to the description, is “chocolate chip cookie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookie.”

This dish is exactly what you’d expect.  However, the chocolate chip cookies are baked fresh, and the sandwiches seem to be made in house.

Even though all I received was a sample size, it’s really good for what it is as the chocolate chip cookies are of high quality, but other than that, there’s nothing surprising or unique about this one.  It is what it is.  Personally, I would have loved to see different ice cream flavours, or maybe even different flavours of cookies available to be added to the mix, just to jazz things up a little.

Nonetheless, a great dessert, and a solid 3 out of 5 flapjacks from me.

So those are just three of the new food items you can find on this year’s Midway.  There are another 15 or so, plus many returning favourites from previous years.  What midway foods are you most interested in trying out this year?  Leave a comment below; I’d love to know!

Reggie’ll Try It: Alligator and Cricket Pizzas

It's Pizza Time!

Making a return this year is Reggie’ll Try It! where I put my life on the line so you don’t have to.

When I found out from fellow Stampede Blogger James Radke that real alligator and cricket pizzas were being served on the midway this year, I was intrigued.

And disgusted.

But mostly intrigued. So I put it out to a vote on Twitter asking the #yyc twitterverse to tell me which one to review for you, the loyal Stampede Blog reader.

Obviously, there were many sadists out there that said “Both!” but even after tallying up the results, it was a dead heat; an equal number of votes came in for both sides.

Mildly disheartened, for the purposes of being fair and with a sincere desire to follow through on the commitments I make, I decided to review both and even tried to live-tweet my experiences with it on Twitter (just search for #bugfeast on Twitter).

Of course, as misery loves company, there was no way I was going to do this on my own. So I recruited a couple of friends to help me out. One was my buddy Lonnie Taylor, whom I needed to help take a couple of pictures (and to take over if I somehow keeled over), and the other was Mike Morrison (of Mike’s Bloggity Blog fame), whom I fully intended to make eat any unused portions I had left (although he didn’t know that at the time).

So, how did we fare?

Harry says – Pick your Poison!

First up, you need to know that these special food items are extremely limited in quantity. They are only sold at 7 p.m. at the Pizza-on-a-Stick stall directly across from the North entrance of the Grandstand Building, and they do eventually sell out as they only make one or two pizzas of both (the alligator one goes faster than the cricket one, and both are generally gone within 30 minutes).

So if you ever wanted to try these (or are looking for some mild entertainment on Park and want to watch the suckers who are crazy enough to try it themselves), you’ll need to get there somewhat early, although the vendor is very strict about serving them at 7 p.m. sharp and they are indeed first-come, first-served.

The Alligator Pizza

I’ll start with the alligator pizza. Using real alligator meat (which is considered by some to be healthier than domestic chicken when it comes to cholesterol and fat content), according to the food vendor, this is the pizza that sells out the quickest, and after trying it for myself, I can understand why.

The alligator meat on this pizza tasted very much like salted and seasoned pork. It was very tender, very delicious, and I was tempted to go back for seconds.

There’s not much more to say about this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I highly recommend trying it if you ever get the opportunity. Five flapjacks out of five.

Well hello, Mr. Cricket!

And then there was the cricket pizza.

Alone, they don’t have much flavour, which is why they come flavoured in either bacon-cheddar or sour cream & onion varieties. In fact, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can sample a whole cricket by itself for the very low price of $0.50 per cricket, any time of day. They come in a jar.

As you can see from the photo above, they just jam them on top of the pizza. As you can probably imagine, the crickets are very crunchy, but the thing you have to really watch out for are the legs. They are sharp and pointy, and in my first attempt to eat this, I actually stabbed my lip on one of the legs (in particular, the one on the right there in the picture). So you’ll definitely want to “watch what you eat” for this one.

Because the crickets didn’t have much flavour on their own, it was hard for me to discern any kind of flavour profile, even after the artificial flavourings were added (although your tastebuds may vary; mine aren’t good at distinguishing the more subtle flavours). So if you can get over the fact that you’re actually ingesting real crickets, it’s no different than eating a pizza with some very crunchy toppings.

Four out of five flapjacks for this one.

Mike and myself trying the cricket pizza. I look like I'm in pain; that's because I had just stabbed my lip with a cricket leg.

And there you have it. If you’re looking for a unique food experience on the Stampede Midway this year, why not try out the alligator and cricket pizzas being sold at the Pizza-on-a-Stick booth across from the Grandstand Building? It’s really not as bad as it sounds. I survived to tell the tale, didn’t I?

Reggie’ll Try It: Tornado Potato

The Tornado Potato

By:  Reginald Tiangha

In another installment of Reggie’ll Try It!, I’ll be laying my life on the line once again for you, the Stampede blog reader, so you don’t have to (I know; I’m so considerate!).  Today, I’ll be reviewing the Tornado Potato, one of the many new food items being offered this Stampede.

Available on the midway, the Tornado Potato is essentially a spiral cut potato-on-a-stick that is deep fried.  A very simple dish.  You can then top it off with salt, ketchup, or whatever toppings and condiments that you usually put on french fries.  Of course, I’m of the sort of person that believes that sauces and such hide the natural flavour of foods, and as a professional midway connoisseur, I chose to enjoy my Tornado Potato the same way I enjoy getting my news:  plain and unfiltered.

Because it appeared that the potato was thinly sliced before deep frying, I was expecting a texture similar to a potato chip, one that was both crisp and crunchy.  However, it turned out to be more like a pan-fried potato and the texture was very similar to that of a french fry:  somewhat crisp on the outside but soft and fleshy on the inside.  As such, my initial expectations may have tainted my enjoyment of the food.

In hindsight, it could also have used some salt.

That said, this is a very fun dish to eat.  The potato is cut into one continuous spiral, so you can start nibbling on the top of the stick as you work your way down to the end, and you don’t have to worry too much about the potato structure separating itself and falling off the stick.

The only thing you’re going to have to watch out for is to avoid poking yourself or others with the stick as you eat it and walk around the grounds, as the stick is very long and it’s very easy to absentmindedly do so while you’re concentrating on eating it.

Verdict:  Three and a half flapjacks out of five (with some salt, bump up that score by an extra 0.5).

Now it’s your turn.  What did you think of the Tornado Potato this year?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

Reggie’ll Try It: Deep-Fried Jelly Beans

Food vendors on the midway

By: Reginald Tiangha

You may have heard about it leading up to Stampede.  You may be wondering how it could possibly work.  You might even be curious on what the taste experience will be like.  However, you (and/or your friends) may not be willing to fork over some $$ just to find out, and even if you were, you may be hesitant on using yourself as a guinea pig.

So, how can you possibly find out what all the hype is about without trying to swindle a sample or a taste from a stranger or the food vendors?  Well don’t worry, because Reggie’ll Try It!

Today’s food item:  The deep-fried jelly bean.

Available on the midway, the deep-fried jelly bean is one of many new food items at this year’s Stampede.  Contrary to popular belief, the deep-fried jelly bean is not made up of individually battered jelly beans that are fried.  Instead, it consists of balls of dough with jelly beans inside of them that are deep fried and topped with a light dusting of confectioner’s (a.k.a. powdered) sugar.

Basket of Deep Fried Jelly Beans

The end result is a fried ball of dough with a crisp outside (the kind you get with many fried foods) and a very chewy inside.  I’m hesitant to say that it’s similar to a doughnut as the dough in this concoction is much more chewier, and made even more chewier with the addition of the jelly beans.

As for the jelly beans themselves, the outer coating is essentially melted away while the core of the bean is softened and left intact, retaining the flavor of the jelly bean while accentuating the chewiness of the bean itself, and enhancing and complimenting the already-chewy texture of the fried dough.  Be warned though, the jelly beans may have a tendency to stick to your teeth.

So is it worth it?  Well, it’s worth trying at least once.  Each order will net you four or five pieces, which is perfect for sharing with friends (that way, you can compare your own opinions).  As a snack or as a quick meal on its own (if you eat the entire thing yourself), it can be very filling depending on your tastes, so you can rest assured that you’ll probably be good to go until it’s time to eat again.  Note that you’ll probably want to wash it down with something afterwards, so make sure you’re prepared for that as well.  If you’re a jelly bean fan, I suspect that you’ll enjoy this dish very much.

Verdict:  Four out of five flapjacks.

Now I’ll turn it over to you:  What did you think of the deep-fried jelly bean this year?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

Editor’s note: Our Roving Reporter also tried the Deep Fried Jelly Beans and you can watch it on You Tube.