City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - banner
City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - food truck art

Early July, when the city smells of pancakes and maple syrup in the early morning hours, Stampede week kicks off a season of outdoor eating. In late July, the local food vendor lineup at the Calgary Folk Music Festival (which celebrates its 40th year this summer) is as hotly anticipated as the musical guests—people go with an appetite, knowing they’ll be well-fed all weekend. And we know there will be plenty of food trucks and pop-up eateries at Sunfest, Globalfest, the Inglewood Night Market and every other fest and palooza that gets people outdoors while the weather is warm.

Of course, the best thing about going to summer festivals is the buffet of uniquely local offerings, and yet there are iconic midway dishes that you can’t generally find anywhere else that are as festive and fitting in July and August as turkey is at Thanksgiving. For ten days, the Stampede midway smells of grease and sugar corn dogs, mini doughnuts, candy apples, funnel cakes and other classics are the much-loved stalwarts alongside annual trendy additions like smoking charcoal ice cream and the deep-fried bugs and chili pepper pizzas added purely for shock value. Though fried food on a stick is not something you likely think to make at home on a regular basis, it is entirely possible to do so—there’s no need for special equipment (not even a deep fryer). You’d be surprised how simple they are, and how happy they make people, even if there are no rides or live bands in your own backyard.


Funnel cakes are perhaps the most fun to make—pour batter through a funnel into an inch or so of hot oil,using your finger to control the flow. They cook quickly, and can be dusted with icing sugar as they get cool enough to eat.


  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 large egg
  • canola oil, for cooking
  • icing sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl (if you have one, use a large measuring c. or bowl with a spout), whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, water and egg and whisk until perfectly smooth. The mixture should have the consistency of pourable pancake batter—if it’s too thick to run through a funnel, thin it with a little milk or water. Heat about an inch of oil in a deep, heavy skillet until it’s hot but not smoking. (A scrap of bread should sizzle if you dip it in.) Get a funnel and put your finger over the bottom end. Pour in some batter — not quite 1/4 cup — and take your finger off over the hot oil, letting the batter pour out as you move the funnel in a squiggly motion over the oil. Let the batter cook for a minute, or until it’s golden, and flip with tongs to cook on the other side. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm. Makes lots — about a dozen, depending on their size.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - funnel cakes
City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - mini doughnuts


Perhaps the quintessential festival food, mini doughnuts can be made without the little extruder machine we all love to watch at Stampede. They require a simple yeast dough that can be cut with the rim of a shot glass, the hole in the middle poked with a straw, chopstick or your finger.


  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 ¼ t.)
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • canola oil, for cooking
  • sugar, for dusting
  • cinnamon (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast and water; set it aside for 5 minutes, until it’s foamy. Add the flour, milk, butter, egg, sugar and salt, and stir until you have a soft, sticky dough. Stir for a minute or two, then cover and set aside for an hour, if you have time.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and pat it out to about 1/2-inch thick. Cut out as many rounds as possible with the rim of a shot glass, and poke a hole in each with your finger, stretching it out a bit (keep in mind that it will puff up as it cooks). If you like, cover with a kitchen towel and let the doughnuts rise for another 20-30 minutes (this isn’t necessary, but will produce lighter doughnuts).

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy pot until it’s hot but not smoking—you’ll know it’s ready when a scrap of bread or dough dipped in it starts to sizzle, and if you have a thermometer, it should read about 350˚F.

Cook the doughnuts in batches, turning occasionally with tongs or a slotted spoon, until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then toss in a shallow dish of cinnamon-spiked sugar while still warm. Makes about 4 dozen.


Bagged apples are ideal for making candy apples, they tend to be smaller than the ones you buy in bulk. You’ll need some lollipop sticks, wooden
popsicle sticks or small bamboo skewers.

  • 1 dozen small apples
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. water
  • several drops red food colouring

Wash and dry your apples; insert lollipop sticks, wooden popsicle sticks or small bamboo skewers into the stem end and set aside; line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.

Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and cook over mediumhigh heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar (this is important — it will prevent crystallization; just stop stirring once the mixture comes to a boil). Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the mixture reaches 300˚F.

Immediately dip the apples by holding them by the stick and submerging them completely in the candy; tilt the pan as you need to in order to coat them well. If you would like to add candies or other toppings, sprinkle them over the apples (or dip their bottoms into a shallow bowl before the candy sets), then set them stick up on the lined baking sheet. Set aside to harden and cool. Makes about a dozen candy apples.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - candied apples


Another classic, corn dogs are surprisingly simple to make (you’ll need some wood popsicle sticks, skewers or chopsticks), and they’ll make a backyard full of friends very happy.

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 pkg. hot dogs

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal,  sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the buttermilk, egg and baking soda; whisk until well-blended.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep, heavy saucepan until it’s hot but not smoking. You’ll know when it’s hot enough by dipping in a piece of bread or a bit of dough – it should start to sizzle, and if you have a thermometer, it should read about 350F.

Stick a wooden stick into the end of each hot dog (cut them in half crosswise if you want smaller corn dogs), and dip them in the cornmeal batter to coat, and then into the hot oil, cooking for 3-4 minutes, until deep golden. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Makes about 16 corn dogs.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - corn dogs
City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - feature - 2018-07-08 - festival food - candied corn


Caramel corn is so old-timey, and the homemade kind is far more delicious than anything you’ll get at the store or on the midway. Modernize it with a squirt of Sriracha if you want to spice things up—or leave it out.

  • 8 c. popped popcorn
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. corn syrup or Rogers Golden syrup
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • a squirt of Sriracha (optional)
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 250˚F and put the popcorn in a big bowl.

In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup and butter and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and boil without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally, for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and Sriracha – the mixture will foam up at first, but stir it well to get any lumps of baking soda out.

Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir (with a heatproof spatula or tongs) to coat well. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Cool and break apart.

Julie Van Rosendaal is a cookbook author and blogs at