Day 86: Mexican food at Magpie & Stump

Magpie & Stump, a weathered sort of kitschy saloon with bison heads on the wall beside a big screen TV playing the hockey game, is exactly the same as it was 20+ years ago. The dark walls are covered with stuff – old bottles, ash trays, neon signs, old bottle openers, Christmas lights, sombreros, antlers, and that was just in the few square feet beside our table.

Since driving into Banff I have had a hankering for the Gringo Salad of my youth: a utilitarian mound of chopped iceberg lettuce, green pepper, tomato, green onion, almond chicken (which was indistinguishable to me from any other chopped, skinless roasted chicken; not that there’s anything wrong with that) and (not too much) monterey Jack cheese loaded into a deep-fried tortilla shell with their own sour cream-ish, mildly ranchish dressing. This is what I used to order when we came to M&S apres-ski, or when we came to visit my mom’s artist friend who lived in Banff when I was a teenager and pretended she was really my friend. So that’s what I got, but it seems to have lost a bit of its lustre in the past couple decades. Perhaps my palate has changed since the days when I actually enjoyed Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni?

If you want to make an edible tortilla bowl at home, there’s no need to deep-fry them: take a flour tortilla and soak it for a few seconds in a pie plate full of warm water, then drape it over an empty can or inverted glass set on a cookie sheet, gently folding it with your fingers to create the shape you want. Then bake it at 400F for about 10 minutes, or until it’s golden. Kids love dishes you can eat.

I forgot my camera at the hotel, so I could not document Mike’s beef burrito extravaganza, on an oval platter loaded down with guacamole, salad, rice, refried beans, and assorted Mexican things tucked into any bits of space left in between. Upon its arrival he commented that in most countries, this would serve as a meal for an entire family. We looked around at all the other diners, each working on equally huge platters of their own, or entire pizzas. We shared both, and still came home with enough left over for another reasonably-sized meal. I used to make a habit of asking the server to pack up the rest of my meal once I had made it through half – if it stays in front of me, I’ll keep plowing through it, whether I’m full or not. Probably a good habit to pick up again.


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