Author Archives: Aaron Brophy

Things I Ate At The C.N.E. In 2019

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2019.

After a year off from the Canadian National Exhibition I got back on the bullshit again, making the most out of one well-targeted weekday trip and a couple delivered care packages to help bump up my food explorations. It’s interesting the perspective you get when you step back for a year from a near-compulsion. One of the big things I realized this year was that most of the “stunt” food has become wildly, insultingly overpriced when one considers each item’s ingredients and the comparable non-stunt versions of similar items which are also available at the fair. It’s a psychological barrier that’s real and takes a certain amount of “when am I ever going to try this again?” to motivate a person to eat this crap. That said, nobody with a still-flickering life force goes to the Ex to eat a plain cheese slice at Pizza Nova when there’s, wait for it, pickle pizza available to try (I didn’t try the pickle pizza… that’s not stunt enough).

The new craft beer & food truck & axe-throwing boutique area near what was once an activation wasteland by the Princes’ Gates was a wonderful addition to the Ex. Likewise, the Canadian Ninja Warrior set-up that has replaced the parkour show (parkour!) with the always-entertaining MC Abdominal was a great opportunity to watch physically perfect people fail like chumps. The SuperDogs show was fun, too (Pro tip: go to the first scheduled ‘Dog event of the day. It’s the only one that isn’t psycho-rammed with exasperated parents who don’t know how to navigate crowds.)

The biggest surprise of the year? A food-based redemption arc. If I didn’t experience it with my very own mouth hole I wouldn’t have believed it could happen. On to the food…

Here’s what I ate at the CNE in 2019:

Gnocchi Poutine. Gnocchi that was deep fried and covered in gravy with a smattering of cheese. The amount of cheese here left something to be desired (more cheese = good poutine, less cheese = cheap fucker bullshit hope-you-go-out-of-business “poutine”), but this was entirely acceptable. 7/10

 

Pineapple Dole Whip. I’ve got a friend who fiends for this stuff rather obsessively so when I encountered it for the first time I had to try it. And it’s… really refined pineapple slurpee? 6.9/10

 

Tokyo Street Dog. This was a tempura-battered hot dog wiener wrapped in seaweed and slathered in non-traditional (read: totally traditional if many parts of the world) condiments. It’s basically a normal hot dog with slightly left field condiments and it cost three times more than it should have. 5.6/10

 

Black Halo Bubblegum Ice Cream. It looks great with its bright blue ice cream in goth black sugar cone. There wasn’t actually much flavour to this bubblegum, though. Also, the aftermath of eating these 7% food colouring cones is two days of BRIGHT green dookies. 6/10

 

Black Halo Purple Haze Ice Cream. This was the grape ice cream version and it had much more of a flavour. 6.4/10

 

Fran’s Sriracha Peanut Butter Balls. You people really don’t need to put sriracha in everything. A rare slip-up from the usually-great Fran’s booth. 4.9/10

 

FUDGE BREAK!

My late, great grandmother used to make the most 10 out of 10-est fudge in the history of fudge and I’ve been fitfully chasing that high ever since. Would these compare? No, of course they wouldn’t. But there were still some good mouth times…

Milk Chocolate Fudge. The boringest of the CNE fudges and least able to keep up against the grandma scale. Still fudge. 7.1/10

 

Maple Fudge. Maple is a natural neighbour to Vanilla, the best fudge, but it’s also just a little bit… less. 7.7/10

 

Cookies ‘n’ Cream Fudge. They did not short on the “cookie” in this fudge, which is admirable in its way, but it also made for a fudge that was just structurally weird. Like a food with a bunch of speed bumps, which isn’t really what you want in a fudge. 7.3/10

 

Chocolate Maple Fudge. Two different textures and slightly incongruent vibes made for a fudge that was a little meh. Still fudge, though. 7.2/10

 

Skor Fudge. The Skor bits were pretty subtle. I think there might have been slivers of ginger in there making things slightly weird. If not the best, it was certainly the boldest. 7.5/10

BOOZE BREAK!

So yeah, we’re all for the new craft beer corner of the Ex that allows you to sit down for a drink in a spot that isn’t a) meant for gambling, b) has terrible country music, or c) features a whoooaaa Québécois Styx cover band.

Shiny Apple Cider and Pinot Noir. The wine jolt adds a pleasant little something to make this more than just a regular cider. Because this is booze… 10/10

 

Pommies Original Cider slushie. Remember life before the cider revolution? Neither do I, but it must have sucked. Anyway, it was hot as balls on the day we were here so the ability to hide out in a shaded corner and drink an alcoholic slushie was chef’s kiss. 10/10

 

Pommies Original Cider with Sangria. I’m not suddenly one of these all-in for cider + wine people, but this one was better than the other one. 10/10

FREE STUFF!

It used to be that the Ex was a glorious place for cheap eats and free samples. Then for a long time it wasn’t. It appears that a few companies have figured out freebies are a good thing, though.

Takis Fuego Extreme. It’s been a second since people have been marketing “Extreme” shit and it warmed my soul in the exact same way seeing a retro Maple Leafs jacket makes you go, “Oh neat… but I’d never wear that bullshit.” This was free, so I appreciated it, but after trying it I’d never pay money for it. 5.7/10

 

Maple Lodge Spicy Ultimate Chicken Frankfurter. Of all the weird things I was expecting in my food adventure, a redemption story was not one of them. Back in 2012 I tried what was unquestionably the worst county fair stunt food ever made — The Maple Lodge Chocolate Eclair Hot Dog. It’s exactly what it sounds like and it’s profoundly stupid. A couple years later Maple Lodge gave up their spot in the Food Building, seemingly disappearing under the weight of their shame, which I blame entirely on that idea. But this year they were back with a fancy outdoor grill barbecue setup and were offering free samples of their various jumbo dogs… and they were exactly the kind of thing you’d want to grill up at a barbecue. 7/10

THE DARING, AUDACIOUS, DELICIOUS AND DISGUSTING

Carla’s Cookie Box Salted Caramel Butter Tart. Look, I’ve been on butter tarts (no raisin, fuck that) since long before there were festivals and pop-up shops and other bullshit foodies hopping on the tartwagon. Getting off my high horse for a second, though, some of these new soldiers in the butter tart zeitgeist are making awesome shit. Like this. 8/10

 

Carla’s Cookie Box Nutella Butter Tart. This looks like it got hit by a hammer ’cause it suffered a bit while in transportation, but holy shit was this delicious. My mouth is watering from just looking at this stupid picture and remembering how perfect this thing was. 8.9.10

 

Super Fries K-Pop Fries. There’s a certain amount of low-r “stunt” food that isn’t really stunt food at all so much as it’s just “food from a different culture.” These kimchi fries would probably qualify. Sarah and I have been chasing after the perfect kimchi fries ever since our beloved Korean Cowboy restaurant closed a couple years back to make way for condos. These were fine but they weren’t special. The quest continues. 6/10

 

Snickle Dog.  And in the exact opposite of a redemption arc, we’ve got the fooled-me-twice of the Snickle Dog. Technically, I haven’t been fooled twice by the Snickle Dog, a hot dog and pickle wrapped in a deep-fried tortilla and covered, for some reason, with chocolate syrup. But I have tried its very close cousin, the Canadian Bacon Pickle Ball (2017), which is a piece of lukewarm garbage corn dog perverted to include a chunk of pickle. I was tricked by the idea of deep fried tortilla-fication but let my folly be a lessen to others — do not Snickle Dog. 4/10

 

Cheesecake Factory General Custard Sundae. Cheesecake Factory has taken over the Wild Child Kitchen fresh juice spot in the Food Building, which means I no longer have access to concoctions that make me shit beet juice within 30 minutes of drinking them. This, however, has turned out to be a bit of a blessing because the Factory created my favourite thing of the year, the General Custard Sundae. Made up of a Portuguese tart, vanilla soft serve ice cream, hot caramel sauce and whipped cream, this is an incredible collision of complimentary flavours. Vanilla ice cream (and vanilla, in general) gets a bad rap because white people ruin everything, but it’s amazing. And when you mash it up with a Portuguese tart and a gooey pile of hot caramel it creates something cosmic from something that seems so simple and obvious. 9/10

Additional reading:

Things I didn’t eat at the CNE in 2018 because I boycotted to support unionized workers who were fighting The Man.

Things I ate at the CNE in 2017. Including Deep Fried Chicken Foot and Savory Fried Spaghetti Donut Ball.

Things I ate at the CNE in 2016. Including Bug Dog with Roasted Crickets and Deep Fried Butter Tarts.

Things I ate at the CNE in 2015. Including Corrado’s S&M Burger and Iron Skillet’s Frosted Flakes Chicken On A Stick.

Things I ate at the CNE in 2014. Including Fran’s Thanksgiving Turkey Waffle and Coco’s Fried Chicken Cocoa Chicken.

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2013. Including Nutella Jalapeno Poppers and the S’more Dog.

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2012. Including the Chocolate Eclair Dog and Bacon Nation Nutella BBBLT.

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2011. Including the Krispy Kreme Hamburger and Deep Fried Twix.

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2010. Including Deep Fried Butter and Taco In A Bag.

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Deadbeat Beat — How Far (Album Review)

Deadbeat Beat — How Far

I’ve been utterly transfixed by the song “Dim Bulbs,” the last track on Detroit jangle-rockers Deadbeat Beat’s new album How Far. Starting off with a crisis phone call, it quickly shifts to deep out-of-body self-reflections on front lawns, busy roadhouse parking lots and lonely night walks. It’s a cinematic, melancholic gut-punch of an album coda and it’s one that makes everything that comes before it seem much darker around the edges. To be fair, it’s not like the trio of drummer/vocalist Maria Nuccilli and guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Glendening and bassistZak Frieling are entirely subtle about glooming up their power pop. Launching one’s album with a song titled after the occult deity Baphomet isn’t exactly convention for the handclap-rock set. Neither are the bodies being torn apart and cement poured down throats in ghoulish number “The Curve.” To characterize How Far only as a “what if” where Sloan’s Jay Ferguson goes full Saruman is probably an overstatement, though. There are, after all, a number of exemplary pieces of genre-work on How Far. “You Lift Me Up” is an in-the-pocket bedroom dance starter, the do-do-do, do-do-dos feel like a classic anchor for “The Box” and the longing in “I’ll Wait” is a near-timeless sentiment. Taken as a whole it’s enough to make How Far feel something that’s both familiar and intriguingly distinct.

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PUP Explore Morbid Stuff

PUP

Toronto punk band PUP have really captured the spirit of the thing with their newest album Morbid Stuff.

An exploration of depression, mental illness, anxiety and all-around existential angst wrapped up in a spiky pop-punk package, it’s a dose of cathartic rage ideal for anyone having trouble navigating this world.

I spoke to the band for a feature story in SOCAN Words & Music magazine.

To read the piece go here.

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How Real Are Game Of Thrones’ Martial Arts?

As much as we may want to believe, the world of Game Of Thrones isn’t real.

What is real, however, is the martial arts swordfighting which took place during the HBO fantasy series’ run.

Sarah wrote a piece for Asian World Of Martial Arts assessing how legit the swordfighting scenes in the show actually were.

To read it go here.

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Kardinal Offishall On The Toronto Raptors’ Magical Run

Kardinal Offishall

Can-rap OG Kardinal Offishall has been supporting hometown NBA team the Toronto Raptors since the beginning and through the lean years, so it’s only fitting now they’re the champs that he also gets to share in a bit of that shine.

I spoke to Kardi about the Raptors and the team’s close connection to the Canadian rap community in a piece for SOCAN Words & Music.

To read the story go here.

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Digging Into Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy, the latest edition of the Ip Man martial arts movie series, was released in April.

Sarah broke down what people needed to know about the star-studded movies in a blog post for Asian World Of Martial Arts.

To read about it go here.

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Dream Warriors And Alanis In Focus On Polaris Podcast Episode 24

Polaris Podcast EP7 was live from Ottawa.

Episode 24 of the Polaris Podcast was the third in a four-part series dedicated to albums that received Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designation.

For this episode we talked about Dream Warriors’ rap classic … And Now The Legacy Begins and Alanis Morissette’s zeitgeist-riding Jagged Little Pill.

This and other Polaris Podcast episodes can be found on iTunes, Google Play or Spotify.

Or, to make it easy, you can listen to it right here:

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