Category Archives: The Misadventures Of

Things I Ate At The CNE In 2017

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2017.

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2017.

Stunt food is officially a thing now at the Canadian National Exhibition. Every vendor seems to have at least one bizarre item on their menu — “charcoal” everything is particularly popular this year — which is a good thing because it’s looking like I’m going to be heading to the Ex on at least four occasions in the next two weeks and I’m not going to run out of options.

For round one I enlisted the help of multiple time Juno Award and Polaris Music Prize-nominated rapper and hilarious Instagram ninja D-Sisive to bear witness to the things I put in my mouth.

Here’s what I ate at the CNE on opening day Friday, August 18:

Bacon Nation Pig Mac. Maple smoked back bacon, regular bacon, cheese and lettuce with a hamburger patty on a bright red dyed bun to honour Canada 150. The red bun is a good gimmick visually, but this is really just a tricked out bacon burger. The fries were pretty good, though. 6.3/10.

 

Sprite. The oppressive ubiquity of Coca-Cola products at the Ex is something that’s bugged me forever. But I forgot to bring a water bottle and needed a container with a bottle cap. It tasted like Sprite. 5.3/10

 

Philthy Philly’s Strawberry Short Steak. People have surprisingly strong reactions to the idea of the Straw Berry Short Steak. It’s a philly cheesesteak sandwich slathered in strawberry syrup and whipped cream and topped with icing sugar. It’s not bad so much as it’s… not exactly what you want out of a steak sandwich. 6.1/10

 

Chloe’s Donut Ice Cream Sandwich. I’m a big fan of the midway classic, the waffle ice cream sandwich. As such, I tried to replicate it at Chloe’s booth. You can bam these up with different flavours and condiments, but I went traditional vanilla. Taste-wise, it’s fine. Where it falls apart, though, is when it literally starts to fall apart and the ice cream starts seeping through the donut, leaving your hands a sticky mess. When compared to the relative stability of the waffle sandwich, this just doesn’t stand up. 6/10

 

Interlude. Salad doesn’t appear to be a big draw at the Ex this year.

 

Fruit Punch Powerade. Sometimes you need a pick-me-up. This didn’t really “pick me up,” but it did stave off the worst of the dehydration. 5.3/10

 

Canadian Bacon Pickle Ball. This is a hot dog, stuffed in a pickle, wrapped in bacon, then deep fried. I had *really* high hopes for this, because I like both corndogs and deep fried pickles. It doesn’t work, though. There’s too much going on. 5.5/10

 

Deep Fried Chicken Foot. This is probably the most polarizing stunt food at the Ex this year. Either you’re completely freaked out and appalled by its mere existence or you’re, like, “Yeah, poor people have been eating chicken feet forever. No big deal.” “Eating” is a relative term here. There’s not much to eat. It’s basically bits of skin hidden under a layer of eggroll-y batter. It’s a pain in the ass to try chewing apart, so I gave up pretty quickly. As food, this is a 5/10. As a thing to freak out your friends on Facebook, 8.3/10.

 

Cake Shack Double Brownie. This was amazing. Two very good chocolate brownie slabs with a whomp of buttercream icing, some mini-peanut butter cups and a few crackles of Skor-like caramel bits. I was already super-full by the time I had this, and it’s huge on its own, so I didn’t enjoy it all that much. But it’s a beauty. 7.2/10

 

Bonus guest shot. Shoutouts to my eating companion for the day, rap and Instagram star, D-Sisive.

Round Two, September 1

Deep Fried Cheese Curds. We had sky-high expectations for these, having tried them the first time on a trip to Vegas and essentially seeing the face of god in our mouths. Alas, these didn’t quite match the meticulous Vegas fried curds. These were good, and the texture was appealing, but they were so heeeaavvvy. 7.3/10

 

Spaghetti Donut Balls’ Savory Fried Spaghetti Donut Ball. This was not really weird at all. Or particularly “donut-y.” It could probably work as a good trick to make a kid eat their spaghetti. 6/10

 

Barq’s Cream Soda. I like cream soda. This was cream soda. Also, it was clear coloured and not loaded up with no. 9 industrial red dye. 5.6/10

 

Interlude. Butter sculptures of Justin Trudeau with pandas and the viral capybara family.

 

Interlude. #DeadRacoonTO. I completely flipped out for this because I consider Dead Racoon the best manifestation of smart ass Toronto Twitter. Then I realized this year’s butter sculptures were entirely about viral Toronto animals and I got angry because IKEA monkey wasn’t there. Well, it turns out IKEA monkey *was* there and I somehow completely ignored it/it didn’t register with me. I’m blaming the butter sculptors because if their IKEA monkey was better sculpted I would have figured it out.

 

Farm To Fryer Mac and Curd Chimichanga. This was a little on the plain side, if entirely acceptable. It was ferociously thermodynamically hot, though, partially melting my plastic knife when I cut it in half. 6.6/10

 

Eative Very Berry Nitro Sorbet. The very beleagured woman at the counter had a whole speech ready to explain that the sorbet would *not* make your mouth puff out nitro smoke (that was their “Dragon’s Breath” offering). That said, somehow a dramatic nitro smoke effect is involved in the creation of the berry sorbet. I suppose it might be exciting to some people to witness. As sorbet, it was fine. 6.7/10

 

Chimney Stax Crazy 4 Caramel cone. These fancy ice cream cone thingees feature a baked chimney cone dipped in chocolate with crushed pretzel and caramel popcorn coating, a two-bite cinnamon bun and salted caramel sauce on soft serve. It’s a very, very tasty combination. It is also monstrously, unreasonably, borderline unnavigatably massive. Every bite you take is small act of surrendering one’s dignity to the inevitability of your chin or nose or, maybe, ear somehow inadvertently getting slimed by the cone. It takes you out of the experience and makes something that’s otherwise amazing a bit of a chore. 7.2/10

Rounds Three & Four, September 2-3

I went to concerts at the CNE on these days, so I got some more bonus food in.

Fran’s Southern Slang. Buttermilk chicken on a cinnamon sweet bun with coleslaw and chocolate sriracha sauce. Fran’s is usually super on-point straddling the line between tasty diner food and county fair novelty creations. The slang, however, didn’t quite sit right. The chicken was great — think KFC Big Crunch, but probably with 23% less mystery chemicals — and the slaw was fine. But the dumb cinnamon bun was unnecessary. 7/10

 

Fran’s Root Beer Float. Soft serve vanilla ice cream, root beer and a bit of whipped cream. You can’t really screw this up. 6.8/10

 

Corn Dog. A midway standard. See below in 2010 for a review.

 

Coca-Cola. It would be funnier if they put vaguely lurid lines on the bottles instead of “First Kiss.” Like, who wouldn’t be entertained by “Heavy Petting” or “Butt Squeeze” or “Leering Old Man”? That would make me love this product more. 5.1/10

 

Reese Flurry. They did NOT skimp on the “reese” part of this flurry. The well-ground peanut butter ‘n’ chocolate chunks filled the whole substantial cup and probably dinged me up about 2,000 calories. 7/10

 

Cowboy Taters. Deep fried taters topped with smoked brisket, southern cheese sauce, tomatoes, green onion, guacamole and sour cream. This was some tasty shit. About $5 too expensive, but still. In a sea of weird food combinations, this succeeded by being just a wee bit weird and having a wonderfully simple combination of things. 7.3/10

 

Additional reading:

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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Things I Ate At The C.N.E. In 2016

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2016

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2016

This year was a modest one for food adventuring at the Canadian National Exhibition.

Between work obligations and a different kind of adventure, I was only able to make it down to The Ex for one big session on September 4.

My spider-senses told me this wasn’t going to be a banner year for stunt food and, well, it wasn’t.

That said, I still knocked down some weird and crazy stuff. Here’s what I ate…

Fran's Bacon Croissundae. This was a vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate and strawberry sauce, stuck in the middle of a croissant, with a stick of bacon stuck in the middle of all of that. It was also my breakfast. The bacon was kinda unnecessary and this felt like a rare misstep for Fran's. 6.2/10

Fran’s Bacon Croissundae. This was a vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate and strawberry sauce, stuck in the middle of a croissant, with a stick of bacon stuck in the middle of all of that. It was also my breakfast. The bacon was kinda unnecessary and this felt like a rare misstep for Fran’s. 6.1/10

 

Brewster's Salt Water Taffy, Banana. Sarah had brought these home from a previous Ex trip. Although they're pretty standard taffy strips, they're from a genuine through-the-generations family recipe from an independent food purveyor, so points for that. 6/10

Brewster’s Salt Water Taffy, Banana. Sarah had brought these home from a previous Ex trip. Although they’re pretty standard taffy strips, they’re from a genuine through-the-generations family recipe from an independent food purveyor, so points for that. 6/10

 

Raclette-Suisse. "Broiled Suisse raclette cheese scraped over a bed of crispy-fried potatoes and pickles." For the simple pleasure of hot, melty cheese slathered on hash browns this was pretty great. 7.2/10

Raclette-Suisse. “Broiled Suisse raclette cheese scraped over a bed of crispy-fried potatoes and pickles.” For the simple pleasure of hot, melty cheese slathered on hash browns this was pretty great. 7.2/10

 

Canada Dry Cherry Vanilla Ginger Ale. If you've read any of my past C.N.E. food reports you'll know all about my sadly failed attempts to escape the oppressive ubiquity of Coca-Cola products. It can't be done, so instead I've chosen to embrace the adventure. Sometimes, like when you combine cherry and vanilla with your ginger ale, that adventure isn't necessary. 5/10

Canada Dry Cherry Vanilla Ginger Ale. If you’ve read any of my past C.N.E. food reports you’ll know all about my sadly failed attempts to escape the oppressive ubiquity of Coca-Cola products. It can’t be done, so instead I’ve chosen to embrace the adventure. Sometimes, like when you combine cherry and vanilla with your ginger ale, that adventure isn’t necessary. 5/10

 

Epic Burger's The Churro Burger. It's cheeseburger inbetween two churro "buns." The burger itself was benign, but the combination of churro + burger wasn't exactly harmonious. There was little structural integrity (it began to fall calamitously apart after two bites) and didn't really make any sense. I ended up deconstructing the whole thing and eating the individual pieces separately. Churro "bun": 7/10 Churro "bun" with cheese stuck on it: 6.7/10 Hamburger patty: 6/10 The Churro Burger: 5/10 P.S. When I got my burger I was in line with a police officer who was buying the Krispy Kreme Hamburger (see my 2011 review). Cops really *do* like donuts!

Epic Burger’s The Churro Burger. It’s cheeseburger inbetween two churro “buns.” The burger itself was benign, but the combination of churro + burger wasn’t exactly harmonious. There was little structural integrity (it began to fall calamitously apart after two bites) and didn’t really make any sense. I ended up deconstructing the whole thing and eating the individual pieces separately.
Churro “bun”: 7/10
Churro “bun” with cheese stuck on it: 6.7/10
Hamburger patty: 6/10
The Churro Burger: 5/10
P.S. When I got my burger I was in line with a police officer who was buying the Krispy Kreme Hamburger (see my 2011 review). Cops really *do* like donuts!

 

Salted Caramel Fudge. Hitting up the fudge booth is one of my C.N.E. vices. The salted caramel may be the tastiest, texturally most awesome one I've tried yet. 8.3/10

Salted Caramel Fudge. Hitting up the fudge booth is one of my C.N.E. vices. The salted caramel may be the tastiest and texturally most awesome one I’ve tried yet. 8.3/10

 

R.I.P. Gene Wilder. I'm more of a Blazing Saddles person myself.

R.I.P. Gene Wilder. I’m more of a Blazing Saddles person myself.

 

Championship Carrot. These are what championship carrots look like. The part I enjoy most about this is knowing that someone pulled those out of the ground and said to themselves, "These are fucking perfect. I'm totally going to enter them into the C.N.E. vegetable competition and win a goddamn ribbon."

Championship Carrot. These are what championship carrots look like. The part I enjoy most about this is knowing that someone pulled those out of the ground and said to themselves, “These are fucking perfect. I’m totally going to enter them into the C.N.E. vegetable competition and win a goddamn ribbon.”

 

Butter Woes. Churning up the butter with my woes.

Butter Woes. Churning up the butter with my woes.

 

"Big Barrel Root Beer." This was a bit of duplicitous fuckery. When I saw a couple of these "Big Barrel Root Beer" vendors around the grounds I was stoked. What was this strange new root beer? I had to have me some of this delicious new (not Coke brand) elixir. Then I bought some. It was just Barq's Root Beer from a fountain tap hidden behind the barrel. Bullshit. 1/10

Big Barrel Root Beer.” This was a bit of duplicitous fuckery. When I saw a couple of these “Big Barrel Root Beer” vendors around the grounds I was stoked. What was this strange new root beer? I had to have me some of this delicious new (not Coke brand) elixir. Then I bought some. It was just Barq’s Root Beer from a fountain tap hidden behind the barrel. Bullshit. 1/10

 

Eat My Bowl Roast Beef In A Bowl. It was just slightly gristly roast beef and gravy in a bread bowl. With some mild horseradish sauce. Meh. 6/10

Eat My Bowl Roast Beef In A Bowl. It was just slightly gristly roast beef and gravy in a bread bowl. With some mild horseradish sauce. Meh. 6/10

 

Deep Fried Butter Tart. Deep frying things tends to make them more often in most cases. But when you deep fry a butter tart it mostly just erases the butter tart's identity and leaves some gooey sugar pie slurry in the middle of some fried dough. It doesn't suck, but it isn't magical either. 6/4/10

Deep Fried Butter Tart. Deep frying things tends to make them more awesome in most cases. But when you deep fry a butter tart it mostly just erases the butter tart’s identity and leaves some gooey sugar pie slurry in the middle of some fried dough. It doesn’t suck, but it isn’t magical either. 6.4/10

 

Fran's Blueberry Pie Milkshake. One of this year's premier stunt foods, the Fran's Blueberry Pie Milkshake featured a slice of real blueberry pie blended with real ice cream along with whip cream, rainbow sprinkles, Smarties, cotton candy, a chocolate wafer and an actual piece of blueberry pie on top of it. At no point did this thing suck — the pie was good, the wafer was fun and the actual shake was really good. It felt more like a mining expedition than a taste journey, though. First you had to deal with the cotton candy, then you had to navigate the cream 'n' sprinkle outer rim (getting sprinkles ALL over yourself). After that you had to break through the blueberry pie layer, until finally you were able to unlock the murky blue shake core. It was tasty, but it was also a chore. 7.1/10

Fran’s Blueberry Pie Milkshake. One of this year’s premier stunt foods, the Fran’s Blueberry Pie Milkshake featured a slice of real blueberry pie blended with real ice cream along with whip cream, rainbow sprinkles, Smarties, cotton candy, a chocolate wafer and an actual piece of blueberry pie on top of it. At no point did this thing suck — the pie was good, the wafer was fun and the actual shake was really good. It felt more like a mining expedition than a taste journey, though. First you had to deal with the cotton candy, then you had to navigate the cream ‘n’ sprinkle outer rim (getting sprinkles ALL over yourself). After that you had to break through the blueberry pie layer, until finally you were able to unlock the murky blue shake core. It was tasty, but it was also a chore. 7.1/10

 

Cookie Dough Me Deep Fried Peanut Butter Cup. Cookie Dough Me's set-up is impressively locked down. They've already got piles of deep fried things — Oreos, cookie dough bits, peanut butter cups — on the ready in hot trays, looking to all the world like a series of trays of Chinese chicken balls. Except, instead of micro-squares of chicken surrounded by tasty batter, these have chocolate goodness. The peanut butter cup was surprisingly delicate, all things considered. Though it's butter cuppiness did get diminished somewhat by the deep frying. 7/10

Cookie Dough Me Deep Fried Peanut Butter Cup. Cookie Dough Me’s set-up is impressively locked down. They’ve already got piles of deep fried things — Oreos, cookie dough bits, peanut butter cups — on the ready in hot trays, looking to all the world like a series of trays of Chinese chicken balls. Except, instead of micro-squares of chicken surrounded by tasty batter, these have chocolate goodness. The peanut butter cup was surprisingly delicate, all things considered. Its butter cuppiness did, however, get diminished somewhat by the deep frying. 7/10

 

Bug Bistro Bug Dog. An all-beef frank blended with cricket protein and covered in Red Hot, lime slaw and mustard-roasted crickets. Before I started I picked off the roasted crickets that were the most "leggy." I'd heard that the legs got caught in your teeth and that was the level of gross I wasn't prepared to deal with. The hot dog itself was a bit greasy, but I couldn't tell whether that was the result of reckless prep or the dog being greasy. And with the sly trick of putting crunchy coleslaw on the dog along with the roasted crickets it completely disguises any textural creep outs you might get from eating bugs. Basically, the hot dog tasted like a hot dog. And if you gave it to someone at a barbecue without it being covered in roasted crickets they'd probably have no idea they were eating a part-beef, part-bug protein wiener. 7/10

Bug Bistro Bug Dog. An all-beef frank blended with cricket protein and covered in Red Hot, lime slaw and mustard-roasted crickets. Before I started I picked off the roasted crickets that were the most “leggy.” I’d heard that the legs get caught in your teeth and that was the level of gross I wasn’t prepared to deal with. The hot dog itself was a bit greasy, but I couldn’t tell whether that was the result of reckless prep or the dog being greasy. And with the sly trick of putting crunchy coleslaw on the dog along with the roasted crickets it completely disguises any textural creep outs you might get from eating bugs. Basically, the hot dog tasted like a hot dog. And if you gave it to someone at a barbecue without it being covered in roasted crickets they’d probably have no idea they were eating a part-beef, part-bug protein wiener. 7/10

Additional reading:
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.

Bug Dog bitches! #CNE #lunch #kaleandcricketswillfeedusafterthefoodwars

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12 Things We Learned At Psycho Fest Las Vegas

Things got intergalactic when Oresund Space Collective performed.

Things got intergalactic when Oresund Space Collective performed.

Last week Team Risky Fuel went on an adventure to Las Vegas to attend the mindbending stoner rock festival Psycho Fest, being held at the Hard Rock Casino.

We watched four days of doom-y and psych-y rock, executed a few Vegas lifehacks and took in the following bands:

Thursday, August 25
Mothership @ Paradise Pool
Mac Sabbath @ Paradise Pool
Mudhoney @ Paradise Pool

Friday, August 26
Black Heart Procession @ The Joint
Yob @ The Joint
Wovenhand @ The Joint
Down @ The Joint
Beelzefuzz @ Vinyl
Drive Like Jehu @ The Joint
Brian Posehn @ The Joint
The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown @ The Joint

Saturday, August 27
Has A Shadow @ Vinyl
The Budos Band @ The Joint
A Place To Bury Strangers @ The Joint
Beezlebong @ Vinyl
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats @ The Joint
Blue Oyster Cult @ The Joint

Sunday, August 28
Oresund Space Collective @ Vinyl
Truth And Janey @ The Joint
Danava @ The Joint
Hornss @ Vinyl
Fu Manchu @ The Joint
Candlemass @ The Joint
Fireball Ministry @ Paradise Pool
Tales Of Murder & Dust @ Paradise Pool
Alice Cooper @ The Joint

I wrote about our travels for AUX TV. To read about all the best and/or weirdest bits (Mac Sabbath, the Black Sabbath McDonald’s-themed parody band!) in handy itemized list form, click here.

Arthur Brown performs “Fire”

#ArthurBrown #fire #burn

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Things I Ate At The C.N.E. In 2014

Coco's Fried Chicken. CNE 2014

Coco’s Fried Chicken. CNE 2014

Having recently completed my fifth annual tour of the Canadian National Exhibition‘s weird fair food offerings I can say with a certain amount of humility that this one nearly broke me.

For the first time ever I went to the Ex on three separate occasions. And though each time was during the “after 5 p.m.” weekday special — so I wasn’t there for a full day — these three trips came on three consecutive days. And as shocking as it may seem, three straight days of eating carnie stunt food tends to cause a certain amount of physiological rebellion within the human body.

To find out how this all turned out, read below…

First wave attack, Tuesday, August 26

Quench Lemonade. CNE 2014

Quench Lemonade. I started out with a fountain lemonade (part of my ongoing Ex campaign to not drink pop). It was fine, standard lemonade with maybe 20% too much sugar. The mushed lemon half thrown in certainly added a nice touch. 5.7/10

Just Cone It, Olympus Cone. CNE 2014

Just Cone It’s Olympus Cone. As a sucker for all forms of Greek food and as someone who decided he wanted to avoid the Bacon Nutella Pizza Cone, I went with the Olympus — a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, feta and olives — instead. Problem number one was that before I took a bite the biggest piece of feta fell off the top of the cone on to the ground. Burn. Then, when actually eating the thing the watery juices spilled on my hands. On top of that the cukes tasted old and gross. 4.9/10

Orange Sorbet. CNE 2014

Orange Sorbet. This was Sarah’s. I helped finish it off. Classic orange sorbet. 6.5/10

Note: This Sorbet came from Eative and their weird sci-fi dry ice gastro-something station. I didn’t get to see any of that stuff. I just ate the leavins. (Thanks, Tara.)

Water Bottle Refill Station. CNE 2014

Water Bottle Refill Station. One of the great new institutions at the Ex is the prominent water bottle refill station right beside the eastern entrance of the Food Building. We actually refilled the lemonade cup multiple times to create lemon-bammed water. 8/10

Miami Ice's Monkey Junk. CNE 2014

Miami Ice’s Monkey Junk. Being a little naive to wordplay sometimes, when I bought this I failed to realize that “Monkey Junk” meant “frozen banana smoothie popsicle.” Is that racist? Or has everything-is-racist sensitivity made me incapable of seeing it simply as “monkeys like bananas, this has bananas, therefore we’ll call it ‘Monkey Junk’?” Either way, by the time I got to the melty end of this it was kinda awful. 4.8/10

Fran's Thanksgiving Turkey Waffle. CNE 2014

Fran’s Thanksgiving Turkey Waffle. Fran’s first year at the Ex was impressive. For stunt food the Thanksgiving turkey waffle was a solid meal. The portion size was huge and the service at the Fran’s booth was beautiful in its ruthless efficiency. About the only thing wrong with this meal — which was basically an open-face turkey sandwich with waffle instead of bread — was the cranberries. Nobody actually likes cranberries. They should die. 7.8/10

Second wave, Wednesday, August 27. One of my main goals on this night was to check out classic Can-Rockers April Wine. This cut into my eating time…

Reese Flurry. CNE 2014

Reese Flurry. I’ve always loved soft serve ice cream and this was no different. That said, by the time you get to the bottom of this the remaining Reese’s Pieces are reasonably frozen and therefore not much fun to chew/bite. 6.8/10

Miller Genuine Draft. CNE 2014.

Miller Genuine Draft. I had two of these. They were normal beers from the Big Beer Industrial Complex. 6.2/10

Iron Skillet Sirloin Tips. CNE 2014

Iron Skillet Sirloin Tips and Garlic Mash Potatoes. These were very hit-the-spot tasty bits of steak ‘n’ potato. The best part being that the Iron Skillet folks weren’t scare of seasoning, which is a risk at some of these food stalls during the Ex. 7.9/10

El Gordo from Chunky Cheese Gourmet Grilled Cheese. CNE 2014

El Gordo from Chunky Cheese Gourmet Grilled Cheese. Featuring Monterey Jack, sundried tomatoes, chicken breast pieces, salsa, chipotle spread and jalapeno peppers, this was one totally alright sandwich. It’s relative quality was a good salve because they also sold something called the Elvis sandwich — an abomination featuring peanut butter, cheese, bananas and some other crap — which I couldn’t bring myself to try. 7.5/10

Hula Girl Expresso's Crobar. CNE 2014

Hula Girl Expresso’s Crobar. This was the croissant/chocolate bar hybrid that was one of this year’s alpha stunt foods. I’d consider it more “turnover” and less “croissant,” and there was nothing approaching the volume of a full chocolate bar in there (it was more like three squares of a Caramilk bar), but it was still quite tasty. 7.2/10

I wanted to try the Deep Fried Cheesecake, but it was sold out. So then I tried to get a Deep Fried Cola and that was sold out, too. Left with little else on the novelty food spectrum I went with…

Bacon Nation Sundae. CNE 2014

Bacon Nation Sundae. This is a normal soft serve ice cream sundae with caramel and chocolate. Except the bottom of the cup is filled with bacon bits and the garnish is two slices of bacon. The bacon slices weren’t so odd. After all, if you order something like a Grand Slam breakfast there’s often some collateral pancake syrup-to-bacon damage on those plates. But the bacon bits, man, that was… wrong. By the bottom of the cup it was just chocolate syrup and bacon bits in an unholy and inedible combination of the sort that’d make drinking fracking detritus seem relatively desirable. 3/10

Third wave, Thursday, August 28. Finally, on the third day I spotted a modest lineup for this year’s alpha food event, Coco’s Fried Chicken…

Coco's Fried Chicken Honey Butter Buttermilk Biscuit. CNE 2014

Coco’s Fried Chicken Buttermilk Biscuits With Whipped Honey Butter. Not bad. Not Popeye’s. 6.8/10

Coco's Fried Chicken Cocoa Chicken. CNE 2014

Coco’s Fried Chicken Cocoa Chicken. Chocolate chicken? What the fuck? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but it basically tastes like normal fried chicken. With maybe a bit of cumin. There was nary a hint of chocolate beyond the appearance. Sidenote: The fries were really good… Coco’s has their fry game down. Sidenote #2: Do NOT get the “chocolate ketchup” dipping sauce. Imagine licking the toilets on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship… that’s what it tasted like.  Chicken 7.5/10, Fries 7.8/10, Chocolate Ketchup 1.2/10

Wild Child Kitchen's Booster Juice. CNE 2014

Wild Child Kitchen’s Booster Juice. Having been thumped by the massive Cacao Chicken I needed a pick-me-up and for this I went to the hippies at Wild Child. I got something good from them last year so this year I decided to try the Booster Juice — beets, apples, carrots, ginger, lemon. The look of the Booster is great. Think “what True Blood prop juice must be made of,” but the actual drinking of the Booster? Let’s just say there’s such a thing as too much beet. And however much beet was in this drink was exactly too much beet. The slurry at the end of this — a combo of beet pulp and ginger — was undrinkable. 4/10

Special mention. The exact time required for the Wild Child Booster Juice to make its way through the entire human body is four hours. And when it does leave the human body it does so in spectacular, porcelain-staining, technicolour fashion.

Cherry Slushy. CNE 2014

Cherry Slushy. I got this to slink back into my comfort zone after the trauma of the Booster Juice. 5.9/10

My desire to try the churros was 100 per cent influenced by Clone High

I Love Churros' Chocolate Churros. CNE 2014

I Love Churros’ Chocolate Churros. A Spanish alternative to the classic sugar doughnut, these churros started out amazing. They were straight out of the deep fryer and their texture — a crispy, sugar-sprinkled exterior combined with a slightly doughy interior — made for magical mouthpleasures. Until I got to the bottom of the first one, that is. The chocolate syrup that had been pumped into the center of the churro had pooled at the bottom and become super-heated. So when I bit into it I got a gusher of scalding chocolate syrup in my mouth, essentially burning my tongue to the point where today I taste nothing. Also, after finishing these I almost randomly barfed without any notice or provocation. I blame that on the cumulative effects of the three days, not on the churros, though. 6/10

Additional reading:

Things I ate at the CNE in 2016. Bug Bistro’s Bug Dog and Fran’s Blueberry Milkshake with a slice of real blueberry pie.

Things I ate at the CNE in 2015. Including Frosted Flakes Chicken On A Stick and The S&M Burger.

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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Filed under Food, Recollections, The Misadventures Of

Things I Ate At The C.N.E. In 2013

There was no Cronut Burger for me.

There was no Cronut Burger for me.

Yesterday I properly completed my annual pilgrimage to the Canadian National Exhibition to eat bizarre fair foods. Once again it was a full-on adventure.

The marquee attraction this year was Epic Burger’s “Cronut Burger,” a hamburger made from a bun fused from croissant and donut, all with a maple bacon jam atop it. Alas, said maple bacon jam made 223 people ill  from Staphylococcus aureus toxin a week earlier and when I went to buy one yesterday it had understandably been banned from sale.

Of note, I was this close to purchasing a Cronut Burger on the day it poisoned everyone into barfing uncontrollably and shitting their pants. That was the same night as the Jane’s Addiction/Alice In Chains concert and as I passed through the Ex to go to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre for the show I stopped in the Food Building for dinner. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the lineup for the Cronut Burger was too long so I had Jalapeno Poppers somewhere else instead.

I did, however, make up for it by eating some other horrible things which I have photographed and rated below for your vicarious thrills.

Check them out:

Nutella Sweet Potato Fries

Nutella Sweet Potato Fries. For deep fryer food these fries were pretty much perfectly done. There was too much Nutella, though, and I’m convinced this put me into a mild diabetic coma for the next three hours. 6/10

Fountain Cola

Fountain Cola. The tyranny of Coca-Cola products continues at the Ex. (Try to find a healthy drink. I challenge you.) So we gave in and got that fountain machine refill deal again. First blast was root beer with vanilla. It was ok. 5/10

Breakfast Dog

Breakfast Dog. A hot dog with scrambled egg on it, wrapped in chicken bacon. I’m a bit of fastidious eater, so when food is messy I consider it an insult. For this meal three separate chunks of egg had landed on my shirt before I had even taken a bite. That, and the chicken bacon was gross. 3.3/10

Nutella Jalapeno Poppers

Nutella Jalapeno Poppers. This was one of things I had on the escape-the-Cronut night. The Poppers were standard pub fare, but well done, and the Nutella was more discreetly layered this time. 5. 7/10

Wild Child Kitchen's Wild Cacao Smoothie

Wild Child Kitchen’s Wild Cacao Smoothie. When I was in my diabetic coma I declared we needed a healthy drink. After hunting for ages we found the Wild Child Kitchen, which served up juices, smoothies and vegan dishes. This was Sarah’s drink and it was bammed up with cacao. Too much I’d say. 5.8/10

Wild Child Kitchen's juice

Wild Child Kitchen’s juice. I had a watermelon/cuccumber/lemon juice thing and it was hella good. Also, as a cost-to-labor ratio, the gals at Wild Child were super-busting their asses to make our drinks compared to the efforts of other vendors. 7.3/10

Corn Dog and Ice Tea

Corn Dog and Ice Tea. This was also from Cronut night. Standard Corn Dog… 6/10. Fountain ice tea… 4/10.

Mongolian Beef Flatbread

Mongolian Beef Flatbread. The thing about white people is they’re scared of that thar foreigner food. Like beef, carrots, bean sprouts and onions in gravy on bread. There was no lineup for this Mongolian place and it was great. 7/10

Smore Dog

S’more Dog. A chicken wiener dipped in chocolate with graham cracker bits and marshmallows on it. This was wrong. It wasn’t as fundamentally horrible as the Chocolate Eclair Dog I ate last year, it just made no sense. And it was messy. It WAS a conversation piece, though. Multiple people came up and talked to me while I was eating it. 2.3/10

Additional reading:

Things I ate at the CNE in 2016. Bug Bistro’s Bug Dog and Fran’s Blueberry Milkshake with a slice of real blueberry pie.

Things I ate at the CNE in 2015. Including Frosted Flakes Chicken On A Stick and The S&M Burger.

Things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2014. Including Cocoa Chicken and the Thanksgiving Turkey Waffle.

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. I

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Filed under Food, Recollections, The Misadventures Of

Wilderbeat Revisited: Brian Jonestown Massacre In The Bush During The Great Blackout Of 2003

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Brian Jonestown Massacre

It’s been a full decade since North America’s entire eastern seaboard was plunged into a multi-day blackout (which I remain convinced was a massive anti-terrorism fire drill). I spent that weekend camping out at an ill-fated mod rock festival called Wilderbeat. Here’s what I wrote in the aftermath:

Amidst the blackout chaos, low attendance and some devious local politicking working against them, organizers of the Wilderbeat mod/garage/psych festival definitely learned about bad luck the hard way.

The Brit-pop kids of Toronto’s Blow Up scene are generally too precious by half, so asking them to rough it in the wilderness for three days to hear bands they’ve barely heard of was a dicey proposition from the start. But throw in one of the biggest power outages in North America’s history and it made for a lot of no-show campers. Probably more damaging to the fest though was its location — the Country Camping grounds in Port Burwell. Calling itself “Ontario’s #1 party campsite,” the operators of the site apparently had a change of heart about that claim over the weekend. Citing a combination of blackouts, police warnings, noise complaints and some new local by-laws that had been passed, the DJs and bands set to perform during the late-night portions of the weekend were all forbidden to play.

All of which made for a fittingly fractured climax with the performance of California rockers the Brian Jonestown Massacre. See, despite everything Wilderbeat was up against, the bands that were scheduled to perform during the day Saturday dutifully came, played and did their job.

The Candidates have shown vast improvement over the last year or so. The Gruesomes were still a dose of entertaining nostalgia. And The High Dials potent set was more proof that they’re poised for bigger and better things. Despite the campsite security guards trying to enforce a “skinny-dipping only after dark ” policy in the campground pool and a DJ roster met with total indifference, the bands played. That is, until they got to the headliners BJM. Fronted by the always enigmatic Anton Newcombe, BJM set themselves up on the main stage at just about midnight on Saturday night. Things looked promising… and then before a note was even played, the plug was pulled.

All the power to the stage — the lights, everything — was gone. This, of course, cued up a spectacular rant from Newcombe. Standing at the side of the stage, he railed against the campground owners, calling them “hippie fuckers” and accusing them of trying to rip off the people. Somewhere in this tirade were also rants about the devil being at work here and a tantrum where Anton galloped through the pool/lounge area of the grounds while other BJM members took solace kicking a nearby inflatable palm tree.

In short, it was a total bummer scene. With angry folks milling about and clearly no BJM performance forthcoming, it was time to retire to our campsite deep in the nearby woods to salvage out of the evening what partying we could. It seemed like a lame way to end the weekend, but then around 2 a.m. a couple of well-informed stumble-drunks rushed into our site with exciting news.

“BJM are playing again!”

“They’ve got some crazy set-up at the movie area. They’re going on soon!”

See, deep in the heart of the campsite, the Wilderbeat folks had set up a giant outdoor whitescreen and had been running reels of classic mod movies. BJM, being industrious sorts, took over the movie area; they were going to perform after all. Just that instant of anticipation, the realization of what was about to happen, was an adrenalized buzz. BJM were subverting the system. And fuck everyone, they were going to play.

When we got to the movie area BJM were all set up. The entire band was crammed onto two pieces of plywood to signify the “stage.” A crude PA system had been set up and best of all, with no proper mic stand available, Anton’s vocal mic was set-up, bound via someone’s ratty bandana, to a wooden tiki-torch. And then they started to play. I’m not even sure what they started out with — I think it was “Servo.”

BJM-wilderbeat-bush-concert

But in the almost total darkness, with the sound crackling through the jury-rigged sound system, the hundred or so people who were still awake and aware of the show started howling. Wild, out of control and drunkenly swaying, this crowd was ready. What seemed like a massive letdown was about to turn into one of the most transcendental concerts BJM will ever play. Another song in and the crowd was lurching, right up on the edges of the plywood. The tiki-mic completely collapsed and Anton enlisted Robbie from The High Dials to hold the microphone for him.

Robbie’s job was simple, hold the mic for Anton to sing into while he played guitar. It just added another layer of chaos to the whole performance. And then, like a walking, unkempt buzzkill, the campground security showed up. Brazenly sauntering onto the stage and threatening Anton to stop, the music was temporarily halted. Somewhere during exchange, Newcombe told off the guard, yelled at one of the band members for being out of tune and was the beneficiary of the following chant from the crowd: “Angry mob! Angry mob! Angry mob!”

Security got the message and left.

Someone shouted “Just play!” and the band ripped into the song “Who.” Frenzied from all the drama, the savages in the audience brayed in a united, primitive chant. “Who!” then guitars, “Who!” guitars “Who!”

It was magical. Then the plug was pulled.

The security folks had found and cut the power to the movie area. The show was over. What could have been something incredible had been crushed underfoot. But everything wasn’t a total loss. For those few fleeting moments, rock ‘n’ roll had succeeded. And even though the first ever Wilderbeat Festival ended up being a near-complete fiasco, those few brilliant moments of howling at the moon will never be taken away from us.

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Filed under Concerts, Culture, Recollections, The Misadventures Of, Travel

Welland’s Got 99 Problems, But The Joys Its Local Paper Brings To My Heart Ain’t One

Frugal Friday

Frugal Friday

Growing up in the thriving mecca of Welland, Ontario was a fascinating and bizarre experience for me. It was basically like living in an industry and scenery-free Twin Peaks. (I can’t confirm that Welland has a Black Lodge, but I’m assuming that’s the case, given all of the melting grandmother mummies and other wild happenings that have happened there over the years.)

One of the most the most impressive and consistent bastions of Welland’s rather unique charm is the city’s paper, The Welland Tribune. I love The Trib. The paper does its best to cover local issues in the face of what I’m assuming is a tiny-even-by-abysmal-industry-standards budget. And they gave me my first taste of fame when one of their photographers picked me out of the crowd at a 1989 craft show and got me to pose with a bear (they also erroneously described me as a “lover of poetry” in a 1997 story, but I forgive them for that).

I also consider the paper a trailblazer, in a sense, because it eschewed that silly and overrated thing called copy editing long before the bigger and more reputable papers even considered outsourcing it.

This is why The Welland Tribune is often called The Welland Turbine by locals, and why spotting its bold typos and mistakes (and its utterly perplexing editorial choices in general) has become a rather popular hobby for the locals and the homesick.

Up until tonight, I considered the following some of The Turbine’s Greatest Hits:

  • Their intense coverage of Ontario’s controversial “Pit Pull Ban,” as the headline read
  • The time someone decided that “Leave The Roasting To Chestnuts” was the prefect headline for a story about children being burned in Christmas fires
  • This:

deathbycooking

But none of that compares to the amazing promotional email that my mother just received.

turbine

Here are two things I love about this message:

1. It’s addressed to my grandfather, who has been dead for nine years.

2.  Everything else.

So keep up the good word, Welland Turbine. Who needs an industry or a functional economy or any hope for the future when I have you?

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Filed under Recollections, The Misadventures Of