Tag Archives: Canadian National Exhibition

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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Filed under Food, Recollections

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.

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Filed under Food, The Misadventures Of

Things I Ate At The C.N.E. In 2015

CNE food 2015

CNE food 2015

Summer’s almost gone and that means one thing — the Canadian National Exhibition has started in Toronto.

All those discount merchandisers and over-the-hill musical acts are fine, but the real draw in Risky Fuel quarters are the many, many, many weird, wild and wonderful food vendors displaying their wares in the Food Building and in the C.N.E.’s midway.

Once again we tackled some of the most peculiar foods the Ex had on offer, experiencing Jamaican beef patties as a hamburger bun substitutes, the combination of chicken and Frosted Flakes and a whole lot more.

Read below to find out what our eating adventures were like…

Round one, August 21

Bub's Burger's Bad Boy. Spicy cheese, beef burger patty, honey garlic fried chicken filet, pepperjack cheese, wasabi cucumber, hickory stix, tomato sriracha mayo and buttermilk coleslaw all between two Jamaican beef patties.

Bub’s Burger’s Bad Boy. This is this year’s alpha stunt food — spicy cheese beef burger patty, honey garlic fried chicken filet, pepperjack cheese, wasabi cucumber, hickory sticks, tomato sriracha mayo and buttermilk coleslaw all between two Jamaican beef patties instead of traditional burger buns. For such an obvious monstrosity it’s actually… not bad. The honey garlic adds a nice tang, the chicken’s done right and the hickory sticks are a fun dining surprise. What’s wrong with the whole package, however, is its complete, utter and total disregard for structural integrity. There’s a reason why there’s a giant spear through the whole burger, after all. And as anyone who’s read my past CNE reports knows, structural integrity is a big deal. Because without it you end up with mess. And mess means my hands get dirty. And when my hands get dirty with food I get a little bit insane. Which happened as I paced through the Ex midway holding both my hands in the air desperate to find a washroom in which to wash them. 7.1/10

Chicken Waffle On A Stick

Chicken Waffle On A Stick. Dry chicken surrounded by a coating of what seemed similar to the batter used in making fortune cookies. The sauce options — hot sauce, table syrup, and something I can’t remember — were not excellent, so I chose the syrup. I chose wrong. This was an entirely unpleasant food experience. 4.6/10

Deep Fried Red Velvet Oreos

Deep Fried Red Velvet Oreos. Another of the marquee stunt foods this year, some stall in the Food Building had the smart idea to batter Oreos in a red velvet style and sell less of them (three)  for more money than you can buy regular deep fried Oreos (five) at the stands in the midway. Taste-wise they were fine for deep fryer junk food, but I can’t in good conscience recommend them when there’s a virtually identical product with better value available 100 metres away. 6/10

Barq's Root Beer with Vanilla

Barq’s Root Beer with Vanilla. I’ve given up on trying to avoid the long tentacles of the Coca-Cola/CNE Industrial Complex and decided to embrace that funky machine they have that creates like a thousand different flavour combinations. I’ve had the root beer + vanilla before. 5/10

Pickle Pete's Deep Fried Cheesecake

Pickle Pete’s Deep Fried Cheesecake. Another of the dazzler new food entries this year, the deep fried cheesecake combined two of my favourite things: 1) cheesecake, and 2) deep fried-ness. The result was something firmly on the tasty side of things, where the result ends up being vaguely cannoli-ish. It’s solidly good and as a midway deep fry vendor Pickle Pete’s is on point. 7.3/10

Pickle Pete's Deep Fried Green Beans

Pickle Pete’s Deep Fried Green Beans. Green beans are already right up there on the tasty vegetable scale, but batter and deep frying them then serving them with a chipotle mayo concoction bams them up even higher. These were solidly alright and if I was given the option of “deep fried green beans” or “french fries” as my side at a restaurant, I’d very likely take the beans. There was, however, one hitch to eating these: I had them immediately after eating the deep fried cheesecake, which was a very unfair thing to do to my tastebuds. 6.3/10

Round two, August 25

99 Cent Spaghetti

99 Cent Spaghetti. SWERVE! Just when you thought I was only all about the hyper-new stunt foods I go and try the 99 cent spaghetti from the classic 99 Cent Primo Spaghetti booth. It was my first time ever trying the buck-for-pasta deal (thoroughly acceptable for what it was, btw) and what I found most fascinating was the genius way the booth operates. Sure, you can get spaghetti for 99 cents, but Parmesan cheese is an extra 75 cents, meatballs $1.75, and if you don’t want the small cup of ‘getti, upsizing is $1.89. And when you see other people getting those things you want them, too. It’s classic get them through the door, then get them with the extras. I did not upsize, though, because I am, at my core, a frugal person. 5.5/10

Bentley's Deep Fried Poutine Balls

Bentley’s Deep Fried Poutine Balls. Now this is a brilliant idea. Encase a cheese curd in a ball of mashed potato, deep fry said potato curd ball, then slather with gravy and more cheese curd. It’s a totally effective twist on what’s already one of the greatest foods in the known universe. 6.8/10

Corrado's S&M Burger

Corrado’s S&M Burger. Another one of the marquee stunt foods this year, this one’s a meatball burger on a toasted garlic bun with spicy Havarti cheese, a deep-fried spaghetti patty, hot peppers and tomato sauce. The novelty to this whole thing is the deep-fried spaghetti patty. Its gimmick is the reason why they can charge $14 for the very coyly named S&M burger, but it’s also the most superfluous, useless item on the sandwich, a tasteless lump of… whatever. Compounding my irritation with the S&M was the messy food adventure I had with this one. See, I *knew* this was going to be a super-messy food, and not wanting to have a repeat of the Bad Boy burger episode, I had the server pre-cut the sandwich in half on top of giving me an empty french fry container and utensils. I figured after unpacking and taking a photo of the S&M I’d just transfer it from its packaging into the fry receptacle and knife ‘n’ fork it. Right at the moment I was about to do this, like a message sent straight from the food gods, a brisk wind promptly blew my fry container (and the utensils I had resting in it) off the table into a puddle-y refuse pile. I was left with no defense from the finger-staining, tectonic instability of this mutant. It was not pleasant. Save yourself the stunt and go for the straight meatball sandwich. 5.9/10

Frosted Flakes Chicken On A Stick

Iron Skillet’s Frosted Flakes Chicken On A Stick. Holy shit was this ever grrrrreeaat. You wouldn’t think a gimmick like a Frosted Flakes batter on chicken pieces, on a stick would work so well, but it did. The Flakes added both a textural crunch and just the right level of sweet and the chicken chunks themselves were juicy and delicious. It was basically like eating a radically bammed up souvlaki skewer where Popeye’s chicken engineers have figure out how to capture Tony the Tiger’s soul. 8/10

Fran's PB&J Milkshake

Fran’s PB&J Milkshake. Fran’s CNE food game has been tight since they took over a booth at the Ex for the first time last year. The latest in a series of new items for this year is the PB+J milkshake. I had my doubts — PB&J is more of a Sarah thing — but I was a quick convert one sip in. The consistency is right, the flavour is right and the whole package, complete with its whip cream topping and strawberry syrup drizzle, works very well. 7.4/10

Canada Dry Ginger Ale with Lime

Canada Dry Ginger Ale with Lime. Most of the time when we try this machine whatever the main pop is, that’s what it tastes like. So if you order root beer with a splash of vanilla it’s pretty much root beer. And if you get any does of vanilla in there it’s bonus. That’s not how things went when we decided to lime up some ginger ale. You could taste the lime. And if that’s what you were hoping for out of the experience, well, small victory then. 5.3/10

Round three, September 3
* I made an impromptu third visit to the Ex with this friends this day and (full confession) kinda sampled bits of their food as a cheat, including another pass at the still-awesome Fran’s Thanksgiving Turkey Waffle. Here are the new things I tackled:

Swiss Waffle's & Crepes' Strawberries and Soft Serve On A Deep Fried Waffle.

Swiss Waffle’s & Crepes’ Strawberries and Soft Serve On A Deep Fried Waffle. Yet another of these classic Ex treats, the Swiss Waffle people proudly state they’ve been around since 1968. This, the deep fried waffle-y cruller thing with soft serve vanilla ice cream and strawberries, was simple in its elegance, but also way awesome. At under $5 it also represents a solid value as far as midway treats go. 7/10

Far East Taco's Smore Bao.

Far East Taco’s Smore Bao. Marshmallow, hazelnut, chocolate, Graham cracker crumbs, sweet milk cream. This tastes *exactly* like a Wagon Wheel. 6.1/10

Just Cone It Grilled Chicken Cone.

Just Cone It Grilled Chicken Cone. Chicken, red peppers, onions and cheese. This was very similar to the pizza cones of the Mad Italian (do a Risky Fuel search) and indeed it might even be the same people. This specific cone, however, lacked anything… special. No sauce, no seasoning, nothing to elevate it beyond, “Hey, it’s stuff in a doughy cone.” Which is low novelty in a food building full of stunt edibles. 5.5/10

Fran's Deep Fried Rice Pudding Balls.

Fran’s Deep Fried Rice Pudding Balls. I stole one of these babies from my friend BlanchBot. Having no interest in rice pudding in general, I had low expectations for what deep frying said pudding might do to improve things. And yet, it did. By ballifying the pudding it adds a welcome new textural layer to the whole experience. Throwing in a lemon custard dip also bams things up a notch. Improbably, this one’s a winner. 6.8/10

Fanta Orange Soda.

Fanta Orange Soda. Because I have nostalgic association with the “Fanta” brand. 5/10

 

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 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 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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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