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
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.