For those who aren’t the best at intuitive leaps, the headline “Things I Ate At The C.N.E. In 2020” is a lie. There was no Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto this year. It was waylaid, like pretty much every other good thing in the world, by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was, however, a Canadian National Exhibition in the hearts of the Risky Fuel staff. Or, more specifically, the gastrointestinal tracts.
Based on a low-key dare from Sarah, I decided to attempt a number of Ex-inspired near-stunt foods in the hopes of recreating the magic of eating weird shit while wandering through a giant parking lot and getting accosted by carnies.
The guidelines for this experiment were reasonably simple: All food experiments would take place over the Labour Day long weekend, just like the actual C.N.E., and the things I made would attempt to replicate, or be inspired by actual stunt foods at the The Ex.
Two other things:
1) There’d be nothing deep-fried because it would stink up our apartment too much.
And 2), we’d attempt to make items that didn’t actually suck.
We also contemplated walking around in the sun for three hours straight to replicate the C.N.E. sunstroke effect, but were ultimately too lazy to follow through on that.
Here, then, are the things I ate at the C.N.E. in 2020 (COVID National Exhibition Edition):
Pickle Lemonade. This was based on a real drink that was available at 2019 edition of the Ex and featured standard store-bought lemonade, two ounces of pickle juice and a couple cocktail pickles. Beyond being a touch weird on the palette, this mostly ended up tasting like regular lemonade. 5.7 / 10
Double Wiener Cheese Curd Pretzel Hot Dog. This was mostly about trying to create a double wiener double entendre (which mostly failed) and make use of a pretzel bun that was much larger than I thought it was when I first put my two hands around it in the grocery store. There was a lot of bun — probably too much — and I had difficulty fitting it all into my mouth. 5.8 / 10
Baked Apple Wedge Cheesecake Cheese Curd Crumble. This was a creation built mostly by alliteration featuring baked apple wedges, disassembled bits of a vanilla cheesecake scored at Metro and pieces of cheese curd. It was… surprisingly OK. The apples could have been baked a little more to make them more broken down, but as a trio, they were all complimentary-ish. 6.2 / 10
Bacon-Wrapped Veggie Corn Dog. This perversion was inspired by the butt-stupid 50-50 ground beef/veggie meat substitute packages that have been appearing in grocery stores. I took an Yves Veggie Corn Dog, wrapped it in bacon, then baked the shit out it until the bacon was properly cooked. The result? Kinda good. I get that this was a silly combination meant mostly to irritate people, but the Yves corn dogs are reasonably good, and bacon is usually good, so the combination of the two of them ended up reasonably solid. 7.3 / 10
Boston Cream Donut Milkshake. In a normal Ex year, we’d have one of Fran’s ever-evolving mega-milkshakes (see Fran’s Blueberry Pie Milkshake, Fran’s PB&J Milkshake), which are usually some combination of a normal milkshake + a baked good of some sort. Inspired by both these shakes and our number one discovery from last year, the Cheesecake Factory General Custard Sundae, we went in on the mega-shake mash-up. This shake contained well-blendered Breyer’s Cremery Style Natural Vanilla Ice Cream, CT Bakery Mini Boston Cream Donuts, 2% milk and a topper of Kraft Cool Whip and Selection Chocolaty Sundae Topping. What resulted was remarkably good. The secret bonus here was that the shake ended up having clumps of tasty Boston Cream gloops that would randomly pop into your mouth, creating a bonus experience that elevated it beyond a normal shake. 7.3 / 10
Brisket Sandwich. Every year at the CNE we usually break down and have at least a couple “normal”-type things. We had some leftover brisket, some coleslaw, some crusty buns and some gouda, so… Brisket Sandwich. Add some barbecue sauce to taste and the result was something altogether fine. 7.2 / 10
Peanut Butter Ice Cream Tortilla Wrap. Last year we got tricked by the garbage pail liner that was the Snickle Dog, a hot dog and pickle wrapped in a deep-fried tortilla and covered with chocolate syrup. I tried to break that curse with the Peanut Butter Ice Cream Tortilla Wrap, a combination of Irresistible Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Hershey Kiss Cereal snuggled in a tortilla and covered in chocolate syrup. This did not work. Hershey Kiss Cereal appears to be nonsense, and the flavour of the tortillas and the peanut butter ice cream were just not complimentary. 5.1 / 10
Pickle Pizza. Inspired by a real CNE food item, this was normal cheese pizza with pickle slices on top. It was also fundamentally unnecessary and I question the smarts of anyone who paid real money at the Exhibition to have one of these slices. 5.2 / 10
Portuguese Custard Tart Milkshake. This was meant to be the grande finale of Canadian National Exhibit-ish weekend, a fancy-ass milkshake inspired by the Cheesecake Factory Sundae from last year and build similarly to the Boston Cream Shake, except using a superior pastry, the Portuguese Custard Tart. It was, however, slightly less than the Boston Cream Shake. The main reason being that the custard gloops just didn’t magically gloop in one’s mouth the same way the Boston Cream did. I’m not saying it was bad. It was still a hella solid milkshake, but it fell just short of its cousin. 7.2 / 10
Things I ate at the CNE in 2019. Including the Snickle Dog and the Cheesecake Factory General Custard Sundae.
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.