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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 2012

Butter Rob Ford

Rob Ford in his natural element – butter. I didn’t eat this.

Each year I go down to the Canadian National Exhibition and try out an assortment of the bizarre and gimmicky foods they have there. In 2010 it was stuff like Deep Fried Butter and Taco In A Bag, and in 2011 it was things like Deep Fried Pickle and a hamburger made using Krispy Kreme doughnuts as buns.

Once again, this year yielded some fascinating and gruesome taste sensations — including the worst thing I’ve encounter in the three years of tracking this stuff.

Scroll down to see what I consumed:

The first stop was to the Coke booth to purchase a refillable cup and then partake of the magic flavour fountain pop selector machine they have. Basically, it’s like when you’re a kid and you try mixing a million flavours of pop together all at once. First you pick your drink base (choices seen below), then you’re sent to another screen where you can add flavour shots like vanilla, cherry and peach, then the machine fills your cup with the chosen concoction.

Pop Fountain

The magic flavour spooger Coke product machine.

Vanilla & Cherry Coke

This would be our first concoction, Vanilla & Cherry Coke. I was a big fan of the now-disappeared Vanilla Coke so this was a happy return of sorts. Better than normal Coke, but still fountain pop. 6.6/10.

Mandoo Beef Dumplings

We were going to hit the crazy train early and start with Kimchi fries from Far East Taco, but because the Food Building was just opening they weren’t exactly on their game yet. The Mandoo Beef Dumplings were ready though, so we had those. Solid, simple dumplings, they didn’t suck — because dumplings rarely do — but they weren’t exactly a mouthsterpiece either. 7/10.

From here it was on to the big trendy food booth for this year — Bacon Nation — where everything they serve was wrapped in bacon. I decided to go big with one of the ridiculous signature sandwiches on the menu, the Nutella BBBLT. This sandwich is comprised of back bacon, the L&T, bacon, more bacon, and Nutella, all spread over toast. Or at least it was supposed to…

Bacon Nation Nutella BBBLT

The Bacon Nation Nutella BBBLT. As a BLT it solidly does its job. 7.5/10.

Notella BBBLT

Unfortunately, what I got was the Bacon Nation No-tella BBBLT. There was no Nutella. So I basically paid $12 for a novelty sandwich that didn’t have the key component of its novelty. This means this sandwich was actually a complete failure. 0/10.

Fried Egg Sandwich

Sarah then ordered a classic grilled cheese from the Mac ‘N’ Cheesery (sic?) with a fried egg in it. I think she liked it. I had some of her chips — Miss Vickie’s regular (5.5/10) and pickle chunk (5.6/10).

By this time we were had pretty much finished our first wave of the Food Building, which we topped off with another round of pop.

Barq's Vanilla Rootbeer

Pop round two was Barq’s Vanilla Root Beer. This was a totally acceptable choice, though the vanilla flavour was a little on the subtle side. 6.4./10.

From there we wandered around the Ex shopping area. I bought a cowboy hat and almost bought some Russian military hats, then it was on to more food.
Rasberry Coke

Rasberry Coke. This was not a good idea. 3/10.

Greek Cheese Pie

This here is the Greek Cheese Pie from one of those independent booths that only lasts one year. It was basically a baked pita with olive oil on it and wee chunks of cheese. Underwhelming, if that’s a word. 5/10

Sesame Zaatar With Cheese Pie

Sesame Zaatar With Cheese Pie. This was Sarah’s. She liked it, but there appeared to be none of the cheese we asked for. I tried it too. I thought it tasted like birdseed. 4.8/10.

From there we went and checked out the Farm building, mostly to get a photo of the Mayor Rob Ford butter sculpture (shown above). It’s pretty brilliant — him in his natural state and all. The Creature From The Black Lagoon sculpture was technically better, though.
Creature From The Black Lagoon

Creature From The Black Lagoon, sculpted out of butter.

We also went to the Arts & Crafts Building — a horrible, horrible exercise in dodging doddering olds, rubbernecking rubes, parents with mega strollers and those generally incapable of navigating crowds — to stock up on fudge.
Vanilla Fudge

Vanilla Fudge. Vanilla totally gets a bad rap just because it’s associated with white people. This shiz is tasty. 8.1/10.

M&M Fudge

M&M Fudge. This is one of Sarah’s favourites. 7.8/10.

Oh My Gosh Fudge

Oh My Gosh Fudge. I’m still trying to figure out what this is made of exactly, but I think it’s got marshmallows and caramel in it. Tasty, though. 8/10.

Red Velvet Fudge

Red Velvet Fudge. I’m still not entirely sold on this whole red velvet food colouring trend, but this was just under the straight vanilla for tastiness. 7.9/10.

Peach Sprite

Another round of pop. Peach Sprite. This was like licking the bottom of a fruit stand clean. The worst. 2/10.

Beer break! (And frozen margarita break. That was some strong tequila.)

Frozen Margarita and Creemore beer

Frozen Margarita and Creemore beer. They’ve got booze in ’em, right? Right. 10/10.

Our finite food limits were starting to be reached so we began planning our last eats. First up — something with actual vegetables in it.
Veggie Loaded Potato

This was a giant Veggie Loaded Potato from Baked ‘n’ Loaded, or Loaded and Baked, or Loaded Potatoface or whatever it was called. It was huge and featured broccoli, green beans, carrots and cheese jammed in the middle of a sea salt crusted baked potato. This was a welcome change from our non-stop sugar consumption and it was alright as far as vegetable slurry goes, too. 7.5/10.

Before we enter into the closing eats phase, I should probably cop to two of my great food pet peeves — food with poor structural integrity, and food that makes your hands messy. It’s my belief that if my food falls apart at any point, this represents a fundamental failure on the part of the person designing it. Likewise, if my hands get dirty eating something it’s the same thing. In a world were we can make watermelons that are square-shaped, we can make it so food doesn’t fall apart all over us, right? Or can we?
Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream On A Stick With Sprinkles

Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream On A Stick With Sprinkles. In theory, this should have been a tasty treat, but the hot chocolate dip make the ice cream melt too quickly and the result was a drippy, deteriorating mess made worse by the chunks of chocolate sprinkle randomly falling to the ground. And being the cheapskate I am, each chunk that fell I was going “That’s 72 cents… That’s 12 cents… That’s 23 cents…” What should have been gold, wasn’t. 6/10.

And then, the finale. I had seen this first thing in the morning and had been plagued with the thought of it all day — the Chocolate Eclair Hot Dog. I did not want to eat this. I knew it was going to be bad. But in the same way a fight gets declared in a schoolyard for after school I knew this was an inevitable tangle I was going to have to face. So just before we wrapped up our Ex visit for the day, I did…
Maple Lodge Chocolate Eclair Hot Dog

The Maple Lodge Chocolate Eclair Hot Dog was one of the worst things I have ever eaten. Things did not get off to a good start when the group of college bros in line before me ordered one, got their order and proceeded to conduct an elaborate photo shoot before attempting to eat it — they were doing it as a dare. It didn’t get any better after I ordered and the first thing the server did was hand me a half-dozen napkins. So I got my Eclair and quickly rushed out of the Food Building to near BMO Field where there’d be less people to see me eat this…
Exactly like the title suggests, this is a chocolate eclair with a hot dog in the middle. On their own they’re both fine foodstuff, but the combination of chicken wiener and whipped cream was not a good one. Worse though, was the mess. Falling, dripping globs of cream landed at your feet, soaked through the napkins onto your hands and generally created the tactile sensation that you were being covered in sticky-sweet hot dog water. With Sarah’s help we wolfed this down (she was actually turning away from people walking in the nearby thoroughfare because she didn’t want anyone seeing her attempting to eat this). It was, truly, a heroically awful food experience. 1.1/10.

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 2013. Including Nutella Jalapeno Poppers and the S’more Dog.

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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