Every year, the CNE takes over the Exhibition Grounds and the city swarms. Even if you’re a total cynic (read: killjoy), you probably have at least one Ex story that can’t help but make you smile, unless maybe you were one of the hundreds of poor souls that tried the Cronut in 2013. The 137th instalment of the Canadian National Exhibition opens this Friday bright and early at 10 a.mm—when we stopped by, things were still somewhat under construction, but there was already excitement in the air.
New this year, they’re bringing the XPogo stunt team (yup, people on pogo sticks), the West Coast Lumberjack Show (strong lumberjacks performing lumberjack-y feats such as axe throwing, pole climbing and chainsaw carving), and parkour demonstrations featuring Toronto’s own Monkey Vault Training Movement Centre. There’ll also be concerts from artists such as Tokyo Police Club, Dallas Smith, and Rick Springfield (all free with admission), aerial acrobats and ice skating, and, perhaps most importantly, the SuperDogs are back with a pup-tastic new show. The Food Truck Frenzy—which is, indeed, a frenzy—returns this year from August 28-August 30 with 23 Toronto vendors, and for those who do better with a craft brewski in hand, they’ll also have 11 regional master craft brewers on hand.
But what everyone really cares about is the food. And by “care about,” we mean approach with a sort of gulping-with-trepidation, gripping-your-heart-meds, antacids-on-hand giddiness. And this year, the CNE won’t disappoint.
First of all, don’t worry—the 75-year-old Ice Cream Waffle isn’t going anywhere. Many vendors seen in previous years will return, but some are debuting new CNE-only creations. Here are just some of the highlights from this year’s CNE food line-up.
Fran’s Restaurant is back for their second year with several carnival-appropriate dishes. There’s the Deep Fried Rice Pudding, the Chicken Waffles & Ice Cream, and the “I just got friggin’ punched in the face by sweet and I need a second” Coffee & Donuts Milkshake.
Tim Horton’s will be showcasing Timbits poutine–that’s Timbits drizzled with sugar-high-guaranteeing toppings. The Cinnamon French Toast was especially tasty.
Because you have a lot of ground to cover and don’t have time for a knife-and-fork white napkin picnic, Pickle Pete’s is bringing Deep Fried Cheesecake. It’s all about ease of movement, people.
Poutine Balls. We repeat: Poutine Balls. Delicious, and a bit redundant, this offering from Vienna sees deep fried balls (technically oblong, but that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue) containing mashed potatoes, cheese curds, and bread crumbs covered in Bavarian-style gravy and yes, more cheese curds. You can add some red pepper or parsley to them for a bit of colour, and while salty, flavourful and assuredly not good for you, these are portable, easily edible, and surprisingly balanced.
The S&M burger from Corrado’s Authentic Italian prompted us to raise our eyebrows. We were quickly assured that it refers to Spaghetti and Meatballs, and that any naughty interpretations were our own doing—fair enough. A garlic bread-style bun barely contains the meatball and deep fried spaghetti patties and generous heap of tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. You can Kinky-fy your burger with Jalapenos or if you’re feeling Triple X, go for the scotch bonnet peppers, but just make sure you know your safe word.
Bub’s Bad@ss Burgers’ Bad Boy burger marries two foods that are pretty excellent on their own—a Jamaican beef patty and a burger. Opt for the Bad Boy (honey garlic fried chicken with wasabi cucumber, sriracha and hickory sticks) or the Sumo (wasabi mayo, chow mein noodles and two beef patties on a sesame bun).
Perhaps the most picturesque of all these offerings, and frustratingly the one not on offer for tastings, were the Garlic Snow Crab Fries from Jake’s Lobster. Parsley and dill sprinkled over fresh snow crab and seasoned fries, served with garlic aioli—is it Friday yet?
Bacon wrapped grilled cheese. Four words that are so incredibly evocative, but just in case you can’t quite picture it, it’s a grilled cheese sandwich filled with mozzarella and cheddar which is then blanketed in bacon. This rich concoction comes to us courtesy of, quite fittingly, Bacon Nation. Bacon.
This one is confusing: Hula Girl Espresso’s Cold Brew Coffee Tonic. It can best be summed up as carbonated coffee, and they might be on to something here. It doesn’t quite taste like coffee, and doesn’t quite deliver the fizz of a pop, but is utterly refreshing. Keep your energy levels up with SCIENCE.
What are you most excited to try at this year’s CNE? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.