We come face to face with the CNE's butteriest and batteriest culinary calamities.
Whenever you buy a ticket to the CNE, it’s a statement of fortitude. The fair grounds not only represent carefree summer fun, they’re also where today’s urbanites can test their grit. Kids compete in Zipper marathons until the first one yacks, or a boyfriend proves his merit with a stuffed animal won for his lady love. Even pets are pitted against each other, in judged gaming and grooming competitions.
But at today’s CNE, everyone knows the real place to gauge your gallantry, to really make your stomach flip in fear and/or excitement, isn’t on the midway. It’s in the food court.
We hate to admit it, but the PR machine behind the Ex’s culinary catastrophes is working. During our visit, the lineups for the Krispy Kreme Burger, Deep Fried Cola, and Deep Fried Butter almost rivaled those for the actual rides.
But enough talking. Now with the eating!
Deep-Fried Peanut Butter and Jam
Media Buzz: Low
Appearance: Three PB & J sandwich halves, dipped in batter and deep-fried on a stick, sprinkled with icing sugar, laid in a basket and accompanied by a piece of cantaloupe and pineapple (to make it healthy). It doesn’t look too off-putting—it reminds us of a Monte Cristo sandwich is all.
Going in: Our first meal, our hopes were high. What could go wrong?
Payoff: Less than thrilling. The peanut butter and jam ratio may have worked with plain bread, but the extra batter overwhelms the filling. The stick is an ineffective holding device. The fruit is actually surprisingly refreshing, though. We get all three servings down.
Media Buzz: Huge
Appearance: Dark brown and shiny worm-like pieces of batter, soft to the touch, piled in a biodegradable cup. It comes topped with cola syrup, more icing sugar, whipped cream, and two cherries.
Going in: Overwhelming curiosity, high levels of fear and anxiety. High risk for potentially high rewards.
Payoff: The cola flavour is subtle and slightly bitter, but the soggy texture of the batter makes the serving impossible to finish. One of the least messy items, but overall one of the least appetizing of the day. “It tastes like maybe I had a Coke an hour ago, and then ate a lot of deep-fried batter,” said our photographer. “I keep telling myself it’ll be worth it, but it’s not, ever.”
Media Buzz: Medium to low
Appearance: The fudge booth boasts a variety of tempting fudge flavours, like Maple Walnut, Birthday Cake, and Blueberries and Cream. Deep-fried versions only come in Maple, Vanilla, or Chocolate. They come on a stick (of course), and when they emerge from the deep-frier they’re rounder in shape and about the size of a baseball. The coating is crispy, and there is the obligatory sprinkling of icing sugar. A plastic cutlery pack with a knife, spoon, fork, and napkin (yay!) are provided, which is nice.
Going in: High expectations. And also relief that bikini season is just about over.
Payoff: This stuff is like a cakier, richer, heavier Beavertail. Not a bad thing at all if you have a sweet tooth and a few people to split it with. Still, we wish we’d had the fudge on its own.
The Krispy Kreme Burger
Media Buzz: Very, very high
Appearance: Vile. The doughnut bun is crushed flat, and its sugary glaze is shiny and clumpy from the heat. The burger patty itself is less offensive. A fried egg and bacon are optional. It also looks much smaller than you would expect, for an eight-dollar burger.
Going in: Trepidation high, morale low. Expecting very little enjoyment, possible artery damage. (One large bite is about 300 calories).
Payoff: First off, it’s a pain to eat. Fingers: sticky. Napkins: essential. Beard: UNFRIENDLY. We get the whole sweet and savory combo, but we’ll take chocolate-covered pretzels over this any day. If eaten alone, the patty is fine. The same does not go for the doughnut, it is ruined forever. In summation: this does not taste good.
Price: $9 (the priciest of the day)
Media Buzz: Medium to high
Appearance: A burger patty with lettuce and tomato, sandwiched by two white bread grilled cheeses.
Going in: Out of everything, this was the easiest for us to wrap our heads around.
Payoff: Once we pried our jaws open wide enough to get the sandwich in, we were pleasantly surprised (at least, in comparison with our earlier fare). Even the processed cheese was a relief. Finally, textures and tastes our bodies understood! Sadly, images of Alien-like creatures exploding from our bellies kept us from finishing the two burgers.
Media Buzz: High. These little guys were the star of the show last year.
Appearance: Four round batter balls resembling chicken balls—with sticks, of course. Each ball has its own flavour of drizzle: chocolate, vanilla, berry, and caramel. And powdered sugar, duh.
Going in: Who cares at this point? We’re about to eat battered butter, for crying out loud. Our stomachs are aching, our moods are foul, and patience is running thin after waiting in a line that must have been 100 feet long.
Payoff: The insides melted in the high heat of the oil, leaving nothing but buttery batter. Which actually wasn’t the worst thing we’d had.
Buzz: Medium, less of a novelty than the rest.
Appearance: A fatter-than-normal corn dog, drenched in chocolate sauce and covered in peanuts, on a stick. No powdered sugar, heyo!
Going in: Dear God, make it stop.
Payoff: Probably our lowest moment. The batter was dry, the creamy filling non-existent. We could only manage a few bites before dropping it in self-disgust, sobs on the edge of erupting from our throats. CNE, you win. We give up. Now let us out of your clutches so we can go puke, or cry, or curl up in the fetal position, or slip into a deep-fried coma. Or all of the above.