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culture

Food at the CNE: What You Should Eat and What You Should Probably Avoid

The Ex has unveiled its newest culinary concoctions. Here's the scouting report on the the must-haves and must-avoids on this year's menu.

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They’re here. Today, the new foods of this year’s Canadian National Exhibition were revealed. Swoon at the bacon. Grimace at the liberal use of maple. Gape at the death-defying fry cooks. Be reassured by the health and safety measures taken to avoid another Great Cronut Epidemic.

With more than 100 vendors in the Food Building and on the Midway this year, you’ll have to plan if you want to cram only the best and weirdest menu items into your waiting gob. So here, for your eating pleasure, is a primer on the CNE’s new foods. Fair warning: most of the foods pictured are sample-sized. Expect a much bigger bounty on your trip to the Ex.

Cocoa-infused Fried Chicken

Vendor: Coco’s Fried Chicken (Food Building)

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What it is: A chicken, jammed with cocoa at every opportunity (cocoa marinade, cocoa coating, cocoa seasoning), then fried and served with a cup o’chocolate ketchup for dunking.

It sounds like something out of Willy Wonka 2: Colonel Sanders’s Revenge, but it’s actually a very sensible, very normal, very tasty fried chicken dish. No, it isn’t chocolaty—just tender, un-greasy, and slightly crispy. The ketchup is basically a spicy barbecue sauce—and it’s pretty good—but the chicken is better alone. This bird is a winner.

Should you eat it? Yes. Eat it and enjoy it without a trace of irony. It’s actual, real food.

Chunky Elvis Grilled Cheese

Vendor: Coffee Zone (Midway)

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What it is: A grilled cheese sandwich with bacon, peanut butter, and banana, which is alleged by its creator to have been the King’s meal of choice.

It starts as a decent grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. Then you pick up a hint of something gritty and peanutty, but not altogether unpleasant. Finally, you hit a mushy banana deposit. It’s not bad—just really bizarre. Kind of like Elvis.

Should you eat it? Go nuts. Oddities like this are what Ex food is all about.

Spicy Peanut Butter Sriracha Rolls

Vendor: Fran’s Restaurant (Food Building)

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What it is: Sort of a deep-fried spring roll, heavy on the spice, and strong on the peanut flavour.

Honestly, we enjoyed these little buggers, and we hadn’t even been drinking. They have a Thai peanut sauce taste to them, with the added sheen of delightfully crappy bar food. We expect to see these on a Parkdale appetizer menu someday.

Should you eat it? Go for it! As long as you don’t mind spice. This is the hottest snack of the lot.

 

Butter Coffee

Vendor: Hula Girl Espresso

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What it is: A delicious cup of coffee that just happens to have butter in it, instead of milk.

It’s pure silk—so smooth, so delicate. Yes, it’s made with liquid butter… but really, is that any worse for you than an Iced Capp?

Should you drink it? Yes, but be careful. It’s easy to forget there’s butter in your coffee until six cups later, when you’re all jived up with caffeine shakes and yet somehow also lethargic as a koala.

 

S’more Bao

Vendor: Far East Taco (Food Building)

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What it is: Light and hazelnutty and perfect.

We’re talkin’ marshmallow, chocolate, sweet milk cream, graham cracker melted down into layers of goo and poured onto a puffy white Asian bao bun. This is what eating an angel’s wing must be like.

Should you eat it? Please, for the love of god, consume this with reckless abandon. Go tell it on the mountain. Spread the good word.

Thanksgiving Waffles

Vendor: Fran’s Restaurant (Food Building)

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What it is: Cranberry stuffing moulded into a turf-coloured sponge, topped with roasted turkey, cranberries, mashed potato, green onions, and gravy, and served just a little cold.

If Satan hosted Thanksgiving dinner on a budget, it would look like this. Fran’s, we love you, and this mess doesn’t taste as bad as it looks, but seriously—who looked at the Ex and thought, “This place needs sub-par holiday food”?

Should you eat it? Only if you want to recreate the festive joy of celebrating Thanksgiving at a diner, then get on a bunch of Midway rides during an August heatwave.

 

Liquid Nitrogen Sorbet and Gelato

Vendor: Eative (Food Building)

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What it is: Frozen treats made with the magic of molecular gastronomy, and other buzzwords.

Honestly, folks, it’s gelato. It’s cold and delicious. Eat it, enjoy it, pretend you understand the science stuff later.

Should you eat it? Yes—and feel like a spaceman as you experience the refreshing power of liquid nitrogen!

Crowbar

Vendor: Hula Girl Espresso (Food Building)

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What it is: A croissant with a chocolate bar baked inside, and a square of chocolate on top to signal that, yes, there is indeed chocolate in this pastry. We could have sampled a Mars bar Crowbar, a Kit Kat Crowbar, or a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Crowbar, but the only reasonable complement to buttery pastry and chocolate is caramel, so we chose the Caramilk Crowbar and, oh, how we swooned.

We would like always to have a Crowbar in our hands and to eat one after the other after the other as we lope around the Midway, our bellies distended and sagging out of our shirts, but our hearts full and our souls satisfied.

Should you eat it? Back off, sucker—all of these are ours.

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