[I have a deep-fried hangover]
This is the first year ever when I am actually going to be away for the airshow, I have had to put up with it for 25 miserable years (I mean, 20, 20 miserable years) and finally I am getting a break. The only downside to being away during it is that I will also be away for a week of the CNE. I had to condense my multiple visits into a rather small time frame. Actually going within days of each other. I pretty much had enough time to digest and go to the bank. The first time we went for the whole day and saw mostly everything. The little bits I had missed I made up on round 2.
Every year the ice show gets better, they always add on new things. This year they added in a whole bunch of new things: breakdancers, jugglers, and trampoliners. It made me feel old, watching these young kids bouncing on a trampoline and kicking off a wall into a backflip back onto the trampoline and on and on. All I could thing was how bad my knees would hurt. And how scared of injury I would be. I spent most of the show unable to blink. The breakdancers got extra spin whilst on their backs thanks to the ice. The jugglers somehow managed not to fall flat on their faces while walking around in running shoes ON ICE AND JUGGLING AT THE SAME TIME. I could barely look away, let alone blink as one guy suspended himself from the ceiling by just holding ropes… with nothing but cold hard ice below were he to fall. To say that it was insane, would be an understatement. While this was all happening there were ice dancers all over, spinning, twirling and balancing. It was a circus without the animals and no tent. There were times when I literally did not know where to look, there was so much happening all at once. All precariously scary things that I would never dream of doing.
The dog show did not disappoint, how could it, they are Super Dogs! What can I say? We watched dogs run obstacle courses and catch frisbees for a good 40 minutes to a blaring hip hop and top 40 soundtrack. One dog was not having the run-around-barrels part of the obstacle course so he ran into it and knocked it down with his front paws. It was adorable. New this year they had people, by which I mean kids, race the dogs. Nothing is funnier than watching a child race a Chihuahua puppy that is so small at some times you lose sight of it on the course, I swear it was the size of a rabbit. Speaking of rabbits, at the petting zoo this year they had tiny little bunnies, no more than a few weeks old! Probably trying to hit on us, one of the workers, a young guy, came over and took one of the bunnies out to show us. They were sequestered behind a fence, in a pet carrier. It was tiny, it fit in the palm of his hand and the ears were still tiny. There were other baby animals in the petting zoo: horse, donkey, llama.
Walking along through the Arts & Crafts building, past the wonderful dip place (where we spent a good 15 minutes snacking, which only made us hungrier) there is a meat stall. They sell summer sausages, but there is something amiss, something a bit odd. Some of these sausages are made of the very delicious and new thus year: llama and alpaca, in addition to the already-weird kangaroo (which I tried in previous years). You know what else is delicious at the CNE? Deep-fried stuff! So here is a run-down of the two days worth of CNE-specialties:
Pulled pork from Pull’d: Camilla ordered this and I just stole bites when she was not looking. The bun was made of pretzel. which was better than I had expected. The sandwich came with two pan-fried perogies inside of it, good as far as non-home made perogies go, did add to the sandwich. The pulled pork itself was a bit dry, not enough sauce on it and skimpily served, a small amount of meat in the sandwich. Were it not for the perogies or the bun this would have truly been a shabby awful sandwich. It is not a good sign if the pulled pork, the main part of the sandwich. the main thing the vendor is based on, is subpar and dry. It came with a side of beans, beans that no one wanted to eat.
Pizza cone from Just Cone It!: I was set on trying something new, which after last years poor-showing I was afraid I would not find. Fear not! Just Cone It! appeared newly this year to the rescue! Do you ever have the problem of having to eat with two hands, having to sit down to eat? Problem solved: pack the food into a cone. Not an ice cream cone, a bread cone. A bread cone filled with cheese, tomato sauce and pepperonis (albeit there were very few, next time they need more pepperonis) sounds amazing. It is, until you get to the very bottom, after eating mouthful after mouthful of melted cheese with a tiny piece of bread. You start feeling awful, you realize you have eaten about half a brick of cheese. You feel you have just made yourself lactose-intolerant… and yet you keep eating, it is so good, so melty, so cheesy, how could you stop? One of my new favourites at the CNE this year, I really do hope they are back next year.
Deep-fried cheesecake from deep-fried place in Food Building: Keep in mind, I ordered this literally right after wolfing down that pizza cone. I did not know what to expect when I ordered it, would it hold up or disintegrate? Would it sop the oil up like a sponge? Apparently it is a rather difficult one to fry because the guy making mine had to redo it a few times as it kept breaking once he put it in the oil, resulting in a slightly longer wait than usual. While I waited I took to talking to the people around me. In line for deep-fried goodies is the best place to meet people and talk deep-fried. Compare notes, discuss what is good, what is not. It becomes a competition of who ate what. Or dousing peoples dreams and hopes as I did when I told the guy that I had deep-fried Twinkie before and it was disappointing because the creamy-filling had completely melted into the cake, but I saved myself by reminding him that this was in the States, I had not (and still have not) had the one from the CNE. Now down to brass-tax, the deep-fried cheesecake was, wait for it… AMAZING. Of all the deep-fried goodies I have had, it is easily one of my top three. It held up surprisingly well, tructurally, texturally and taste-wise. The cheesecake did not disintegrate. It still looked and felt and tasted like cheesecake. It did not sop up all the oil, it did not even have the flavour of the oil or the batter. The cheesecake was warm and soft and just perfect. Also: it was plain cheesecake without the graham cracker crumb base.
Deep-fried rice krispie square from Sweet Treats: I chanced upon this one by accident, did not even know this was on offer. I found it at the midway stall outside of the Direct Energy Centre, where they have deep-fried butter. I had high hopes for this one, expected to bite into a crunchy and marshmallowy gooey mess. I instead bit into batter and emptiness. The rice krispie square had disintegrated INTO the batter. You would get a bite of batter coating and there would be a tiny crunch of one lone rice krispy. The marshmallow aspect was nowhere to be found. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious, as most everything deep-fried is, but it fell short of my expectations. I am surprised about how badly it fell apart though.
Bacon-wrapped beer-battered deep-fried hotdog from Bacon Nation: Bacon is even bigger this year than last at the CNE, thanks in part to one of the Food Building’s new vendors, Bacon Nation. I could not pass up having something with bacon on it at the CNE, I felt like I would be missing out. On my second visit to the CNE, I sucked it up and went to Bacon Nation. What I had really wanted was bacon popcorn. I was so intrigued by it, did it have bacon bits on top? The grease from cooking the bacon? Fake bacon flavour? I had to know! Alas, on my first trip I decided to scope it out and I did not see any bacon popcorn on the menu. When I got home I checked the CNE app and saw that they indeed were slated to serve bacon popcorn, I assumed it must come as a side instead of fries. It was settled, I was going to eat the disgusting-sounding bacon-wrapped hotdog. It was colossal, I thought for sure they would serve me a small dinky hotdog, but nope, this was giant. There was so much meat. The beer-batter was a lot thinner (think fish and chips instead of corn dog) so each bite was a lot meatier. It came with barbeque sauce on the side, but it was better on its own. It was unbelievably satiating, and so greasy, it just dripped with grease. Delicious bacon-y meaty grease. I would not however make it one of my mainstays as I have corn dogs. It is really more of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, just to try it, just for kicks. As for the popcorn, I asked about it and she just abruptly said “no” without an explanation or anything. Just no. This is not over, I am going to look into the matter further.
Deep-fried Jos Louis: This is the only item on the list that was not new. I had tried to eat this last year, but it was sold out. Again, I was not sure what to expect. Would the icing in the middle uphold? What of the chocolate coating? The chocolate coating just disappeared into the mess. The icing, I was shocked to find little remnants of it here and there, I guess the chocolate and cake somehow insulated it? The cake, it was soaked up ALL the oil. It was a greasy soggy mess of delicoiusness. Not outstanding though, the deep-frying did not transform it into a heavenly treat.
There is also a new Lebanese bakery vendor in the Food Building, I had a bite of Camilla’s sesame pita wrap. It was ok, not exactly fair food. But it is one of those foods I can see myself eating outside in the real world, it was not messy, greasy or weird. Just tasty.
If you enjoy shopping at the CNE, be forewarned: this year it is just plain awful. Stitches used to be 50% off the sale price, now the deal is that nothing is over $10, which is to say that most everything is $10. There are maybe two racks with stuff under $5. What happened to the Stitches where you could buy a skirt for $2 or a bikini top for $1?! It is not even worth going. Save your time. Unless you want an awesome shirt that says “Stay Calm and Kill Some Zombies” then maybe you should go. Or the cupcake version.