Originally, we weren't planning on visiting the PNE this year due to "theme park overload" from our recent Florida vacation. However, much like every year that I can remember, we went anyways because who doesn't want to eat copious amounts of fried food, watch the Superdogs, the Peking acrobats or buy a mop from the Showmart (and proceed to carry it for the rest of the day...) And similarly, I was invited to the media food tour of new and interesting eats at the PNE. Hence, it was back-to-back PNE days (for me at least).
On the media day, we started early with our day of gluttony at 9:15am starting with Cheese Please grilled cheese sandwiches. I sampled the Basil Tomato Soup first and it was surprisingly good. Although it was on the sweeter side (probably appealing to the kiddies), the soup was flavour-packed with lots of tomato and basil. I liked how it was slightly chunky where it helped break up the creaminess. Onto our first sandwich, I tried the Jalapeno Popper with fried jalapenos, cream cheese, tortilla chips and cheddar on whole wheat. This definitely had a kick which I really appreciated because there are so many "spicy" items that never come through. The crunch from the chips added a great texture while the amount of cheese(s) was just right. I was only mildly impressed with The Philly with pulled beef, smoked Provolone and caramelized onions. I felt there was not enough cheese to bring the whole thing together. It was merely a beef sandwich.
Onto our next stop (Think Sweet Deep Fried Pies), I was able to sample 2 pies. The first was Apple Pie with soft serve ice cream. I found the crust to be relatively thin and crispy. Hence it was somewhat light and easy to eat. Inside, the big chunks of apple were soft in texture while maintaining a bite. However, I found them to be semi-sweet with a need for some tang. The soft serve was creamy and pretty sweet. For some variety, I also gave the Raspberry Pie a go. Inside, it was just sweet enough where the texture was pretty typical pie-filling. Naturally, the raspberries would not hold their shape as much as apple. With that being said, if I had to choose, I'd stick to the apple pie.
With more fried goodness on the horizon, we leisurely strolled over to Pickle Pete's deep fried sweets and treats. Keeping the theme of its namesake, we were given a bowl of their Fried Pickles and Fried Green Beans (served with either chipotle or ranch dip). I really liked both as the pickles were flavourful without being too salty. The batter remained crunchy throughout and with a dip into the ranch, there were good things happening. As for the green beans, they were also very crunchy and tender inside. Despite the obvious deep-frying, neither were extremely greasy. I wasn't a huge fan of the Fried Philly Cheesesteak though. Somehow despite the tender beef, I found the whole thing wet and not that crunchy on the outside.
Situated on the old location of Whales Tails, Elephant Ears offered us a Banana Bacon Ear consisting of a folded fry bread containing bananas and bacon topped with icing sugar and chocolate. Yes, health food this was not (and everything else for all that matters). If I had to compare, the fry bread was definitely more chewy than the old whales tails. Possibly more gluten? This in turn resulted in a less-crispy product. I guess from a personal point of view, I prefer something less chewy. In terms of flavour, the sweet bananas and salty bacon did go well together, however, the addition of sugar and chocolate made the whole thing really sweet.
If you thought we were done, we weren't even close as we sauntered over to Gourmet Burgers and their over-the-top creations and unique burgers. There was a selection of game burgers consisting of Kangaroo, Venison, Alligator, Camel and Wild Boar. I sampled the Venison and predictably it was dry due to the lean meat. It was only somewhat gamy which in turn added plenty of flavour, even without condiments. Lastly, I couldn't leave without taking a shot at The Vortex. Consisting of an 8oz top sirloin patty, 2 fried eggs, 4 slices of cheese, 5 strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato served between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, I couldn't even finish a quarter of it. The grilled cheese was a nice departure from the regular burger bun.
Surprisingly, we stopped by the Wings food truck next (I didn't even know they had one) and were treated to 4 different wings and a breaded pickle. I really liked the deep fried pickle as it was crunchy and flavourful. Much like my previous experience with Wings, the wings were still relatively moist inside. Lastly, we ended the tour at an icon - Ernie's Ice Cream. This soft serve stand is one of my favourites for its rich and smooth ice cream. A great way to finish off an adventure of some new eats at the PNE. Although there are some hits and misses, it is definitely nice to see a wide variety of different food choices added every year.