Here we are again, another year of the PNE! Although wandering throughout the Showmart tempted in purchasing a broom or some mixer is something that I look forward to every summer, it is really all about the food. In years past, the selection of food was pretty much predictable and unchanging. However, in more recent times, there seems to be newer and bolder options that range from tasty-to-just-plain-weird. Well, without further ado, here are some of the new things we got to try as part of our media tour.
Our first stop was at Unroutine Poutine where we were treated to a Parisian Poutine with braised beef, Kennebec fries, cheese curds, red wine gravy, sauteed mushrooms and crispy onions. This ate as good as it looked with crispy and starchy fries which were bathed in a silky gravy that was more akin to a demi. There was a real hit of wine flavour albeit a touch salty. The buttery mushrooms were nestled within big chunks of moist beef. Off to our next destination, we went with something sweet with the Cannoli King. As the name suggests, we were presented with sample sizes (half-portion) of a hand-rolled Cannoli filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, almonds and chocolate chips. OMG, this was freakin' fantastic as the thin crisp shell gave way to a super creamy and light ricotta filling. It was purposefully sweet with an almond finish.
With cannoli still on my mind, we sauntered over to Pennsylvania Dutch for yet another one of their wacky fried creations. In the past, I've tried their fried Jelly Bellys and Oreos with varying degrees of satisfaction (loved the Oreos, the Jelly Bellys not-so-much). This year, they've decided to fry cubes of Cookie Dough in batter. Although these were crispy outside and not particularly greasy, the partially melted cookie dough was a bit too sweet for my taste. Across the way, we headed over to Revolution Corn where we sampled their 3 options including Canadian Corn with butter, maple syrup and bacon, Classic Roasted Corn with butter and salt and Cuban Corn with spices, mayo, cheese and lime. For me, I like things simple and enjoyed the sweet crunchy pop of the classic. However, the Cuban was the most interesting with a fragrant cheesiness accented by the acidity of lime.
Moving along, we visited one of the icons of the PNE, who has been around for 47 years - none other than Hunky Bill's. You might think the stuff here is so well-known, there wouldn't be any surprises, but they've come up with Gluten-Free Perogies. I was apprehensive at first because my experience with many gluten-free products have been on par with eating stale bread. However, these fried dumplings weren't bad with a crispy exterior and not overly hard dough. The cheesy filling was impactful and just right in consistency. But...they should've drained the grease as there was enough oil to moisturize one's face. Next door, we visited Gourmet Burgers as we did last year. Among the burgers I sampled were the duck and kangaroo. Due to the lean meat, these were predictably dry. They did have distinctive flavours though. Eventually, I just had to try the Kitchen Sink with top sirloin beef patty, fried egg, ham, bacon, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, mayo, sharp cheddar, BBQ sauce and Provolone cheese. Although the patty was not exactly juicy, due to the wealth of ingredients, the burger was not devoid of moisture and ate messy.
Our last 2 stops were of the sweet variety beginning with Cin City Donuts in the Showmart. Hey, there's that broom I wanted! Anyways, we were served samples of their 5 different Mini-Donuts including strawberries & whipped cream, Canadian maple syrup & bacon, s'mores, chocolate sauce & powdered sugar and classic cinnamon sugar. I found the donuts to be more cakey than the other kind found at the fair. The outside had an appealing light crispiness. Finally, we ended up at The Roaming Dragon to try their unique Cotton Candy in mango and lychee flavours. Being made of sugar, these were naturally sweet, but the flavours of the fruit did come through, especially with the lychee. So there you have it for 2014 food at the PNE. Glad to see that it isn't only about foot longs and soft serve anymore (although I still love those too!).
*All food was complimentary as part of the media tour*