Sherman's Food Adventures: Food @ The Fair at PNE 2017

Food @ The Fair at PNE 2017

Ah yes, it is August again and it means only one thing - back to school sales!  No, no, no, besides that!  It is time for the PNE!  Yup, win a house, win a car!  Maybe pick up a Sham Wow or some Pink Solution.  Don't forget about the Super Dogs and the exhibits.  This year, there is the Hockey Hall of Fame and also a nostalgic Toytopia exhibit (featuring toys and games of years past).  But let's get real here.  For many, including myself, it is all about the food!!!  Some of the most bizarre and creative things are found at the PNE.  This year, I visited the fair with the fam and ate lots, but also returned the next day for the media event.  So this post is an amalgamation of both (I used the picture of the Double Decker Diner because it is the coolest-looking food stand).

On the day with the fam, I basically got the first thing that I saw, which was the gigantic Risotto Ball (Arancini) from the Crazy Italian.  This took a bit to prepare, but I didn't mind as it was in between the size of a baseball and softball.  Beyond the crispy exterior, the cheesy rice (was a little soft) and what looked like squash.  It was accompanied by a tangy and chunky tomato sauce.  We returned a little later for their Deep Fried Pizza Bites since they were not ready to go when we got the risotto ball.  If you were thinking of the pizza bites found at the supermarket, the ones we got here were nothing like that.  Rather, they featured fresh pizza dough wrapped around cheese, basil and pepperoni then was deep fried.  It was also accompanied by the same tangy tomato sauce.  Despite the visuals, it was actually quite good.  The soft and chewy dough was balanced off by the melted mozzarella and large chunk of pepperoni.

From there, we moved onto something with a Canadian twist.  We've all seen the usual Poutine, but how about a Poutater?  A what?  Similar to what I tried at Nat Bailey Stadium, this featured tater tots topped with real cheese curds and doused with gravy.  However, this version was lit as the tater tots were super crispy.  This meant that even with the liberal drizzle of thick salty gravy, the tots remained firmly crunchy.  Add in a fair amount of unmelted cheese curds, I had to fight off the kids so that I could actually have some for myself!  This, along with 5 other versions were found at the Wiggle Chips stand.  If you thought this was sinful, I got the Amsterdam Fries with Fried Pork Belly from the stand with the same name.  Fresh-cut and fried twice, the fries were akin to Belgian frites in terms of appearance and texture.  They were potatoey with a lightly crispy exterior.  I chose a liberal dousing of garlic mayo on top.  This was finished off with slices of fried pork belly which were meaty, yet a bit chewy.

We got right down to the sweets early with a PNE classic being the Mini-Donuts at Those Little Donuts.  Believe it or not, I've actually worked there in my youth and have not gotten sick of them.  These made to order donuts always garner a lineup.  There is a good reason for that because the donuts are warm, soft and fluffy.  Coated with a liberal amount of cinnamon sugar, there was plenty of sweetness for these little pillows of joy.  Here is a tip: do not buy only one bag!  Buy 2 for $10.00 because you'll need it, or share with someone else!  From one classic to another, we moved onto the Funnel Cake stand for...  a Funnel Cake!  Yes, it is merely fried batter, but believe me it was tasty!  Essentially a mess of piped batter into a deep-fryer, the textures range from crunchy to crispy as well as a pillowy soft middle.  Add some icing sugar and we have a traditional yummy fair staple.

Back to the savoury items, we had something that was new last year, but a goodie nonetheless.  Over at International Perogy's, we took in an interesting fusion of Asian and Ukranian with the Chili Lime Popcorn Shrimp Perogies.  It didn't look like much, but in reality, it was probably one of our favourite items of the day.  It sported mini-perogies which were soft and fluffy where the skin was thin.  The chili lime was impactful and did taste like its namesake.  Scattered around on top was crispy popcorn shrimp.  This ate a lot heavier than it appeared.  Nearby, at Jamaican Mi Juicy, we got the Jerk Chicken Plate that came with a leg, beans & rice and salad.  We found the chicken to be moist and succulent with a mild amount of spice.  We would've liked it with even more spice, but I'm sure this was made with the general public in mind.

That last food item I purchased also happened to be on the media tour the next day.  It was the Double Bacon Mac n' Cheese Super Footlong Hot Dog at Super Footlong Hotdogs. Interestingly enough, the one I tried the first time had bacon in the mac n' cheese while the second did not.  Whatever the case, the wiener itself was meaty and nicely seared.  It was rolled with bacon and toasted with only the ends being crispy.  On top, there was a liberal amount of soft cheesey mac (a bit more al dente would've been better).  I thought it could've been saltier, but the bacon bits did help in that regard.  Now, probably the most visually striking (or shocking) item at the PNE this year is the Crispy Chicken Feet on a Stick from Chicky's Chicken.  This was lightly-battered and fried which meant that the cartilage itself was crunchy.  On the outside, the skin was soft and well-marinated being sweet.  I personally prefer the Chinese Dim Sum version, but this is the ultimate dare at the PNE this year.

Over at Steve-O's Public House, we moved past last year's Oreo Churro and Deep Fried Tequila Bites and tried their Waffle Taco.   Looking like a dessert taco, the texture of the waffle was delicate and brittle.  Despite the logistics in keeping everything together, it was perfect since the lightness kept things from being heavy and didn't take away from the subtle ingredients.  This included rolled ice cream topped with whipped cream, Oreos and sprinkles.  This was so airy, one could easily have more than one (or still have room for other food).  Shockingly, there has never been a Dim Sum stall at the PNE... until now.  Dim Sum Express has set up shop offering traditional items such as Ha Gau, Siu Mai and BBQ Pork Buns.  I thought the dumpling skin on the ha gau to be on the thicker side while the shrimp were definitely buttery but lacking a snap.  The siu mai were soft and lightly bouncy consisting primarily of pork.  As for the bun, it was soft and fluffy with a sweet and lean filling.

Another shocking offering at the fair is the Cricket Burger at Gourmet Burgers.  Every year, they up the ante with their creations and I have to say they take the cake this time around.  Essentially a regular beef burger with chipotle mayo, the kicker is a generous helping of whole roasted BBQ crickets on top of the patty.  Intimidating?  Yes?  Scary to eat?  Maybe.  However, it ate quite well with a tender beef patty accented by smoky and chunky crickets.  There was a certain Earthiness about it.  Very interesting indeed.  After this, I found out we were going to have a funnel cake and I was afraid of another repeat.  Rather, we were treated to the Funnel Cake Poutine topped with the usual cheese curds and gravy.  So take the classic and sweet funnel cake as mentioned above and balance it off with salty gravy and cheese.  Hence, we had the appealing combination of salty and sweet with the crispy and airy texture of funnel cake!

Continuing on with sweet, we visited a Canadian classic with Beaver Tails.  A take on the traditional First Nations fry-bread (Bannock), they make it thinner and topped it with many sweet toppings.  My personal favourite happens to be the cinnamon sugar as it allows the fry bread to remain crispy and simple.  However, the Nutella and banana is a close second with the smooth chocolatey nutty spread naturally complimented by ripe banana.  Our last stop was at Double Decker Diner which is an actual bus converted to a kitchen on the bottom and a cool eating area on top.  We tried their Old English Fish n' Chips and it was fantastic.  Lightly battered and crispy, the fish itself was flaky and super moist.  The hand cut fries were crispy while retaining plenty of potato goodness.  Of course, we took our food up to the top to eat and it was a little slice of heaven away from the bustling activity below.

Before I left the fairgrounds, I made one personal stop (other than dropping off my PNE Show Home Lottery Tickets) at The Praguery and got the Lemon Curd Soft Serve in a chimney cake cone.  I've had the chimney cake in the past, but never filled with ice cream.  This was a good decision because I always felt that the soft yeasty cake needed something with it and that would be tangy lemon curd and creamy ice cream!  I needed to eat this quick though as the ice cream melted fast and was seeping out below.  So there you have it!  As much fair food I could handle at the PNE.  Try some of them out and see which one is your favourite.

2 comments:

holly said...

It's good to know that I can always count on my favourite food blogger to do a decent write up on the food as it's an annual tradition for me too, to end the summer with a bang at the PNE. The timing is perfect, as I plan to go tomorrow and I just read your blog today so the excitement is mounting. I'm kind of glad that I was sick last weekend and couldn't go.

You've covered most of the food items on my list and I've yet to see whether I will be able to taste them all. I will probably need to plan at least two visits. Since you may have an insider's guide to the PNE, can you ask the powers that be to include a food map next year? That would sure help my planning at the PNE.

Sherman Chan said...

@Holly Yah, I tried to hit most things, but of course, it is impossible to do so. Yah, a food map would be awesome. I spent so much useless time looking for stuff!