Sherman's Food Adventures: Food @ The Fair at PNE 2019

Food @ The Fair at PNE 2019

Every year, there are certain things to look forward to.  Things you mark down on the calendar with anticipation.  These may include birthdays (maybe for some people...), vacations, start of the hockey season and the PNE.  Yah, not everyone needs another Sham Wow or cares about the prize home (I do!), but many keep an eye out for the most unique fair food offerings.  So on a very rainy (like downpour) Wednesday, I set out on the annual media tour to seek out the different as well as the classics.  On a side note, if you want to visit the PNE without crowds and you don't mind rain...  I suggest you go when others stay away.

So what is the best thing to start with at 9:00am in the morning?  How about Butter Beer Soft Serve Ice Cream?  To give it more of a "magical" appearance, throw in some dry ice!  Beyond the visuals, the soft serve was creamy and rich (it was thick rather than icy or airy).  It was flavoured with butterscotch and as much as I was skeptical (I'm not a fan of butterscotch), it was purposefully sweet.  I ended up eating it all.  Moving onto something savoury in the Carnitas Tatchos.  I'm a big fan of tater tots, so that alone would've been tasty.  However, add in tender pulled pork and fresh salsa with the creamy kick of chipotle cream, you have the best of nachos with crunchy tots instead.

This was only 9:30am and we had already sampled ice cream and a dish that would be more suited for the inebriated.  So why not go down that road with the Tipsy Unicorn?  Served in a plastic glass that featured a separated section with dry ice, the very berry lemonade was combined with or without vodka (during Playland Nights only for the alcoholic version).  Yep, the presentation was gimmicky, but it was rather refreshing as it wasn't crazy sweet.  Add in the vodka and it would be just right.  We didn't end there as we also sampled the collaboration between the PNE and Parallel 49.  Aptly named Nefairious, this beer features only 4.5% alcohol.  The result was a lighter, more refreshing beverage.  I guess one would just drink more as a result... 

Something that sounded totally out-of-left field and honestly not-that-tasty, was the Ramen Corn Dog.  Well, I had to literally eat my words, I mean the corn dog because it was really good!  I've always enjoyed the corn dogs from Corn Dog King, so that should've been an indication (I shouldn't have judged so quickly!).  The fried ramen bits on the outside offered up a firm crunch that complimented the existing crispiness from the batter.  Once past the fluffiness underneath, we found melted cheese and the wiener.  Now the next food item, Pickle Pizza, did sound good.  I love pickles and this was tangy, sweet and cheesy.  Due to the tang, it was appetizing and really helped cut the fattiness of the cheese.  I found the crust to be crispy on the bottom while soft and chewy the rest of the way.

For the longest time, pork cracklings were "the" crunchy skin that was eaten on its own.  Now we see bags of crispy fish skin with salted egg yolk and also Fried Chicken Skin on more and more menus.  Now you can get yourself an order at the PNE as well.  The best part of fried chicken is even more so when it is deep fried individually.  It was uniformly crunchy with evenly rendered fat.  Add in some seasoning and you have the "it" chip.  The next place we visited was Freakk Fries with their Foot Long Fries in a variety of flavours.  Not only did these look impressively-sized...  They were also very good.  Crunchy from end-to-end, the inside of the fries were still plenty potatoey and not fried to a crisp.  The trick is to pick them up in the middle and break them into 2 or you will end up dropping them.  My favourite flavour was the butter chicken followed by the garlic parmesan.

With all these new food items, we also have to remember the classics including Jimmy's Lunch, that have been operating at the PNE for 90 years.  Still family-run, their claim to fame is their caramelized onions that goes into both their Burger and hot dog.  Simple with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and the aforementioned onions, the burger ate well.  The patty was moist and juicy while the onions added a smoky sweetness.  Solid after all these years.  Then we had a modern version at Rice Burger with chicken katsu and beef yakiniku sandwiched in between 2 seared discs of rice.  This is a good gluten-free option for those wanting a burger or sandwich of some type.  I found the spicy chicken my favourite as it was crispy where the batter stayed adhered to the tender and moist chicken.  The rice was obviously denser than a bun, but a good carb alternative.

After the tour, I decided to go for 2 of the most popular items at the fair including Gator BBQ with their Vegetarian's Nightmare.  This consisted of half-rack of pork ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, beans and potato.  For me, this is one of the better values at the PNE for $32.00.  It easily feeds 3 people, maybe more (especially if you ate the aforementioned items already!).  Lastly and most importantly, I ended off with something sweet in the form of Mini-Donuts at Those Little Donuts.  A PNE classic (in fact, I worked there before!) with warm sugar-cinnamon donuts made before your eyes by those little machines.  So there you go, this is just a small taste of what is available at the PNE this year.  Enjoy the eats and maybe you can win a house or win a car...

*Most items were complimentary*

The Good:
- Less shock items this year
- They might look gimmicky, but they were good
- Classics are still a good bet

The Bad:
- Of course with any fairs, pricing isn't cheap
- Hunky Bill passed.  Go have some perogies in his honour...


tony said...

is that Jimmy's Lunch the same as Jimmy's Lunchbox? i yelped /googled jimmy's lunch and see jimmy's lunchbox in poco, mission, maple ridge but nothing in hometown vancouver or even burnaby.....i just wish to try their burger/fries and not go to the pne to get it.

Sherman said...

@Tony I don't believe so. Only operates at the fair I think?

Sherman Chan said...

@Tony Only at the Fair I believe.

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