At the end of every summer, Torontonians get excited for their old friend to come to town: the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). There’s tons of games to enjoy where the prizes are larger than your 5 year-old child and rides that are surprisingly satisfying for a pop-up carnival. But even more so, each year we welcome more “strange” foods to try. Although we definitely could have eaten all these meals between just the two of us, we were lucky to have some friends along for the ride.
I (Kelly Ann) started off our platter with the Fried Pig Ear Sandwich ($9) from Farm to Fryer. If you’re into pig ear (I mean, I am so that’s why I was excited), it’s something you might want to give a go. The buns were nice and soft with a bit of sweetness to them, and grew even more moist with the red cabbage coleslaw mixed with sriracha aioli (that was really the icing on top). The pig ear itself was okay. It was a large slab that was deep-fried, but after the first few bites, it just seemed like deep-fried fat (if you’re into that then go for it). It tasted better once you hit the cartilage, but without the fried crust, it probably would’ve been flavourless. If you want a good taste of pig ear, I personally prefer the thin-sliced marinated ones you can find at Chinese restaurants or grocery stores (like Oceans or TNT). There were bits of bacon in there as well, but I honestly couldn’t taste it underneath all of the fried taste. I’d give this sandwich a solid 3/5 mostly because the toppings were pretty delicious and I’d use them on other sandwiches for sure. To be honest, I don’t think you’d miss much if you went for another main meal though.
I (Michael) started with a Pizza Cone ($9) from Just Cone It!. Imagine a McCain Pizza Pop but in a cone shape, and that’s exactly what it tastes like. Nothing too exciting, but for someone like me who loves pizza and thinks anything in a cone would be great, I definitely enjoyed my experience.
Ever since I saw the BlogTO article, I had my eyes on the Sweet Potato Pie ($6) from Farm to Fryer. With a marshmallow base, whipped sweet potato, topped with candied bacon and caramel drizzle, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily for me, this pie was amazing. And of course, no pie is complete without the crust, which was perfectly baked and delicious. I wasn’t sure if this was a dessert or not, but at the CNE, it really doesn’t matter. I would definitely get another one of these if I had the chance.
Next, I tried (part of) a Taco Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($9) from the Mac & Cheesery. Again, it pretty much tastes exactly how you think it would, which in this case is not a bad thing: a grilled cheese sandwich with ground beef, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, and taco seasoning. I must say though, the bread on this thing was surprisingly amazing – toasted yet fluffy. If you’re looking for something outrageous, I would probably keep looking (maybe at the Bug Bistro stand for some cricket tacos). This sandwich is definitely easily made at home.
No stranger to the CNE is the Chocolate Fried Chicken ($8.75) from Coco’s Fried Chicken. Always met with a “what?!” when presented, this dish is surprisingly pretty normal tasting. The cocoa makes a cameo in the fried batter of the rather dry chicken pieces, but gives it a pleasant sweetness. This dish comes with tater tots (can’t go wrong with those) and a zesty coleslaw. For whatever reason, it also includes a mango sweet and sour sauce, which we definitely could have done without. Special shout out to Nancy (Deja) Vu for the tasting notes.
The CNE is a Torontonian tradition at the end of every summer. Because we love food and talking about it, it’s no surprise we spent most of our time in the Food Building. It’s important to remember that this is, in fact, carnival food, so don’t y’all be expectin’ some caviar and champagne. Go out and have a good time, and remember to come on your cheat day, or you’ll find yourself out of options.