RIP Summer: Food takes over the CNE
The end of summer is always marked by one thing to me: the CNE. It was always a family tradition for my aunt to take me each year. I loved riding on all the midway rides and checking out all the buildings like a crazy kid. But now that I’ve grown up, things have changed about the CNE. The focus has become less about the midway rides (I noticed that it was actually smaller this year) and more about the food, both around the CNE and in the Food Building (the food aspect has gotten much larger).
The weekend that my counterpart Yuli and I decided to go and check out all of the food and food-like events at the CNE, we were treated to Chuck Hughes on the Food Network Celebrity Stage, Food Truck Frenzy and of course all the craziness happening in the Food Building. Bacon was the biggest theme for this year’s Food Building, with it being sold in cones, deep-fried and dozens of other options.
The Food Network Celebrity Stages gives foodies (much like myself) an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of our favourite chefs. I have had a foodie crush on Chuck Hughes for a while now. His crazy cool kitchen attitude in Chuck’s Day Off plus his exception food (which I had the opportunity to try during Osheaga in food truck form) makes him the chef who you want to be your best friend. During his time on stage, he threw together a mexican dish of clams with salsa. He said the dish reminded him of his time in Mexico when he wasn’t busy drinking tequila. He was funny, humble and incredibly sweet to his audience. It was great to see him upclose and personal cooking for some of his closest fans.
Next up: Yuli and I headed to the Food Building where we decided to take in some of the craziness. We ordered Deep Fried Mac & Cheese ($6.99). Available at the Mac’n'Cheesery, it is taking baked mac ‘n’ cheese to a whole new level. It was available in two options: stick or in bite size nuggets, making it perfect for snacking.
After that, I was intrigued by Taco in a Doritos Bag ($7) found at Bouchard’s Poutine. The concept sounds odd: a bag of Doritos cut open on it side, ground beef, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes all added in. Fork and serve. What you are left with is ghetto excellence. We tried to wait in line for Bacon Nation, but it was just too popular for us to even try.
Things that have been recommended to us in the Food Building (by friends and other foodies): Just Cone It! which is serving up pizza cones and bacon/nutella cones, Vie Raw which serves organic, raw vegan dishes like pizza and desserts and finally PULL’D serving juicy and sweet tender meat (pork, chicken or beef), as well as pancakes, nachos, pretzels and hash browns.
After we had our Food Building adventure, we went inside to have a Cheese Demonstration by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. We sat inside an open classroom of 40 where we learned (loosely) the difference between soft and hard cheeses, sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses and got to try out six different cheeses for free. After that, we were given a sheet and recipe book on how to cook with the different cheeses we had tried that day. You can check out the “All You Need is Cheese” website for recipes yourself.
We headed outside to check out some of the new Food Trucks that were hitting the pavement during the Food Truck Frenzy at the CNE this weekend. This included: Gourmet Gringos, Per Se, Stuft Gourmet Sausages, Rollin’ on the Muskoka BBQ as well as many others. The best thing about the Food Truck Frenzy that hit the CNE that weekend: Eat Street from the Food Network was there filming. Looks like Toronto’s food trucks are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve! While we cruised around the food trucks, I decided to try a Stuft Gourmet Sausage dessert that they were offering. The Waffles in Maple Sugar ($3) was an absolute delight. I’m kinda kicking myself for not trying one of their sausages. Hindsight is 20/20. But I guess I’m going to have to track them on my Street Food Toronto app. and catch up with them again later.
Next up, we ended off our day in the Agriculture and Farming building. This was super important to me because as we know: farmers feed cities. It was great to see how much interactive programming there was for children to learn how farming worked, how animals were used in the farm industry, how food was grown, and generally to have a forum to interact with animals. To them: they may have just seen a cow or a pig, but this is really a starting point for them to learn about where their food really comes from.
Clearly, the food aspect is becoming a larger and larger aspect of the CNE each year. They are getting noticeably ambitious with food offerings and events. So remember to check out its programming next year nice and early. There are only so many Deep Fried Mars Bars and Pizza Cones you can eat in one day!