Saturday, August 19, 2017

Let's Go to the Ex -- A Left Chapter look at some of the sights and food of the 2017 CNE!

This year's edition of the Toronto end-of-summer institution the Canadian National Exhibition (otherwise known as "The Ex") kicked off today and runs until Labour Day as always.

Just as we did last year, The Left Chapter paid a visit to track down some new food items, sights and sounds, as well as to return to some old favourites!

I must say that I wanted to like the Last Samurai sandwich a lot. Just like I wanted to like the One Love Burger two years ago. Available at the Yatai (by Liberty Noodle) booth in the Food Pavilion it is a cheeseburger and a battered, deep fried chicken burger on a ramen noodle bun topped with lettuce and sauced red cabbage.

The thing is that the cheeseburger works, the chicken burger is great (crispy and with a slightly sweet, flavourful batter) and the toppings and sauce are fine, but the "bun" leaves much to be desired. The combination, also, works less as a taste than as a concept.

This booth is worth trying, but either get the burgers or special fries and perhaps skip the marquee specialty in my opinion.

The Last Samurai 
The Tokyo Fried Chicken booth makes a number of different fried specialties including the very tasty "Nashville" fried chicken dish which is slightly spicy, battered pieces of fried chicken served on a bed of rice and topped with a sauce of your choosing. I had the spicy sesame sauce and enjoyed the whole meal quite a bit.

One of the most talked about items is the Deep Fried Chicken Feet. So I tried it and while the $5 price may seem low by Ex standards, you really don't get much. It is a single chicken foot, battered in a quite sweet batter, and there is very little meat. It also looks off-putting! Other than for its novelty value the booth that serves these also has deep fried pickles and corn dogs that are much tastier.

It tastes about as good as it looks!
Many of the classic booths that we looked at in our 2015 and 2016 roundups are back, such as Ali's West Indian, the Montreal Smoked Meat booth, the Canadiana with its bison burgers, etc. You can read about these at those links.

Also back is San Francesco Sandwiches with all of their delicious veal, chicken and eggplant Italian sandwich options. But this year they have added a second colossal sandwich option so that for $15 you can get one of these two to either stay full on all day or, perhaps, share with a friend!

This year at the Arts and Crafts Pavilion is the very impressive Quilt of Belonging display. This is a 120 foot long quilt, years in the making, that is meant to celebrate inclusion and internationalism.

It is really quite beautiful and well worth checking out. 

Also at the Arts and Crafts building the Spice of Life booth returns with is excellent range of hot sauces. As I did last year I picked up the phenomenal (and phenomenally hot) Million Pepper Sauce, but I also got a jar of their Spicy Green Tomatoes. These are, indeed, spicy, but also delightfully tart and vinegary. A great garnish or side flavour.

Also back at the International Pavilion is the Russian History booth which is primarily dedicated to Soviet collectibles. From stamps to hats to shirts to busts of Lenin this amazing booth is a must for anyone keen about the subject.

My son picked up three Lenin pins and I scored a Soviet postcard folder that will be coming to a blog near you in the close future!

Bridging the At Home and International pavilions was an exhibition dedicated to Canada 150. This included a very fun origami  display of Canada "coast-to-coast" and, while impossible to photograph, a virtual reality feature involving the music of A Tribe Called Red. You put on a headset and immerse yourself in a 360 degree music video of theirs that moves as you do. It is really great and was one of the highlights of the CNE for me.

And, as always, there are the Farm Pavilions, the midway, the rides, and countless other attractions and food kiosks to part you from your money!

See you next year!

See also: Let's Go to the Ex -- A Left Chapter look at some of the sights and food of the 2016 CNE!

See also: Let's Go to the Ex -- A Left Chapter look at some of the sights and food of the 2015 CNE!

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