By Sherman Chan,
Special to The Post
It’s here again, another year of the PNE. Although I’m often tempted to purchase a broom or the latest mixer, it’s really the food that I look forward to each summer.
In previous years, the selection of food was predictable and unchanging. More recently, there seems to be newer and bolder food options that range from tasty to weird. I attended a media tour last week, where we tried a wide selection of international and local-inspired cuisine.
Our first stop was at Unroutine Poutine, where we were treated to a Parisian Poutine with braised beef, Kennebec fries, cheese curds, red wine gravy, sauteed mushrooms, and crispy onions. This tasted as good as it looked. Crispy and starchy fries were bathed in a silky gravy, with buttery mushrooms nestled within large chunks of moist beef. The wine flavour in the gravy was nice, albeit a touch salty.
Next we sampled something sweet with the Cannoli King. As the name suggests, we were presented with half portions of a hand-rolled cannoli filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, almonds, and chocolate chips. This was fantastic. The thin crisp shell gave way to a creamy and light ricotta filling. It was purposefully sweet with an almond finish.
With cannoli still on my mind, we sauntered over to Pennsylvania Dutch for one of their crazy fried creations. In the past, I have tried their fried Jelly Bellys and Oreos with varying degrees of satisfaction. This year, they fried cubes of cookie dough in batter. Although these were crispy outside and not particularly greasy, the partially melted cookie dough was a bit too sweet for my taste. Across the way, we headed over to Revolution Corn, where we sampled their three options: Canadian corn with butter, maple syrup and bacon; classic roasted corn with butter and salt; and Cuban corn with spices, mayo, cheese and lime. I like things simple and enjoyed the sweet crunchy pop of the classic. However, the Cuban was the most interesting with a fragrant cheesiness accented by the acidity of lime.
You can’t have a food tour of the PNE and miss Hunky Bill’s. This food stand has been around for 47 years. You may think there won’t be any surprises here, but this year they have come up with Gluten-Free Perogies. I was apprehensive at first because my experience with many gluten-free products has been on par with eating stale bread. However, these fried dumplings weren't bad, with a crispy exterior and not overly hard dough. The cheese filling was impactful and just right in consistency. Unfortunately, they should have drained the grease as there was enough oil to moisturize someone’s face. Next door, we visited Gourmet Burgers where I sampled the duck and kangaroo burgers. Due to the lean meat, these were predictably dry but they did have distinctive flavours. I also tried the Kitchen Sink Burger, with top sirloin beef patty, fried egg, ham, bacon, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, mayo, sharp cheddar, BBQ sauce, and Provolone cheese. Although the patty was not exactly juicy, the burger was very moist and messy to eat.
Our last two stops were of the sweet variety, beginning with Cin City Donuts in the Showmart. We were served samples of their five different mini-donuts, including strawberries and whipped cream, Canadian maple syrup and bacon, s'mores, chocolate sauce and powdered sugar, and classic cinnamon sugar. I found the donuts to be more cakey than the other kind found at the fair. The outside had an appealing light crispiness.
Finally, we concluded our visit at The Roaming Dragon to try their unique Cotton Candy in mango and lychee flavours. Being made of sugar, these were naturally sweet, but the flavours of the fruit did come through, especially the lychee.
I’m glad to see that food at the PNE isn’t just about foot longs and soft serve anymore – although I always enjoy those too.
For more information and location, visit www.pne.ca.
Sherman Chan is the #1 ranked food blogger on the Vancouver portal of Urbanspoon.com. Read more of his reviews at www.shermansfoodadventures.com.