What to eat, or not eat, at the CNE in 2015

Yesterday I attended the media preview for the CNE, Canadian National Exhibition, in Toronto.

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto was founded in 1879 for the purpose of fostering the development of agriculture, industry and the arts. By 1912, the fairgrounds covered close to 350 acres and has an established amusement park with permanent exhibition facilities. It happens every August, over the 18 days leading up to and including Labour Day. The Ex, as it’s commonly referred to, signifies the end of summer.

I’ve been getting media invitations for years but was never available to attend until this year. If you know “The Ex”, you know that the food component all about the junk food, about excess, about how absurd the food can be. Every year there’s deep fried things on sticks. Every year it’s corndogs, cotton candy, caramel apples. Donuts. Bacon-wrapped food. Some years there seems to be a contest to see how obscene the food can get. As their website says, the CNE is known for its “fun and wacky food”. Most of it barely qualifies as “food”.

If the trajectory of this website is about health & wellness, and my new website is about that, why did I go?

  • Brand new experiences.
  • Curiosity.

Brand new experiences

One of my goals for 2015 is to have new experiences every day, in order to really live. I document these experiences, including those that seem insignificant, in a journal. Even years ago when I was off meat for a few years I occasionally ate it a food events if it was something rare, maybe one-of-a-kind, or only available for the duration of that event. I didn’t do it often but I never regretted it.

What you want to put into your body is your choice
(make it worth it)

This is going to be a recurring theme in my new website (Now in pre-launch! Sign up!)

You may have heard me say it before: If you know that something into your mouth will make you feel bad – physically or emotionally, either don’t put it there, or put it there anyway and enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t act like you didn’t know that this was a possibility.

Don’t body shame yourself. You don’t want anyone else to body shame you, right?

CNE’s 2015 food lineup

Here is a sampling of what to expect and where you can expect it.

Burgers etc.

Corrado’s S&M Burger (Midway, $14)

Corrado’s “S&M” Burger was one of the few items I tried that resembled real food, and was my favourite. It seemed like something I’d find at a restaurant, rather simply a novelty, and I would eat it again. This might deter some CNE-goers from choosing it. Most CNE food is novelty, and that’s part of the experience. The S&M Burger is a homemade meatball patty topped with spaghetti, parmesan cheese and marinara sauce on a multigrain bun that’s been slathered with garlic spread. Customers can choose to make it spicier by having hot peppers added. It sort of reminded me of the “spaghetti pie”/frittata-like dish that my mother sometimes made when I was growing up.

Corrado's S&M burger

Bub’s Bad@ss Burgers (Food Building, $10)

Bub’s Bad@ss Burgers offers two versions of a burger. The “Bad Boy Burger” is a  spicy cheeseburger and fried chicken sandwiched between Jamaican patties, while the “Sumo Burger” featured two beef patties with hoisin sauce, wasabi mayo, wasabi cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onions topped with chow mein noodles on a sesame seed bun.

Bub's burgers


Poutine Balls (Vienna, Food Building, $6.95/$9.95)

Poutine Balls are mashed potatoes stuffed with cheese curds, rolled in breadcrumbs then deep fried. They are then drenched in Bavarian style gravy and topped with more cheese curds. I taught my phone the word “poutine” when I was taking notes. Now my phone has a proper Canadian vocabulary.

poutine balls

Garlic Snow Crab Fries

I wanted to try these, but they ran out before I could. If you like the sound of seasoned fresh cut fries with house-made garlic aioli, fresh snow crab, topped with parsley and dill, try it.

snow crab fries

Food on sticks

What’s a midway/carnival without food on sticks that you can eat with one hand?

Chicken waffles on a stick 

The flavour of Frank’s hot sauce dominated. I don’t like Frank’s hot sauce, but you might. It’s on a stick, which fulfills carnival food criteria.

Other snack items include Frosted Flake Battered Chicken on  a Stick (Iron Skillet Sirloin Tips, Food Building, $10) and the media release tells me that they will have the World’s Largest Corndog on display in the Food Building. Wish I’d seen that. It’s nearly three times the size of a traditional corndog. Now that’s fit for a carnival.

chicken waffle CNE 2015frosted flake chicken

The deep fried sweets

I kind of want to muffle my voice here. I want to give a long “beeeeep!” or put a black bar across it. Warning: Might not be suitable for… anyone, really.

I couldn’t bring myself to try the Deep Fried Red Velvet Oreos from the Funnel Cake Shop (Food Building) or Fran’s deep fried cheesecake. In retrospect I wish I’d take one bite of the cheesecake but I just wasn’t feeling it at the time.

I understand Fran’s deep fried rice pudding ($8) because I like arancini. Why not make deep fried rice pudding balls?

Deep fried Red Velvet Oreos

Exclusive CNE Timbit flavours

Tim Hortons has two new TimBit flavours just for The Ex: Cola, and Cotton Candy.


Other Tim Horton’s offerings include multiple varieties of “Timbits poutine”, Timbits covered in sweet dessert toppings. I just couldn’t. Even the thought of letting that much sweetness touch my tongue made my mouth burn.

The (grilled) cheese stands alone

Bacon Wrapped Grilled Cheese (Bacon Nation, Food Building, $10)

Obviously the bacon wrapped grilled cheese from Bacon Nation was tasty. It’s a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with aged cheddar and mozzarella, wrapped in bacon weave, served with spicy sweet chili ketchup. Bacon is duct tape for food. As long as I don’t have to weave the bacon. I’m not good at it, and I weaved enough last summer for a single event to make me never want to weave it again.

Bacon grilled cheese at the CNE.

Photo credit: Jesse Milns of BlogTO (link below)

Other attractions worth checking out:

XPogo Stunt Team
The world’s best extreme pogo performance team makes its CNE debut with a one of a kind, high flying and gravity-defying act. The pogo sticks that the team performs on can bounce up to 9 feet in the air.

Photo: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun (I stood back to let the real journalists work.)

Photo: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun (Link below. I stood back to let the real journalists work.)

Rush Parkour

Performers from The Monkey Vault, a training centre in Toronto. What little we got to see was amazing and it looked like the performers were having a ton of fun.

Rush Parkour at the CNE

These three are screen shots from videos I took. Click to see the larger version.

parkour3 parkour2


Other attractions include The SuperDogs (I LOVE the SuperDogs!), acrobat performances, the celebrity chef stage and more! Check out the CNE website and related articles below for more.

The CNE is on from August 21-September 7. Ticket prices vary but start at $6 for admission after 5 p.m., no midway rides (midway extra). See the CNE website for details.

Head there while you can. I recommend going at night. It’s beautiful after dark, as shown in the photo below.

More related articles

Wackiest new foods at this year’s CNE

Timbits Poutine On Offer For The First Time With Foods At CNE 2015 

CNE Foods: 2015 Includes Deep-Fried Oreos, Poutine Balls And A Jamaican Patty Burger

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