by Madeleine Brown
Like awkward family reunions, the weirdest food trends gather at fairs across the continent over the summer before they die off never to be eaten again. (Hopefully your family reunions don’t always conclude in death[s]).
There are the fair classics from funnel cakes and cotton candy to ribs and burgers. However, fairs like Toronto’s CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition), North America’s fifth largest, have embraced the event’s natural breeding ground for bizarre eats and now draw crowds for food alone. From August 18 through Labour Day weekend, you can find all your deep-fried favourites alongside appearances by celebrity chefs like Vancouver restaurateur, Vikram Vij and Chopped judge favourite, John Higgins as well as features on craft beer, east coast cuisine and another beloved trend, food trucks. While the newest food offerings are still under wraps, let’s meet a selection of this year’s participants and their specialties.
The newest cone in town
Who eats ice cream for the ice cream any more? It’s all in the cone. Open your Instagrams, people! According to Eva of Eva’s Original Chimneys, chimneys or kurtoskalacs are a Hungarian specialty eaten like you would any respectable cinnamon roll: a slow unspiralling of that perfect bread-like pastry. Eva fills hers with soft-serve ice cream and toppings described with every food buzzword out there like “homemade”, “organic” and “local”. Given the headlines and features, this lady’s on to something smoking.
Did you say bacon?
Canada’s Bacon Nation understands humankind’s primitive attraction to beloved bacon. What brings anyone to the kitchen quicker than a whiff of spitting pork fat as strips sizzle in the frying pan? Stronger in numbers, Bacon Nation united two food trends to much delight at last year’s CNE with the Bacon Taco. It has all the usual fixings of a taco along with a heap of crispy, dripping bacon. Leave your vegetarian friends at home; this one’s for the most carnivorous members of your circle.
Don’t cry over it
Who wants an onion ring, when you can have a whole flower? Available in food truck form since last summer, the folks at the Colossal Onion cut their big white, beauties from the top down in the shape of a blossoming water lily. From there it’s doused in batter, deep-fried and served alongside dippable chipotle mayo. This onion won’t lead to any tears—except perhaps of joy.
Philthy Phillys’s brings the magic of the Philly cheesesteak north. Traditionally, the sandwich is served in a hoagie roll, stuffed with thin-sliced beefsteak and drowned in melted cheese. Phil follows tradition (alongside a chicken option) and goes against it with other variations that feature the additions of coleslaw and fries in the sandwich known as Phat Phil and hash browns, sautéed onions and eggs, or #Philthy. Best of all, add Cheese Whiz to any sandwich for no extra charge. Bonus points to you if you manage to share a ‘wich with Phil himself.