Perhaps I’m just getting old, but this year’s Pacific National Exhibition did nothing for me. We used to go every year as kids – my grandpa would take me, my sister, and my cousins, and we would spend all day riding as many rides as possible, enjoying fast food hamburgers for lunch, and always taking home a big bag of cotton candy. We might play a few of those carnival games that are impossible to win if we felt like it. It was always a great time. Even in my 20’s I would try and get to the Fair, check out the displays, eat some mini-donuts, and enjoy the day. But this year…well, it sucked.
My cousin’s wife and I decided to head down to the PNE this weekend, to spend the evening enjoying ridiculous fair food and watching the free evening concert. We started off our fair experience with what I would call the highlight – beverages from Roaming Dragon.
While she enjoyed the Lychee Basil Lemonade (which I sampled here), I went with the Asian Pear & Mint Iced Tea. I really enjoyed the prominent minty flavour, mild sweetness, and big chunks of pear in the drink. Very refreshing, and it was nice to see Roaming Dragon didn’t raise their prices too much compared to their street food prices. I’m hoping this iced tea makes it onto the regular menu. My only gripe – some of the pear chunks were too big to suck up the straw.
After hydrating, we made the rounds of the fair, walked through the prize home (which I also thought was just meh), and checked out the marketplace to see what amazing gadgets were being flogged to fair goers this year. Vitamix was there, but they definitely weren’t in my fair budget this time. So we left the marketplace empty handed and hungry.
There are a plethora of eating options at the fair – your standard hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, lemonade, popcorn, candy apples, etc – but there are also more interesting offerings such as cajun shrimp, perogies, Indian food, BBQ, Chinese food, and many more. We figured we should get something over the top and crazy, because that’s what fair food is all about, right? Crazy Dogs seemed like the perfect option.
Pretzel buns and extreme toppings? Awesome! Or should I say crazy?
The menu was short and sweet – only 4 types of Crazy Dogs (plus a plain hot dog for those less adventuresome, or not wanting to spend over $10 on a hotdog). One involved popcorn shrimp, which didn’t interest me, another was a vegetarian Mexican style hot dog (meh), while these two piqued both our interests.
The Unroutine Poutine (cheese curds, gravy, bacon bits, and fries), and the Piggy in a Poncho (wrapped in bacon, covered in sour cream and guacamole). Seeing as there were two of us, we had the brilliant idea to order one of each and share. Much to our dismay, when we got to the window to order we found out they were out of gravy. You can’t very well have a poutine dog without the gravy, so we each just got the Piggy in a Poncho.
The Piggy In A Poncho – wiener wrapped in bacon, covered in sour cream and guacamole. What the menu failed to mention was that they put cilantro on the dog as well. Seriously?! Why?! I promptly picked that vile stuff off.
So…the pretzel bun was amazing. The hot dog was a basic hot dog, made slightly better with the bacon. The guacamole was definitely a store bought blend that tasted as such. It wasn’t completely horrible, but it wasn’t worth what I paid for it either, even with its massive size.
Full of not-so-crazy dogs, we walked around a little more, listened to some of the concert (it was alright), watched some acrobats, then decided to pick up fair treats to take home to share with our families.
Funnel Cakes! The ultimate fair food…or so I’ve heard. I had actually never had one before. Therefore I needed to get one.
It was good hot – doughy, a little sweet with the powdered sugar, fun to pull apart. I only ate a piece of two while it was hot, and took the rest home. Let me tell you, once these things get cold, they are just greasy, soggy, and blah. At least I can say I tried them!
The funnel cake stand also had delights such as deep fried Oreos, and deep fried Pop Tarts. The Pop Tarts creeped me out – they were battered, fried, and served with whipped cream and neon coloured sprinkles. I could see the appeal in a deep fried Oreo though. My cousin’s wife bought some, and brought them home for my cousin. I did get to taste one then, and again, I think cold they aren’t so good. The cookie was no longer crunchy, so you just had a soft texture all the way through which wasn’t that great. Another fail for the fried fair foods.
And because we didn’t have quite enough fried dough, we stopped at the mini donut stand.
You cannot go to the PNE and not have mini donuts. It’s sacrilege I tell you! Mini donuts are to the PNE as peanut butter is to jelly. Or something.
We each grabbed a bag, ate one or two, and brought the rest home. The great thing about mini donuts is that they actually still taste good even once they are cold, making them the perfect take away deep fried fair food. You can enjoy those little cinnamon & sugar coated babies for days, therefore not feeling like a pile of crap because you ate a vat of deep fried dough in one sitting. Can you guess how I was feeling later on that evening after my fair food experience?
Maybe my fun, happy memories of summers at the PNE have left me with high standards for my fair experience, but this year was a disappointment. Which is a shame, because the PNE is such an institution in Vancouver, and always marks the end of summer. Here’s hoping next year is better, because $20 is a lot to pay to get in just to get a bag of mini donuts 😉