It's a time-honoured tradition that marks the beginning of the end of summer in Canada — the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.
While a visit to Canada's largest fair involves taking in some of the incredible performances and trying your luck at games in the midway, no visit is complete without tasting the unique and outrageous foods on offer.
Last year's show-stopper was the Krispy Kreme doughnut burger (which is making a return) and this year's treats also take things to the extreme.
This year's overriding theme seems to be bacon and deep-fried wares. Throwing all caution and calorie-counting to the wind, I bravely sampled the various eats on offer at this year's Ex.
Bacon-wrapped deep-fried Mars bar
The folks at Bacon Nation have set the bar this year for over-the-top eats, creating a bacon-lover's paradise. Bacon and Nutella sandwiches, bacon funnel cake, bacon pops and more bacon treats await those brave enough to tackle them. With the portions of the other confections overwhelming, I decided to sample the bacon-wrapped deep-fried Mars bar. It was delicious, with the combination of sweet and salty a perfect match. In my opinion, there was a bit too much dough on the outside to chew through, but overall it was a satisfying treat and I could only finish half of it.
I have a feeling that the deep-fried fudge in maple flavour from the folks at Northwest Fudge Factory will be this year's favourite, by far. The fudge melts slightly during the deep-frying process, but unlike the deep-fried butter from years past, it's not absorbed by its golden mini doughnut batter — so it gently melts into your mouth with each bite. Also check out their sweet and salty bacon fudge.
[See also: Deep-fried Kool-Aid]
Red velvet pancakes with pulled pork and Jack Daniels-infused maple syrup
From the folks who brought you the Krispy Kreme burger, the red velvet pancakes with pulled pork and Jack Daniels-infused maple syrup are probably one of the most extreme items on the menu this year. Sadly, while I tried multiple times to get a sample of this delicious-looking goodie — the vendor would not serve up, saying that the prepared items were 'too cold' and therefore 'wouldn't taste as delicious as a fresh one.' I'm thinking that the salty, sweet and boozy combination would make for the most heavenly of experiences (hot or cold).
Homemade apple fritters
Who doesn't love an old-fashioned apple fritter? These yummy little treats from Big Apple Fritter are made from cored and sliced apples which are then battered and deep-fried, before being coated in your choice of cinnamon or icing sugar. I had the cinnamon variety and it was delicious. Plus, I could convince myself that I was eating something healthy, since there was a real apple in there, after all. Right?
Maple bacon mini cupcakes and 'Biggie Ex Pops'
New to the Ex this year, Sweetness Bakery's maple bacon mini cupcake was a flavour-explosion in my mouth. It took all my strength not to grab the tray. This nut-free vendor's 'Biggie Ex Pop' is a refreshing treat that jumps on the foods on a stick trend with three fresh strawberries and two of their 'sweety pops' (like a cake pop) skewered together and drizzled with premium chocolate.
A perfect treat for little hands or smaller appetites, the deep-fried marshmallows are another tasty little treat. Served with your choice of caramel, chocolate or strawberry sauce, they're a perfect two-bite indulgence.
Favourite treats that are returning this year include deep-fried butter, deep-fried PB&J, colossal onions, deep-fried cola, and deep-fried mac'n'cheese. New this year is a Food Truck Frenzy special event taking place August 24-26, featuring 17 professional food trucks rolling onto the grounds to show off their multicultural, unique offerings.
This year's Ex runs from August 17-September 3.
What are you most looking forward to sampling at this year's Ex?
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