Let’s Go to the Ex-treme!

CNE Entrance arrWhere do the deliciously good – but, bad for you – and hungry meet? The EX! Also referred to as the Canadian National Exhibition, this 18-day stream of fun carnival rides, games, competitions, and shopping is Toronto’s annual gathering spot for the latest finds – including, fair fare.CNE Ferris Wheel arr

Carrying a no holds bar approach to all that is blissfully sweet and fried, satisfying your need to feed is by no means difficult. Here, walk and feast your way to a surplus of guilty pleasures. Sugar shack or hot potato stand, food caddies are not so far nor away. Already bagged or cooked to order, merry-go-round your way to a vast selection of artery-clogging classics – cotton candy, popcorn, hamburgers, corndogs, and more.CNE Cotton Candy arrCNE Corn arr

Topping the list, however, of fried ‘show-offs’ remains one intact batter-dipped reveal – the “Colossal Onion.” Move aside “spiral spuds,” this novel take on the onion ring is an atypical festive blossom. Deep-fried entirely whole – in all its fist-size splendour – there’s minimal chance of losing any fly-away pieces of this golden bulb. Inherently, the only disappearing act is the devouring of this layered vegetable aromatic – one crispy strip at a time.CNE Colossal Onion arr

The CNE, undoubtedly, is known for its grand spectacle of unusual eats. Just follow the arrow-route road, and enter an enclosed snack-attack compound – the “Food Building.” CNE Spice Cream arrAlso, home of the infamous “Cronut Burger,” weird-food aficionados can easily exchange one missed tasting opportunity for another. Taking taste buds on a flavour ride, Just Cone It puts a spin on the common crêpe cone by making theirs “dirty” – with a smear of Nutella. Fans of edible geometry can even get their hands on the “Spice Cream” cone. Combination of hot and cold, this fully-loaded handheld comes equipped with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate hazelnut spread, bacon bits, and chilli peppers. Evidently, the math is simple – sweet plus savoury equals an irresistibly refreshing piquant treat. CNE Sand Sculpture arr

Aside from the collaboratively entertaining dinner and dessert duo – “dinnert” wrap – the sand sculpting competition and garden show are worth a look as well. CNE Chuck arrBut, on my day off, I had my eyes set on one specific site – the Food Network Celebrity Stage. If it sounds, looks, and cooks like Chuck, can it be? ‘Absolument!’ Yes, indeed, I was in the presence of Chef Hughes, doing was he does best – sharing his passion for food – live on stage! Accompanied by Danny Smiles, former Top Chef Canada competitor, the tag-team prepared a storm of dishes for two fortunate audience members. Still happy-go-lucky – post the hour-long demonstration – I received my share of attention from the Montréal natives with a brief, yet memorable, encounter. Delightful to watch, both on and off-screen, these masters of the trade are kind, skilled and clearly hardworking – above all, the ‘exhibiting talents’ at this year’s fair.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

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La Dolce Vita!

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Mercury rising, I quickly learned to combat summer heat like the locals with ‘gelato’ (Italian ice cream).

Setting off route, I found an authentic ice cream parlour, dating back to the 1900s – Gelateria Giolitti. This genuine Italian creamery is enchanting for its vintage décor, and blend of natural ingredients used to produce the epitome of handmade gelato. Craving both the ‘la dolce vita’ and ‘la bella vita,’ I managed to find both in frozen batches of happiness. Equally striking, is the quality of service. It’s all about you! Hailing to your inner-Caesar, hospitable servers abide to your every inclination by preparing the ultimate icy treat.

Dagnino Cakes 2 arrScream not for ice cream here! Following the leader – a.k.a. you – ask for one to three helpings of highly dense lusciousness. Select among dozens of recipes varying from melon to coffee or opt for a range of full-bodied taste in pistachio, zabaglione, tiramisu and yes, even the famed chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella. The scoop’s the limit! Served in a cup or cone, once determined, complete your creation with a dollop of freshly whipped cream – the real stuff – or other toppings for a tastier ‘finale.’ Armoured with a tiny plastic utensil, holding a chilled dessert never felt so rewarding. I, unequivocally, defeated the scorching sun. Every spoonful of this slowly-churned soft-serve gelato felt as refreshing as being fanned by palm leaves – a Cleopatra moment, almost.

Dagnino Cookies 3 arrContinuing with my epicurean escapade, I adopted a Roman custom of my own – to close the evening with a scrumptious night cap. To Dagnino I go! Makers of traditional Sicilian desserts, this bakery and coffee bar is for lovers of sweet-everything. To be shared over a sit down chat or boxed for a dinner party, the selection of crumbly butter cookies looked tempting. In another refrigerator, in epic proportion, vivid fruit jelly tarts and moist dome-shaped cakes were attractively displayed; a suitable match for a gladiator-worthy appetite.

Dagnino Purchase arrVictory prevailed! The best of both worlds, in texture and measure, presented itself in something I had yet to try – ‘cassatina siciliana.’ Typical of Palermo, a southern region of Italy, this dessert is soft and sweet; it contains a cake base – soaked with liqueur – covered with a mixture of ricotta cheese and candied fruit, then enrobed in a pale green marzipan shell similar to icing. Needless to say, personal history had been made! Also adding to my cannoli-eating repertoire, I had now tried the pistachio variation; a crispy pastry containing a creamy pistachio-infused ricotta filling that’s reliably divine. Goodbyes are normally bittersweet. Fortunately, my Roman holiday concluded with a sweet ending. To good sights and eats, “cin, cin!”

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.