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Late August in Toronto is a time to ignore summer’s end and instead, embrace the garish, sun-soaked, overcrowded, wonderful spectacle that is the CNE. From rickety rides and impossible games to overpriced, overindulgent treats, the CNE is an end-of-summer rite of passage for city dwellers. Cancelled due to COVID-19, the CNE has rebranded this year as CNE at Home. Happily, if the event’s real draw for you was always the food, you still have options. Some are deep-fried, others are truly questionable and every one is sure to spark memories of better CNE days.
CNE at Home may not have the same ring to it but organizers have tried their best this year to bring the event to the people who miss it most. The CNE Virtual Kitchen offers recipes and videos featuring step-by-step instructions on how to make some favourite CNE treats. Try the Mac and Cheesery’s Rainbow Grilled Cheese, Primo’s 99 cent spaghetti, Event Foods’ Granny Smith Apple Fries and more. Some items are also available for takeout or delivery from the listed restaurants.
El Mercado, a takeout only, weekend popup on the patio space at Barrio Cervecería in Leslieville, is another spot for over-the-top eats. From dill pickle and jalapeño lime soft serve to fried pickles and elaborate drinks served in hollowed-out pineapples, these treats bring a carnival feel to the city’s east side.
For west-end dwellers, the Kiss Me pop-up offers a similar vibe. Dishes like barbecue turkey legs, campfire s'mores cocktails, hot Cheetos corn, cotton candy donuts and more are guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
For something a little more sedate but every bit as tempting, O&B Grocery offers a limited-time “Nod to the CNE” food box. Each box is loaded with mini jalapeño and cheese corndogs, boa-nana splits and carnival corn.
Nothing this year, including the CNE, is quite the same as before. Still, if your stomach had trouble with carnival treats mixed with carnival rides, maybe, in this case, that’s a blessing in disguise.