Thursday, 27 August 2015

The PNE: All My Food Is Brown

You know the PNE, right? That shameless, sweaty, noisy, crowded fair. Greasy food. Minidonuts!Minidonuts!Minidonuts! A whole building dedicated to the kinds of things you usually see being shilled on late-night informercials. Balding has-been nostalgia acts competing with adorable performing dogs for your time and attention. Rides that make you dizzy and terrified.

As you may have guessed, I'm a little bit cynical about the PNE.

Pure terror. 
But I went, after a 7-year hiatus, because my guy was working there this week, and because one of my best friends works at the Agrodome and she gave me 2 free passes for helping to judge some 4H displays. So picture this: my boyfriend arrives home, exhausted and unwashed from a week of chaperoning 4H kids, and I drag his ass... right back to the PNE. What a champ. Hey, he had some food vouchers to use up. First stop: Cheyenne Coffee. My guy had been such a regular all week that he got his Americano on the house! And my cappuccino was pretty tasty too.
On to Waffles With Benefits, which Jay had been raving about all week long, for a late breakfast. Now here's the thing: every time- and I mean EVERY time- I have a sweet breakfast as opposed to a savoury one, I regret it. It's like that person you have a fling with... and it's not that fun... but you try again because you think you should be enjoying it more... But they're still not doin' it for ya. Sweet stuff has its place, but for me, the first meal of the day needs to be savoury. So clearly, chicken-and-waffles was the way to go. 
My first chicken-and-waffles ever! It seemed a fitting meal to have at the fair, where everything is deep-fried. 
Photo courtesy of Jay.
I have to say, it was an experience. The chicken was delicious: breaded and deep-fried (of course), lightly drizzled with syrup and sandwiched between two crisp waffles with a side of gravy. I poured the gravy on liberally and set to.
I'd say it was a pretty good experience overall, and certainly not bad at all for a fair ; the gravy was a bit tasteless but the slight drizzle of syrup was a nice contrasting touch. As for the waffles- well, I guess I'm still uneasy about them: they are an excellent vehicle for conveying as much syrup and gravy (or fruit puree or Nutella or whatever) to your mouth as possible, but when it comes to eating fried chicken, a nice crusty bun would have served better, in my opinion. But that's just me, and WWB is not to blame. 

Fast-forward through various fair-related activities involving farm animals (get your mind out of the gutter) and it's time for ice cream. Casa Gelato had a truck there, but we decided to give Rocky Point Ice Cream a try. So glad we did, especially considering they're way out in Port Moody, whereas I can have Casa Gelato's stuff any old time. RP had the old standbys like chocolate, and the de rigueur hipster flavours of Salted Caramel and Maple Bacon. Now, I love the sweet/salty thing, and I'm super glad it's trendy these days, but life- and ice cream- should be about variety. I was tempted by the Honey-Lavender ice cream and the Lemon-Basil sorbetto, but eventually I ordered a double scoop: Raspberry-Lime-Mojito sorbetto & Blackberry-Sage ice cream. 

Did I quail when I saw the enormous size of my cone? Only a little. Jay decided to be daring and try their featured beer ice cream of the day: Yellow Dog's smoked porter. I urged him to try a sample first, but he scoffed. "I don't believe in samples", he said airily, and reached eagerly for his large helping of beer ice cream. 

The sweet/tart sorbetto was lovely. I am a sucker for all things lime, so this was a no-brainer. Pour some white rum on this baby, and it would have been an instant cocktail. But the blackberry-sage was a revelation: the sweet fruit and woody sage balanced by smooth creaminess. Both my scoops had large, delicious chunks of herb leaf in them (mint in the mojito one of course, and fuzzy sage in the blackberry sage one). This might sound weird, but it was fantastic. 
And how did Jay fare with the porter ice cream? Damn, that was some ice cream. Very beery, with a hint of effervescence, it would have paired excellently with chocolate cake. Although I thought it would be a bad idea, and since I don't like beer I wouldn't have gone for it, I was proved wrong. Deliciously wrong. I notice that Rocky Point has more interesting flavours on their website, so if you're in Port Moody go and check them out for me! 

As the evening approached, we retired to the beer tent for a while, then got closer to the Chevrolet Stage to get down to Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts. Here again, my cynicism was proved groundless. Over at the packed Amphitheatre the Beach Boys might have been lumbering through their Brian Wilson-less show*, but on our smaller stage Barney and his band were killin' it, and looking genuinely happy to be there. 

Finally, it was time to wrap things up. I was craving a bit more food before we left, though, so I had some tasty fried rice balls from Roaming Dragon that left me wanting more, and mac-and-cheese from Reel Mac and Cheese that wasn't bad but needed more cheese and less, um, non-cheese (flour, maybe?) in their sauce.**

Then, of course, it was time to celebrate the day's end with a fairground classic: the deep-fried Mars Bar. Of which I can only say that not all things should be encased in doughy batter. The warm, gooey chocolate bar? Thumbs up. The stodgy batter? (Greasy) thumbs way down. 

And so ended my very nice day at the PNE, wherein I discovered that if you avoid the places that are trying to sell you something, and stick to the agriculture buildings, the concerts, and the food-greasy or otherwise- it is possible to have a good time after all. 

*I should say that while the Beach Boys don't appeal to me without Brian Wilson's mad genius, I hope they put on a good show and I'm sure many good folks enjoyed it a lot. But Barney was a better choice. 
** We were at the PNE for basically the whole day, so I wasn't quite as greedy as this post makes me seem. Okay, maybe I was. 

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