PNE offers taste of the exotic

"It kind of tastes like chicken,” was one comment overheard about the crocodile sliders served up during a media tasting tour Wednesday morning.
It was some of the more unusual food items sold at the Pacific National Exhibition this year but it was not the only exotic offering at the Gourmet Burgers stand, new to the PNE.
Langley-based Brian Jones and his family are serving up burgers offering unusual toppings such as caramelized apples and maple syrup bacon. A big hit during the tasting was the Crazy Monkey burger, topped with banana and peanut butter. The verdict was still out on the kangaroo, wild boar and camel sliders.
“We didn’t put any sauces on them so you could really taste the meat,” Jones told the group of print and broadcast reporters, bloggers and camera operators gathered for the event.
As media ate at Gourmet Burgers, William “Hunky Bill” Konyk strolled by on the way to his adjacent perogie stand. Some of the younger journalists members had no idea who this elderly man was but the Perogie King, as he’s known, was given rock star treatment from others old enough to know they were in the presence of midway and infomercial greatness.
The tour started out with what sounded like simple fare — grilled cheese sandwiches — at the Cheese Please stand located conveniently near the Kids Playce area. But the offerings at this new stand were anything but simple with a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with crunchy, deep-fried jalapeno peppers and a second filled with pulled beef and onion.
The Think Sweet Deep Fried Pies stand for offered, you guessed it, deep fried pies, including apple and caramel, peach, lemon, blueberry and raspberry, many topped with soft-serve ice cream. For the less faint of heart, deep fried butter was also on the menu.
It was all-deep-fried-all-the-time at Pickle Pete’s, where Joe and Brenda Premont serve up a new fair favourite, deep-fried pickles. The pickles were named best new product at this summer’s Calgary Stampede and are proving to be a hit in B.C. Also new for Pickle Pete’s this year is the deep-fried Philly cheesesteak, as well as bacon threaded on skewers before being popped into the deep fryer and served with chocolate dipping sauce. Classics still on the menu include deep-fried cheesecake, Oreos, Wagon Wheels, Twinkies, jalapeno poppers and green beans, which apparently have been a hit with Vancouverites this year.
Speaking of bacon, the next stop on the tour was at the Elephant Ear stand where the classic sugar and cinnamon version has been taken up a notch. New items this year include the bacon and banana Elephant Ear, deep-fried before being drizzled with chocolate.
The offerings at Wings, a Lower Mainland chain of restaurants and pubs, helped the tour members regroup. But that was probably due to the B.C.-raised chicken wings covered in a maple, bacon dry rub, among others.
The final stop on the tour was to Ernie’s Ice Cream trailer, founded by retired hockey player Ernie Dougherty in 1948.
Dougherty recently sold the stand to a neighbouring vendor, but at almost 90-years-old, he drops by the stand to say hello, which is only natural considering he worked the fair almost every summer of his life. Dougherty got his first job at the PNE as a child peeling wieners at the Coral Café, once located in front of Hastings Race Course. In 1948 Dougherty opened his iconic red and white ice cream trailer at the PNE, which remains today.
The Fair at the PNE continues now through Sept. 2.

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sthomas@vancourier.com
twitter.com/sthomas10

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