If you’re headed to the Fair at the PNE (on until September 3), you’ll want to bring your appetite and leave your diet at home. It’s not that all of the dishes and snacks made by more than 50 food vendors are gut-busting, artery-clogging creations—there are actually a handful of healthy options—but so much of the food at the fair is wacky and wonderful that you’ll be tempted to try more than just the popular mini doughnuts.
Monkey Butter is a Vancouver-based handmade, all-natural peanut butter company.
On a media tour of the food at the PNE on Tuesday (August 28), I had a chance to taste some of the newest additions to this year’s fair. The first stop was at the Monkey Butter booth inside Marketplace at the Forum, which includes 250 exhibitors. Monkey Butter is an East Vancouver-based handmade, all-natural peanut butter business. This is the company’s first year at the PNE, but their six flavours of peanut butter—which includes dark chocolate banana, salted caramel, maple bacon, and white chocolate raspberry—are quickly becoming a popular attraction. A 375-gram jar is $10 and three jars are $25. If you want to sample all six flavours, pick up a sample pack (containing 74-millilitre samples of each flavour) is $20.
Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes owners Suzanne and Perry Poudrier showcasing deep-fried Wagon Wheels and the deluxe maple bacon funnel cake.
Next up was the Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes booth run by husband-and-wife-team Suzanne and Perry Poudrier. Last year, the Poudriers gained attention by introducing deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried Pop-Tarts to PNE-goers. This year, they’ve added deep-fried Wagon Wheels ($5) to their menu and expanded their funnel cake repertoire with a deluxe maple bacon funnel cake ($8). Wagon Wheels are a popular snack food containing a biscuit topped with marshmallow that’s covered in chocolate. Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes goes one step further by dipping the Wagon Wheel in fry batter and deep-frying it until it is soft and melted inside. Meanwhile, the maple bacon funnel cake is made by first frying a mixture of batter and oil poured from a funnel, giving the cake a squiggly texture, and then topped with bacon bits, maple syrup, and whipped cream.
Chocolate- and nut-covered marshmallows to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Just behind Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cakes is Powers Chocolate owned by Ken Powers. The first-time vendor specializes in one of the healthier options available at the PNE—fresh fruit dipped in chocolate. Diners can choose from an assortment of fresh fruit, including strawberries and bananas, dipped in dark or milk chocolate ($5) or pick up a summer cone ($5.75), which is a waffle cone filled with fresh assorted fruit and topped with chocolate. If eating fruit while at the PNE just doesn’t feel right, Powers Chocolate also sells skewers of chocolate- and nut-covered marshmallows ($3.75 for four).
Pink deep-fried balls of Kool-Aid.
Closer to the entrance to Playland is Granny’s Foods, run by a third-generation carnival food vendor from Texas. This is Granny’s Foods’ first time at the PNE, but the booth specializing in deep-fried desserts has been a popular stop for festival attendees. While deep-fried Oreos and chocolate bars and chocolate- or candy-dipped frozen bananas are among Granny’s Foods’ specialities, its biggest sellers are the deep-fried Kool-Aid ($5 for five) and deep-fired cheesecake ($7). The fried Kool-Aid is made with cherry Kool-Aid, and the result looks similar to a pink Timbit. Meanwhile, the deep-fried cheesecake is wrapped in pastry dough before being dropped in the fryer.
Barbecue ribs by Smoke & Bones.
Next to Granny’s Foods is the Champion BBQ Pit Masters. For the second year, the PNE is featuring five barbeque teams from B.C., Alberta, and Ontario in the Vancouver Rib Festival. Gator BBQ, Smoke & Bones, Prairie Smoke & Spice BBQ, Smoke & Guns BBQ, and Smokin’ Babes BBQ each serve up award-winning versions of barbecue ribs, beef brisket, and pulled pork, and diners are invited to vote for their favourite. Other PNE dining options include returning favourite Henry’s Chicken BBQ, which serves charcoal-smoked chicken; the Shrimp Boat, which serves popcorn shrimp and wiggle chips; Yumza Pizzeria, a new gourmet pizza vendor; Saltspring Noodles, which serves Asian-inspired noodle boxes; and an assortment of international cuisine, including Greek, Italian, Indian, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican. Of course, if you still have any room left, you’ll have to stop by Those Little Donuts for a bag—or two—of sugary mini doughnuts.
A trip to the Fair at the PNE isn’t complete without mini doughnuts.
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.