Monday, September 7, 2009

PNE 2009 - Chris Isaak

Is it wrong that when I look at this picture all I think of is BBQ? The PNE started out 99 years ago as an agricultural fair, so it only seemed fitting that we spent at least some of our last day looking at the animals. The fair actually does a pretty good job of making the connection from barnyard to the dinner plate, something more folk need to learn about.

We had a number of objectives for our last day at the PNE, not the least of which was conquering Jimmy's Lunch. Jimmy's Lunch is another long time fair resident - 80 years this summer in fact. What makes Jimmy's an essential part of the fair for me is not the burgers and hot dogs they sell by the thousands. There are several places that make much better food. No, what endears this place to me is the onions.

Or rather, the mountain of onions that makes it's home on the griddle at Jimmy's on the first day of the fair, and seemingly never diminishes for the duration. As onions are removed to be put on new orders, new onions are added to the pile. And if you look closely at the bottom of the pile you'll notice the presence of meat. Burgers are kept warm beneath, receiving flavour from the onions and adding their own essence to the pile.

Jimmy's is not for the faint of heart. This is greasy burgerness at it's best, but for many it comes at a price. Indigestion is not uncommon, but is a rite of passage for the serious fair goer. I had a Deluxe Cheeburger and fries, and let my stomach rumble as we watched the Superdogs.

Dinner was something new ... considering I've never seen them at the fair before (let me know if I have that wrong). Steve-O's had been tempting me all week long, mostly because it was a good deal ($7 for a 10" pizza) and also because you could have it made to order. We ordered up a cheese pizza with Italian sausage and 10 minutes later we wandered back up to the Central Park beer garden. Aside from the crust being a little undercooked, it was a really good pizza. Nice chew to the crust, and lots of toppings.

After dinner we wandered over to the amphitheatre to take our place in the throng waiting to see Chris Isaak.

My apologies for the poor quality of the video, but as the performers got better, and the fair got closer to the end, the crowds grew accordingly. Chris Isaak's audience was only slightly smaller than the Gipsy Kings, and that was only due to a bit of rain (translation: it poured all afternoon). Thankfully the clouds cleared leaving Chris Isaak and his bright pink suit a beautiful evening to entertain the throng. This was easily the best show of the 2009 fair.

How do you finish off a great day at the PNE? Dessert of course! Round 1, Whale Tails. These are also seen around the world as Elephant Ears and Beaver Tails ... but they're all the same thing. Fried dough with stuff on them. In our case, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Dessert Round 2 was on our way out of the fair. A home made root beer float, made especially convenient with the Buckeye Rootbeer stand right next to the soft serve ice cream stand. And even through the ice cream stand sold floats, Buckeye Rootbeer makes it better. Honest.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

PNE 2009 - The Gipsy Kings

If you're looking for a lot of eating in this entry, I'm going to dissappoint you. I'd met up with a friend for lunch earlier in the day at DB Bistro and unfortunately filled up before I made it to the fair. On a positive note, I can tell you that I have not found a better Reuben sandwich anywhere than at DB Bistro. Homemade corned beaf and sauerkraut ... but I digress.

Another downer this week is that the weather has started to turn to autumn. It's still been warm during the day, but there's a crispness in the morning air that hints at cooler days to come. And as is usual for the PNE, the rain has returned. Not steady, November rain, but annoying rain-just-long-enough-to-make-the-grass-to-wet-to-sit-on sort of rain.

Lucky for us the rain stopped before the evening's concert, and there were so many people there to see the Gipsy Kings, that NOBODY was going to sit down. The group you see sitting in the picture were actually laughed at when they started asking those in front to "sit down!"

Really great show, but you could tell 90% of the people were there for "Bamboleo." It reminded me of the time I went to see The Ramones and the group around us sand "Rock and Roll High School" to every song the band played.

By the time the crowd dispursed I was finally starting to feel a bit peckish. The choice of meals was easy since the smell of the smoke from this stand had been wafting through the crowd for the duration of the concert. Henry's Chicken BBQ is another of the long-time PNE food purveyors. In fact the late Henry Schultz (original owner and name-sake) was a family friend. No PNE was complete without a visit to his stand for some chicken and potato pancakes.

Saddly the pancakes are no longer, but the chicken is still as good as ever. Cooking techniques are unchanged as well; flip-over grills are the same as Henry used, and the seasonings (13 secret spices according to Henry) are applied using and industrial garden sprayer. But as good as the food is, it's the smell of chicken grilling over charcoal that keeps me coming back.

You'll find Henry's Chicken BBQ over by the Agrodome. Walk in the Renfrew entrance and follow your nose.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PNE 2009 - Chilliwack & Barney Bentall

This is all Chilliwack's fault really ... all this eating and concert-going. Back when they announced the concert line-up for the fair, it was Chilliwack I was really excited about seeing. Not that the other acts we've seen so far haven't been great. It's just that so many songs by Chilliwack are part of my life's "soundtrack."

My original plan was to spend the majority of the day at the Fair, and eat lots for your entertainment. I mean, this entry was going to be EPIC. Unfortunately work got in the way, and I wasn't able to set foot on the grounds until almost 5. On the upside, I was able to use the new Canada Line as part of my trip from the office.

I'd deliberatley not eaten since breakfast, so when the #10 pulled up to Renfrew & Hastings, I made a dash for the Food Midway, and the Corn Dog stand. Now I know what you're thinking ... "never eat the corn dogs." But this has been a tradition for me since I was old enough to go to the fair by myself. And truth be told, they're really good, provided you get them fresh out of the frier. Cold grease can be nasty.

I met up with J and her friend C (who, after knowing her for 10 years, I found out is related to Bill Henderson!) who had spent the day watching Superdogs, and scoping out Brazillian dog trainers. A quick break at Central Park BBQ, where we treated ourselves to Chilliwack's sound check and a pint of pale ale.

Next up ... Curry in a Hurry! This is not the best Indian food you will ever eat. This is however the best Indian food you will eat outside while the smell of little donuts tempts you with ideas for dessert, and you're "entertained" by the line-up of people at the "old-time photo" booth.

The selection is pretty plain. 3 meat curries (including a damn fine butter chicken) and 4 vegetable curries, alomg with the usual naan, pakoras, samosas, etc. For $11 you can get a Veggie Platter with 3 curries, rice, naan and a drink. We shared one of those, along with an order of samosas and some veggie pakoras.

A tip if you find yourself at Curry in a Hurry, they have picnic tables out behind their stand. Covered with a nice view of the park that has grown inside the fairgrounds.

Concert #1 - Barney Bentall & the Legendary Hearts

Not bad for a band that really only had a couple minor hits in Canada. Barney always looks like he's having a good time anyway. "I Feel Old" moment - he's a grandfather.

I have never had a Funnel Cake. Never really knew what one was until this year. Kind like a big deep fried pancake made out of a string of dough, and then topped with stuff like whipped cream and strawberries. For $8 the deluxe is big enough for sharing (HAHAHA!!!). They make them as you wait, so if there's a lineup at the stand (over near the Coliseum) I'd wait for a bit.

Concert #2 - Chilliwack

'Nuff said. Thanks for the memories Bill.
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