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Toronto August 18th, 2008 - Fair wheel ride at CNE

Sami Siva/Sami Siva/The Globe and Mail

Deep-fried butter and designer mac and cheese are some of the wacky, waist-expanding ways fair-goers can enjoy the Canadian National Exhibition this year in Toronto as vendors take a creative twist on comfort food.

There are more than 100 food vendors at Ex, which opens Friday, and at least 22 items will be sold on a stick.

"It's the spirit of indulgence. It's once a year," said David Bednar, the general manager for the CNE, as he explained the allure of fair food.

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"It's only at fair time that you're going to have this kind of thing and it's just a lot of fun to eat your way through your day at the fair."

Along with typical vendor foods, such as shawarmas, falafels, mini doughnuts and, of course poutine, there is the bizarre.

Deep-fried butter, anyone?

"In the process of frying, the frying oil cooks the batter and melts the butter, so what you get is this little snacky thing that tastes kind of like of doughnut, kind of like a bagel, but sweeter," said Mr. Bednar, as he described the small, meat-ball sized morsel that people are already buzzing about.

Vicky Skinkle is the owner of Sweet Treats concession stand and is making deep-fried butter at the Ex. While it's only Ms. Skinkle's second year as a vendor at the fair - the first time selling the new buttery treat - she said her husband grew up in the carnival business.

A couple years ago Ms. Skinkle decided to dust off the old candy trailer and "put it back to work."

"The first year we had bacon covered in chocolate."

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"A lot of people were like 'Ew, I don't know if I'd like it,' but when you explain it and they actually try it, it's like 'Wow, who would have thought,"' she said, describing the snack as a salty-sweet treat, similar to pouring syrup on to bacon.

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Ms. Skinkle shook things up this year with a dieter's nightmare: battered butter.

"They're thinking they're going to bite in and butter is going to pour out all over the place, but it's not like that at all. It's a really nice treat," she said.

The butter is dipped in batter, includes some "secret ingredients," and is topped off with the customer's choice of syrup: chocolate, caramel and vanilla.

The key to the carnival food frenzy may lie in the batter, some vendors have said.

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Michelle Mo-Persia, owner of Mac and Cheesery, will sell deep-fried mac and cheese during the Ex.

She's also adding a bit of class to the old favourite by offering designer macaroni and cheese.

Hungry customers will have their choice of breakfast mac and cheese with egg and sausage and cheeseburger mac and cheese with ground beef, among others.

But it's the deep-fried version of the kid-friendly food that people are going crazy for, said Ms. Mo-Persia.

The crusty cluster of homemade macaroni is a perfect on-the-go food.

"When you bite into it, it's still that bubbly, hot, melty cheese," she said.

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Ms. Mo-Persia's cousin will also be running a stand this year at the fair, selling "cheeseburger in a bag," she said.

The delicacy consists of cheeseburger-flavoured Dorito chips tossed with seasoned ground beef, tomato and onion.

"It's exactly as it sounds," she said laughing.

For Ms. Skinkle, snacks are a big attraction at the CNE, because people love a chance to explore unusual food.

"That's the only time they're going to get it, so they got to try it," she said.



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