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CNE food: What will be the showstopper this year?

If butter coffee isn't your cup of tea, how about chocolate fried chicken or a cob of corn wrapped in bacon?

Each year, the food vendors at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto try to outdo one another with the wackiest, fattiest and most decadent concoctions.

In 2011, the Krispy Kreme burger – a cheeseburger served on two doughnuts – was the showstopper. The bacon-wrapped deep-fried Mars bar stole the show in 2012.

Last year, the ill-fated cronut burger was the headline novelty snack until the cheeseburger sandwiched between two doughnut-croissant hybrids was identified as the culprit behind a rash of food poisoning. Hundreds of patrons became ill after eating the concoction, which was topped with a dollop of maple bacon jam that public health officials later determined was contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial toxin.

This year, the Ex is running an even tighter ship to ensure that all of the food can be enjoyed without worry, according to CNE general manager David Bednar.

"We changed some of the routines having to do with off-site preparation, transportation and storage of food and we're absolutely confident this is the safest place to have a meal," Mr. Bednar said, adding that Toronto Public Health helped the Ex review all of its food-handling practices and will be on-site daily for inspections.

There are plenty of contenders for gluttonous glory, though there isn't a sole dish standing out as the headliner yet. The bacon-wrapped corn is self-explanatory while combining two of the CNE's favourite dishes. Meanwhile, butter coffee plays on the Ex's traditional obsession with butter while also cashing in on a new health trend. Blending grass-fed, organic butter into a cup of joe has recently gotten popular as a way to get essential fats and suppress appetites.

Here are a few other mouth-watering (or stomach-turning, depending whom you ask) inventions:

(Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail)

Chocolate fried chicken

The chicken is marinated, coated, seasoned and served with chocolate along with a carefully balanced blend of spices that took chef Hamza Alexander and his brother weeks to perfect.

(Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail)

Liquid nitrogen sorbet

A rare healthy treat at the Ex, 100 per cent fruit juice is flash-frozen with a spray of liquid nitrogen, turning it into a fat-free, sweet sorbet.

(Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail)

Thanksgiving dinner waffle

Fran’s restaurant, a Toronto institution, has transformed its Thanksgiving dinner into a portable version: a waffle made out of cranberry stuffing, topped with roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.

(Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail)

S’more bao

First invented by chef Karen Cho’s children, this bao – a traditional Chinese steam bun made from rice flour – is topped with marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, melted hazelnut chocolate, graham crumbs and a drizzle of condensed milk.

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