Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poutine on CityLine

Poutine was the star of a seven minute segment on Cityline, Canada's national lifestyle show, today.

Chef Massimo Capra demonstrates a homemade poutine that looks absolutely delectable.

I can't get the video to embed here, so click the link below to watch - and to access the recipe. This is a must-try for any poutine fan.

Canadian Cuisine: Poutine - CityLine

Monday, January 25, 2010

Disappointed by Duggan's

I visited Duggan’s during their “soft launch”. I can only hope it gets better from here.

Duggan’s has been getting great buzz – an exciting new microbrewery located in the heart of downtown Toronto. There’s certainly some real potential here, but this is not yet a must-visit poutine destination.

While there’s no doubt that the beer (courtesy of owner Michael Duggan, formerly head brewer at Mill Street) will satisfy most aficionados - especially Duggan’s already famed #9 IPA, the service and ambiance - not to mention the poutine - are still very much a work in progress.

During our visit, the waitstaff were generally inattentive (getting a beer involved flagging down a second server after our original server took our order and disappeared) and the space itself lacks character. While it was full of patrons, bare walls and fairly standard pub furnishings make the space feel unfinished.

And the poutine is disappointing. I sampled the duck confit version (there’s also a curry poutine on offer), which featured a disappointing amount of the promised confit. Instead, the main feature of the dish was the mushy French fries, which simply couldn’t hold their shape or flavour when doused in gravy.

The gravy itself, and accompanying cheese curds, are passable enough as pub food. But the finished combination of elements fails to satisfy.

I’m willing to give Duggan’s some time – and another go. Especially because I've heard that better Duggan's experiences do exist. Anyone care to share?

Fries: 2/5
Cheese: 3/5

Gravy: 3/5

Total: 8/15

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Night They Invented Poutine

Full credit to fellow poutine blogger Ronna at Poutine Chronicles for unearthing this gem. It's famed Montreal performers Bowser & Blue performing an ode to poutine. "The gravy must be hot and the cheese must be cold" - these guys know their stuff!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poutine making culinary inroads in U.S.: Toronto Star

From today's Toronto Star:

Unless it's maple syrup, it's unlikely many Americans could identify an example of truly Canadian cuisine. But it seems one national dish, a belly-busting concoction born in La Belle province, is creating a buzz south of the border.

Poutine – a mixture of French fries, cheese curds and hot gravy – is making it onto menus alongside typical American fare like cheeseburgers and chili dogs.

Thierry Pepin, an actor and model who moved to New York from his native Quebec six years ago, opened a restaurant last summer dedicated to the hearty dish. T-Poutine (the T is for Thierry) is located in the Lower East Side, close to bars and the club scene, and offers 12 different variations of the item on its menu.

"It's great, but it's not easy," says Pepin of the reaction to the calorie-laden creation, often described as a "heart attack on a plate."

Read the full article here. Sounds like it's time for a tasting trip to New York!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sneaking one in...

This post is sneaking onto the blog in two ways. First, because I wasn’t intended to post again until the new year. And second, because the blog is called Toronto Poutine, and this is most definitely a post dedicated to Montreal. But I’m home, celebrating the holidays, and thought you would allow me one from the road.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to come to Montreal without a stop at Lafleur’s. With almost 50 years of history, Lafleur’s serves up staples of Quebec cuisine: including steamed hot dogs and what I believe to be the best French Fries I’ve ever tasted.

In fact, the fries are so good that I rarely order poutine here.
The fries on their own are enough. A sprinkle of vinegar and a liberal dosing of salt, and I’m happy.

But in service of you, dear readers, I doused these fries with gravy and cheese and sampled away.

As the base for a Lafleur’s poutine, the fries maintain everything that’s perfect about them.
The perfect golden brown colour. The succulent texture (just soggy enough). The rich potato flavour. And both the gravy and the cheese are good. But they’re nowhere near the nirvana that the fries deliver. The gravy is, I dare say, even a tad salty. So what was an incredible serving of French fries has become a merely good poutine.

So I’ll keep enjoying them naked.
Thank you very much. But there’s no doubt that they’ll continue to be an important (and delicious) part of my Montreal routine.

Bon appétit!

Fries: 5/5

Cheese: 4/5

Gravy: 3/5

Total: 12/15

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A tale of two Jamies

Jamie Kennedy’s French fries made him famous. It’s only natural, then, that we would seek Kennedy out in the quest for the best poutine in the city. And in fact, that’s exactly what I did – not once, but twice.

Tracking Kennedy down requires a tad more effort that it would have just a few months ago, before he sold his exquisite Wine Bar on Church Street. Now, the search for the Kennedy fries begins at Gilead Café – a tiny space located down an alley in Corktown.

Originally home to the JK Kitchens administration offices, the restaurant itself is delicious – rough-hewn wood tables, walls lined with jars of seasonal preserves, and an open kitchen and deli counter offering fresh, local selections (the menu is edited daily). The Pulled Pork Poutine, unfortunately, is anything but. While the fries are classic Kennedy – crisp, golden and full of flavour – the pulled pork topping is overly spiced and lacking in enough moisture to make the poutine come to life. And there’s just enough cheese to tease you into believing this actually is a poutine – a bite or two, and then its gone. A disappointing offering from one of Toronto’s acclaimed poutine masters.

We fare much better a few weeks later at the Jamie Kennedy outpost at the Gardiner Museum. During a special holiday event at the museum, Kennedy offers up a specially created Tourtiere Poutine. While the idea alone is enough to warm a Quebecer’s heart, the execution is even better. The traditional Kennedy fries are topped here with warm, perfectly spiced ground beef, a cheese drizzle and – best of all – tiny cubed potatoes. That’s right – potato on potato. It might just be my definition of heaven.

The only bad news is that this is a special seasonal offering only. I’m already marking my calendar for next Christmas. Merry Christmas, Jamie! And Merry Christmas to you, Poutine Toronto readers. The quest continues in 2010...

Blah! Pulled Pork Poutine at Gilead (above)

Hurrah! Touriere Poutine at Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner

Monday, November 30, 2009

The day the poutine came to me.

I started this blog to help rationalize my poutine addiction. And with the faintest hope that I might be able to leverage it to get a free meal or two. Recently, I managed one better – I was lucky enough to convince the boys from Smoke’s Poutinerie to bring their new poutine truck down to my office at lunch. “Official blog business”, you know.

Since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve been inundated by commentary about Smoke’s. And I think it’s probably true that I can’t really claim to be any sort of authority on the subject without a review of Toronto’s official poutine emporium.

Let me say first: I’m biased. I love Smoke’s creator and owner Ryan Smoklin (how can you not love a man with a vision to bring great poutine to the huddled masses of Toronto?). I love the simplicity of the idea – nothing but poutine and pop. And I love that Smoklin is building not just a restaurant, but a brand (I seriously considered a franchise. I’m not kidding).

But the real question is: do I love the poutine? The answer really depends on the gravy.

The Smoke’s truck came equipped with two kinds of gravy: the traditional, and the veggie option. In the spirit of authentic journalism, I threw my waistline to the wind and sampled both.

As a Quebecer, I’m a stickler for the right kind of gravy – and the traditional doesn’t quite meet my expectations. It’s a poultry-based offering with a strong sage flavour that belongs more on Thanksgiving turkey than on poutine. In fact – it did top a recently offered Thanksgiving poutine that Smoklin claims was a best-seller.

The veggie gravy, on the other hand, was much closer to the traditional “brown sauce” you find at chip trucks across La Belle Province. Rich in flavour, and beautiful to behold, it provided just the right compliment to the fries and cheese. Although the pieces of mushroom were a tad offensive to a poutine purist like myself.

A later visit to the Smoke’s location on Adelaide presented an even more intriguing offering: a peppercorn gravy that gave the meal a delicious kick. While not standard poutine offering, I’m willing to make an exception here and give it two thumbs up for tastiness.

There are a whole lot of things you can put on your poutine at Smoke’s beyond gravy. Enough permutations and combinations of flavours to warrant their own blog. So more posts to come on some of their selections. For now, my rating on the traditional offering:

Fries (daily hand-cut Yukon Gold): 4/5

Cheese (produced by dairy farmers from the Eastern Townships of Quebec): 5/5

Traditional gravy: 3/5

Vegetarian gravy: 4/5

Peppercorn gravy: 4/5

And a bonus point for style – for a grand total of 13 or 14 / 15 (gravy dependent).

(Oh. And the boxes are adorable, but messy. Be prepared.)