> Poutine


Despina Savvas

Poutine is the Quebecois comfort food and can be found at almost any Montreal eatery from the greasiest fast-food joints to upscale world renown restaurants, even McDonalds has its version.


Although there are many variations, the classic poutine is essentially French fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy. It is possibly the only fast-food eaten with a fork. The main ingredient, fries is always the base and as a general rule, if the fries are good the poutine will be. For the ultimate flavourful poutine, fries are fried twice, once for blanching and the second to establish the deep greasy flavour. The cheese curds are the second ingredient. Traditionally, these specific cheese curds were especially made for poutine which is something between gouda, mozzarella and provolone. Essentially, they melt when in contact with the hot gravy while retaining their squeakiness when chewing. Today however, they are often replaced by mozzarella or provolone, basically, anything that melts well while creating a stringy elastic when hot gravy is poured on. The third ingredient is the gravy which is usually beef based for its dark rich colour and thick texture.


This is simply an introduction to the classic poutine.

Of course, there are those who stray and there have been many variations of the classic just by altering one of the three ingredients, perhaps replacing the mozzarella with blue cheese or even adding ingredients such as mushrooms, smoked meat, or caramelized onions. The most original that I have tasted and one of my favourites is the gnocchi poutine at Macaroni Bar on St-Laurent it is a delicious twist where the French fries are replaced by the potato-based gnocchi and coated in a rich gourmet gravy.


(Image: http://foodandface.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/macaroni-bar-on-city-bandit)



La Banquise

Although Montreal's most authentic poutine is debatable, the locals who know poutine know La Banquise whose motto is that for the poutine to be good it needs to be greasy. In fact, when researching online for Montreal's best poutine this place came up more than any other so naturally it is a great place to start. A Montreal staple since 1968 this fast-food joint is open 24hrs and serves a selection of over 20 variation of the classic, from Mexican to Hawaiian. La Banquise tests all of poutine's limits. The classic poutine comes with the traditional cheese curds, the type that squeak with every bite and the perfect thick brown gravy. It is not my favourite poutine in Montreal, but it is arguably the most authentic.

(Image source: Flickr, Poutine, 2008)



La Paryse

Another Montreal favourite for poutine is La Paryse located on 302 Ontario Street East in the Plateau district. While known for its great burgers, they also make a great poutine due to the great fries. The cheese is not the authentic curds, they use mozzarella nonetheless, it is excellent and greasy, as it should be.

(Image source: Flickr, Poutine, 2008)



Au Pied de Cochons

This world renown restaurant is know if not only for its excess in gluttonous dishes. It is truly a sin not to visit this establishment at least for its foie gras poutine, but at $23 for an entrée-sized (expect no more than ten bites) it probably better be for a special occasion. It is awkward to think of ordering poutine in such an upscale restaurant but it is possibly the only place you can proudly order it, because of its reputation. The poutine comes topped with a warm seared heaping pile of foie gras whose richness combined with the creaminess of the beef gravy make this possibly the best gourmet poutine ever. This poutine deserves respect.

(Image: http://thepauperedchef.com/2008/06/au-pied-de-coch.html)




A high-end burger joint, poutine is not the main reason someone will visit M Brgr, but certainly worth trying. This poutine is based on good quality ingredients, the French fries are excellent and perfectly crunchy even when drenched in gravy, which is also excellent with thin slices of pulled beef and just the right thickness. I recommend you try the mushroom poutine, if you have room as it is quite filling.




Burgundy Lion

Last but not least, and by far my favourite poutine to date is served at Burgundy Lion. This English pub in little burgundy is worth a visit if not only for its original take on poutine. It is a generous portion that can easily be shared. It comes served with caramelized onions and blue cheese, an original combination that just works.


Poutine has certainly come a long way from its peasant beginnings. With so many choices out there (take a look at the menu at La Banquise to get an idea of how many versions one's imagination can concoct) it will always be a Montreal favourite.


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