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Feast: The French Fry Purist and Poutine

December 7, 2010

When you explain the concept of Poutine – french fries with gravy and cheese curds –  to someone who’s never had it, you get mixed reactions. Some people are totally grossed out, others are enthralled. I’ll admit, when I first learned about this dish five years ago, I was skeptical, and the meaning of the word Poutine -“unappetizing mixture of various foods” – didn’t really help. You see, I’m a french fry purist. I’m not into sweet potato fries (not. real. fries.), I don’t like super fancy fries with extra fry coating or intensive seasoning, and steak fries annoy me (too mealy). But when I had my first helping of Poutine, I was immediately hooked.

Really, how can you not love Poutine, especially when it looks like this?

poutine at all star sandwich bar *** photo credit: jim morrison

The above photo was taken recently at All Star Sandwich Bar, a place of many talents, not the least of which has been introducing Poutine to the Cambridge masses for the past few years. Salty, appropriately gooey, and with just the right amount of cheese curds, All Star knows what they are doing.

Poutine is said to have been invented in Quebec, in 1957, when a restaurant owner claims that a take-out customer requested french fries and cheese curds in the same bag, to which the owner responded: “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (That’s going to make a damn mess). The gravy was added later, allegedly to keep the fries warm. By the 70’s, Poutine made it to the underground food scene in New York, but it has only become widely available in the last few years, with the rise in popularity of gourmet foods.

I’ve had Poutine far and wide by now (though I’m still hoping to have it in Montreal one day, where I hear it is phenomenal), but my favorite iteration so far has been at Duck Fat restaurant in Portland, ME. Duck Fat is a tiny little restaurant with a small menu focused on sandwiches and world-class fries, cooked in – of course- duck fat. Their Poutine is made with Pineland Farms cheese curd and rich, dark, duck gravy. The Pineland curd melts more than other varieties, making the experience of eating it a bit more whimsical (more fork twirling and finger grabbing), which is always fun. Pair this with a milkshake, a sandwich with bread from Standard Baking Company, and a trip to Rabelais next door, and you have the makings of a perfect day trip from Boston.

Even the french fry purist in me will try Poutine wherever, whenever, so I urge any skeptic to give it a go. There are a few newer spots in Boston that I hear are doing great things with this dish, The Gallows in particular. Can’t wait to give them a try.

poutine at Duck Fat, Portland ME

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2010 4:46 pm

    Oh yum. I love poutine. I have an unnatural obsession with it. We usually end up in Montreal once a year and I end up getting it several times at all my favorite spots!

    • bestthingslicedbread permalink*
      December 7, 2010 5:01 pm

      I’m planning a trip to Montreal- would love to hear what your favorite poutine spots are!

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