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Category Archives: poutine

Review: McDonald’s poutine a real mama bear

mcpoutineIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any new fast-food offerings, but truth be told, there hasn’t been much of late that caught my eye. Until now. Behold: McPoutine.

That’s not what McDonald’s is calling it – it’s just poutine – but the chain is finally getting with the times here in Canada by making the uber-popular dish a permanent menu item. It’s nearly impossible now to go into a food establishment in this country without having it as an option (is Tim Hortons next?). That’s good news for all of us poutine aficionados (links to PDF), or poutinados, as it were.

Upon hearing the news, I headed straight to the nearest Golden Arches to see how McD’s take on the Quebec staple stands up. After all, McDonald’s legendary fries meets the fundamental awesomeness of gravy and cheese curds – what could go wrong, right? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2013 in food, mcdonald's, poutine

 

Yes, Poutine Soda really is that disgusting

poutine-sodaIf there’s one thing I love more than anything else on the planet, it’s got to be poutine. French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds – is there anything that is worse for you, but also so damn good at the same time? Its unhealthiness actually makes it even more appealing. It’s like the secret ingredient, along with the main three, is danger, as in what you’re putting your heart into every time you eat it.

It was probably only a matter of time, then, before someone tried to take all that dangerous goodness and put it into liquid form. Score one for Seattle-based Jones Soda, which has done precisely that.

Poutine Soda is the company’s newest concoction, meant to celebrate its Canadian roots and to boost its profile in its native land. I came by a couple of bottles over the weekend and gave it a try. So what’s the verdict? Oh yes, it is absolutely horrible. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in poutine

 

NYF’s pulled pork poutine: happiness in a bowl

New York Fries’ new pulled pork poutine: in the running for my favourite.

It’s the Canada Day weekend and I can’t think of any better way of celebrating than with some poutine. In that vein, it sounds like a good time for yet another one of my poutine reviews.

Regular readers know that New York Fries’ basic poutine is my favourite. While there are plenty of independent restaurants that do great poutine (La Banquise in Montreal comes to mind), NYF generally wins out for me overall because of a number of factors: there’s usually an outlet nearby, the cost is good and it’s fast. The quality, while perhaps not as good as a restaurant, is also considerably above the other fast-food chains.

New York Fries, which is Canadian if you didn’t know, has been serving regular poutine since 1989, but over the past few years the chain has been adding different varieties to match the growth of upstart Smoke’s. The recently introduced pulled-pork joins the plain basic kind, as well as the braised beef and curried chicken poutines, on the list. Founder Jay Gould also considers the “Works” and “Veggie Works” fries among his poutine offerings, but if it doesn’t have cheese curds, I can’t in good faith include them.

All told, that means the chain now has four proper kinds of poutine, a drop in the bucket compared to Smoke’s 20-plus. When I interviewed him a while back for my Report on Business feature (links to PDF file), Gould said the thinner selection was a conscious decision – that concentrating on just a few kinds would inevitably allow him to offer them at a higher quality.

It turns out he was right. While I’m not a big fan of the braised beef poutine and only lukewarm on the curried chicken, the pulled-pork is clearly the best of the bunch. And I’m not a big pork fan.

Pulled-pork poutine happens to be Smoke’s biggest seller, which is why New York Fries has added it. I’ve found Smoke’s version, however, to be a little too sweet and there’s generally too much of the pork, which overpowers the fries themselves.

New York Fries’ version, on the other hand, is just perfect. The pulled-pork comes in a tomato-like sauce, which looks like it’s going to be either too sweet or too tart, but it actually turns out to be neither. It’s a little sweet but rather subdued and there’s also a smokey tang to it, so it tastes more down-home barbecuey.

The amount of pork is also just right; not too little so that you feel like they’re skimping, but not so much that you get sick of it, which has unfortunately been my experience with Smoke’s version. And finally, I just prefer NYF’s actual fries – they’re crisper and tastier.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Smoke’s too. My favourites there are the regular Veggie (the gravy seems to taste better than the beef version) and, if I’m exceptionally hungry, the Nacho Grande. But I’m now going to have a tough decision to make when frequenting New York Fries: do I go with the traditional or the pulled-pork?

Have a great Canada Day weekend! I’ll be back here on Tuesday.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in new york fries, poutine

 

Road testing Wendy’s poutine

As a self-proclaimed poutine maven, I’m a little ashamed that it took me so long to try Wendy’s offering. I’m always keen to try the fast-food giants’ efforts to see if they match up with the really good stuff served up at smaller restaurants, so what took me so long? I dunno – maybe it’s just been too warm out to eat poutine? Yeah, right. Like it’s ever too warm for that.

Anyhow… first, the good. I’m pleased to report that Wendy’s poutine is entirely edible. That may sound like faint praise, but it is a compliment compared to what some of the other chains are selling.

The biggest challenge with producing mass quantities of poutine is avoiding making it too salty, while the danger on the flip side is blandness. Wendy’s poutine comfortably straddles the middle – it’s neither too salty, nor flavourless. The gravy is beefy-ish and gives it a solid earthy taste.

That said, it’s probably the most remarkable of the three ingredients, with both the fries and cheese curds decidedly middle of the road. The chain made a big deal a little while back about going “natural” with its fries – they have potato skin and sea salt on them now – but honestly, I haven’t been able to tell much of a difference, they’re still meh. The curds, meanwhile, are perhaps the least important ingredient. I’m sure some gourmets would disagree, but as long as they’re not hard and stale it’s hard to tell one batch from another.

The downside of Wendy’s poutine is the serving size and price. The chain is selling it as a $3.99 side dish, which is a bit steep for the amount you get. It’s certainly not big enough to act as a standalone meal, unlike what you can get at New York Fries or Smoke’s for about $2 more. Indeed, the basic poutine at both those chains is better in terms of value and taste.

As such, I wouldn’t make Wendy’s restaurants a destination for poutine, despite the company’s attempt to install it as Canada’s national dish through a “poutition,” but it’s certainly not something that should be avoided if you do find yourself in one.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in new york fries, poutine, wendy's

 

Poutine Wars, the extended remix

I promised last week to post some additional material from my “Poutine Wars” story in the current issue of Report on Small Business magazine (a PDF of that story can be accessed here, on page 24). Some of the international angle ended up on the cutting room floor. So, with no further ado, here’s a little bit on poutine’s growth in unexpected places, such as Thailand and Germany, from the original draft:

Poutine's debut in Munich.

Andrew Clark likes to hold court with friends and guests on the rooftop patio of Q Bar. His establishment is one of the more posh hangouts in Bangkok’s trendy Sukhumvit district. With $10 martinis and a host of expensive imported vodkas, only well-to-do Thais, expatriates and visiting foreigners can afford to regularly frequent the place.

Clark, who was born in Montreal and raised in Victoria, moved to Bangkok in 1989 and started an ad agency. The business was successful, which gave him the means to open the high-end bar in 1999. Since then, the Sukhumvit area has come up around him, transforming itself into the city’s nightlife hub.

He speaks in a strange accented English, the sort of unplaceable dialect that belongs only to people who have spent a good portion of their life away from their native land. Still, Clark says he’s steadfastly Canadian. When I visited him last year, he had just conducted a successful experiment in patriotism – he had fed some of his Thai customers poutine.

“When we mentioned it to them, they said, ‘What, Vladimir Putin?’ Or poontang? Then when you explained it, they still said, ‘Ewww, that sounds like a heart attack,’” he says with a laugh.

But, like any self-respecting Canadian, the Thai customers uniformly loved it. Not only has Q Bar since added it as a full-time menu item, Clark’s wife Punchanit also recently opened a café called Munchies in the eastern suburbs of Bangkok that specializes in snack food, particularly poutine.

The future of poutine is promising in Thailand, he says, because the people are now comfortable with Western fast food, yet they still maintain their adventurous palates.

“It’s ultimately easier to convince the Thais than anyone because they eat anything,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in poutine

 

The war over fries, gravy and cheese curds

Every now and then, I like to get out of my comfort zone and write about something other than technology. Not only is it a breath of fresh air, it’s also a chance to learn about something completely new.

One of those “fresh” topics I’ve developed a perverse interest in over the past few years, obviously through working on Sex, Bombs and Burgers, is fast food. I find it a fascinating world comprised of many angles; there is, of course, the technological innovation side of it that I talk about in my book, but there’s also the intense competitiveness of the industry, the huge globalization of it, its role in the economic development of nations, labour and workplace issues, and the health and obesity side of things too. I’ve thus become sensitive to fast food and all the things that go on with it.

As such, I was in a mall food court about a year and a half ago and noticed that New York Fries had added something called a “poutinerie” counter. Now, poutine is one of my favourite foods, so this was of course tremendously interesting. Aside from the regular fries-gravy-cheese-curd poutine that the chain has been serving for years, this particular NYF outlet was also selling two new kinds: butter chicken and braised beef poutine.

I couldn’t help but think this was a reaction to the success of Smoke’s Poutinerie, a new restaurant that opened in Toronto in 2008. Smoke’s had quickly gained notoriety by piling different ingredients, from chicken to beef to chili to pork, onto traditional poutine, which was leading to new outlets popping up everywhere. So I did a little research and was surprised to find that, yes, it was a reaction, but also that New York Fries is a Canadian chain. With its name, I’d always assumed it was American.

That set me off on a long path that culminated this week with the publication of my story “Poutine Wars” in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business Magazine. The PDF is available here or here, with the story starting on page 24. The story details the rise of both Smoke’s and New York Fries, and how their respective owners are battling for poutine supremacy.

There were several angles, including poutine’s appropriation by English Canada from Quebec, as well as its burgeoning international expansion, that ended up on the cutting room floor. I’m in Los Angeles right now and away from my main depository of info, otherwise I’d post some of that supplementary stuff now. It’ll have to wait till next week.

In the meantime, in a case of lucky timing, Wendy’s this week launched poutine at its restaurants across Canada. In conjunction with the launch, the chain is also sponsoring a “poutition,” or a petition to get poutine enshrined as Canada’s national dish (it’s a move that is sure to give Quebec nationalists heart palpitations, just like the dish itself). Once 100,000 signatures have been amassed, Wendy’s says it will submit the petition to Parliament for consideration. Signing the poutition gets you a free coupon for upgrading your fries to poutine.

Mmm… poutine. What a time to be stuck in southern California…

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in poutine

 

The mystery of the missing poutine

I’m back from Montreal and getting through the pile of work that’s accumulated while I was gone. Regular blogging will resume next week.

In the meantime, if you follow me on Twitter you may have caught my pilgrimage to La Banquise, a Montreal institution that was recommended to me by several people as the best place to eat poutine. Being something of a connoisseur of the stuff, and given that I’m working on a story related to it, I felt it was my duty to check it out.

As with Smoke’s Poutinerie here in Ontario, La Banquise has some truly monstrous creations. I was told to try the T-Rex poutine, which has ground beef, bacon and hot dog slices on top of the fries, cheese and gravy. It was a killer meal that ultimately defeated me, making me feel like I was on an episode of Man V. Food. I got about 90% of the way through it before I was out-meated.

Was it good? Sure, although I couldn’t really tell how good the base poutine underneath was because of all the meat. Nevertheless, I’m already dreaming of my next visit to Montreal and the inevitable return to the restaurant.

On a related note, Postmedia News recently had a story about how Quebec’s big chicken chain, St. Hubert, is about to embark on a big expansion outside of the province and into other countries. I spoke to some representatives from the company a little while back and learned about this too, but I was more surprised to find out that St. Hubert restaurants no longer have poutine on the menu. You can order it on line and you can ask for it at restaurants, but it’s not on the menu.

The public relations representative was a little cagey as to why this was. She mentioned something about a cheese supply problem in Quebec, but I can’t say I bought that reasoning. Given the amount of poutine consumed in the province, it would be akin to a natural disaster.

I didn’t eat at St. Hubert during my few days in Montreal, but I feel like I should have so I could have gotten to the bottom of the missing poutine (rank and file employees will often tell you what PR people won’t). Alas, it’ll have to wait for another visit – unless somebody out there wants to check for me and report back?

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in food, poutine

 
 
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