Thursday, February 13, 2014

La Poutine Week: And the Winner is...

And the winner is… traditional poutine! After seeing the results and sampling 6 poutines we have concluded that we tend to be more purist when it comes to our poutine.

For the official La Poutine week 2014 website and results click here

Poutine Week is more than deciding whose poutine reigns supreme. It is an epic battle of traditional versus out of the box versions of the iconic dish. Brussels sprouts, seal meat sausages, kale, and edible flowers are just a few of the offerings that challenged the notion of the holy-poutine-trinity, cheese (that has to squeak), gravy and fries. Purists however insist gourmet ingredients like foie gras are a gentrification of the dish outside of its working class diner roots.

Rebel versions of poutines make sense; Montreal, land of one-thousand poutines, is after all famous for them. A few years of poutine weeks, under our belts and onto our waistlines, mean restaurants want to avoid offering the same boring old thing. Eye catching ingredients draw attention to your establishment and create buzz. We noticed some busy restos during lunchtime and staff informed us that poutine week was drawing the crowds. The poutine debate crossed our minds a few times during our outings and we are left wondering what is the fine line between ingredients and whether the dish is still a poutine. The taste profile of the traditional poutine seems to get lost when it is pushed too far with too many ingredients and flavours going on.

We picked our 6 poutines randomly, close to where we work, and made a special trip to Chez Boris. We ended up at Mange Moi Poutinerie after stumbling around the Plateau in a snow storm and figuring out we should have checked the schedule because a few places were not open for lunch. 

Le Gourmet Burger: Thyme for Poutine
Le Gourmet Burger - Le Gourmet Poutine: We kind of lucked out making this our first Poutine Week stop because it was our favourite poutine of the week. In passing, we recommend Le Gourmet Burger when people ask us where to go for a great burger downtown. We like the casual laid-back atmosphere of a place that offers upscale burgers at a reasonable price. Le Gourmet Poutine was steeped in tradition with nothing too far out except maybe for the twig of thyme that we did eat with our dish. Caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, bacon just added to the heartiness of the gravy that took on a really nice texture with the spicy chipotle mayo. We liked this poutine so much we honestly wanted another one right away because it was that good.

Burger Bar Crescent - La Nordique: We have been to Burger Bar and our main impression was that the fries were amazing so we were really looking forward to trying their poutine. Topped with rocket salad and big pieces of pink picked onions it looked like a colorful salad. We were also excited because this was a duck poutine. Once again we will go on record saying how much we love duck and that the duck poutine from Lucky's Food Truck is one of our favourite poutines. We eat duck with rocket at home so why not on a poutine? We did find the optic color of the pickled onions a bit off-putting but got over this because they were a great pairing with the duck with sweet, sour and savoury tastes going on. With the nutty taste of rocket and blue Benedictine infused gravy there were a lot flavours going on. This poutine walked the line in pushing the envelope too far in being a poutine but the generous portions of duck won us over. 
Frite Alors! Rockin' the Lobster
Frite Alors! - The Lobster Monster: Revelation, the texture of lobster goes really well with cheese curds. Frite Alors! get  bonus points because their poutine had cheese that squeaked. Lobster has a nice delicate flavour and the deep fried pieces were not overcooked or overpowered by the batter. Our only beef with this poutine was with Béchamel sauce. We get that it must have been chosen as to not drown out the taste of the lobster but the rather neutral fried taste of the poutine felt like a flavour was missing. Not sure if it was this batch of sauce, too much flour perhaps, but something more buttery tasting to go with the lobster might be the way to go. The overall flavour of lobster, cheese, fries and absence of a dark gravy taste, an essential item in the holy poutine trinity, left us with the feeling that this was not a poutine. Don't get us wrong, this was a really tasty dish but it did not feel like eating a poutine. To sum up, “You don’t buy Sony when you want an RCA.”

In Memorium Resto Ori - Japanese Poutine
Imadake Izakaya - Attack of the Imadake's プーティン Disaster 2014: This being Montreal, this was not our first tasting of a Japanese style poutine. Restuarant Ori, now shuttered, did a big ad-campaign for a rather great tasting Japanese version of the dish featuring panko breaded sweet potato fries, lobster, fish roe, cream cheese cubes and sauce. Imadake Izakaya came up with something very different. Pickled ginger, bonito flakes, potato cubes (a trinity violation?), cheese curds, covering a scallion pancake (a great surprise) with a sweet ginger sauce. A truly inspired, original creation but like The Lobster Monster, the absence of a hearty sauce felt like something was missing. 
Two Words Chez Boris: Doughnut Fries!
Chez Boris - Doughnut Poutine with Duck Fat Gravy: We are not sure of the Chez Boris formula but doughnut recipes often use potato flower so the progression of doughnuts to fries seems natural. Crisp, fluffy, slightly sweet bites of deep fried dough were a perfect replacement for fries. We wanted to love this no nonsense traditional looking dish so much, especially because we think Chez Boris is a great place, but the sauce with black pepper was a bit light tasting. Not sure if this was because of the neutral tasting duck fat or a fear of overpowering the doughnuts but we noticed a theme. It would seem for great tasting poutine that the secret is in the sauce. In this case, it was missing just a little punch in making this a truly over the top holy poutine experience.

Gettin' Piggy with it: La Cochonne Pulled Pork Poutine
Mange Moi Poutinerie – La Poutine Cochonne: A simple formula, wrought with tradition, good fries, nice sauce, pulled pork and cheese curds that kept turning into melted cheese strings, won us over the more we ate it. Pulled pork might seem simple and somewhat ubiquitous in the wide word of poutine but after La Poutine Week we have concluded that simple good ingredients is the way to a winning dish and Mange Moi delivered the goods.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments and whether you are a traditionalist or rebel when it comes to your poutine.   


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