The temptation of poutine isn't that tempting on an everyday basis since I don't live near good poutine shops. If I lived in Montreal, mon dieu.
Well, the doors of temptation are opening wider lately. So will I succumb to the temptation of regular poutine?
Lots of Chicago restaurants have poutine on the menu. There was a Poutine Fest, though with very little if actual poutine. There was even a place that devoted itself to poutine, but it didn't quite get the dish right.
Well, Chicago finally got a poutine shop worthy of being called poutine.
I tried out the Big Cheese Poutinerie, an outfit in Calgary opening its first ever U.S. location. The distance traveled to get there is not significant. Poutine is near my doorstep.
I ordered the small regular poutine. The price point was good at $4.99. The visual was good and everything looked in place. But would the taste match up to what I've had in Canada?
This was the best poutine I have ever had in Chicago. It was authentic.
This was not the best poutine I have ever had. Technically, not close. But I could close my eyes and dream. And that is all I could ask for having.
There wasn't that much cheese; others will complain louder than me. The gravy was good, but not outstanding. And the fries were too soft; they were very mushy underneath the gravy.
These are, to be polite, subtle points to a poutine. Compared to poutines in Chicago, this had the look, smell, and taste of poutine.
The container reminded me of Smoke's, mostly in Toronto but I also had Smoke's in Vancouver. This was not as good as Smoke's. But it was in the neighborhood.
As the countdown was underway for the opening of the poutinerie, I discovered an option to enjoy poutine in the comfort of your own home.
For those who have a nearby Trader Joe's, you can find Trader Joe's poutine in the frozen section. The kit has what you need: fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Just warm and serve.
Who doesn't love the idea of poutine in the privacy of your home?
I attended a St. John the Baptist Day gathering in a friend's apartment last year, and she made homemade poutine. She heated frozen fries, brought in the cheese curds and served with hot gravy.
Her version was close to what I would imagine would happen with the Trader Joe's version.
Her poutine was good but not what would drive me to go for poutine. Now that I've had something close to the real thing, my enthusiasm for a Trader Joe's version is diminishing. But if I didn't have that option, A TJ version would be more appetizing.
For the fries to work out well, they have to be deep-fried. They need the crispness to confront the hot gravy. The softness of the fries at Big Cheese was the biggest drawback.
Now that poutine is closer than ever, will I abuse the privilege? If I lived near a Smoke's, I could see myself doing a poutine run once a month, maybe twice. But I would likely swipe out another fattening meal for an extra poutine fix. And if I got the poutine with pulled pork instead of cheese, the dish wouldn't be as decadent as if it still had the cheese.
Poutine is a difficult task to pull together just right. The dish is ideal in a restaurant setting, especially when that restaurant knows the craft of putting together a good poutine.
Perfection isn't the goal most of the time. But there are better options and easier than you might think. If nothing else, you can give this a good try at home. Put the fries in oil, keep the cheese curds ready, and pour the good gravy over the whole thing at the last minute. Bon appetit!
photo credit: me // Trader Joe's