Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Art of Poutine

Poutine Guy has been busy. Very busy. Extremely busy. First, he's still in school and has a lot of learnin' to do. Second, he found a new job. Which means more colleagues to introduce to the love of poutine. And finally, I moved across the country. Yes, I jumped on the Alberta bandwagon - the poutine void that is Western Canada. The good news is that a Smoke's Poutinerie is on the way to lovely Edmonton, with one already slopping out gravy soaked curds and fries in Calgary.

NOTE: To my New Brunswick friends - a Smoke's Poutinerie has recently opened in Fredericton. 
But first I want to talk about Americans not being able to handle making poutine. Given my mouth salivates but my heart cringes at the idea of eating home-made American mac-and-cheese, the poutine should not be a stretch for Americans. It should come quite naturally to our friends to the south. But alas, the poutine remains elusive. The author of this article suggests it has something to do with trying to fix something that isn't broken; that American chefs have yet to master the basic poutine and due to their impatience, they attempt to place their own identity on the dish.
Canadians, and more so Quebeckers, have lived with poutine for generations. They mastered the basics long ago. The new variations we see are an artistic value we bring to the dish. A Facebook friend of mine maintains that the use of chili in place of gravy is 'chili cheese fries', not poutine. I disagree. As the saying goes, 'while art is difficult to define, I know what it is when I see it' (and/or taste it in the case of poutine). As important as the eye of the beholder, is the intent of the maker. However, sometimes there is conflict between the two. Sometimes the maker has no clue what he or she is doing. And that's where I come in - the critic.
Now you might be wondering, what poutines could I possibly even review in Edmonton? Is there art here? Is achieving the basics even possible in Alberta, much less attaining art status? Well, there isn't much. But there are hosts of new Albertans bringing with them those generations of experience and curd appreciation. There are plenty of donair shops, so poutines cannot be far behind.
For an easy find, I knew New York Fries served my fave dish. And so, accompanied by a couple of new colleagues, off to a mall to see what kind of poutine I could get from a restaurant named after the ultimate American city.
Well, let's just say expectations weren't high to begin with, and those weren't even met. The final score of 70% was carried mostly by the strength of the fries. This so-so score will certainly ensure that when Smoke's Poutinerie finally does open up in Edmonton, it will be the undisputed poutine king until I find something else.

Despite being a Westerner now (or again - it's complicated), I do hope to continue my search for good poutine and good poutine stories. I may be based out of Edmonton, but please continue sending me tips, regardless of which end of the country they originate from.
May your curds stay squeaky.

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