Consider this post an ode to one of my “favourite” food items – poutine. Behind ice hockey, I consider it the greatest gift from our northern neighbors.
Poutine is a French Canadian concoction of crisp, double-dipped German-style frieze, white cheddar cheese curds and beef gravy. Anyone who has ever eaten the late-night comfort food knows that it is a deliciously decadent treat.
I first encountered poutine (pronounced: pooh-teen) during an amateur peewee ice hockey trip to Ontario as a kid. Ah, the glorious ’90s’ – our parents would give us some money and let us run amok along Canada’s crime-free streets. Back then, the exchange rate was in Uncle Sam’s favor and we would revel in the stacks of Monopoly-colored bills our allowances would rake in.
Along with a group of my adolescent teammates (any server’s nightmare), I ventured into a café during a break in our tournament for a midday meal. I was always an adventurous eater, so I ordered the first thing on the menu I didn’t know how to pronounce.
The marvelous taste sensation that met my tongue buds rocked my world.
Poutine is absolutely amazing. I think the magic is in the cheese curds. They melt at a higher temperature than cheese, so unlike traditional cheese fries, dense chunks of cheesy goodness get packed into every bite. In fact, the flavor profile is somehow more akin to macaroni and cheese than to the chili-cheese fries most Americans are used to.
My most recent experience with poutine occurred during a trip earlier this month to Québec for the Amnesia Rock Festival. It was my friend Flack’s first trip to Canada, and I thoroughly enjoy sharing the food staple with the uninitiated.
During our meal in a large Bavarian-style food tent, our “Quebecer” friend Audrey told us that cheese curds hold a special place in the area’s culture, and our arrival coincided with the peak of cheese curd season. Apparently, they lose some of their consistency if they’re refrigerated, so you can find curds at the checkout of every grocery and convenience store. I was even told that “squeaky cheese,” as it’s also called, is even honored with a festival each summer.
Of course I bought some bags when we were at the store and sprinkled it on everything we cooked at the campsite – I even had chunks of squeeky cheese for breakfast.
Since Arsenal Dairy in Lawrenceville closed its doors, I haven’t been able to find a good source for cheese curds in the area. I’ve been told Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip may have them, but haven’t been able to check it for myself.
But believe-you-me, as soon as I get my hands on some curds, I’ll put together a recipe so that I can introduce the concoction to even more people in the area.
In the meantime, there are a number of eateries in Pittsburgh that have begun offering the cheesy treat, including Park Bruges, Franktuary and Meat and Potatoes.
So, if you see that funny French word on a menu near you, leap right in, and I promise you won’t regret it.