Poutine at the Source

Classic poutine from La Banquise

It felt a little weird, seeing Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford on my plane ride home yesterday. His country had just won the gold medal, and he was on the other side of the world from all of the action. He was clearly heading back to work after spending some time with family. But more important than any hockey-related query, this thought kept nagging away at me: did he get some poutine while he was home, and if so, how does his family make it? 


Part of the reason I was there over the weekend was to check out the annual midwinter fest known as En Lumière, an arts and music festival running over 10 days all over the city. There is a gastronomy component to it as well, but honestly, I was just as psyched to have been able to get a table at Joe Beef and another one later at the Sugar Shack for Au Pied de Cochon where I literally ate my weight in butter, maple syrup and pork (more on those in another post). My other assignment was to check out the poutine scene. The city just wrapped up its second annual “La Poutine Week,” part of a larger, nationwide effort this year, which gathered nearly 100 restaurants in places like Quebec City and Toronto. The dish – a mountain of French fries, squishy/squeaky white cheese curds and deep, rich gravy – is as ubiquitous in the province as hot dogs are in Chicago. Some, like La Banquise, a 45 year-old stalwart in The Plateau section of Montréal, offers 30 different varieties, topping them with vegetables and other ephemera. But at its core, it’s simply three ingredients, with very little manipulation. The dish itself has jumped the border now, sold in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s and the star of its own Fest in Chicago yesterday (the 2nd annual, you can see them on Twitter here). I did a brief report from Montreal for PRI’s “The World” on Friday, you can hear it here.  Honestly, I can’t say I’d ever crave poutine for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but certainly, after a night out drinking, I can see its appeal. Personally, you’ll find me at the Korean BBQ joint.

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