I’m sure my readers have been wondering why I haven’t written anything about poutine on this blog. I like writing about regional fare and foods that inspire pride and intense debate between it’s lovers and haters. To be frank, this was a calculated strategy, I was not ready to walk into the veritable thunderdome that is poutine criticism. So let me put on my Tina Tuner style chain male evening gown and dig into this national debate.
The POCG System
What Canada really lacks is a system of rating and policing the production of poutine. There is a lot of horrific poutine. The Poutine D’origine Contrôlée Gaurantee is something I just invented it works much like the french or italian wine system which brings quality control and regionality to the production of poutine in Canada. It also reminds us what matters in poutine. P-Potato, C-Cheese Curd, G-Gravy, the O is left out but I would argue that poutine is better served in a round styrofoam container.
This system takes into account the quality of the three main components in poutine, Fries, Gravy, Cheese Curd. But it also has a place to rate the use of other toppings such as sausage, lobster, montreal smoked meat, duck confit, foie gras, veggies*, bacon, other kinds of meat cured or otherwise.
Fries: (1-15 scale)
The fries in poutine are the skeleton of the dish. If the fries fail you will have nothing but a dense block of potato cheese and gravy and as amazing as that sounds in principle I really do like to enjoy eating my food and not performing liposuction on it. The Fries in poutine need to come from the deepest and darkest deep friers possible. The less often a poutinery cleans there grease traps the better the fries. The fries need to be crisp, dense and resistant to moisture. They also need to be a little thicker and of course hand cut. Double frying also is something I advocate to really get a nice crisp on the fries.
The Cheese Curd: (1-10 scale)
If fries are the skeleton of poutine the cheese curd is the muscles. I think as Canadians we all have had some charlatan try to serve us “poutine” with shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese on it. Those people should be made to wear patches on their sleeves depicting a cheese curd so they can be shunned for the rest of their lives. Only cheese curd is acceptable in poutine. The cheese curd should be fresh enough that you can hear a small squeak as you are biting into it. And there needs to be a healthy amount of cheese curd in the poutine. Cheese curd needs to be a presence in the dish, it cannot be some kind of half assed absentee father cheese.
Gravy: (1-15 scale)
St. Hubert beef gravy is considered by purists to be the only option for poutine and I agree with this unless the establishment has decided to make their own in-house gravy. Gravy is the blood of the poutine. It lubricates the dish. Dry fries and cheese curds can be difficult to get down, especially if you have dry mouth from a night of imbibing. The gravy does much of the work for you…not to mention it’s gravy. The gravy needs to be thick enough to ooze throughout the dish and stick to the fries. But not so thick that it just sits on the top of the fries without permeating the entire dish. It’s a happy medium. The gravy should also be rich and salty, it’s the most important flavour component of the dish and should be treated as such.
The Extras: (1-5 scale)
Think of the extras on poutine as flair**. Sure it can enhance the dish but it should never make the dish. The extra ingredients need to be high quality and add flavour and texture that compliments the main components of poutine. In Calgary, Laurier Lounge does a spectacular duck confit poutine. The duck perfectly integrates with the poutine. That is a benchmark extra that is nearly impossible to top for me and if you are ever in Calgary do yourself a favour and go.
For Your Consideration: Frenchy’s Poutinery
When you enter Frenchy’s it’s unassuming, kind of dank, and fragrant. You smell fries and gravy as soon as you enter and you stomach immediently comes to life. The gentleman working the afternoon I decided to go was friendly but quiet. Poutineries should not be nice, they should hover somewhere between the ambience of a dive bar and the back room of an adult video store. Their employees’ attitudes should be somewhere between ambivalent and surly. The menu should be short and the drinks should be sugary or made by Molson. Frenchy’s ambiance was promising.
I had heard very mixed reviews*** of Frenchy’s and because I have been blessed with some pretty fantastic poutine experiences in my life, my expectations were not as high as they may have been had I just walked in totally cold and saw the place.
The fries were crispy and hand cut. They didn’t get soggy even when the gravy was too runny. They tasted good and were quiet hearty.
The gravy wasn’t very good. It wasn’t horrible****. The flavour was alright but not rich enough for me. The consistency was too watery but it wasn’t watery enough to ruin the dish.
The Cheese Curd: 7.5/10
They give you a boatload of cheese curds at Frenchy’s and they take the time and effort to bury them in the fries and not just have them as a block on top. The curds were nice a squeaky, and they didn’t dissolve into the gravy. Wonderful job.
The Extras: 4/5
I got the montreal smoked meat with my poutine. I had always had thin sliced smoked meat in the past but frenchies cuts of nice big chunks of the deli meat. It’s a great move. The meat adds great texture and smokey flavour to the dish and works really well. It’s not duck confit poutine from Laurier Lounge but very little is.
Overall Score: 30/45
Overall Frenchy’s was good. It was not amazing, it did not change my life, but I would go back after drinking too much downtown and that is exactly what a poutinery should be. The efforts of Frenchy’s are valiant. And they should not be met with comparison to such hot beds as Montreal or Quebec. Windsor, you could do much much worse in the Culinary Thunderdome that is poutine.
As always, please post disagreements in the comments section so that I can dismiss them roundly and insensitively.
*Other than onions, there is no acceptable veggies you can put on poutine. If you disagree with this please go and reconsider your existence.
**You know, the Nazis has pieces of flair they made the jews wear.(An autographed photo, for who can comment first with the source of this quote.)
***Ranging from insanely glowing to psychopathically negative.
****Ala The Big Cheese in Calgary Alberta. Which has the most egregious gravy every put to fries. Water is jealous of The Big Cheese’s Gravy’s wateriness. I am not afraid to say that anyone who gives Frenchy’s shit should be forced to shovel the atrocity against poutine found on Calgary’s Red Mile into their faces for eternity because they have no idea how bad it can get.