Of course not all poutine is created equal. That wouldn’t make sense. We’ve had some dreadful poutine in the past. We’ve had poutine with grated mozzarella in place of cheese curd, hostie! But Quebec is poutine’s homeland and it just seems like a treat to be able to indulge in one when you’re on home turf.
And indeed, we’ve had excellent poutine there, in the past – both at dives like “La Belle Province” chain of greasy spoons and at higher-end little bistros in the Plateau. After our day trip to Montreal on Sunday, however, there was no mistaking that poutine quality varies drastically – even in the motherland.
Our primary mission on Sunday was to meet up with our friends W and Y – a gay couple from Los Angeles we met while travelling in Vietnam a few years back. We’ve happily stayed in touch with these world travelers (common interests, and all that) who are in the middle of an extended (and apparently very enjoyable) trip to Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. Sadly, they weren’t able to make it to Ottawa, but since they were as close as Montreal, we figured it was a good opportunity to spend a few hours together catching up.
The company was great. We spent the afternoon and evening in the gay village, hanging about on the patio at Sky Pub Club. We split a 4-litre pitcher of sangria – which was lip-smacking, if a little skimpy on booze – and then we ordered a light dinner. For junkii and I, that was poutine.
It was a huge mistake.
Obviously it’s naïve to believe that everyone in Quebec knows how to make a good poutine, but wishful thinking will can just as easily inform bad decisions as good. Our expectations were shattered in seconds when we were presented with what looked like McCain frozen fries covered in a bit of (most likely) tinned gravy and some cheese curd. I knew before the first forkful hit my taste buds that this was not going to be worth the calories.
And I was right. But I licked the plate clean anyway – because that’s what I do with poutine.
Thankfully, the Californians were up for more beer so I was able to wash the taste of cheap poutine away with some Boréale Noire. Ahhh, Quebec beer: is there nothing you can’t do?