Monday, 12 August 2013

Poutine Guy is on the Move

Hello Poutine Guy fans!

The blog and Poutine Guy are on the move. What began as a way to trick Blogger into allowing me to post an audio turned into a whole new adventure. That adventure is a new website that is now housing everything Poutine Guy. To check it out, click here or cut and paste the link below into your address bar.

May your curds stay squeaky. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

I'm finally popular

My fame is growing fast. I’m still not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. My wife claims my fame brings shame to the family. I wonder if it’s merely coincidence that Fame and Shame rhyme. Perhaps shame and the ability to spot a good poutine can be the legacy I leave my children. Regardless, I should try to take advantage of this 15 minutes being allotted to me.
Last week, I was interviewed by Times & Transcript reporter Tess Allen. It was a great experience and the story was in the Friday, July 26th, newspaper.  For those who may have missed it, I’ve reprinted it below.
The T&T story was amazing is terms of the amount of hits sent to the blog. In terms of pure ad value, the article is valued at $2,400 – at least according to media research companies it is. Given I’ve worked in the communications field before, I know the value of good media attention, and having witnessed negative attention in the past as well, I can easily say I prefer being on the positive side more. I certainly appreciate the story Tess wrote.
Moreover, positive attention often leads to more positive attention. Directly below you should find an audio clip of my Rogers Radio interview on Monday morning. But, you won't because I haven't figured out how to trick Blogger into letting me upload an mp3. 

That being said, Taylor Whittamore was a good host and most people I know who listened to the live show reported back to me that I did okay. I’m not a fan of my own voice, so it may take a few weeks until I actually listen to it myself. I know that’s weird.
Until next time, may your curds stay squeaky.

26 Jul 2013
Most New Brunswick food fans will agree there are few things in life more satisfying than a good poutine – and few things more disappointing than a bad one. 
But while many can claim to have eaten their fair share of both, none can make the distinction quite like Moncton’s David Gingras – or as he has become more commonly known among blog-surfing poutine-lovers across the region: Poutine Guy. 
“Everybody has an opinion on poutines. Everybody’s had the great one and everybody’s had the one they wish they could forget,” says Gingras of his motivation behind launching the popular online blog in which he rates the best and worst cheese, gravy and french fry dishes from diners to lunch-carts across the region and beyond. 
“I wanted to talk about poutines since they’re culturally significant and they’re a passion of mine. I have a French background, so poutine is almost in my blood.”
Gingras, a former Times & Transcript employee and current policy advisor for the New Brunswick Health Council (he is the first to point out the irony), has a carefully-sculpted rating system when it comes to distinguishing the best – and worst – poutines the region has to offer. 
“I have a five-point evaluation system; the first three points of course being curds, fries and gravy because that’s what a poutine is all about. Then there’s value for money and expectations,” says Gingras, adding that eateries with any variation of the word “poutine” in their title are held to an even higher standard.
“If I see a place with ‘poutinerie’ in the name, it better have a pretty darn good poutine. Don’t get me to sit down and then feed me a mediocre poutine.”
It goes without saying that Gingras has tasted his share of poutines both awful and awesome since launching his monthly blog last spring, an experience that has taught him a thing or two about what makes the truly perfect poutine. 
“A lot of restaurants make their poutines with salty fries and salty curds and salty gravy and it’s just overpowering. The secret is to cut down the salt on the fries; if you do that then you’re going to have a great poutine almost every time as long as your gravy is the right consistency and you have the right amount of curds,” he says. 
As for actually tasting the perfect poutine, Gingras says the closest he has come to cheese-and-gravy excellence was in fact right here in Metro Moncton. 
“I just happened to be at the Moncton market one day and I wasn’t even there to eat poutine. I saw one of the trucks outside (called Belle’s Wagon) where this guy was cutting a potato like an acrobat. I thought, ‘well I just have to get a poutine from this guy,’” says Gingras.
“I had no expectations of getting a great poutine from outside the market and it was the best poutine I’ve ever had.”
Thankfully, the worst poutine Gingras claims to have ever eaten was far outside Metro. 
“The worst poutine (I’ve ever had) was in Edmundston. I figured that since I was pretty close to the Quebec border, they’d make a great poutine there. Unfortunately it had frozen fries, mozzarella cheese and mediocre gravy. It was another case of expectations being just too high.” 
Gingras tries his hardest to provide readers with a fair and accurate assessment of each poutine featured on his blog, an effort noted by loyal followers like Nathan White. 
“I appreciate David’s dedication and I like that he actually has a consistent rating system he applies to various aspects of the poutine,” says White, a New Brunswick native now residing in Ottawa. 
“Poutine isn’t something you can eat every day, so when you have one, you want it to be worth it.”
Despite what some might think, this is in fact a philosophy shared by Gingras himself. 
“I work in healthcare with nurses and other health professionals and when they hear that I’m Poutine Guy, they kind of shake their heads. I (have to explain) that I don’t have a poutine every day. I don’t even have one every week,” says Gingras, adding that when he does test out a new poutine, he typically buys the smallest size available.
“Eating is about moderation. That’s something that I try to tell people in my blog.”
Gingras says he has noticed a growing popularity for not only his own musings, but for the traditional dish itself in the months since launching his blog. 
“Since I’ve been writing Poutine Guy, I’ve seen a growth in the popularity of poutine in New Brunswick. Saint John just had a poutine challenge and Fredericton has a poutine festival coming up. I even have people up in Shippagan telling me they’re planning something for this summer,” he says.
“I’ve had people from all corners of the country talking to me and sending me tips and some even volunteering to do taste tests. It’s great to get that kind of feedback from people.”
More than anything, Gingras just wants to bring a little humour to the lives of his many dedicated readers and keep building Poutine Guy’s presence on the web, one poutine at a time. 
“I just hope people get a chuckle out of it. It’s something fun to write and especially fun to research. I hope it’s also fun to read.”
Those hoping to follow Gingras on his quest for the perfect poutine can log onto

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Poutine Guy is Notorious

Hey poutine lovers! Just a quick blog this time. First, today I had lunch with someone I never met before. I told her I had a side project reviewing poutine in a blog. She responded with, "That's you?" 

Poutine Guy's first "That's you?". I'm famous!

Second, I hear there is a Poutine Festival in the works in Fredericton. One more poutine promotion that will haunt Poutine Guy with guilt as he reads future obesity figures in the province. There's even a Facebook site set up here for those who want updates. 

Anyway, here's what they have available so far: 

All you can eat Poutine plus NB Craft Beer. COMING FALL 2013

Yes, you read that correctly: "All you can eat Poutine..." and some other stuff. 

And finally, I've discovered Pinterest. It is wasting a lot of my time, but it is poutine heaven for this curd admirer. I even found a Keep Calm logo suggesting I Eat Poutine. I'm considering getting it on a T-shirt (who am I kidding, it'll be on a bib) in time for the Fredericton Poutine Festival. 

So keep the tips coming in.

Until then, of course, may your curds stay squeaky. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I may require a Cross-Country-Check-Up

Just when I found one of the best poutine shops around (au revoir La Poutine), I go and move again. But this time I made the most of the cross-Canada trek, uncovering tales of contrast as different as the West and the East ... well, okay maybe not that different.

The first tale came to me whilst researching a good spot to grab a poutine in Saskatchewan or Manitoba. At this time, Pizza Hut was advertising its Poutine Pizza - to be clear: a pizza with poutine toppings.

All I can say is that the opposite - a poutine with pizza toppings - both sounds and looks good. On the other hand, pizza with poutine toppings neither sounds nor looks good. Sorry, Pizza Hut. The Ottawa Citizen review of this abomination was even entitled, "Poutine pizza is as foul as you might expect." I expect it's quite foul.

And, as odds would have it, Joe Beevrs has restaurants in Saskatchewan and Manitoba - in Yorkton and Brandon to be exact - that serve the Great Canadian Pizza Poutine. A poutine with pizza toppings. However, if it's the same cost as every other poutine on their Poutine Menu, then $15 is a bit steep for french fries, gravy, and curds, even if they are styled in the shape of a beaver dam. It may very well be the best poutine ever, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a steaming pile of kitsch.

So, it was no surprise I drove through these two prairie provinces without. I feel particularly bad for this fellow who has extended his quest for a good Saskatoon poutine to Kijiji with the ad: Best Poutine in Stoon.

Good luck, prairie friend!

As for my second tale, I made my first poutine pit-stop in Hearst, Ontario. Stopping for gas, I asked the kid at the Esso where I could grab a good poutine. He directed me next door to Chez Kikine Restaurant. I really wish I had ignored him. The fries were just not up to my standard - crispy would be an understatement. Overall, a 66% is a fail as far as Poutine Guy is concerned.
Kikine Catastophe
The following evening, I arrived in Cabano, Quebec. I had been looking forward to this for some time, ever since seeing the establishment praised on; easily the most recognized poutine grading site around. The site has the Casse-croute Chez Yvon graded with a 90%! As you can imagine, expectations were riding high until I was informed that not only was Chez Yvon under new ownership, but the poutinerie building itself was brand new following a recent fire that had fully consumed it. These new elements certainly disminished my expectations but yet did not save it from a failing overall grade of 66%.
Chez Yvon - Under New Management
Whereas Chez Kikine delivered over-cooked french fries, Chez Yvon's were on the undercooked side. In terms french fries, I think I prefer over-cooked as opposed to under. Perhaps if I had made a third stop on my way across the country I would have Goldilocks'ed-out and located one that was just right. Unfortunately, I can only eat so many poutines in a three-and-half-day span.

I hope your latest poutine experiences have been better than my last two. Let me know. Also, if you participated in or witnessed the St. Jean Baptiste Day Poutinerie Challenge in Saint John I want to hear all about it!

As always, may your curds stay squeaky.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

In search of comfort

I know Poutine Guy promised an Edmonton review for this blog, and I will deliver, but first I have a number of items from out east to bring up.

Last week, Poutine Guy began feeling he may not be the best role model. In fact, Poutine Guy has quite possibly left behind a shameful legacy of gravy-soaked curdish indulgence in the Picture Province. It’s already one of the most overweight and obese in the country, and yet since Poutine Guy’s naissance, there is now not one, but two first “annual” poutine contests slated to occur in New Brunswick this summer.

One is still in the planning stages from the whispers that Poutine Guy has heard. It’s expected to be a two-day extravaganza in the Acadian Peninsula. I will keep my readers informed as developments travel to my ears in Edmonton. Stay tuned.
The other big news, which I had to read more than twice, is the first Poutinerie Challenge as part of the Chop Chop Food Festival in Saint John.
Saint John!
On St. Jean Baptiste Day at that! (June 24th, for those not so up-to-speed on their Saints) 
Perhaps I’m the only person surprised by this, but c’mon, poutine celebrated in Saint John. Anyhow, local uptown restaurateurs are competing to see who has the best poutine. How does Poutine Guy get on the judge list?
Hats off to all these poutine admirers in New Brunswick for putting these events together. Much like Poutine Guy, these event organizers are poutine pioneers. I just hope Poutine Guy’s conscience can live with the cholesterolic consequences.    
While Poutine Guy feels partly to blame for the growth in poutine popularity in New Brunswick, I can’t see how Poutine Guy can be blamed for this particularly fine specimen out of Port Williams, Nova Scotia at The Port Pub and Bistro – a lobster poutine. From what I read in this article, the photo went viral.
The photo has been attributed to Kathy Jollimore, a Halifax-based foodie and author of the food blog eatHalifax! 
Now, about that Edmonton poutine.
It’s unfortunate that I had to travel this far to find it, but alas Poutine Guy has discovered the best poutine he’s had since starting this blog. It seems apt that it would be at a place called La Poutine – as though there could be no other poutine except this one. Spending the week in self-blame, Poutine Guy found comfort. On the Poutine Guy scale it scored 93%, which beats Smokes (90%) and the fluke find I came across one time at the Farmer’s Market in Moncton (92%).
Any joint with the word poutine in its name carries a great deal of expectations. The poutine better be darn good if you’re going to put in your name. This has been the downfall of some poutine pretenders. They just couldn’t live up to my expectations or their own name. In the case of La Poutine, they exceeded expectations.   
One of the greatest challenges of creating a masterpiece poutine is getting the salt balance right. La Poutine met this challenge very well. While the quality of the cheese was fantastic, as usual I would have liked a few more curds, but I recognize this may have affected the salt balance. It also would have impacted the value-for-money. And, in terms of value-for-money, the price was right and I’m glad I opted for the regular size (yes, Poutine Guy knows how to show moderation).
Two side notes:
1. They make gluten-free gravy for those who care about such things. Apparently, it’s the fashionable thing to be concerned about these days.

2. And, La Poutine has a food truck that can be followed on Facebook and Twitter or so the street sign says.

Hopefully, Poutine Guy will not be as dangerous to the health of Albertans as he continues to be to New Brunswickers.

As always, may your curds stay squeaky.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

M.I.C. Part II - Smoked Meat

Just when I thought my days of reviewing Maritime poutines were over, I get dragged back in.

A couple of weeks back I read a review by the Two Fat Guys. They paid a visit to M.I.C. in Dieppe and one Fat Guy (Chad C.) critiqued the Smoked Meat Poutine. I can’t say I agree wholeheartedly with his final mark, even though I do agree with much of his analysis.
To quote Chad directly, “The problem I had was, despite the fact the smoked meat was fantastic on its own and the poutine was great by itself, I am not sure this is a dish that works for me” and “even though there are two great components to this dish, I did not like the two options put together.”

He gave his experience a 7/10 and that included the very excellent cheese sticks, which I have also had at M.I.C. and enjoyed immensely. Given his similar enjoyment of the cheese sticks and his disappointment with the Smoked Meat Poutine, I can only guess that the main course fared far below 7/10.
About six months ago, I had the Smoked Meat Poutine at M.I.C. as well. I even took a picture of it. Did it do as well as their traditional poutine? No. But I don’t believe it did as poorly as Chad would suggest. That’s where Chad and I disagree. For some reason he could not separate smoked meat from smoked meat sandwich and even wrote about having the urge to add mustard to it.  

But, we do agree on some things. You see, when I ran the smoked meat poutine through my own evaluation process, it did just as well as the traditional version in terms of fries, gravy, curds, and even value-for-money. But, it didn’t do well on expectations. Indeed, I scored the traditional poutine at 83%, but the smoked version only gets a 75%.
Why the difference in expectations?

When I saw the menu, I had the same thoughts as Chad, who wrote “For my main course, I saw an item on the menu that sounded too good to be true. A combination I had never even fantasized about before - Smoked Meat Poutine.”
Expectations are simply far too high. How could anyone see poutine and smoked meat together and not get … well … umm … excited. Well, Poutine Guy couldn’t help himself either. Just look at the picture. It is mouth-watering to say the least. Despite not being as good as their traditional version, it's still worth it if you want to try something new.

And speaking of not being able to help myself, my next blog will include a critique of an Edmonton poutinerie – La Poutine. As my fans may recall, expectations are high for any restaurant that includes the word poutine in its name. I look forward to letting you know how it went.

Until then, may your curds stay squeaky.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Lay-overs in Toronto just got a whole lot easier

As many of the thousands of Poutine Guy fans know, I've hopped aboard the train out West. And the subject of today's critique is about a poutine I experienced en route. Mind you, I wasn't actually on a train, but rather at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on my way back to Moncton.

The Guinness Poutine at Fionn MacCool's scores very well. However, it did bring up an interesting debate about my grading scheme and the use of value-for-money. Value can be a somewhat ubiquitous term. Exactly what am I measuring these poutines against?

I had always believed that I was measuring them against other poutines. But, what if I didn't pay for it, or it was rebated? This came up in an earlier critique of the Wendy's poutine - it was alright, but better because I had a coupon. In the case of the Guinness Poutine, I was able to expense it for work, so I actually paid nothing (except possible years-of-life-lost, but that's a given with any poutine).

Also, I would expect to pay a higher premium for any food purchased at an airport, so even if I did pay for the poutine, I should expect to pay a higher price, right? Therefore, is the value-for-money metric dependent upon other factors? Is this something that should instead be captured in the Expectations measure?

As you can imagine, this value-for-money conundrum caused Poutine Guy great concern and required much reflection. Ultimately, I determined that comparing regular price to regular price, regardless of locale was the only way to proceed. Expectations would be the catch-all for the more qualitative issues I might encounter.

Even then, the Guinness Poutine fared very well. It did score all over the place though, from 5 out of 10 on the curds to full points on the Guinness gravy. Worth mentioning, is that expectations weren't very high when I saw poutine on the menu. Honestly, I was in an Irish pub in an airport. I even had a personal rule against eating poutine in airports. I had always believed nothing good could come from it. So, in terms of the Expectations grading criteria, the Guinness Poutine delivered.

When I ate this piece of art, I was returning from a job interview in Edmonton. It was a cold February evening, but it was a job I was eventually offered and I accepted. As I write this now, I am once again laying over at Pearson on my way back to Edmonton. Right now I can't think of anything more comforting than a hot poutine.   

So, the next time you're laying over at Pearson, I recommend hopping on over to Fionn MacCool's as well, to order their Guinness Poutine. Tell them Poutine Guy sent ya. It won't mean anything, and they'll have no idea what you're talking about, but do it anyway.

May your curds stay squeaky.


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.