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.