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.