Friday, June 10, 2011
Only in Canada
If you're not from Canada, you may never have heard of the dish poutine. At its most basic, poutine is french fries, cheese curds and gravy. If you're like me, the very idea sounds unappetizing. But as I was visiting Canada for the first time this week, I felt that I had to at least sample the dish.
Once I'd made that decision, it was a matter of deciding where to try it. A friend had actually told me where to go, but I foolishly forgot to write down the name of the place (interestingly, I ended up going there anyway through my own methods), so I had to try to find a good place myself. To do this, I went with one of my tried and true methods of sampling a regional dish. First, via google, recommendations of friends, coworkers, etc, find the restaurant that they all agree is the best place in area for said. Then, choose their house specialty or the item that your waitstaff recommends. Simple, and always seems to work well for me.
Following this route, I ended up at Elgin Street Diner in Ottawa. At first glance, this place is nothing special, just a rather typical small diner. But I've found that places like these are often hidden gems, with some of the best food I've ever tasted, so I went in. Looking at their menu, they had one whole section for poutine, with at least 5-10 variations. Rather than get plain poutine, I got their house specialty, the ESD poutine. This adds carmelized onions and crumbled bacon to the basic recipe. Served with a cold Canadian beer, of course.
To get the best experience, I made sure to try just the fries, cheese curds and gravy by itself, and then with the additional toppings. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this dish, but I do think it was better with the onions and bacon. The fries were hand cut and crispy, the onions perfectly caramelized without being burned, and the bacon nice and crispy. The combination of flavors with all of the items together was perfect. The serving size was also large enough that I had it for dinner one night, and then ate the leftovers again the next.
All in all, I highly recommend that you give poutine a try, no matter how hesitant you are about the idea. If you happen to be in Ottawa when you decide to do it, head to Elgin Street and try it at the Elgin Street Diner. You won't regret it