Poutine, Ramen, Spelunking, and Brenner (LLC)
Last week, I heard someone mention that Pommes Frites serves poutine. I had never tried the stuff, which is to say that I had never before run across it -- because I sure as hell wouldn't have it in me, as a poutine virgin, to turn down deep fried potatoes covered in cheese curds and gravy. I'd be more likely to pass up on a gang massage from the Swedish Bikini Team (that's a lie). As such, I promised myself I'd walk up Second Avenue this past weekend and give the poutine a try.
Long story short, I wasn't all that thrilled. I'm a fan of Pomme Frites, and the fries on their own were as good as ever. I enjoyed the cheese curds as well; they were nicely salty and the flavor did not betray their cheddar bloodline. There was no squeaking, but the curds were supposedly imported from Quebec, which may date them beyond squeaking freshness. So, as Sherlock Holmes has been known to say: I imagine the trouble was in the gravy. Simply put, there just wasn't all that much to it. It was a bit limp and pointless, and anything soaked in it seemed to have the sunshine ripped right out.
Post-poutine, and lacking much of anything else to do for the day, I began trekking about the East Side. Eventually, I wandered up to Rai Rai Ken, whose ramen I have enjoyed in the past. I stopped in intending to order a curry version of the soup, and was disappointed when I didn't see it on the menu. I ordered the shoyu ramen instead, then looked up and saw the placard taped up right in front of me touting the curry ramen. I didn't bother trying to stop the guy, though, because it was readily apparent that his personality was justifiably comparable to that of a new pair of tighty whiteys. The noodles and other assorted bits in my soup were pretty good, especially the pork. The broth, however, was limp in the same way that the poutine gravy was. Oh well.
After paying up, I decided to walk over to the Union Square cinema and see if there were any films on my to-see list that had an approaching start time. Prior to entering the theater, I noted the Max Brenner store across the street. I've seen the recent chowhound discussions on the place, but hadn't really picked up on the location. I marked it as a post-movie treat and wound up buying a ticket for The Descent. I thought the movie was quite good, especially if you dig seeing women get killed while in the process of cave exploration (come on, who doesn't?).
The credits began to roll and, within a few short moments, I was staring at the goofy-but-nifty innards of Max Brenner's chocolate whorehouse. I wound up ordering the Mexican hot chocolate and the "Peanut Butter Cup".
The hot chocolate came over almost immediately, and the gentleman who served it up recommended I get a spoon, as the chocolate was thick and might need stirring. As encouraging as that was to hear, the chocolate actually wasn't discernibly thicker than skim milk. They say things come in threes, and so here was my third liquid-based disappointment of the day. There was a subtle spice to the drink, and somewhere within was a bit of chocolaty depth screaming to be heard, but it was all overpowered by water or whatever it was padding out the rest of the cup. I stood there and sipped my misery while slowly realizing that the guy putting people's orders together had forgotten the rest of mine. He was a nice fella, though, and got right to work on my Peanut Butter Cup when I asked about it.
This thing was moronic in the best way possible, and was exactly what I needed after my day's insipid food crawl. Chocolate truffle cream studded with peanut butter and Oreo cookies, covered in whipped cream, chocolate chunks, and chocolate sauce. Too heavy, too sweet, too rich -- perfect. When the guy first handed it to me, I was sorry it wasn't bigger. By the time I had forced myself to finish it, I was high.
The subtlety and depth to be found in the world's better chocolates (I'm a Cluizel man, myself) was certainly not in evidence. This was a chocolate-handled sugar hammer to the brain -- but a nice one. For (I think) $4.50, I'd happily go back the next time I need to get briefly jacked-up on something legal.
And that's all I've got for ya right now.
For all the calories you get from eating poutine, I'd say pass it up anywhere outside of Quebec. Even most places in Quebec get it wrong. It's worth the drive up to your nearest Chez Ashton (it's a chain).
Out of curiosity, did you get a sense of poutine's popularity at that Manhattan place? Did you see anyone else ordering it?
I've actually never noticed anybody else ordering the poutine at Pomme Frites. In fact, until someone mentioned it last week, I wasn't even aware that they offered it, despite the fact that I've been going there for years. Perhaps it's a recent addition to the menu.
If they could fix the gravy, I think it'd be a worthy order. In the meantime, the fries with ketchup, mayo, and onions still goes down a treat.