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Nov 1, 2010 10:16 PM

That Great Canadian Comfort Food- Poutine

just fyi, below is a link to a discussion of a great poutine recently found in southern vt., in the context of poutine in Boston and other spots.The thread title is : "Hey Boston CHs: Would You Drive Three Hours for a Perfect Poutine?"

Would anyone plse chime in on the current feelings about The Gallows' poutine (and any others) in Boston? Btw, is there a better weeknight (less crowded), in general, to try The Gallows?

I was just thinking, Aquitaine has those excellent fries; I wonder if we could convince them to honor the French-Quebec connection,by combining those fries with that lovely duck confit from their brunch sandwich - to make a poutine, like they do at The Hermitage in West Dover, Vt.? I particularly liked The Hermitage's use of smoked cheddar instead of the more insipid (but traditional) curds.

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  1. While they don't describe it as poutine on their menu, Pop's in the South End has a Sausage trio that's served on top of what they call dirty fries. It's one of the tastiest things on their menu. Great fries, gravy & curds, wonder why they don't call it poutine?

    1. I like The Gallows a lot, and enjoy the poutine to a point (the point where I think, "Are gravy fries really such a great idea?"). The fries are good, and the gravies (chicken or mushroom) and optional deluxe add-ons (seasonal vegetables or offal-y bits like sweetbreads) are excellent.

      The bone of contention for most people is the cheese, which, while house-made, is more like ricotta or a loose, fresh mozzarella than the firm, squeak-on-your-teeth fromage beaucronne (fresh cheddar curds) of the canonical version beloved in Quebec. I'm pretty sure no one gets this exactly right in Greater Boston. Also, technically, the sauce should be based on a velouté, not just any old gravy, but I think the cheese is always the most controversial bit for traditionalists.

      At the end of the day, this is glorified drunk food, originally the province of late-night diners and casse-croutes for $3 or $5, not a $23 version topped with foie gras like the one served at Au Pied de Cochon, the fancy Montreal snout-to-tail restaurant that first (or at least most famously) broached the crazy idea of taking it uptown.

      There's a version done at Pops, now called "grilled sausage trio" that is really good -- three very fine house-made sausages (venison, duck, wild boar) and short-rib gravy on excellent fries -- but again, I think purists will scoff at the cheese used. The version done at The Beehive is awful, a travesty. Harvest has an excellent one on its bar menu. Foundry on Elm and All-Star Sandwich bar offer classic-sounding versions, neither of which I have tried.

      As at most places in the South End, earlier weeknights are an easier table at The Gallows than Friday-Saturday, and they don't take reservations. They just added a Sunday brunch which features a breakfast poutine topped with Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs. I haven't been to that yet.

      20 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        For the record, the All-Star version just uses shredded cheese, not real curds.

        1. re: celeriac

          Are you sure about that? When I had it at All-Star, it was most definitely cheese curds. They list cheese curds on the menu. And when we went there a couple weeks ago, the table near ours had a batch of poutine that most definitely had very large cheese curds on top. I like their poutine very much. It's not Ma-Am-M Bolduc or PDC, but I thought it was quite tasty.

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          You got it right. Poutine is a glorified drunk food.

          As someone who travels to Montreal frequently to visit relatives, and has had his fair share of Poutine, this dish is nothing more than a velouté (chicken or veal) fires and fresh cheese curds.

          I've had the Au Pied de Cochon's version and the Duckfat's version in Portland and while they are both tasty, they are not traditional Poutine, and not worth the money, calories, or the drive IMO.

          To me a perfect Poutine is a late night snack after a night of bar hoping in the Quebec.

          1. re: Infomaniac

            I was gonna say... I had my first poutine at Duckfat on my way home from Maine college hunting with my son. Tasty, but not amazing, and, disappointingly, no squeak. The cheese was melted.

            1. re: justbeingpolite

              but the fries at duckfat are about 100 times better than at the gallows.

              as far as i'm concerned, the gallows serves gravy fries, not poutine. cheese curds are what go on top of poutine, regardless of whether it's yuppied up with foie gras. (which imho is nonsense, lol.)

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I too join the chorus of poutine traditionalists: fries, gravy, CURDS, nothing else, eaten after midnight. Anything beyond that is silly and pretentious. You might as well start adding slices of foie gras to grilled cheese sandwiches.

                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                  You guys all have me laughing. Trad, trad,schmad schmad. Anything beyond fries, gravy and curds is "Silly and pretentious"? Come on now, how many peasant foods that are dressed up- do you happily devour and not complain about the gentrifying aspect? I know you're not purists when you happily scoff down polenta , another ultimate peasant food (and grits by any other name), mashed potatoes, bread, couscous, gnocchi, etc etc etc- with"'fancy fixin's"(i.e. anything beyond the cheapest most basic additions would be considered 'fancy' by a peasant.). I mean, really,innovative tantalizing carbos are most often the real draw of a menu item for many diners. And carbos are peasant food. It's quite the norm for chefs to add perceived value to their entree plate by dressing up the less expensive component, the starch. Chefs like to dress 'em up and customers like to eat 'em dressed up. So why get on a high (actually low) horse about poutine authenticity? Besides, what REALLY is silly is to decide that there is only ONE trad version of a dish. No 2 peasants make macaroni and cheese the same way and no 2 peasants make poutine the same way.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    No 2 peasants put foie gras in either dish.

                    1. re: Gabatta


                      There is a difference between "peasant food" (as someone exactly one generation removed from The Grapes Of Wrath, not a term I would choose to use myself) and "drunk food." Most food historians trace the invention of poutine to the late 1950s at the earliest, so the comparison of poutine to polenta, mashed potatoes, couscous, etc. is culinarily invalid. A more apt comparison would be the buffalo wing.

                      So: who knows where to get some really fancy upscale jalapeno poppers? Maybe stuffed with corn smut and quail eggs?

                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                        'culinarily invalid'? you have me laughing again. They're all starches. but certainly not buff wings. Hmmmm, Culinary Invalids - sounds like a good name for a rock band.

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          Now I want to go to Buff's!

                          Buff's Pub
                          317 Washington St, Newtonville, MA 02458

                    2. re: opinionatedchef

                      I think there are few separate points here. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking humble food upscale, replacing crap ingredients with quality ingredients, adding luxury ingredients, and so on. That's been going on a long time, as anyone who's contributed to a thread on burgers that cost more than $5 should understand. It's sort of what gastropubs like The Gallows are all about.

                      I disagree with the notion that there isn't a strong canon or tradition associated with this dish, even if it only dates to the Fifties. Ever gotten an earful on American versions of poutine from a Québécois friend (or in my case, my cousin's husband)? I think it's perfectly germane to note a widely-held set of expectations about a dish from the regional or ethnic group that originated or popularized it. I have no problem with chefs breaking from a canon -- our food world would be pretty sad if this never happened -- but I think it's always useful to understand it as a reference point. Maybe nobody cares that spaghetti and meatballs isn't often served in Italy, but it doesn't help your credibility in a discussion to pretend this isn't so, or to market your version as "just like they do in the Old Country".

                      I don't think "drunk food" or "peasant food" are necessarily pejorative, but pretty well-established and non-judgmental terms. "Cucina povera", for instance, has positive connotations of thrift and creativity while working with a limited set of ingredients in straitened circumstances. The term drunk food doesn't say to me, "food for the undiscriminating", but does imply inexpensive, salty/fatty/starchy, and available late. There's good drunk food and bad (think of the varying quality of all-night diners) -- and yes, some purveyors are getting away with something because their patrons don't care so much -- but I don't consider it necessarily a slur on the food itself. The pad kee mao at S&I Thai is a plate of wonderment, even if one etymology of its name suggests drunk food.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        I don't think of poutine as a "drunk food", and I'm not sure that's the Canadian experience either, at least not mine, but I'm from Northern Ontario, where poutine was more of a cold-weather food. Something you ate to escape -30 (celsius) weather and restore some warmth to your bones. Something you ate in the chalet mid-day skiing, followed by a hot chocolate (and a box of Hot Tamales, in my case).

                        But I agree, I don't find the term itself derisive, though it certainly can be taken that way, particularly when one mis-labels "peasant food" as "drunk food". And then of course, before one has attained the state of drunkenness, there is "drinking food" which is totally civilized. ;)

                        1. re: Nab

                          Kind of like a Canadian haleem, of sorts. :)

                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                          that was really neat to read such an articulate post. th you slim.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            As a frequent visitor to Montreal - I will say I have waited in quite a long line at La Banquise at 3am (the crowd is quite festive) and no line at 4 pm - the variety of poutines is impressive (see - and the Poutine BOM is as close to food crack as you can get...

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              Thanks for the kind words, chef! You inspired me to turn it into a blog piece.


                  2. re: Infomaniac

                    Since we're talking about poutine outside of Boston, I had poutine with my friend from Montreal, at the Skinny Pancake in Montpelier VT. We both thought it was excellent and he thought it was better than anything back home.

                    1. re: Infomaniac

                      Did you have the PDC poutine with foie gras? I had it without foie gras, as a side dish to steak (well, what did you expect?), and I thought it was quite formidable. Rich, saucy gravy and massive, squeaky cheese curds. I would be curious to know why it isn't traditional sans foie gras.

                      Also, even at the classic joints in Montreal you can find it dressed up with hot dogs, onions, whatever. To my mind, putting that stuff on them makes them ever more in the category of munchy food/drunk food/etc. Not to say my favorite isn't the purist version, but I'm open to anything starting with a base of hot fries, gravy, and cheese curds.

                      1. re: hckybg

                        I've had it at PDC with the foie gras and without. It's good both ways but my preference is with gravy and cheese curd. In Quebec I've paid $4.00 for poutine with only one eye open to $23.00 for it with foie gras with both eyes wide open, and I like the $4.00 version better. Either way, for me it's just to much to eat with an entree or app. and I enjoy it more as a late night snack after a lot of beer on a cold winters night.

                        As AmbigEthnic mentions, you will find more people in Quebec eating poutine at 3:00am than any other time of day.

                        btw...the fries a PDC are made with horse fat and are the best I've ever had.

                        Traditional poutine is made with fries, gravy and cheese curd and everthing else is just an afterthough. It would be like calling buffalo chicken pizza traditional, where a purist might say it's just dough, sauce and cheese.

                  3. here is a really interesting article about it and many of its incarnations past and present.


                    1. wow, this just posted on the northern new england thread (that my original post was moved to); coool!

                      Chelmsford hound here who lives very close to NH border.
                      I recently tried a new place for poutine:
                      Bellagio Pizza - Nashua,NH
                      Address: 150 Broad Street, Nashua, NH 03063
                      Phone: 603-204-5510
                      It is in the small plaza at the intersection of Rt 3 and Rt 130 (Exit 6). It is next door to the Shell station. Same plaza with You You Japanese Bistro.
                      2 types of Poutine, traditional and tomato sauced (italian style-word has it is a sweet tomato sauce).
                      The traditional was just that...closer to what I have experienced in Montreal.
                      The gravy was spot on, and the cheese curds squeaked. Fries had skin on.
                      Served in the circular aluminum pan...2 sizes...$5 to $7.
                      I have had poutine in Montreal at La Belle Province, LaFluer, La Banquise, Patiti Patata, Dunn's, and Frite Alors to name a few.
                      It reminds me the most of La Belle Province.
                      Recent advertisements for this place talk of ingrediants being imported from Canada.
                      We'll see if the quality of the fries holds up over several visits.

                      Exit 6 also has a Hannaford's supermarket....for those Hounds looking to make their own poutine, Hannaford's carries Yancey's Fancy cheeses from NY. (posted previously here in CH).
                      Yancey's Fancy makes several types of cheddar cheese curds,including a roasted garlic flavor.

                      | Permalink | Report | Reply
                      By Lighthousehunter on Nov 04, 2010 11:36AM

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        Opinionatedchef, a FYI about Hannaford at Exit 6 (Nashua) - they STOPPED carrying the roasted garlic Yancy's Fancy cheese curds (my fave) - they just have the plain ones now. Gotta ask the manager why they stopped carying them - they were one of my favorite snacks - I just ate them right out of the container!
                        Will have to try the poutine at Bellagio - thanks for the "heads up"!

                        1. re: southie_chick

                          yes, that's neat about bellagio. hopefully you or i can tryit and report back to CH. Btw, that bellagio notice is thanks to lighthousehunter!

                      2. I found Gallows' poutine's gravy to be completely under(if not un)-seasoned. The fries were fine, the cheese aren't curds, but why bother to eat poutine whose gravy doesn't have any salt in it?

                        Foundry's is equally as uninteresting to me.

                        ASSBAR's is the only passable version in town. They were curds, not shredded cheese, the last time I was there.

                        Everyone else's "poutine" is just glorified cheese fries with gravy etc on top (see PJ Ryan's, Trina's etc). Those definitely have their merits and can certainly be tasty in their own right.

                        In the northeast, Duck Fat's is good. The cheese is melted, but the fries and gravy are awesome, so I let the melted cheese pass.

                        As it turns out, I actually prefer cheese fries to poutine.

                        PJ Ryan's
                        239 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144