Who doesn't love potatoes? One can't deny their versatility; mashed, smashed, caked, baked, au gratin, souped, saladed and hasselbacked -- they're the Gary Oldman of vegetables. But the epicurean gods must have been sending down the maj nosh vibes the day we mere mortals decided to julienne the starchy spuds and drop them in hot oil. BEHOLD! Fries are the ultimate proof that the higher powers love us and want us to be happy. However, the question remains: Can such a perfect food be made perfecter? The answer is oui! It's called poutine and it's what dreams are made of.
Now let's travel to the magical land of Canada where the sensual melange of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy were tossed into existence over a semi-century ago. Today, poutine is regarded as the most embarrassing-slash-beloved comfort food in Quebec. It can be found in most pubs, fast food chains and friteries (restaurants that specialize in quick-service foods like fries). Like the tricked out macaroni and cheese dishes in the states, there's a surplus of poutine variations. Some take the traditional trio of ingredients and top with crumbled maple bacon or smoked meats -- a favourite order of the walk-up window patron.
Other establishments infuse their poutines with flavours from around the world.
Patati Patata is the perfect example. Situated on the corner of Boul St-Laurent and Rue Rachel E in the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal district of Montreal, the tiny diner with the colourful facade is regarded as one of the best friteries in the city. Tables and counter tops line the walls below open windows that allow the sounds of the bustling street in and an eclectic mix of classic French bistro music, Latin hip hop and Bob Marley, out. Upon ordering a classic poutine dish from the marker board, the garcon may suggest the Patatine, the house special, and explain that, "it's like poutine, but better" (punctuated with a wink). Listen to him.
When it arrives the fries are crisp and golden. The gravy is light, glisten-y and spiced. The cheese curds ... ok, admittedly, "curd" is a gross-ish word, but they play an integral textural and equally flavourful role in the dish. French curds are basically cured bits of solid, soured cheese. Again, a little squeamy, but their texture is like that of a fresh mozzarella ball, but with a little more bite, tang and salt. Accompanying the holy trinity, and what makes Patatine a specialty, are thinly sliced green, yellow and orange pepper, onion, mushroom, and a single black olive on top. It's not quite Greek, Italian or French. Or even Canadian for that matter. But it's amazing. Especially when served with a "bon appetit!"