French fries, melty cheese curds, and silky gravy–what could be better than Canadian poutine?
Poutine is one of those things that requires an excuse to eat.
We’re talking the massively popular comfort food that is Canada’s answer to mac and cheese. There isn’t an easy way to rationalize a dish that includes French fries, gravy, and cheese curds.
Unless, maybe, you’ve been skiing all day.
Poutine comes from Quebec, a scarf culture that has yet to embrace the idea of full face covering against the cold, a place where -30⁰ temperatures in winter are a way of life. You NEED fuel in those conditions. Or anyplace else with that kind of weather.
Enter Northwest Voyageur Bistro at Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a tiny cafe with hardly a dozen tables, but if you’re looking to bolster your inner heat lamp when it’s freezing outside, you can hardly do better.
A former wilderness guide, owner Kevin Tessier, started adding authentic Voyageur cuisine to his tours. It was all based on what folks ate during fur trade days (bison, berries, cedar plank salmon, lots of maple syrup). His meals were wildly popular and this whole concept found a home in his restaurant.
As for poutine, one often-cited tale is that Fernand Lachance, from Warwick, Quebec, invented it there in 1957. Lachance is said to have exclaimed, “Ca va faire une maudite poutine” (“it will make a damn mess” in French slang), hence the name. The sauce was allegedly added later, to keep the fries warm longer. Over time, the dish’s popularity spread across the province and, later, throughout Canada. Today, it’s a Canadian culinary icon.
Of course, I had to try Kevin’s poutine, which is made with real (he stressed that point) locally made cheese curds and fries and topped with his own special gravy, which includes drippings from beef, pork, and turkey. His secret ingredient is apples.
The final extra yummy product … mind you, I had skied 25,000 vertical feet that day and was truly READY… was a mouth wateringly meaty dish, rich with a hint of sweet from the apples and interspersed with chewy, tangy cheese.
I was forking my way through when a local sat down on the bar stool next to me.
“Caesar,” he said.
I started to pay attention when the drink took its final form and immediately ordered one for myself.
A Caesar is basically a bloody Mary with an attitude, but Kevin’s Caesar is something very special: first into a tall glass rimmed with celery salt, his barman put the ice, then a shot of smoked salmon-infused vodka (they make this themselves), followed by squirts of tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a touch of horseradish and, finally, Clamato juice. It’s all topped with a skewer of assorted pickled or roasted vegetables, a chunk of First Nations-caught sockeye salmon, sometimes a chunk of cheese curd, and maybe a couple of sprigs of pickled asparagus.
Yes, this makes a fine dinner. – by Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor www.voyageurbistro.ca
Want to know how Yvette justified all those calories? Read her “Ski Sisters” story.
Here are more a few more cool stories by Yvette Cardozo: