Québec food in on a roll. Just yesterday, we told you about the comparison between Montreal and New York bagels published by The New York Times, who sent a reporter up here to interview bagel connaisseurs and pick up a fresh batch for some taste tests.
Now, all we hear is poutine, poutine, poutine. Québec's hangover dish par excellence, once looked down on as a gross and unhealthy mound of junk food, has gained a new and much more positive image in the last couple of years. So what if poutine is nothing more than a mountain of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds? That didn't stop hyped chefs like Martin Picard (of Au Pied de Cochon fame) from giving it a new, upscale twist. Picard's version, which has been written about by at least 500 magazines, is topped with foie gras. We don't know of any other dish in the history of Montreal - no, not even the smoked meat sandwich - that was able to garnish such monstrous amounts of press and praise.
Many a chef followed suit, and so began the poutine trend in Montreal, where restaurants simply added pricier and more sophisticated ingredients on top of the brown-and-yellow mess. Our fave is Garde Manger's lobster poutine (pictured above). Genius. Speaking of which, Garde Manger has got to be one of Montréal's best restaurants: what other place in town has that oh-so-rare combo of super fun, party atmosphere and food that's actually first-rate? The chef-owner is the super friendly and energetic Chuck Hughes, who's lately turned into a bit of a celeb, thanks to his show on the Food Network, Chuck's Day Off. Great guy, who always attracts fun crowds to wherever he chooses to cook.
Back to poutine: the unexpected new "national dish" has hit the big leagues, with the opening of a place in New York that serves nothing else other than poutine, in a million variations. (Not that they were first, our friend Lyman Carter had already introduced poutine to New Yorkers at his hip but now defunct The Inn, a Canadian-inspired gastropub in the Meatpacking District).
Here's a link to a recent story that appeared on ABC news about the rise of "Canadian" cuisine, which focuses on poutine, mostly.
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