There’s poutine and then there’s poutine. We’ve all caved to the glory of cheese curds, gravy and piping hot french fries at some point, whether it’s a two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon or on the wrong side of 4 a.m. I’m so Canadian I have fond memories of some of my favourite times eating poutine — not because I’m eating poutine. Okay, partly because I’m eating poutine, but also because of the occasion. Most of those memories are on the wrong side of 4 a.m. But some aren’t. Technically not poutine, but the first time I ever had fries, dressing and gravy? Heaven. Walking home with a fresh, perfectly assembled poutine, while the world sleeps and the last of the Annex’s rabble-rousers find taxis to take them back to their own corners of the city. Pure bliss. Heck, even the first time I elbowed my way into a Smoke’s Poutinerie, arm in arm with the bride-to-be and the rest of the wedding party after her bachelorette party. We devoured those suckers like we meant it.
So I’m a lover of poutine. I’m craving one right now and I just had supper. Damn you, poutine.
That said, I have to admit there are some poutines that are just out there. After Canada decided yes, that we love poutine enough to make it a national dish, it seems the country’s chefs and cooks took it upon themselves to out-do one another in crazy toppings. I regularly walk by my neighborhood Smoke’s and cringe because they’ve got something outlandish on special. Most recently? Buffalo wings. Why do you want Buffalo wings on your poutine? That’s too much gluttony!
And today BlogTO posted another one that made me cringe. Italiano poutine. Yep, take the inside of a lasagna and stick it on top of your curds and fries and you’ve got yourself this:
It got me to think about some of the more outrageous types of ‘tine I’ve seen and so, in the interest of sharing, I present you a short, annotated list of weird poutines in Toronto.
1. Poutine Pizza (Mike’s Pizza and Bannock)
Again, the decadence and child-like combination of two already fatty and salty comfort foods boggles my mind. The fact that you can get it both in a fine-dining establishment and a strip mall in Scarborough is testament to this poutine’s nobrow culture.
2. Marrow bone poutine (Holy Chuck Burger)
I’ll be honest here — I had this poutine. It was way too much. It was delicious. And decadent. It had a marrow bone on top of it. It also cost me an arm and a leg. Only available during last year’s La Poutine week for a good reason. Check out the review of it on Nothing Found for pics. I inhaled mine before I ever thought to capture the memory of it outside my mind’s eye.
3. Italiano poutine (San Francesco Foods)
I’m not surprised that the kings of veal sandwiches decided they need to enter the poutine game with a pound of meat and tomato sauce. It’s not very inventive in my opinion but I’m sure it’ll be a crowd pleaser. They’ve definitely branched out since they were bought out (?) and franchised a few years ago. The tiny walk-in on Clinton St., across from my favourite panzerotti joint Bitondo’s, has been renovated and rebranded. Luckily they continue to make their cacciatorre, which Phill loves. He calls it meat candy.
4. Foie gras poutine (Holy Chuck Burger)
Maybe I should take out the marrow bone poutine and substitute it for this one because this is constantly on the menu at Holly Chuck? You know what, no. I’m not gonna cause I think everyone should know about that behemoth. This too is also something that I need to highlight because it’s foie gras on french fries. This is another example of the highbrow meeting the lowbrow to create nobrow, a cultural mish-mash of weirdness that creates what? Indigestion in this particular case.
Not to be outdone by poutine, La Societie, the black-is-the-new-black drinks and nosh spot a stone’s throw away from Holts on Bloor came out with the foie gras pain au lait hot dog. That’s right folks, foie gras on a hot dog.
5. Anything from the Lakeview
Let’s face it. The Lakeview diner has had the poutine beat down pat for years and years already. Whatever you get off their menu is going to be over-the-top and exactly what you need in the moment to kill the hangover.
This is my list. Have you seen anything that can top these poutines? There one more I’d like to make an honourable mention of for sheer creativity — and because it was featured during Montreal’s La Poutine week. That would be the Poutine au Phoque from Au Cinquième Péché — poutine with seal meat. The review from Vice.com piqued my interest. Having tried seal meat for the first time last year and knowing the political “viewpoints” I know it’s a controversial dish, but damn it, it looks so good — and it probably tasted good too.