Ottawa’s PoutineFest

Poutine, if you haven’t heard of it, is one of Canada’s greatest inventions!

It is a mouth-watering mix of fries, cheese curd, and gravy that came to be in rural Quebec in 1950s. If you haven’t tried it, you ABSOLUTELY have to (despite it sounding like a cholesterol disaster)! The hot savory gravy melting the squeaky cheese curds on top of the bed of crispy fries is a glorious and scrumptious amalgamation?

Ottawa, being the capital, has set an annual 4 day festival to showcase some of the best traditional and novel poutine creations. This year, it was scheduled for Apr 19-22 at City Hall. I actually wasn’t aware of the exact date, until one of my co-workers mentioned it on Friday. And a good thing she did, because I would have missed out on this once-in-a-year opportunity to experience many unique variations of poutine.

The weather was gorgeously sunny with a bit of a chill breeze, perfect for gathering to share the love for poutine?. There were live entertainment playing in the background and kids enjoying the rock climbing wall and trampolines. After a thorough walk through all the different vendors, I zeroed in on the gnocchi poutine by Mr. Panino.

I like potato gnocchi due to their chewy texture, so I was greatly intrigued on how it would play out as the “fries” for a poutine. I ordered their spicy sausage poutine with gnocchi and gravy. I was tempted to try their Italian marinara sauce instead of gravy, but I decided to change just one major element at a time.

The gravy was steaming, my hand was warmed by the heat through the paper take-out container. That’s how I like it, because it means the cheese curds will be softened.

The fried gnocchis were delectable! They were crispy on the exterior and firm and pillowy on the inside (if you eat them fast enough; like all poutine, the fried parts can get soggy after a while when they soak up the gravy). The spicy sausages didn’t really have that much of a kick to it (however I’m Asian, so my spice tolerance standards might be higher). The gravy was very flavourful, but a bit salty for my liking. I was disappointed by the cheese curds. They tasted like crumbled bits of a big cheese block bought from a mediocre grocery store. They didn’t really melt and they definitely didn’t squeak☹. Overall, I loved the gnocchi part, I just wished the other ingredients could synergistically bring out the best of each other. Maybe the Italian marinara sauce would be a better fit.

My boyfriend scouted out the bacon double cheeseburger poutine by Lou Fast Food.

The line in front of that truck was never-ending, people just keep piling on, it must mean they’re good, right?

The fries were topped with bacon chunks, ground beef, St-Albert’s cheese curds, and some shredded cheddar cheese. The ketchup was added by my boyfriend afterwards. I liked the cheese curds in this one (I have always liked St-Albert’s cheese curds). These were gooey on the outside, just not squeaky, maybe they were out for too long (the older the cheese curd, the less squeak it produces). The bacon bits were crunchy and tasty; bacon never fails. The ground beef pieces were like little meatballs, not that memorable though. The fries weren’t crispy. Even at first bite, they were dry and starchy on the inside, and kind of tasted like microwaved day-old fries to me. As a self-proclaimed fried food expert, my boyfriend said they probably weren’t in the fryer long enough because their line was huge and they were trying to serve everyone as quick as they can. I did like their gravy a lot, it had the right amount of saltiness and umami for me.

We were stuffed after finishing the two poutines (my boyfriend had ordered a large too ?) so we had no space for more?. There were many other exotic variations that I really wanted to try, such as the butter chicken poutine and pad thai poutine (I should have taken a picture of all the trucks). Well, I guess that will be something for me to look forward to for next year’s PoutineFest?!

How was your experience? Which one did you try? Would you go again next year?

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