Swiss Chalet Friday, Feb 6 2009 

I’m not even gonna front - I have been slackin’ for a minute on the poutine blog. I have been pretty discouraged as of late and I can’t even remember the last time I had some sweet ‘tine. I have actually been put to the challenge of dishing some weight for poutine related tattoo by the dudes at Five Cents…not really an excuse. I just need to step my game up.

Luckily, I have some people who constantly remind me about how crucial this blog is and, when I fail to preform, take matters into their own hands.

The following is a review of Swiss Chalet‘ s poutine done my the fine chap over at SFSS.

This review is long over due and my procrastination is probably doing the general poutine eating public a huge disservice (because you know, I’m the authority on poutine and my opinion sways the masses like some curd dangling pied piper).  But without tooting my own horn too loud, I do have to say that I’ve probably uncovered the biggest poutine gem in the entire GTA.


Hands down it was the best poutine outside of Ottawa/Gatineau and Quebec region I’ve had.  And while that doesn’t say much, it does at the very least indicate a level of hope that there is good poutine outside said regions.

The fries were bang on (probably one of the most consistent and decent fries you can get anywhere).  The gravy was reminisce of a great gravy from the Gatineau area.  And while faced with an inherent cheese curd handicap, it measured up in spite of any regional short comings.

Simply put, it was fucking on fire.

So where is this gold mine of a poutine shop?  Where is this hidden gem that will have foodies flocking in like starving buzzards and will get any Montreal ex-pat overwrought with excitement?  Well my friends, look no further than your local Swiss Chalet.

That’s right.  I said it.

Mothetfucking Swiss Chalet.

Who knew?  I surely didn’t.

But when I saw Poutine Special on the menu I immediately had to try it.  And upon the prodding of the waitress who said it was really really good, I kinda had to see if it measured up.  If not to experience a good poutine in Toronto but to call bullshit on a waitress who obviously has a short yardstick for this type of fare.

Well fuck me up the arse with a belgian fry.  How surprised was I when the dish finally arrived at our table.

Now it wasn’t the best poutine I’ve ever had, but that’s an improbable task.  It’s like trying to find the best sushi outside of Japan, or the best gruyere outside of France.  Shit’s just not happening.  But for a chain restaurant and one that’s located in the GTA at that, It kind of reigns supreme.  It’s like the executive kitchen staff at Swiss Chalet said “fuck deese blockhead maudites.  We’re going to show dem a ting or two hahbout le poutine!”  And boy did they ever.

Seriously, fuck your Smokes Poutinery or your JKWB pulled pork poutine or Cafe Du Lac foie gras poutine.  If you want to taste the closest thing to a traditional, Quebec style poutine, you need to head to Swiss Chalet.  That’s right.  I just said it.

Open Kitchen Thursday, Dec 18 2008 

I had some time off of work recently and instead of sitting around doing absolutely nothing, which is what I basically had been doing all week, I decided to go to lunch with a mega-babe after I hit the gym and before she had to go to work for the afternoon. I knew I had to get some ‘tine since I have been slacking in the blog department so we took a walk in our ‘hood and stumbled open a relatively new spot, Open Kitchen. Open Kitchen is at 5 Roncesvalles Avenue which is really about a 15 second walk north of Queen & Roncesvalles.

I honestly was not sure what to expect in terms of the poutine at this place so I got it as a side to a veggie burger. Unrelated to this blog, the veggie burger was quite delicious – maybe hamburger! should make a trip there to see how the real deal holds up…anyways! “Poutine”!

Obviously there were no cheese curds – instead there was a warm blanket of goopy cheddar that embraced my fries and gravy. I love cheese a ridiculous amount – I will eat cheddar cheese by the brick for a snack. Having it grated on top of fries and gravy to me though just doesn’t make sense as a poutine enthusiast. It hurts my heart (physically and emotionally) to look at and/or eat it.

Underneath the cheese blanket, which sounds way more awesome than it is, we had some fresh cut fries which were truly on point! The fries at Open Kitchen were awesome and we were made to feel as though they were the pride of the chef by the staff when we went – and rightfully so!

The gravy was alight but it was missing something – it was missing a punch of flavor that could have saved this dish from being not great and upping its game to tolerable. What I thought was pretty crazy was that they also had Disco Fries on the menu along with poutine considering what we were served. Disco Fries are essentially what most Torontonians consider poutine; melted cheese with fries and gravy. No cheese curds, no poutine. It’s like offering someone frozen yogurt and giving them ice cream.

But you know what? It’s whatever. It was an extra $2 to turn my fries into a “poutine”. Not shabby for a substitution price but when I go back I’ll put the $2 towards a pint and stick with the awesome fries.

STOP BITIN’ v2.0 Wednesday, Dec 17 2008 

Whooooooooooooa! Long time no update. The holidays are among us and I have been slacking. To all of you who follow this blog, I would like to sincerely apologize for the lack of updates.

It seems as though another Toronto media channel has jumped on the poutine bandwagon. I would make a comment about how they are biting my steez, but I wouldn’t want the unnecessary drama that such a comment brought last time.

Today the Toronto Star’s food critic, Corey Mintz, posted an article about where to get the (alleged) best poutine in Toronto.

There are so many things wrong with this article, in my not-so-humble opinion that I don’t even know where to start.

Ok I lied – I will start with the tag-line; “French-Canadian dish of … finally finds a home west of Quebec.” Why make it seem like poutine is this new phenomenon in Toronto or anywhere west of Quebec? The ‘tine has been around for a while – albeit in disappointing forms, but all of a sudden some guy opens up a “poutinerie” and it’s like the second coming of Christ.

Secondly, instead of talking about the best places to go, most of the article is about Smoke’s Poutinerie, which, as a follower you would have read, is disappointing at best despite the positive review in the article. You’d think some palms were greased. I’m not insinuating that someone’s palms were greased, I’m just sayin.

Thirdly, Corey Mintz, while disagreeing with the statement indicated that “I’m told Torontonians prefer shredded cheese over curds.” While I respect that the following sentence is “This Torontonian sure doesn’t.” I still can’t help but offer the polite suggestion of getting new sources. No curds means not poutine. Bottom line.

This brings me to my final point of contention: All of the poutines (and I use that term loosely) that were listed, save Smoke’s, are arguably not poutines as a result of it being all bougey with added foie gras or sausages or braised beef. Fries. Curds. Gravy. C’est tous. Point finale.

I just want to take a moment before compelting this entry to mention that I’m not attacking Corey Mintz’s professionalism or integrity with this post. The purpose was to illustrate and express my personal issues as a borderline-obsessed poutine lover. Everyone has their opinions and the right to express them but I really had to take a stand and pick this apart.

Hero Burger Saturday, Nov 22 2008 

A disappointing Saturday morning led my super-babe of a girlfriend and I to a really late breakfast/okay timed poutine flavoured lunch at Hero Burger. She expressed interest in being a correspondent and, well, here she is:

 

I have the pleasure of being the curdsade correspondent of the week for a trip to Hero Burger, and while I have accompanied the curdsader himself on many of the review opportunities, he seemed to think now would be an appropriate time to let me tear into one of the many abysmal attempts at poutine that Toronto has to offer.

As I mentioned, the poutine under inspection this time around was at Hero Burger. First off, the price. $4.45 is pretty reasonable for a poutine, especially considering the pout in question meets all the basic requirements (fries, CURDS, gravy), size was nothing overly impressive though, which can likely be attributed to this item being a side option on the menu. Nonetheless we ordered and waited for our poutines for what seemed like an overly long time, but hoping that would be an indication that perfection was upon us and that the anticipation would be worth it. Well. Despite the basic components being present, the poutine was certainly nothing special. The curds were nowhere near squeaky, the gravy was alright *curdsader commented on the gravy being delicious* however, I felt, while it was relatively tasty, it was something I could have whipped up at home from a package, which is not what I’m looking for when I am paying someone to make something for me. Also the fry to gravy to curd ratio was a little lacking. A little skimpy on the curds and gravy, but they did seem to layer which is crucial. 

The fries, which were fresh cut, tasted like Belgian fries and actually were my least favourite part of the poutine as a whole. It wasn’t the deep-frying method that threw me off, it was the fact that they tasted too potato-y. The fry is an element that should be subtle and light and blend with the two other delicious elements, however, these fries would most certainly have been more delicious on their own than combined with the deliciousness that is curds and gravy.

My main feeling about poutines is generally, if it is a good one, I should never be required to put ketchup and/or salt on it. I put both on this one. And lots of both. Not a good sign. It felt like it required a flavour boost for almost every bite that I took, which is kind of a bummer. And while I understand that this restaurant is not expecting to make most of it’s money on this menu item, they do make a point of putting (real cheese curds) on the menu next to poutine, which would get any poutine lover’s hear a-racin’. Alas…

All in all, I would say that if I was starving and there was absolutely nothing else that I could eat anywhere, I would probably get this poutine again, but if Hero Burger still had onion rings on their menu at that point I would actually probably get those instead. This poutine was nothing special and nothing that you could not get from a similar mall staple of New York Fries or Harvey’s or something. (And seriously, what kind of burger place does not have lettuce, like not even as an option?!)

Smoke’s Poutinerie Thursday, Nov 20 2008 

So today, November 20, 2008 is the grand opening of Toronto’s first all-poutine restaurant, Smoke’s Poutinerie. There was a lot of talk in the blogosphere about how awesome this was going to be but, despite my blog’s content I never acknowledged the news of it’s opening because I just assumed that it would be ok at best and I was not going to start telling everyone about it before I even had a chance to get in there.

Knowing that today was the opening day, a week and a bit ago I told my work that I would not be in today as I had some appointments and what not. At 10:20 AM I called to find out when they opened. The answer? 11:30. I booted it to 218 Adelaide Street West (just east of Adelaide and Simcoe) and showed up at the door at 11:32 and was first in-line and seemingly the third customer.  I was there 6 minutes (without exaggeration) before the line went to the back of spot, out the door, down the stairs and spilling onto the sidewalk.

What you see here is the “Traditional” – one of Smoke’s many poutine variations. I figured that it would be important for me to try the traditional first since what I always complain about here is how Toronto has been bastardizing the simple idea of delicious poutine.

What I cannot complain about here is the fries. Wait. Before I go there…notice the cheese curds? You should. It’s also worth noting that they were really fresh and made a wonderful squeaking noise when chewed. Ok back to the fries – this were basically the way that poutine fries should be! They were almost as good as Caplansky’s fries.

The only bummer, to be honest, is the gravy. The “Traditional” gravy, as per the menu, is a hybrid of chicken and beef gravy. While the above looks perfectly on point, it tasted a little weird and it was a little off-putting that, even going early, there was some parts of the gravy that were strangely “thicker” than other parts. I can’t even put my finger on the taste – there is something that just was not agreeing with me.

For $5.95, however, you get a lot of food. I had a day of things planned on my day off, instead I had to come home to chill out and write this because I was so full that it hurt.

I’m kind of torn right now – is this the best traditional poutine that I have had in Toronto (despite not being into the gravy)? Or, as my friend suggest that I have “succumbed to Toronto’s pitiful standards of poutine that even a mediocre joint throws [me] off key”?

Whatever. I know for a fact that I will go back and try some of the other concoctions that Smoke’s has to offer.

Marion Kane Monday, Nov 17 2008 

I may be a little behind on the times, but I feel that this is worth sharing. Marion Kane has embarked is on a curdsade of her own as she basically has taken on the mission/pilgrimage of my dreams: researching the origins of my kryptonite; d’la poutine, calice!

 

I wish she was taking me with her, but since I’m still in Toronto while she roams my home-land I wish her the best of luck and I truly look forward to seeing how this plays out!

Royal Winter Fair Monday, Nov 17 2008 

Oh the Royal Winter Fair – what a celebration of Canadian Agriculture! The missus and I have been attending the last couple of years to take in the apple dumplings, free samples and to get her as many pictures of livestock as possible for her to gush over later. Worth noting, I totally saw some jackass punch a cow in the face. I wish I was joking. Also worth noting, saw a horse with a total boner…and it looked pretty gross.

 

While there, hey, why not get a poutine?! It’s an agriculture fest – so you gotta assume awesome potatoes and the best possible cheese curds that you’ll be able to get in Toronto…right? RIGHT?

 

 

I don’t know what the name of the cart was, it was one of the random eateries that I ended up not getting the poutine, but I had some of my friend’s – who will be further referred to as Michaxl Rose. You probably can’t tell from the above photo, but these are totally cheese curds – and the only way I could tell is from tasting it. They tasted like nice, albeit squeak-less, cheese curds and there was a lot of it! However, Michaxl Rose explained to me that when the put the cheese on the fries it was basically a melted glob even before it hit the fries and before gravy was poured on it.

 

 

Speaking of the fries – what a garbage batch of fries this was. They honestly tasted like soggy Lay’s potato chips banged out into fry like shapes. Pretty embarrassing for an agriculture fair if I do say so myself!

 

I guess I should talk about the gravy, but there is honestly nothing to say about it. It tasted like nothing – like brown water that made those sad Lay’s flavored fires into the consistency of a cardboard box after being left outside during a torrential downpour.  

 

Should you go to the Royal Winter Fair next year (and I suggest you do) use the $4.50 that could be used for the poutine and put it towards either alcoholic beverages (specifically new beers and wines from around Ontario) or the majestic apple dumplings with the works – ice cream and caramel.  

 

Another friend who was with us scores from free PEI potato samples…so we had a home-made poutine party…a post will follow in another day or so…

U VEGAN? Thursday, Nov 13 2008 

If there are any vegans who happen to read this blog who get hungry for Poutine and/or Disco Fries, check out a surefire way to curb your craving:

… click on the picture, dummy.

Dangerous Dan’s Sunday, Nov 9 2008 

Saturday I went to some week-late Dia de los Meurtos thing at the Harbour Front and instead of getting some authentic mexican food all I could think about was getting poutine. I was hearing okthings about a spot on King Street West on my way home (which will remain nameless until I hit it) but the people that I was with were East Enders. Then it hit me – the place that my meat addicted friends often talk about and the place that I saw after stumbling out of last winter’s M.O.P. show at the Opera House…Dangerous Dan’s (Queen Street East and Broadview). The only reason that I have honestly not been there since that awesome night was because I still labeled myself vegetarian until recently. Let’s be honest here, the burger joint that not only has (humorous) anti-vegetarian slogans on the wall and that CityTV has referred to as “probably the most unhealthy restaurant in Canada” would not really be the best place for a vegetarian. Which, to be fair, is arguably debatable.

As I type this it has been about six hours since I devoured this “large poutine” as a side to my veggie burger (which was ridiculed by the staff) - but I still can feel it in my stomach…that could also be the shit ton of beers that I consumed since our Double D visit, but regardless this shit is Manuel Uribe heavy. 

I was advised by staff that this beef gravy is made by the fellows at DD and in my personal opinion, while really tasty, it was a little too salty for my liking. I was very pleased, however, to not only see the use of cheese curds, but I’m also pretty sure that I heard/felt some squeekage. I may or may not have said it aloud at the table with a little giggle. Where this poutine gets a little lost on me is the fries. If you like big thick, to borrow a phrase, “man fries”, then these are on point. When put into a poutine it just seems a bit much and comes off a little overpowering of the dish. While there was copious amounts of gravy which drenched this non-layered plate of poutine, it was still like eating a $6.25 plate of soaked deep fried hunks of potato.

I’m a little torn; this was certainly a valiant effort at the traditional construction of this classic Quebecois delicacy, I don’t love it. I certainly don’t hate it but I can’t say that I love it.

To my readers who love meat, but especially burgers, go out and try the DD poutine. If you like, what I believe are referred to as, steak cut fries and get the Coronary Burger Special while you’re at it and sink your teeth into this beast of a fucking sandwich…

OH! Before I forget, I feel that it’s important to say that if you don’t have a sense of humour, you probably should not venture into this Queen East diner. While all in good fun, as a client you may more than likely be part of a joke and if you can’t take one, don’t bother stepping foot in the door and being a buzz kill. To be honest, not realizing they were just taking a piss, I was pretty bummed out at first, but then I came around and it was one of the funniest meals I have had in a while.

STOP BITIN’! Friday, Nov 7 2008 

BlogTO decided to bite my steez and make a “Best Poutine In Toronto” post.

Thanks guys. Thanks.

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