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.

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.

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…

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.

Caplansky’s Tuesday, Oct 28 2008 

With my week off from work winding down, I spent Friday just walking around Toronto. I got this crazy craving for good coffee and a poutine – an itch that needed to be scratched and I knew where to scratch them – Manic for a delicious Americano and, upon the suggestion of many, Caplansky’s (12 Clinton St. – just south of College) for a poutine which is just a few blocks south west of Manic  and, conveniently enough, on my way home.

 

Walking into Caplansky’s I had no idea what to expect as I had heard various contradicting descriptions of what I was about to have in front of me. Without even looking at the menu I ordered the poutine. A few short minutes later, Adrian, the kitchen whiz kid, delivered it with an eager smile.

 

 

 

First things first: I’m not a big meat eater. I don’t really eat meat at all save for the occasional morsel, but I’m no stranger to broths and (of course) gravies. I’m basically a part-time vegetarian (read: not vegetarian, just a pussy). However, as we can see above this is clearly a dish with chunks of Caplansky’s specialty; smoked meat. I was a little apprehensive and weary of diving in, but hey, no guts no glory. How am I ever going to find the best poutine in Toronto if I don’t occasionally take one for the team?

 

Hey – maybe if I keep telling myself that maybe I’ll start to believe it.

 

In any event – Adrian advised me that he was no stranger to the blog and he was anxious to know how I felt about the dish…

 

At the base we have fresh cut fries which are not only cut but are also cooked to perfection. These might seriously be the best poutine fries that I have had in Toronto so far. We also have serious cheese curdage which, as you know if you either a) know anything about poutine or b) have read this ridiculous blog before, is nothing less than crucial. It’s also worth noting that the poutine smells fucking phenomenal. There is no two ways about it.

 

My only beef with this smoked meat poutine (pun fully intended – I’m sorry … I’m not sorry) is that it’s not traditional. The thick chunky gravy with bits of smoked meat floating is not really on my radar for a poutine. However! This gravy was no less than mind blowing. So rich and smokey and delicious. This dish was so delicious that I took my girlfriend back the next day to try it. I thought that she was going to get the borsche (which is also really good) that I recommended but she got the poutine and also agreed that while not traditional, totally delicious and leaves you quite satiated.

 

Because I was too busy shoveling this little $6 bowl of magic into my mouth on Friday, on Saturday we were able to snap a shot of Adrian’s intricate layering…

 

 

All in all, I will obviously go back and eat it as I have already had it twice in as many days. However, I stress that this may not be right for you if you’re looking for something traditional and/or if you’re not into bits of meat.

 

On Saturday, Zane (the big cheese) came out and talked with my girlfriend and I and asked how we enjoyed everything and we started talking about poutine and what not – he even suggested a couple spots that I check out! I was explaining to him that I really enjoyed it but, to be frank, it lost points for not being traditional. Not surprised by my comments, he then began to tell me how they make the gravy. To be honest, it basically starts out as something that would be spot on for a traditional poutine, but then he throws a couple curve balls to put his own spin on it – dude knows what he’s doing. I honestly don’t blame him for making something original which is (hopefully) paying off.

 

Both Zane and Adrian were awesome to my girlfriend and I – as well as the waitresses on both Friday and Saturday. It’s a great feeling to go grab a bite to eat and you’re surrounded by nothing but smiles and positive attitudes by both staff and patrons. I sincerely urge everyone to check out Caplansky’s – try the poutine, get a smoked meat sandwich or even the borsche. I cannot see how this place can disappoint. I’m bringing my parents there when they come to visit next month.

Gilead Cafe; Excuse Me Waiter, I’d like A Little Douche On The Side… Tuesday, Oct 28 2008 

Here’s a review written by my man Chenyip – I should have one up myself in the next day or so. Enjoy!

It’s fully expected that high end establishments like Splendido, Colborne Lane, Lee’s and Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar attract a level of obnoxious clientele.  Said restaurants cater to a certain income bracket and within that small niche of fat pocketbooks, exist a heavy percentage of boorish snobs that claw with every ounce of energy to preserve whatever status quo they represent.

 

It goes without saying then, when aforementioned Jamie Kennedy decided to transform his production kitchen on 2 Gilead Place into a lunch spot aptly named Gilead Cafe, that douche’s would be in tow.  The menu reads like your standard cafe chocked with fan favorites from JKWB.  Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Smoked Salmon sandwiches, frites and even baked goods all find a home on Gilead’s menu.  But there’s one item that stands out from the rest that has fans and foodies alike scouring the chalkboard menu with darting eyes.

It’s been written about in a handful of magazines.  it’s been praised through the blog sphere as a must have.  And it’s even been touted as one of the best Toronto has to offer.  Of course, this meant I had to try it.

So what did I think?

Well lets get one thing straight.  If the standard definition of poutine is cheese curds, chicken gravy and fries (Just like a BLT is bacon, lettuce and tomato) then this dish really works outside of that paradigm.  The fries which are fresh cut, are dusted with a little parmesan cheese that ramps up not only taste, but crispiness.  Cheese curds are replaced by artisan sheep cheese and gravy is provided via drippings and renderings from the mound of braised beef layered on top.  Garnished with a little green onion and voila, the reputed JK poutine.

Shit was delicious.  Really tasty, and a very creative take on a traditional Quebec dish.  The cheese’s sharpness blended really well with the braised beef, and the crispiness of the fries were absolutely to die for.  But there was still one nagging thought:  It wasn’t poutine.

And for some time, I kept telling myself “who cares if it isn’t ‘real’ poutine?”.  By that logic, Caplanski’s smoked meat would have to be discredited because it’s not ‘real Montreal smoked meat’.  For the record, that my friends is complete horse-shit.  The formula is simple:  If the food is good, the food is good!

But still, there was something nagging me that I couldn’t get over.

Then it clicked.

I had realized that it wasn’t the quality of food which was in question.  What was so off-putting about this experience was the environment by which I was in.  I glanced around and suddenly I was consumed by my epiphany.

The Douchebags!

They were all around us.  Like black flies in the middle of Algonquin.  You were fully aware of their annoying presence and they were inescapable.  Here they were – in droves – sitting at their respective tables in their god-awful, distressed $300 jeans and pointy-toe dress shoes discussing what condo development was the best or how amazing their kids were doing in school.  It was like eating in a roomful of Penelopes.  Middle aged, upper-educated, self-entitled morons had migrated from their Forest Hill and Leslieville dwellings and flocked to this discreet watering hole.

And why shouldn’t they.   This was Jamie Kennedy’s brainchild of a lunch spot.  The place where you not only pay $24 for a soup, salad and coffee but the place where you posture like you are king shit.  I mean lets face it, the JK brand was established on posturing.  WIth his mantra about how good food should be made available to everyone and not just the rich, it exemplified the exact douchebaggery that his restaurants attract.  Good food aside Jamie, but I’m sorry, I didn’t see one motherfucker from The Esplanade eating there.  And to be honest, spending $24 on soup, salad and coffee ain’t exactly frugal spending even to me, who represents the lower-end of the yuppie/hipster sect.

But there I was, surrounded by dickheads that go to Leafs games simply because they can afford it.  And these dickheads, with their petulant buzzing, souring my poutine that I had yearned to try, turned my experience from bearable to off-putting.

I liked the food.  I really did.  But until Jamie Kennedy does something about the douchebag infestation, I’ll go eat my poutine at New York fries.

Domphod’s Chip Truck Saturday, Oct 25 2008 

Alright so I have another Ottawa one here for you guys…

Just about every time that I’m in Ottawa, like clockwork, I go out and get my drink-on with most of the friends that I left behind when I moved to Toronto. Similarly, it’s almost always a given that I will end up at Zaphod’s and/or the Dom to get tore up and have been going to these spots since I was like 17 or 18…I MEAN! I HAVE ONLY BEEN GOING TO THESE SPOTS SINCE THE AGE OF 19; THE LEGAL DRINKING AGE IN ONTARIO. … … …so next to these two spots there is this little chip truck, who also have really angry/disgruntled/annoyed staff. I’m not sure, nor do I really care, what the name of this place is, so it will forever be known, at least by me, as the Domphod’s Chip Truck. Anyways! I have eaten so many poutines and veggie dogs at this place while leaving the Dom and/or Zaphod’s at like 2am that it’s disgusting.

From what I remember, the fries are good and you get nice cheese curds (with no squeak), pretty tasty yet oft over cooked and a really think and peppery gravy that is pretty ok. This is a pretty passable poutine but hurts a little bit when the small costs you $5.50. With little to layering that I would only recommend if you’re closing the night to fill your stomach to help you not barf and/or avoid a hangover. I have never had it during the day and really don’t want to…but I did have two and half small poutines this weekend from this spot. Ugh.   

 

 

 

S&G Fries Friday, Oct 24 2008 

Early Saturday afternoon after getting off the train in Ottawa I was feeling a little hungry and since we were going to Westboro it was suggested that we go to S&G Fries for a poutine. How am I going to say no to that? If you’re looking for it, S&G Fries is a perma-parked in front of the Beer Store (1845 Carling Ave).

S&G Fries has been awarded for having the best poutine in Ottawa by a plethora of media outlets, most notably, and advertised all over the truck, by the viewers of The New RO (which is now The A Channel).

Went back to my girlfriend’s parents’ house to chow down on this monstrous large poutine that only sets you back $7.50 and can easily feed two…although I tend not to share it. I’m awesome like that.

The fries are fresh cut and tender and delicious and you can catch the boys at S&G Fries cutting them up right in front of you. We kind of missed out since we just hit the tail-end of the lunch rush. Also when you watch these guys make the poutine, as I naturally did, the dumped out a full bag of cheese curds onto the bed of fries before having copious amounts of gravy poured over it.

Hands down, this is the best poutine that I have had in Ottawa. My only really beef with it is that it’s not layered at all. If you’re in the area stop on by and pick up a poutine from S&G Fries – it’s by far the closest thing to the traditional poutine that you’ll find in Ottawa.  

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