Praying for Poutine: the bucket-list dish that begs for beer
by Kate Cone
If you haven’t made the acquaintance with this Quebecois dish yet, wait no longer. Several entities claim the invention of it, so take your pick. According to Sean Hutchinson of Mental Floss, it is sometimes attributed to a Canadian restaurant patron in 1957 who asked for cheese curds on his to-go french fries because he was in a hurry. The owner, Fernand Lachance, looked in the bag and pronounced it a poutine, “a mess.” Thank you, Mr. Lachance, or “merci,” to be correct. The gravy was added later by restaurant owner Jean Paul Roy, who noticed customers were ordering gravy to go atop their fries and curds. That was 1964, and a star was born.
You might think poutine is a dish for cold weather, and you’d be right some of the time. But I had my first taste of poutine on July 8, 2016, a warm summer day. Why do I recall the exact date? Blame my steel-trap memory (my husband hates it), or the fact that I had poutine on a beer bus tour lunch stop, at a jazzy new brewpub that is celebrating its first anniversary this summer. Beer, great food and the camaraderie of fellow beer lovers is hard to forget.
Foulmouthed Brewing Company is located just over the million dollar bridge in South Portland, or SoPo as my friends called it way back in the 1970’s, in a building that once housed a gas station. Craig and Julia Dilger are the owners and Dan Lindberg is the chef. With cooking “chops” as impressive as a stint at Portland’s high-end Hugo’s, Dan took a leap of faith when his friends proposed his running the kitchen in their brewpub-in-planning. “Leap and the net will appear,” is my favorite Zen saying, and that jump has paid off for patrons in a fabulous, modern-yet-cozy space where you can pair beer made right there with Dan’s kitchen creations.
Dan told me that he loved cooking when he was a kid, and helped his grandmother, who did a lot of the cooking for his family. She once started preparing a dish Dan didn’t particularly like, so while she wasn’t looking, he added a bit of dish soap. When it was discovered, the family sent out for pizza that night, but he got into a wee bit of trouble for ruining dinner. Crafty kid. I’m sure they all laugh about it now.
Here’s the thing about making poutine at home: you could spend three days doing all the prepping, including simmering pork bones for the stock, which will be made into the gravy, peeling and frying the potatoes for the fries and making your own cheese curds (if you use them). Most of us just don’t have the time or inclination for the labor involved.
Here’s my recommendation. I’ve tried this several times, resulting in a poutine that is savory, melty and delicious. Doctor the very best jarred or canned gravy (I use Campbell’s Pork Gravy) by adding a squirt of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar, says Dan. Use the best supermarket frozen french fries, like Alexia organic, and buy cheese curds. We even have curds made locally.
My suggestion? Try making it at home, then head over to Foulmouthed to try Dan’s. Oh, and don’t forget to order a flight of their house-brewed beers to wash it all down with. Gym? Oh, seriously. Wait til Monday. Cheers!
I love my daughters. They just aren’t’ too crazy about brew pubs. When we announced we were going to Brewery Vivant after we saw the Museum in Grand Rapids, Emm’s response was “you’re going to drink beer while we eat warmed up frozen food”. I bristled at her harsh response but knew it could be true. Good breweries do not always measure up when it comes to food.
We walked into Vivant just a few minutes after they opened up for the day (no I wasn’t banging on the door). We were immediately greeted by a hostess and seated in a booth. I was already impressed as the interior was a beautifully renovated church. She handed us all menu’s and I immediately panicked. Nothing looked familiar. It was all “high end” French food, for the most part. We coaxed Emm into trying some new stuff and then waited.
Food: The waiter was super friendly and talked to my family as I researched the beer menu. Along the conversation, he suggested to Emm, that when she grows up and goes to college she should always remember to go back and visit her parents (Dude! I thought to myself, you just earned yourself a nice tip). We ordered our food, beers and pops.
The appetizer showed up – Duck Confit Nachos (a mountain of chips smothered in sauce and duck meat). We couldn’t be happier.
My wife and youngest ordered a hamburger and grilled cheese, both outstanding.
Emm ordered a bowl of wild mushroom soup. Something she never had, trust me. She loved it.
I ordered deer sausage. Fantastic earthy flavor, I even ate my brussel sprouts. All the food is super high quality and unique. In fact it was unique to the point that they took more than a few culinary risks – and succeeded. Only issue was the cost $$$. Our bill for two adults and two kids hit around $100. That said, it was a great meal and we will be going back.
Beer: Our hostess explained later that Vivant is all about the Belgian wild yeast style of beer. Update 2017: My taste has evolved since I first wrote this article. Belgian style beers have become one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s not uncommon on many a beer night for my belgians to even edge out my previous favorites – stouts and scottish ales.
I ordered a glass of their Egoiste and followed it with one last glass of Dubelicious – I loved them both. Here’s what I learned about this style of beer, to enjoy it to it’s fullest I have to prepare myself for it. Belgian wild yeast style is kinda tangy like sour dough bread. Doesn’t matter the variety they make it still has that tangy flavor. If beer is like music (a post on this later) then this tanginess is a high pitched trumpet. My wife ordered their Fat Paczkbeer that arrived in a tulip glass. That beer was out of this world good! It’s been a week since our visit and she still talks about that one beer.
When we walked out, our hostess greeted us again (the service here is unreal). My family took this opportunity to start shopping at the gift shop. I grabbed a souvenir glass and the hostess recommended I purchase some Vivant beer (Acidulated Trip) to pair with my glass! What an up-sell.
Brewery Vivant surprised me. I have been in search of a brewery that has both great beer and food. What I found was great food, beer and service. My daughters are the toughest critics believe me and they were happy. We will be going back.