Real Canadian Poutine and a Trip to Ottawa and Montreal

Indulge in that iconic Canadian dish – poutine. What’s not to love about a plate of crispy fries, stretchy squeaky cheese, and a rich, luscious gravy? It’s pure comfort food; potatoes and gravy with a fantastic, flavour-boosted twist! Only in Canada, eh? (Skip to recipe)

real Canadian Poutine with potatoes, cheese curds, and gluten free gravy

We live in a beautiful country. I am reminded of that fact every time I get to explore another little corner of it. What a wonderful trip we had to Ontario and Quebec!

This trip had a few firsts: my first time to visit Ottawa and my first time to attend the Food Bloggers of Canada annual conference. It was an amazing experience! I met so many wonderful new blogging friends and learned so much. After three days of intense experiences, workshops, eating, laughing, and making new connections, I was wiped out, thrilled, and on top of the world. It was a truly invigorating and inspiring weekend. Check out the first part of my adventure here, with a few tidbits about the conference and my trip to the Taste Canada Awards at the end of it.


What a special city. Canada’s capitol is the most amazing amalgamation of rich and storied history, exciting new growth, and spectacular natural beauty.

Canadian Poutine; Ottawa old and new

Ottawa reflections, old and new

I walked around with my mouth open in awe so much of my time there as I explored the city alone, with blogging friends, and with Raymond after he joined me there. I just couldn’t get enough of photographing our beautiful Parliament buildings, from every angle.

Poutine with gluten free gravy; Parliament buildings and fence

from the front

poutine and gluten free gravy; Ottawa's Parliament Buildings from across the water

from the back, while walking across the Alexandra Bridge spanning the Ottawa River

poutine with gluten free gravy; view of the Parliament buildings from Gatineau

and from across the river in Gatineau, between the Canadian Museum of History and the Musée canadien des enfants

We took a guided tour of the Parliament building. Such a beautiful interior. I had goosebumps walking those halls where so much of our country’s history has happened and felt proud to be a Canadian. Proud to know who we are and what we stand for. Proud to be part of this glorious land.

poutine with gluten free gravy; the stunning library inside the Parliament buildings

inside the stunning library of the Parliament building

There is so much else to see in this spectacular capitol city of ours.

poutine with gluten free gravy; the National War Memorial in Ottawa

soldiers on guard at the National War Memorial

poutine and gluten free gravy; squirrel gathering nuts

this little squirrel had no idea of the history and beauty of his surroundings – he was just gathering nuts on the lawn around the National War Memorial

poutine with gluten free gravy; statue of Champlain at Nepean Point

statue of Samuel de Champlain at Nepean Point

poutine with gluten free gravy; West Block Building of Parliament

the West Block building on Parliament Hill

poutine with gluten free gravy; fall leaves in Ottawa

downtown Ottawa dressed for fall

And we made a couple visits to ByWard Market – what a fun and fantastic place. Pumpkins were king at this time of year!

poutine with gluten free gravy; stall at ByWard Market

poutine with gluten free gravy; squash at ByWard Market, Ottawapoutine with gluten free gravy; garlic at Byward Market

poutine with gluten free gravy; crazy car around Byward Market

crazy car near the ByWard Market

poutine with gluten free gravy; view of Ottawa from the Parliament Building

view of Ottawa from inside the clock tower of the Parliament building

On to Montreal

What an amazing city – international, colourful, rich with history and heritage, yet funky and full of off-beat energy! Montreal is a bustling hub of diversity and dichotomy, embracing its arts and culture, its modern cosmopolitan vibe, and its beautiful old town nestling shoulder to shoulder with a pulsing chinatown and busy inland harbour. There is no single word that can describe this unique city. And the few days we had there weren’t nearly enough to explore it all.

On our first day there it rained buckets all day. We were soaked to the bone and had to buy bigger umbrellas – which did little to keep us dry.

poutine with gluten free gravy

A rainy day is a good time to take a city bus tour and spend some time in art galleries (amount of time in which is dictated by your non-art-loving husband’s patience for strolling painfully slowly – his words – to look at one beautiful painting after another).

poutine with gluten free gravy; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

I could stand and look at the paintings of the Impressionists for hours – but a pacing husband turns our rounds through the gallery into a speedwalking exercise

On our second day we took a stroll down Sherbrooke Street. It’s lined with the flags of all the countries in the world.

poutine with gluten free gravy

The McGill University campus is one of six universities in the Montreal area.

poutine with gluten free gravy

I found the inner me (and maybe a bit of the outer me, too)

You absolutely cannot visit Montreal without a stop at the iconic Schwartz’s Deli for a famous Montreal smoked meat sandwich. The lineup outside the deli is definitely worth the wait. Eating at Schwartz’s is a taste experience; a blast from the past.

poutine with gluten free gravy; lineup outside Schwartz's Deli in Montreal

wave hi to Raymond

Once inside, we shouldered our way to a seat at the scarred old countertop – I’m sure it must be the original one from when the deli opened in 1928 . . .

poutine with gluten free gravy; seated at the counter in Schwartz's Deli

. . . and dug into huge sandwiches of mustard-smeared rye bread piled high with the most juicy, smoky, flavourful corned beef . . . ooohoooh. And the pickles! We had one regular mouth-puckering green torpedo and one of the ‘half sours’, which was fresh and crunchy and just barely pickled.

poutine with gluten free gravy; Montreal smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz's Deli

The deli strummed with noise and joie de vivre; the steady roar of hungry patrons talking loudly  threaded through with the loud calls of servers shouting out orders and teasing each other while bustling constantly to feed the continuous stream of diners. It was an experience to remember. If you go, make sure to eat at the counter – you are within the beating heart of it all.

poutine with gluten free gravy; cheerful server at Schwartz's Deli

What I love about Montreal is the constant play of contrasts. One minute you can be staring in awe up at the most ornate cathedral you’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a lot of them in Europe) and the next you can be grinning at the vast and varied array of graffiti/murals adorning any adornable surface.

poutine with gluten free gravy; Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal – beautiful outside

poutine and gluten free gravy - Notre-Dame Basilica inside

and stunningly beautiful inside. Gilding everywhere makes it glitter and sparkle like a celestial Aladdin’s cave

Peeking from walls everywhere, you find this artistry of another kind – fun, funky, and thought-provoking.

poutine with gluten free gravy; graffiti murals in Montreal

poutine with gluten free gravy - grey and brown grafitti in Montrealpoutine with gluten free gravy; more Montreal graffiti

We stood mezmerized for ages outside the window of a restaurant in Chinatown, watching the cook make hand-pulled noodles, batch after batch of them.

poutine with gluten free gravy; hand-pulling noodles in chinatown

hand pulled noodles in Chinatown

On our last evening, we strolled through Old Montreal as night fell, and magic started to appear on the walls of buildings in unexpected places.

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Projections of historical figures and moments in the story of Montreal appeared on the sides of buildings all over Old Montreal. The project is called Cité Mémoire and features an impressive amount of moving tableaux showcasing many important moments in Montreal’s history.

poutine and Montreal Harbour Area

the harbour area near Old Montreal at sunset

The next day we left this special city and headed east. We stopped for lunch in the small town of Joliette and stumbled into a wonderful little artisinal brasserie (brewery) where we had a glass of freshly brewed apple cider and tasted our first poutine. The verdict was – delicious! This humble dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in a rich brown gravy was invented in Quebec in the 1950s and has now become extremely popular in the rest of the country, even the continent. There’s something very homey about a dish of fries and gravy. It’s hard to explain the attraction until you’ve tried it. And then if you try it with a good mountain of shredded, meltingly tender roasted rib meat added on top . . . just wow.

two dishes of Quebec poutine, one with rib meat

Next Stop: Quebec City 

Watch for it in the next blog post!

Read my last blog post about the first part of our trip.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Use your favourite french fries – frozen is fine. You can usually buy bags of cheese curds in the cheese section of a large supermarket or a specialty cheese store. If you can get ‘squeaky’ ones – score!

Use your favourite gravy or the delicious recipe below. The gravy should be nice and thick so it sticks to the fries and doesn’t all run to the bottom of the bowl.

You can make vegetarian poutine by using a flavourful vegetable broth instead of a meat-based broth.

Canadian poutine with gluten free gravy

Real Canadian Poutine

For each serving:

  • a few handfuls of hot, cooked french fries – fresh homemade or previously frozen & baked according to package directions
  • a handful of cheddar cheese curds
  • ¼ to ½ cup (60-120ml) of thick, flavourful gravy (your favourite, or see recipe below)

Arrange a serving of french fries in a shallow bowl. Add a handful of cheddar cheese curds. Drizzle over a generous amount of gravy.

Eat with gusto.

a forkful of poutine with rich gluten free gravy

Rich and Flavourful Gluten Free Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons cooking fat – butter, ghee, duck fat, pan drippings, or oil
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3½ tablespoons sweet rice flour (or regular flour if not gluten-free)
  • 2 cups good quality gluten-free beef broth (or use chicken or turkey broth)
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce

Heat the cooking fat and stir in the onion powder, celery salt, garlic powder, dry mustard powder, and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the sweet rice flour and cook for 1 minute.

Gradually pour in the beef broth, stirring constantly. Add the soy sauce. Cook until bubbling and thickened. Taste and add more soy sauce if it needs to be more salty. This gravy should be well-seasoned, so its flavour remains bright even when combined with the fries.

*Note: If you want to make this recipe to use as regular gravy, use only 3 tablespoons of sweet rice flour. Poutine gravy should be a little thicker than normal so it sticks to the fries.

Makes about 2 cups.

Bon Appetit!

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Real Canadian Poutine - that comfort food dish of fries with cheese curds and rich gravy

You might also like:

Parsnip Fries with Spicy Orange Mayonnaise

Lentil Fries with Currywurst Dipping Sauce

Chicken Fingers and Stubby Fries with Bacon

Moose Wings (Sweet ‘n Spicy Chicken Wings)

gluten free gravy; Parliament in autumn splendour

Parliament in full autumn splendour

This entry was posted in Canadian Food, Eggs & Cheese, Potatoes, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Real Canadian Poutine and a Trip to Ottawa and Montreal

  1. Sabine Macleod says:

    Love the pictures. You are amazing


  2. Elsa says:

    Wonderful Margaret, beautiful pictures. It brought back so many memories from our trip last year, the Poutine which I never tried until we were in Quebec.
    And the long walk to Schwartz’s Deli, great pictures Margaret.
    I can’t wait for your next blog!

    • Margaret says:

      There are so many fantastic things to see in Montreal, aren’t there. Yes, it WAS a long walk to Schwartz’s – but SO worth it! What a fun experience, and such a mouthwatering sandwich. The pickle was so great! Even with our crazy rainy day, I loved that city. It was great to walk around the old town and chinatown, and then all the scenes playing on the walls at night were like an added surprise bonus!

  3. Nancy Jay says:

    Your trip to the eastern part of Canada sounds and looks like you had the most uplifting adventure. You have captured some wonderful pictures of Ontario and Quebec. We live in such a diverse country we call our home. The autumn colors and photographs of the landscape, food, culture, and people make us all proud to be Canadians. Our family loves poutine! We usually order them after a skiing day at Shames Mountain. However, now I have the urge to make them myself. After eating a plateful of poutine I get the urge to hibernate (at least for a few days). I love the picture of the colourful full-figured person; how confident the artist must be! Thanks for always sharing.

    • Margaret says:

      It WAS such a wonderful trip, Nancy, and you’re right – seeing all that beautiful diversity did renew the pride I have to be a Canadian. We forget about how vast and stunning our country is when we just keep traipsing circles around the little part we live in. It’s always so invigorating to step out of our corner and take a peek at the rest of the country. And for me, part of the exploration always involves checking out the food! I love that poutine is such a simple comfort food, but so tasty. It’s even become part of your family’s tradition right across the country! (And yes, that beautiful buxom red woman spoke to me – she’s so joyful and comfortable in her beauty! I love her spirit!) Hugs to you.

  4. What a beautiful recollection of the wonderful days you spent in Ottawa and Montréal! And the pictures just followed along with the story, it seemed to be there with you. You know, I’ve never wanted to try poutine, because I like my fries super crispy, but now you’ve spiked my curiosity 😉 . It looks so yummy!

    • Margaret says:

      I loved that trip, and it was such fun wandering around Ottawa with you guys, too! Such great memories and so much learning at the conference. You’ll have to try poutine at least once, just to say you did! The fries are crispy around the edges and soft (like scalloped potatoes) in the middle – you can give those ones to Loreto – something for everyone! 😉

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