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)
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.
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.
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.
There is so much else to see in this spectacular capitol city of ours.
And we made a couple visits to ByWard Market – what a fun and fantastic place. Pumpkins were king at this time of year!
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.
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).
On our second day we took a stroll down Sherbrooke Street. It’s lined with the flags of all the countries in the world.
The McGill University campus is one of six universities in the Montreal area.
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.
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 . . .
. . . 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.
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.
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.
Peeking from walls everywhere, you find this artistry of another kind – fun, funky, and thought-provoking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next Stop: Quebec City
Watch for it in the next blog post!
Read my last blog post about the first part of our trip.
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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.
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.
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.
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