If you’re a Europesure Travel Insurance customer, or another trans-Atlantic European holidaymaker heading to Canada between February 1 and 7, 2024, or on April 11 in any year, you could find yourself immersed in a celebration of one of the planet’s greatest national dishes – poutine.
The February celebration is Poutine Week, an event lauding the world-famous dish of French fries, fresh cheese curds and brown gravy. The very fact poutine has its own annual day, highlights how this dish, which can now come with a plethora of toppings and variations, is embedded in Canadian culture.
You probably can’t, in fact, say you have truly explored Canada until you have tucked into this North American delicacy, which is why Europesure has put together this guide as to where to find the best poutine.
Origins of Poutine
Poutine is particularly iconic in Quebec – the region of its birth. Where it exactly originated, however, is open to debate. It may have been first served around 1957, in an eatery in Warwick, where cheese curds were produced locally. A customer of an eatery first known as L’Idéal and later as Le Lutin Qui Rit (the Laughing Elf), bravely asked for curds on top of his French fries. It is said owner, Fernand Lachance, responded to Eddy Lainsesse’s request with the words, ‘Ça va faire une maudite poutine’ (that will make a dreadful mess).
In another tale, Eddy asked for curds to be thrown on top of his bagged fries, which Lachance glanced at, before commenting, ‘this is a poutine’. In this version of poutine’s origins, the dish quickly caught on and was soon served on plates. To keep the fries warm, Lachance added gravy.
Residents of Drummondville, however, probably beg to differ, laying claim to poutine themselves. They say, the drive-in restaurant, Le Roy Jucep, invented the dish. Owner Jean-Paul Roy had been serving a patate-sauce (French fries and gravy) dish since 1958. Around 1964, he saw that some of his clientele were topping it with cheese curds. To accommodate these, he launched a dish that included these and named it fromage-patate-sauce.
Alternatively, poutine may have been invented by Le P’tite Vache, in Princeville, in 1966, which took on cheese curds from the local Princesse cheese dairy, with there being no market for them elsewhere. They began to sell them bagged alongside French fries. Certainly, the prevalence of cheese curd dairies in this part of Canada could be a factor in the dish’s creation.
The rise in poutine’s popularity
Whatever the story behind this ‘combo’ dish, it had achieved popularity in not just the countryside, but cities too, reaching Quebec City by 1969. It had spread its charms to Ontario by the 1980s and was sold in Montreal by 1983. The Frits chain added it to their menu in 1985, Burger King served it in 1987 and McDonald’s adopted it in 1990.
Today, you can find it right across Canada and beyond, with the United States also embracing the dish. You can even have it as a takeout or home delivery in the British city of Liverpool, if you head to the Caribou Poutine website and order up your preferred variety. This includes many vegan options and gluten-free poutine too. However, carnivores are typically tempted by the fried maple chicken and steak poutine choices, not to mention the Mrs Piggy Poutine, featuring pulled pork, streaky bacon and sausage.
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodain on Unsplash.
Best places to sample poutine within Montreal and wider Canada
Nowadays, poutine can be found more or less everywhere in Canada, from small canteens – casse-croûte – at the side of country roads in rural Quebec, to high-end restaurants, such as Au Pied de Cochon, in Montreal. At the latter, your topping is as up-market – albeit somewhat controversial – as you might expect, comprising a foie gras slab positioned on top of duck-fat fried fries and coated in duck fat gravy.
Montreal is also home to an eatery that has become world famous for its poutine and a tourist magnet in its own right. This is La Banquise, founded in 1968, open 24 hours a day and described as an ‘institution’ and a ‘flagship of Montreal’. The restaurant offers 30 different and delicious poutine choices and also creates a ‘poutine of the month’.
Whether you go for La Classique – an authentic ‘original’ poutine devoid of toppings – or tuck in to something more exotic, such as La Miam (ground beef, merguez sausage, onions, tomatoes and Swiss cheese), you certainly won’t be starved of options.
At the Patati Patata Friterie de Luxe, Montreal, the flavourful sauce with its secret ingredients, including chocolate and red wine, and signature skinny fries, underpin this particular poutine’s rave reviews.
Poutine recommendations in other parts of Canada
Also to be found in Montreal – and in other Canadian cities too - are outlets from the Poutineville chain, where diners build their own poutine, selecting from four different types of potato and other ingredients.
If visiting wider Ontario, try the Snack Shack, at Barrie, which is known for its highly-rated speciality poutines.
Should you find yourself in Nova Scotia, then make a bee-line for Willy’s Fresh Cut takeout, found in Halifax and known for its fresh ingredients and creative toppings.
Most Instagrammable place to eat poutine?
When it comes to a poutine restaurant that lay claim to being the most Instagrammable, however, there is probably only one choice. The Gibeau Orange Julep, on Décarie Boulevard in Montreal, resembles a massive orange and is a drive-in diner that obligingly sells a famous orange julep to accompany your poutine.
First-rate travel insurance for your Canadian trip
Wherever you decide to head, to discover what all the fuss is about, don’t get yourself into your own ‘poutine’ by travelling without travel insurance protection! Canada’s healthcare is renowned for being expensive, so any illness or accident could lead to a large medical bill.
When you factor in all the other reasons you might need travel insurance – from cancellation of a costly pre-booked Trans-Atlantic holiday to the loss of your baggage en route, or passport whilst out and about, it makes no sense not to pay that little bit extra for peace of mind.
To tailor your Canada trip travel insurance policy to your needs and desired level of cover, whether you want a single-trip policy or an annual policy, head to www.europesuretravelinsurance.com
Photo by Erik McLean on Unsplash