Today, McDonald’s has announced that they were putting an end to their discriminatory practice of offering Poutine in Quebec only.
A popular McDonald’s menu item in Quebec since 1990, the McPoutine has popped up here and there as a limited-time only menu item across Canada.
But no longer. McDonald’s will offer this Quebec favourite to their customers across Canada and it will be a permanent item.
Created more than 50 years ago, the Poutine has grown in popularity and sales represents a $79 million category in Canada.
On various blogs, social media and even McDonald’s own Q&A website, customers in various regions across the country have been asking for the McPoutine.
McDonald’s answer, until now: “We serve poutine but it’s only available as a regional offer in Quebec, much like how the McLobster is only available in the Maritimes. That said, we’re always looking to bring our regional products to other parts of Canada. Of course, we think our World Famous Fries stand up pretty well on their own!”
But it appeears McDonald’s has finally listened to the poutine-loving clamour. Priced from $3.99 plus tax, McDonald’s Poutine is made with the French Fries topped with real Quebec cheese curds and gravy. It can be had on its own or for an extra charge, it can replace the fries with Poutine in any Extra Value Meal. Or you can, like Barbara at Dose, get a poutine with a side order of poutine!
I haven’t had a McPoutine in a while. If I recall correctly, the cheese is not squeeky, the chicken-base gravy , with tomato, onion and garlic flavours is lightly drizzled and the whole thing is too salty.
But perhaps it’s time for The Waffle to give it another try.
Taking a page from the popular Ribfest, the Sparks Street Mall is moving forward for three days of poutine eating. Outlets were getting ready to open this morning – but unlike Ribfest, the aromas weren’t filling the air.
Yet, Golden fries, cheese curds and war gravy will be served by over 20 different outlets during Poutinefest, from Friday November 15th to Sunday November 17th!
Friday afternoon is the Poutine Eating Contest – some have suggested that The Waffle should take part, but Ms Waffle has vetoed the plan.
You’ll be able to ample your classic poutine, but also all kinds of variations. Poutine Passes sounds like a great option if you wish to sample a variety of poutines. For $20.00, will you get 5 tickets good for 8 oz. poutine samples. Poutine Passes will be available at the Sparks Street office or under the Central tent.
Here is a sample of what’s on offer:
Parliament Pub: Poutine Pizza with homemade dough, vegetarian gravy, potatoes and cheese curds.
D’arcy’s McGee’s: Guiness Poutine with Keith’s braised beef short rib.
Brixton’s: Power Play Poutine – vegetarian gravy, traditional smoked meat, chicken and pulled pork.
Yesterday’s & Centretown Tavern – Italian, pulled pork, bacon and caramelized onions, Mexican BBQ chicken, Italian sausage and loaded Poutine (sausage, crushed chilli and onion).
Cock and Lion – Traditional and Jerk Chicken.
Other vendors are 73 North, L’ange, Twisted Tomato, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Big D’s Dog House and Poutine Emporium, Fadi’s Fab Foods , Vanier Snack Shack, Manhattans Hand-Made Burgers, Le Smoking BBQ, Le Snack Attack, T & T Fries, Routine Poutine, Gabriel’s Pizza, The Works, Green Papaya, Golden Fries, Tiny Tom Donuts, Fritomania and Twisted Funnel Cake.
Get your Poutinefest map here!
Sunday night, coming back from a very successful scouting trip at the Conservative Convention in Calgary, I couldn’t say no when the Waffle Jr. asked to go to a restaurant. Interestingly enough, we have some gift certificates to use Au Vieux Duluth, and that is where we headed.
Au Vieux Duluth is a chain of 34 Greek-style restaurants hailing from Montreal. The first Vieux Duluth opened its doors on February 1982 on Duluth street in Montréal. Au Vieux Duluth’s winning formula focusses on grilled specialties and seafood dishes, generous portions and of course, the bring-your-own-Wine-and-Beer formula.
The Hull location has moved north recently, and is now conveniently located in a new mini-mall, which includes an SAQ store.
The place was really busy, as it usually is on Sunday evenings. Thankfully, there was space, and we were given a large 6-seat booth for the 4 of us. We were in the middle of the action, with birthday parties left and right – the place was really noisy, which got the kids a bit agitated. This wouldn’t be a relaxing meal, it felt like.
We peered at the menu, which features different combinations of chicken, beef, fish and seafood.
I wasn’t really hungry, so I decided to keep it simple and ordered their Chicken Brochette ($15.95). Mel decided to go for the Chicken breast and Butterfly shrimp ($22.95). Both dishes are served with home-fried potatoes, rice and house salad. Meanwhile, for some reason, the Waffle Jr. wanted the Tzatzki ($5.95), Creamy yogurt, cucumbers and garlic mixture served with toasted pita bread and marinated peppers. And of course, French Fries.
Despite signalling to our server that the Tzatziki was our daughter’s entrée. it was brought to our table right away. Nothing exceptionnal here, the highlight was the pita bread.
The rest of the food followed after a little while. The plates were the classic Vieux Duluth presentation: a healthy portion of their House Salad, 3 Potato Wedges, a ball of Rice and the meat. You’d like to get your salad in a separate dish? That’ll cost you extra.
The salad was a little too wet with dressing, but the iceberg was fresh and crunchy, and the dressing interesting. The potatoes were dense, a little dry. The rice was texturally pleasant, but a little bland. The highlight was defintely the chicken: Here we had skewered marinated chicken with onions and green peppers. The chicken was tender, juicy, a little zesty. The veggies had charred edges, but were nicely caramelized in the middle. The pieces could have been thicker, I thought.
Melissa’s plate was similarly presented – except she had two types of animals on her plate, and a small bucket of garlic butter.
If the 9 oz butterflied chicken breast was grilled nicely, was tender and juicy, thanks to the zesty marinade, the butterfly shrimp were a major dispointment – the breading was soggy and the shellfish a little chewy. Thankfully, there was garlic butter!
The place was really busy and really noisy, and the waiting staff couldn’t possibly be attentative despite their best efforts. The prices were reasonable, but more expensive than what you should really pay – not serving alcohol does come with a price. Still, it was a night out with the familly – and that was what made my day.
Another day, another Ribtoberfest opportunity! Today, the plan was to bring some food home for my family to enjoy. I made my way down Sparks Street until I ended up in front of Blazin’ BBQ‘s stall.
Hailing from Chatham, Blazin’ BBQ debuted in 2002 as S.A.R.S. STOCK, one of the largest benefit concerts ever held. In 2009, they started production of sauces and they opened their Ribhouse restaurant in 2010.
Blazin’s BBQ offers a lot of options on its menu: Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, Riblets, Chicken, Pulled Pork, Turkey.
But I figured I would keep it simple and ordered a pound of Pulled Pork for $12. The weather wasn’t great so there was no line-up, I got my food right away. I filled my container with extra BBQ sauce – their “Original” sauce and their “Nitro” sauce.
This was a heavy container. I put it down carefully on the passenger seat. The car would smell great for a few days, I thought. I made my way home, making sure to have no spillage during the journey. I brought it inside. Gosh, that’s a heavy pound, I thought. Either that, or I’m weak.
I decided to investigate – so I carefully took the pork out of the container, and weighted it. 2.43 pounds of meaty goodness! Thank you, Blazin’ BBQ!
I made sandwiches with english muffins, using the extra sauce to add a final touch. We shared the delicacy. There was a good mix of stringy pulled pork, with bigger, chunky bits all over. The meat was very tender, had a light smokey undertone. The Original BBQ sauce was good, but the Nitro was excellent. A small kick, but building heat as you kept eating – nothing overpowering, just in the right way.
I was really glad I picked Blazin’ BBQ for this home meal!
So Sparks Street had the brilliant idea to present another ribfest event. I was pleased, but until they actually set up shop yesterday, I thought might just be a dream. Then they started smoking and they started grilling and it became real.
Mrs. Waffle wasn’t as excited as I was, but she was happy enough to make her way downtown for a lunch date. Our plan was to grab some pork delicacies and find a spot on Carmello’s patio. The weather was great, and the lines at the ribbers between Metcalfe and Bank were quite long, though not as long as they are in June. Still, I had to go west. All the way to the last ribber, which luckily, had no line-up at all, despite the best efforts of the grillmen to attract potential customers by shouting “RIIIIIIBS!” to the top of their lungs. “Directly from Las Vegas, Nevada…. RIIIIIIIIBS!”
Their menu is typical of what other ribbers usually offers on Sparks Street:
Ribs, Chicken, Pulled Pork. They offer combos, they offer a Vegetarian nightmare, they offer a Royale Feast. Ribs Royale usually offers Beef Ribs and Brisket, but it didn’t seem to be available – it certainly wasn’t advertised or displayed.
Owner Gus Sakellis started Rib Royale BBQ in 2006. He has been competing at festivals since then, and is serving about 3,000 lbs. of meat every year. As far as I know, it is Ribs Royale’s first visit to Sparks Street.
I was looking at the grillmen in action, finishing the Ribs and the Chickens. The grill was plenty hot, with plenty of charcoal smoke to add another layer of flavour. My mind was set: I would get a full rack of ribs ($22). It is, after all, called RIBtoberfest. Not Chickenoberfest or Pulledporkoberfest. Still, my wife wanted the pulled pork sandwich dinner, extra saucy ($10). That’s just the kind of woman she is.
I ordered our food, made sure they heard I wanted extra sauce. I tipped the grillman, and, appreciative, he picked the biggest rack he had going and smothered it with a fresh layer of BBQ sauce. “Saucy, saucy, saucy!” he sang aloud. “From Las Vegas, Nevada, get your saucy Ribs right here!” Well, then.
After a few minutes, our order was ready. I picked up the compostable boxes, a few sheets of hand towels and made my way to Carmello’s, where Mrs. Waffle and L’il Waffle were awaiting. We ordered a pitcher of Bavarian Lager and opened our box of goodies.
These ribs were excellent, very meaty and moist. They were tender, but not too much – there was some resistance when you pulled the meat from the bones, and it had a good chew. That’s the way ribs should be cooked. There was a nice, pink smoke ring clearly visible on the meat, produced by cherry wood with a hint of hickory.
Mel’s sandwich dinner looked equally delicious.
Loads of perfectly cooked Pulled Pork on a fresh bun, smothered in BBQ sauce. The pork was very good, nice strings of goodness that after trying for the first time, L’il Waffle engulfed by the fistfull. The BBQ sauce was excellent, a great tangy-sweet balance with a smoky undertone. You won’t be surprised to know that the secret ingredient is Crown Royal, which helps round out the flavour.
The sides were uneven. The baked beans were simple, a well executed side dish, with a tomato-based sauce that had a nice consistency and texture reminiscent of British beans. But the coleslaw was bland, uninspiring. Neither creamy nor vinegary, barely seasoned. Unfortunate.
Nevertheless, we were quite happy with this new competitor’s products.
Especially when you stick with the main event:
And Ribs Royale’s were royally good.
Yes, it’s true, folks!
From October 3 to 6, Sparks Street will be illuminated by pit fires and obscurated by smoke clouds. More importantly, the aromas of Pulled Pork, Ribs, Chicken, Beef Brisket and other BBQ goodies will fill the air once again. Sticky BBQ Sauce will fill the street. Check out the map!
The Waffler nation will be familiar with classic ribbers such as Crabby’s, Texas Outlaws, Bibbs, Gator BBQ, Billy Bones, Silver Bullet, Camp 31, Uncle Sam’s.
Also returning to Ottawa are Hawgs Gone Wild, Sticky Fingers, Boss Hogs, Texas Rangers and Blazin’ BBQ.
New comers Ribs Royale, Horn Dawgs, Bone Daddy’s and Swine Fellows are also joining the fest!
Ribtoberfest is coming!
Four Glorious Days!
Oh, Joy! Oh, Happiness!
The NDP Caucus strategy session was coming to an end, and before the last part began, we had some free time for lunch. Where should we go to enjoy this freetime? To the Freehouse, of course!
The Freehouse was established by a Saskatchewan consortium that includes several New Democrats, most notably former NDP MP Lorne Nystrom. There are two successful locations in Saskatchewan, the Cathedral Freehouse which opened in 1996 in Regina and the Spadina Freehouse which opened in 2002 in Saskatoon. The consortium tried to expand to Winnipeg, but sadly, the Osborne Village Freehouse didn’t last very long.
The Spadina Freehouse is located strategically in the heart of downtown Saskatoon, across from the Delta and adjacent to the Sheraton, guaranteeing an influx of travellers attracted by convenience and the large patio. Despite the inviting bright interior, Steve, Karine and I decided to sit outside – until the sun came out and we realized there was no shade anywhere to offer cover to the patrons. My fair skin couldn’t take it, and thankfully the staff happily obliged and set us up inside, despite the fact that we had already ordered our drinks.
They’ve got a nice looking pizza oven burning in the back where they woodfire cook their thin crust pizza. The Freehouse menu is eclectic, a bit all over the place. For instance, the appetizers’ origins are all over the map: Red Pepper Hummus, Korean Rolls, Tandoori Tenders, Empanadas. The rest of the menu is similar: Kasmiri Chicken, Sicilian Linguini, Red Curry Mango Penne, Chipotle Back Ribs, Chocolate Chili Lamb Shank, Tarragon Citrus Halibut and a selection of sandwiches, burgers and salads. There are also lots of vegetarian and/or gluten-free menu items if you’re looking for those things.
But we had heard all week the good reviews about their pizzas, and that seemed the way to go.
All Freehouse pizzas are 10” pies, offered at a 17$ flatrate (2$ extra for gluten-free dough.) The selection is limited yet interesting: Classic Greek (spinach, tomatoes, spanish (!) onions, black olives, mozzarella and feta on a basil pesto base), Tandoori Chicken (mango chutney, cilantro, chicken, red peppers, onions, mozzarella on a tandoori masala and yogurt sauce), Bruschetta, Fungi, and Spicy BBQ Chicken (chicken, onions, mandarin oranges, three cheese blend on a BBQ sauce) are among the choices. We decided to order three different pizzas and share, so Steve went with the Pulled Pork and Apple pizza, Karine picked the Cappicola & Roast Roma and I went with the Carnivore.
It took a little while to get our pizzas but once they came, they were warm and glowing with flavour:
Steve’s Pulled Pork & Apple was the most intriguing. A healthy serving of pulled pork with slivers of granny smith apples on a chipotle adobo BBQ sauce, topped with a blend of three cheeses.
This one was delicious. There was a healthy amount of very tender pulled pork. The sauce was sweet and spicy, indeed a good heat level, and it went very well with the pork. But what made it was the fresh explosion of tart and sweet apples – in fact, there could have been a little more. A great combination. I thought there could have been more cheese, though.
Karine’s Cappicola & Roast Roma was the most traditional of the bunch. Cappicola ham, roasted tomatoes, red onions and provolone cheese on a basil pesto base.
This pizza was my least favourite. The tomatoes were kind of mushy and the onions were basically raw. The Cappicola was good, spicy, but its presence was masked under the pile of onions. Karine discarded a bunch of them and there was a noticeable pile on her plate when we were done. The provolone was fine, mildly sweet, helping the pesto base to shine. The pesto base was indeed fine, but it seems to me they should have gone with a tomato-based sauce for this one.
As for the Carnivore, it was different than the usual meat lovers offered by pizza joints. Here, you had chorizo sausage, cappicola and pulled pork on a house made classic pizza sauce topped with mozzarella.
Now, that’s what I called a hearty pizza! There was loads of meat on it. The same pulled pork as the other pie – but its own flavour was more present, not absorbed by the BBQ sauce. It was a good contrast with the chorizo, spicy and texturally pleasant. Contrary to the Pulled Pork and Apple, this had no cheese blend, but just pure mozza. I thought that the cheese combo was kind of non-descript - this was more like it, cheesy and stringy but with caramelized bits here and there.
The crust was crispy and crunchy, thanks to the wood fired oven. It held the toppings together nicely, and was cooked perfectly. But at 17$, these seemed a bit pricey – and once we got our food, our server disappeared - but it is worth pointing out that we were all sated and satisfied with our meal. That must be worth something.
After flying for most of the day, I finally made it to my final destination, the Paris of the Prairies, beautiful Saskatoon. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, my stomach was growling.
Thankfully, our Caucus meeting HQ were at the Delta Bessborough Hotel, at the corner of Spadina and 21st Street. And what is right across the street? If you answered the Freehouse, you are right. But that’s not what I am talking about.
No, I am talking about the Saskatoon Bus Stop Refresments.
A classic red-and-white 1949 Bristol double-decker bus, which served London until 1965, was brought to Saskatoon from Niagara Falls in 1985 by Laurel Beaumont.
At first, the food truck served fish and chips at Agriculture fairs across the province. In 1989, the Routemaster was parked and became a Snackmaster.
I checked in, dropped my bags in my room and off I was to the Bus Stop.
The menu is quite simple: Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Floats, Milk Shakes and Fresh Popcorn. But what I really wanted was one of their “soon to be World Famous” Riverbank Franks.
For $5.00, you get a big hot dog, with 4 toppings amongst these: mustard (hot or regular), ketchup, relish, mayonnaise, onions, pickles, sauerkraut, horseradish, salsa, hot peppers and hot chili sauce. You can add extra toppings for a quarter each, and if you’d like to add cheddar cheese, you will have to cough up an extra buck and a half.
I decided to go spicy or go home. And since I couldn’t go home, I went spicy. I ordered a Riverbank Frank topped with salsa, hot chili sauce (which it turns out was Sriracha sauce from Huy Fong Foods), hot peppers and hot mustard. It didn’t take very long for the Riverbank Frank to be ready – a couple of minutes.
We left the Floribell Resort early Sunday afternoon to go home after having had a good time with family and friends. Frolicking on the beach, swimming in the lake, drinking a few cold ones. Life was good. Especially since yours truly became International Champion of Water Frisbee. But that’s another story.
So we left Saint-Élie-de-Caxton and started looking for a place to have a quick bite. We hit Road 351 then Road 153 before arriving in Saint-Barnabé and spotting a Casse-Croûte just off the main street. The place didn’t look busy, but there were a few cars in the parking lot.
The classic Pepsi sign told us that we were at le Casse-Croûte du Parc Vert.
Built in 2005, Casse-Croûte du Parc Vert is located downtown St-Barnabé Nord, such as it is. It is basically about 20 minutes from Trois-Rivières, Shawinigan and Louiseville.
They claim that everything on their menu is home made. The spot used to be a classic snack bar hole-in-the-wall – but clearly they renovated to add indoor seatings, about 30 seats. Outside, a couple of picnic tables if you prefer.
The menu is posted on a couple of boards over the order window. Here, you can find the usual casse-croûte fare:
French Fries, Poutines, Subs, Hamburgers and Hot Dogs; but also Chicken Wings and Pizzas.
The owner, which was operating the kitchen, was very friendly and resourceful, answering all our pre-meal requests: high chair? booster seat? (nooooooooooooooooo, papa! I am tall now!) and even a band-aid to cure a bébitte’s bite.
The Waffle Jr. wanted chicken and they were offering nuggets by single unit – a great option - but I knew she would want French Fries from our order, so I got her the full platter ($7.83). Mrs. Waffle didn’t hesitate either – she wanted an Italian Poutine – a small one ($5.96), with a tomato-bacon sandwich ($3.05) on the side. For my part, I took my time to look at the menu, asking questions. After pondering my options, I ordered a medium Poutine du Parc ($7.83).
For drinks, they were selling juice and milk at the window – but for pop, you had to get a can from a Pepsi machine in the corner - $1.50 a pop. Mel got a Mountain Dew, me a Pepsi.
Our lunch was ready in a jiffy – except for the sandwich, which was forgotten – but it would soon be made and delivered to our table.
Mel’s Italian Poutine looked good, smelled good – and tasted good. The Italian sauce had a strong, fresh tomato flavour. There were bits of carrots, but not too much - the sauce was nicely balanced, not too sweet. “The curds squeak-squeak”, she exclaimed. Great news! There wasn’t too much sauce, the fries were holding firm and the curds weren’t melting too quickly, holding their chew – and their classic sound. A nice dish. Mel was also satisfied with her sandwich – even though she got a Tomato-Bacon Grilled Cheese instead of what she wanted. My bad, I guess.
The Waffle Jr. was quite excited about her plate. She didn’t like the coleslaw, so I had it – it was a classic sweet and sour salad, the way coleslaw should taste, with a great crunchy texture. The French Fries were really good – probably better on their own than in the poutine, I thought. A dark golden colour, thick with a nice crisp on the outside and quite fluffy inside. Jr. would dip them in the gravy and in ketchup, alternating between the two until she decided that ketchup was much better. Of course! The chicken nuggets, however, were quite ordinary. A little thin, a little dry. Flavourwise, they tasted good enough for Jr. to keep at it – but I suspect that these guys are not homemade.
The spectacular dish of the day was my medium-sized Poutine du Parc. What a beauty! A poutine with a classic brown gravy, topped with ground beef, green peppers and onions. It was delicious! The gravy was served hot, covering the fries and the toppings. It was a classic brown gravy, not too salty. It was smooth, silky, delicious. I mean, you almost wanted to drink the stuff! Beef, onions, peppers – what a great combination. The steak was nicely seasoned, cooked perfectly - throughout without being dry. The onions brought some sharpness while the peppers brought some sweetness. The challenge was to get the perfect bite each time: potato, beef, onion, pepper, cheese curd, gravy. Man, that hit the spot! And yes, medium is quite large. I was done and done.
The owner, still very friendly and ressourceful, answering all our post-meal requests: a cup to go for Jr.’s milk, a paper bag for the fries she didn’t eat and wanted to keep for later. Great service!
Right before we left, a new customer arrived.
A Green. Yellow. Black. Orange. #11. Saturn.
You never know what you’ll find when you stop for a poutine somewhere on Quebec’s back roads.
I was looking for a new place for lunch, and I came across this video where “Skipper Dave” and “First Mate Cat” were introducing us to the delicacies served at Cat’s Fish & Chips. Fish & Chips is a great lunch item – so that’s what I suggested to Mel and we made our way to Vanier.
Cat’s Fish & Chips opened in May 2012 and rapidly made their mark, winning Metro’s Choice Awards for Best Fish & Chips and Best Takeout in December.
The building, located at St-Laurent and Hemlock and previously housing the Rockliff Bistro, is newly renovated and repainted in a nice sky blue colour, with a nautical-theme décor. The spot is laid back and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Inside, Emerald was waiting for us, telling us we had to wait to be seated.
Directions for the Poop deck were clear and straightforward.
The place wasn’t busy yet, and we had our choice of seats – we elected to sit outside.
Yes, outside, where a lobster trap had caught a big yellow can.
There is nothing quite like a fresh yellow can!
We perused the menu. Fish, of course, and all kinds of seafood dishes
But obviously, Cat’s Fish and Chips is boasting about it’s Fish and Chips. We were a bit surprised by the lack of options here, as they only offer Cutlass Haddock. It would be nice to have a couple of options, like Cod and Pollock, or maybe even Catfish. Cat’s Catfish and chips. Now, that would be marketing. The Haddock is offered either breaded or beer-battered, your pick. They also have gluten free version if you are so inclined. A bonus, a dollar from every order of fish and chips goes to the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Center.
And that’s what we were here for. Mel got the one piece with the Spicy Plank shavings ($13.52) while I went for the two pieces ($20.12) with their Fresh Cut Chips. But first, First Mate Cat convinced us to get an order of Rings By The Sea ($8.94) – their seasoned calamari, fresh cut and flash fried. She had us at “fresh.”
While we waited for our food, we enjoyed a cold one on the deck. Mel went for a Magner’s – she got excited when she saw the advertisement on the billboard. I decided to go all in on the East Coast Experience and I ordered a pint of Moosehead.
Our calamari arrived very promptly, which is normal considering it is flash fried. The Rings by the Sea were served in a little blue rowing boat, with a Sweet Chili dipping sauce at the stern and a wedge of lemon at the bow. Continue reading »
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