poutine at Mt. Norquay

Poutine, the national dish of Canada, combines French fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Austin prides itself on breakfast tacos and barbecue; Canada swells up at the sight of a plateful of French fries sprinkled with cheese bits and doused with brown gravy.

I checked poutine off the must-eat list today, on my first full day in Canada. I ordered the dish at the Lone Pine, the only restaurant at the base of Mt. Norquay ski area, a small resort located about 10 minutes from downtown Banff.

Poutine first hit the food scene in Quebec in the late 1950s. At first people made fun of the dish, and who can blame them. Potatoes, moist pieces of curdled cheese that look like they were pumped out of a Playdoh machine, and gravy? Sounds like a gut bomb.

Today it turns up on menus across Canada and even in parts of the United States. Annual poutine festivals unfold annually in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa, and Chicago.

Make fun if you will, but poutine makes good ski food. It’s full of carbs and fills you up. Who needs a giant burger or a baked potato when you can have poutine instead?

At the Lone Pine, a mini mound of thick-cut fries arrived piping hot, with a handful of cheese curds (at the just-starting-to-melt phase,) with a ladle full of brown gravy dispensed on top.

You need a lot of calories to stay warm in a land where temperatures regularly plummet below zero and the national pastime is sliding around on ice and whacking a ceramic biscuit with a big stick.

Not an everyday snack, for sure. But on mountain fuel? Sure, occasionally. Sounds good, eh?



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