Mmmm.......is it a sin, in this low-fat, low-carb, eat-healthy world, to admit that I love poutine?
It probably isn't politically correct, but then I'm not usually one to go with the conventional thought of the day. I eat what I like, when I want, and if that means meatloaf for breakfast, cereal for dinner, or poutine for lunch, then I'm really the only one who has the right to complain.
I also admit (only this once) that I don't mind a cheese burger every now and then, as a matter of fact, I sometimes crave that beefy cheesey flavour. It reminds me so much of good times growing up. I will also admit that you will never find me inside that "family restaurant". I will be the one in the drive-thru, secretly pleading that no one I know can see me, while I salivate at the perma-smell coming from the cashiers window.
Back to poutine.
The best place I have discovered in Ottawa/Hull, to enjoy the French-Canadian guilty pleasure, is La Pataterie at 311 boulevarde St Joseph, in Hull. It is one of those tiny, out-of-the-way places, that unless you know what you are looking for, you might drive right past it and not give it a second thought.
My love affair with the greasy goodness started almost ten years ago when I arrived in Ottawa. I was sharing a house in New Edinburgh, had a few too many cocktails one night, feeling worse for wear the next day, I definitely needed some grease to line the stomach.
Before then, a simple egg and bacon brekky would have done wonders, now, only the poutine from La Pataterie can cure the dullness of over-imbibing.
Driving on the Quebec-side of the Ontario border is quite the challenge, and when you are not 100% focused, it does take a while to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Everything, and I mean everything, is in French. No English. Nothing. It is quite the experience, not having French under my belt and navigating to a place I've never been. Rather than the 15 minutes it might take someone to drive, it took my girlfriend and I close to 2 hours to find our way there.
Oncce there, the smell of fried potatoes draws you in. There's absolutely nothing to compare to the ooey-gooey soul satisfying goodness of the combination of freshly cooked, hand peeled and cut potatoes, fresh salty cheese curds and lashings of warm gravy.
The great "poutine chefs", are the ones that layer the fries with curds and gravy all the way from the bottom to the top. By the time you make your way to the bottom, the squeaky curds are stretchy and warm, mingled with gravy and fries, and just perfect.
I order a Pogo as well, but it's really only because I love the combination of La Pataterie's sweet mustard with the deep fried hot dog. And, of course, a Pepsi to wash it all down with.
These people know poutine. I have sampled a lot of poutine in my ten years in Ottawa, and nowhere comes even remotely close.
A word of warning though, when making the trek to La Pataterie, you may want to visit during off-peak times, as the parking lot only holds about 6 spaces. Otherwise, park your car about 8 blocks away, so afterwards you can walk and feel good about eating the best poutine in the city!