Smells like poutine spirit

Every meal at Le Grand Fromage Poutine Place is an artery-hardening delight

First off, a word of warning: if you’re one of those
health-conscious, calorie-counting, carb-deprived lunatics, you might as well
just stop reading right here. There are other places that cater to your
tastes, and that’s perfectly fine. Me, I’m not like you. I like
my guilty gastronomic pleasures; I like having my tastebuds tickled by
strange combinations of ingredients that may well being shortening my
lifespan by three days per serving. It’s a choice that I’ve made,
and I’m sticking to it.

With this is mind, my wife and I set off to a small south Edmonton
establishment officially known as Le Grand Fromage Poutine
but which those in the know simply refer to as the Poutine
Place. Tucked away in a strip mall in the neighbourhood of Petrolia,
surrounded by schools, churches and mixed residential housing, it’s a
bit hard to find, but therein lies its charm. Inside, there isn’t much
in the way of décor per se. The tables are of the generic-style fast
food variety, while the interior is basic, friendly mom-and-pop fare. It
feels kind of cozy, more like someone’s home than a burger joint. It
has personality, and is obviously well loved by the owner. We make our way to
the counter, taking a look at the dessert display en route, and set about
ordering our delightfully unhealthy lunch of Québécois comfort

The menu is simple, yet covers all the necessary bases. There’s a
selection of breakfast items, several burgers (including a veggie burger), a
few Québécois treats (poutine being the specialty), and a
number of fresh-baked pies for dessert. I order the house specialty, a
“petite” bowl of poutine ($3.75 with a pop), while my wife, who
is not at all interested in the poutine, instead orders a beef burger combo
($5.89 with fries and a pop). We pay, wander over to the table with our
drinks and wait while our meal is prepared.

For those who have never met with the fast food delights of la belle
province, here’s a bit of a primer. Poutine is a combination of three
basic ingredients: French fries, cheese curds and gravy. It’s a
wonderfully simple dish, yet surprisingly tough to prepare correctly. Since
there are so few components, each must be perfect in order for the dish to
work. The fries can’t be too crisp, but they can’t be soggy
either; they need to be thick enough to hold their own, and tough enough not
to buckle under the weight of the gravy. The gravy, in turn, must be thick
enough to stay on top of the fries lest you end up with dry fries on the top
and a lake of gravy mush on the bottom. The cheese, generally speaking, is
the make-or-break aspect of almost any bowl of poutine. The cheese component
must be cheese curds—a popular Québécois snack food in
and of itself—not simply grated cheese. And it’s not enough to
just be a cheese curd, either; when you bite into them, they should make that
characteristic squeaking sound as they work over the surface of your teeth.
Without good curds, poutine is nothing.

After a short wait, our food arrives. The portions are generous (the
petite poutine is not that petite after all), as are the toppings, and
everything is fresh, hot and looks homemade. My wife’s burger is above
average, though the fries are slightly overcooked. The poutine is sublime,
featuring perfectly cut fries, an ample helping of vegetarian-compatible
gravy (no meat products involved, amazingly enough), and cheese that squeaks
while you chew. Heaven? No. Paradis.

Even though I’m already nicely stuffed, I saunter back up to the
counter and request another Québécois delight: sugar pie
($2.15). It, like the poutine, is not renowned for its nutritional value,
being mostly composed of brown sugar and whipping cream beaten together,
poured into a pie crust and baked to perfection. The result is a sinfully
delicious dessert, with a chewy, soft caramel texture and a rich, sweet,
gooey taste. It’s not nearly as sweet as I anticipated something made
of sugar and whipped cream would be, but the end result is nevertheless

In the end, we leave feeling well-fed, though slightly guilty about our
irredeemably artery-hardening meal. Still, for less than $12, we managed to
fill up on tasty Québécois grub, all without having to book a
flight, buy a phrasebook, or read up on the enchanting history of a man named
Maurice Richard. Pas trop pire. V

Le Grand Fromage Poutine Place
11411-40 Ave • 432-0609

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