For now my productive distraction is the pursuit of the ultimate poutine experience, tasting and reviewing poutines and the respective joints they come from around town.
This, then, is my first:
Poutine Laurier (2100 Laurier Av E, Montréal)
Poutine régulière - $5.95
Place:Has just the right refried, deep fried smell. Not overpowering when you walk in, but that acrid sweet scent clings faintly to your clothes long after you walk out. There's the regulation "Bienvenue Welcome" paper place mats, good mix of booth and freestanding tables, big tall plastic water glasses refilled often, big screen t.v. that you can ignore if you're not into Quebec télé-romans, big jars of those red pickled peppers favoured by your better poutine establishments for decoration only as far as I can tell, good view windows to Laurier and de Lorimier, but furnishings are merely recreations of the old melamine, and upholstery reflects the 90's spirit of charcoal, pink and teal.
Atmosphere:One Waitress - bottled blonde, middle aged, full souche québécoise, Ambience: good, balanced blend of her throaty joual and contemporary top 40 music
Clientele:Very "neighbourhood in transition".
From very young couple with baby, to old lady who is well-known, well-greeted - tiens! la visite - and well-treated by long-suffering waitress lending half an ear to lady's litany of complaints about some ill-fated supper invitation and les gens qui savent pas vivre and how tired she was because, j'ai fait tout mon lavage aujourd'hui, chus fatiquée, tout mon lavage, et changer mon litte avec. Other young guys from the neighbourhood came in to take out. A single father and his one week on, one week off son who splurging on Combo #3 with liqueur - only the kid had to tell his dad he's staying away from sugar these days. Another middle-aged man who, upon coming in, greeted the old lady like a friend, but sat alone. All French. All the time.
Poutine:Portion: Moyenne. Served in a flat soup bowl style plate. Not shockingly little. Not generously lots. Just moyenne.
French fried potatoes: The corporate kind. Long, stiff, golden, dry - inside and out. Light density. Middling to littling flavour, one stand-out fry gave off essence of real potato (but to be fair, that was before I stirred it all up so that the fries were all pretty much coated in the
Sauce: Of the tangy, barbecuey variety. Orangey brown. Slightly translucid. A chemical as opposed to a comforting finish.
Curds: I cannot hide behind any pretence of objectivity on the curd question. This, even more than the sauce, or the fry is the hinge on which hangs the pleasure (or not) of poutine. In the case of Poutine Laurier, the curd is the right colour, there's enough of them, they have the appearance of being of pure race.
But where's the squeak??
There's no bounce - no fight in the bite. These curds just lay down and let you walk all over them. They go soft. and melt like little girls' lunch box mozzarella.
Blend: Perfect proportion of fry to sauce to curd. Unfortunately, nothing could stand up to the sauce. Its flavour smothered the others.
For next week, I have my eye on Plan de Match, a tavern-y type joint on Bélanger just off Pie-IX. Stay tuned...