The news that a commonplace staple of Quebecois cuisine merited addition to the lexicon of the English language came as somewhat of a surprise.
Certainly Canada is famous for its bacon and maple syrup — often served together — but to think that poutine (of all the quirky concoctions) made it mainstream in the USA this May is nothing short of amazing.
Essentially, I agree that poutine has all the elements of food that comforts; crispy fries, fatty cheese curds, and rich gravy. It’s a staple all across Canada, showing up prominently at fast-food chains like Burger King, as well as at hockey stadiums and pubs throughout the country. But this calorie-buster has now been embraced by New Yorkers and can be found at several food establishments across Brooklyn and Manhattan — at least at six, at last count.
Reportedly, since 2000, the number of Canuks in NYC has doubled, and judging by the turnout at the bi-annual “La Poutine” week at Mile End, it’s safe to say that poutine is comforting more than just homesick Canadians in the Big Apple.
To introduce the uninitiated to this-north-of-the-border delicacy, my pursuit for poutine landed me at Mile End Deli in Manhattan’s NoHo.
Joel Tietolman and Noah Bernamoff are childhood friends who grew up in Montreal, and later moved to New York City. Noah often smoked meat on the rooftop of his Brooklyn apartment, then finally decided to really overcome his homesickness in 2010, by opening Mile End Deli in Boerum Hill.
It’s a trendy, Jewish-style deli, featuring Montreal classics like smoked meat, black seed bagels, the Wilensky Special (a pressed salami sandwich slapped with mustard made famous by Wilensky’s Restaurant in Montreal) and of course, poutine. Throw in some cool vibes, and the occasional Beavertails — a sugary, flattened, fried dough or what we Americans know as elephant ear pastry — and this has become the place where NYC meets Canada. The two friends were clearly onto something, so they opened another location in 2012, on Bond Street in Manhattan.
In addition to poutine, buckwheat crepes and ketchup chips, Quebec food is influenced largely by the cuisines of France and Ireland: Tourtieres (meat pies) and tarte au sucre (sugar pies), Oka cheese (a semi-soft cow cheese) foie gras, and pastrami-like smoked meats including rabbit, deer, bison, boar and caribou, are among the most traditional dishes.
Lately, our greenback dollar is at par with the Canadian loonie, so a trip to Quebec may have to wait. In the meantime, Montreal bagels — slightly smaller and sweeter in taste than their New York counterpart — are available at the Black Seed shop on Elizabeth Street. I promise you’ll be comforted, and might even develop a sudden interest in hockey…or at least hockey players, eh?
Video produced by Thomas Peisel