The last couple years, I’ve been lucky enough to score tickets to the Poutine Crawl. Both times, it was a highlight of Poutine Week, which is clearly my favourite of all the food themed weeks in the city. For seven days, the sale of each creative poutine provides a meal to someone in need. Eating poutine & supporting Mealshare, how can you go wrong? If you haven’t gone out yet, you still have one more day to get down to one of the participating restaurants & grab one of their delicious contributions to this cause.
Due to my unwavering commitment to stuffing my face with cheese curds, gravy, & fries, I scored an invite to the Gravy Bowl Battle this year. Seven Calgary Stampeders were paired with seven chefs to battle for the title of best poutine. (Shout out to Karen for thinking of me! She’s the awesome lady behind this week!)
N happened to be home last weekend, so I brought him along as my date. It was a gorgeous day, so we decided to head down a little early & grab a beer on the sunny Local 510 patio before heading over to Anju for the main event. Can I just take a moment to say that I love how many patio beers I’ve had so far this year?
Anju was already hopping when we arrived. We were immediately told to join everyone mingling by grabbing a drink & that Village was on the house (Thanks Anju & Village!). They’d provided many of their standbys, as well as the new (to me, at least) Village Squeeze. I can definitely see myself ordering this beer as I’m sitting on a patio this summer. It’s light & a little bit fruity without being overbearing. Totally perfect for those hot summer days.
After a few words from our poutine week creator & from Mealshare, the competition began. Teams prepared their poutines two by two, presenting to the judges in Anju’s fabulous open kitchen, followed by the rest of us at the back, by the bar (& the drinks…). As the poutines started coming out I had a tough time deciding between grabbing a photo of each creation & digging right in. I managed to get a photo of each (although some are a little blurry), & luckily there seemed to be enough poutine to go around so I didn’t miss a bite.
First up was quarterback Drew Tate & Blanco Cantina‘s Matt Davidson with their Blanco Poutine Burrito. It was shaved skirt steak, cheese curds, spicy Mexican gravy, & house cut fries. I really had no idea what to expect with this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s so different (a burrito? what?!) while being so familiar. Does that make any sense?
They were matched against defensive back Adam Thibault & Wurst‘s Rudy Schmid. The Smoking Duck Poutine is a longtime personal favourite & it did not fail to disappoint once again. Schmid tops ducks fat fries with cheese curds, green peas, speck gravy, truffle oil, & duck confit. This was N’s favourite poutine of the day. He’s a true duck lover. The minute he took a bite, he said, well, that’s it.
Next we had Briggs Kitchen & Bar & Market. Running back Tim St Pierre was paired with Xavier Lacaze to create Newf’s Poutine, which had chunks of lobster & lobster cream sauce. The fries held up well to the rich & creamy sauce & well, what can I say about lobster. Can you really go wrong here? I think this might be cheating, but I have no real complaints.
Sean MacDonald of Market and running back Rob Cote we very creative with the Carbonera Poutine. I had the honour of breaking the sous vide eggs over this one. It also featured black pepper bechamel, peas, pancetta, curds, pea tendrils, & parmesan. I really liked this contribution as well, but I found myself still thinking about Wurst’s poutine. Truffle oil always lingers on my palate a bit, so I think it would have been better to have it last.
I was starting to feel the effects of four poutines at this point, but we ordered a couple more drinks & prepared for the next pairing.
Anju‘s Roy Oh & offensive lineman Quinn Smith were up with Poutine for your Seoul. Now, we all know how I feel about Roy & his restaurant, but unless we’ve hung out, you may not know about my love of tater tots. Roy’s creation combined curds, carrots, green onion, & an incredible Korean curry with tater tots. It was a match made in heaven, if you ask me. I loved this untraditional take on an old favourite & the flavours were incredible, as to be expected with all of Roy’s food. (Who’s surprised that I loved Anju’s poutine? No one!)
Their competitors were running back Charlie Power & chef Mel LaFleur of The Unicorn. They created a tacotine with a crispy flour tortilla shell, tater tots, cheese curds, cheese sauce, chili, pico de gallo, cream fresh, cilantro, & scallions. This one had a lot going on. I definitely enjoyed it, but I kept commenting that I couldn’t find the poutine (it was a little buried). The chili was fantastic though, so I know where I’m going next time I have my next chili craving!
At this point, I thought we were done. I’d told myself there were six poutines for some reason. But then this last poutine arrived on its tree stump plate & I’m glad we still had a great spot at the bar. The Oxtail Poutine was brought to us by kicker Rene Parades and Brasserie‘s Cam Dobranski. They took their amazing duck fat fries & smothered them in a red wine duck gravy and chanterelle emulsion. I loved it & only wished I wasn’t so full. I’d definitely recommend checking out any of their food. Brasserie consistently has some of the best food, but seems to pass under the radar too often! Get your butt down to Kensington & try their poutines. You won’t regret it.
With all these delicious poutines, the judges had a tough decision. They deliberated for a while before announcing the winner: Briggs Kitchen & Bar’s Newf’s Poutine! (I mean, lobster.) Congrats to all the participants though. You’re all winners in my book! (D’awwww).
We lingered for a while longer, chatting about the poutines & grabbing a few more photos. I even worked up the nerve to ask Roy for a photo. It made my day to officially meet him. You know how people get really excited when they see a celebrity? I get like that about chefs.
We ended up spending the rest of our evening in the glorious sun on Anju’s patio, ordering dinner & drinks with friends until it got too chilly to stay outside. It was a fantastic day! I think the Gravy Bowl was a great success & I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for next year. Thank you to everyone who made this a possibility & congrats to Karen on an incredibly successful event.
I hope you’ve had the opportunity to get out & try some of these poutines. Personally, I’ve decided it’s ok that my pants fit snugger this week since it’s for a good cause!