What began in 2010 as a small poutine crawl has five years later morphed into a triumphant week long poutine party. For some of us, it’s better than Stampede. This year Calgary Poutine Week kicked off at Saturday’s Gravy Bowl where competing chefs teamed up with members of the Calgary Stampeders to create their dream poutines. If you know me at all, you know that those are two of my most favourite things right there: Football and Poutine. Though I must admit that it felt strange to me to be cheering on the boys in red when I’m a die-hard Saskatchewan Roughriders fan. We’ll just say that I did it for the love of poutine.
Seven heavyweight teams competed for the chance to win the 2016 Poutine Week Championship and man did these teams give it their all! Four referees from various fields of poutine expertise had their mouths full and work cut out for them while they deliberated on a winner.
The first two teams to throw down were Chef Matt Davidson (Blanco Cantina) with Stamps Quarterback, Drew Tate and Wurst Calgary Chef Rudy Schmid with Stampeders Defensive Back Adam Thibault. Now that my son plays DB for his midget team, we were secretly cheering on Adam and Rudy to take that cup home. They worked really well in the kitchen together and produced the mouthwatering Smoking Duck Poutine which included duck fat fries, cheese curds, green peas, speck gravy, truffle oil, topped with Duck confit.I thought Drew Tate would be a little more hands on with the Blanco Cantina Blanco Poutine Burrito (Shaved skirt steak, cheese curds, spicy Mexican gravy, house cut fries, coriander scented onions) but he seemed to let Chef Matt take care of the offensive play which he was tied up with a beer from Village Brewery. This is the only one that I didn’t get to try so I can’t comment on how good it was.As soon as the first poutines were out of the neutral zone, the next two teams were up and cooking. Chef Sean MacDonald (Market Calgary) and Rob Cote (Stampeders Running Back) were in it to win it. They took a page from the Market Calgary playbook and produced the most complicated (and most photogenic) poutine of the Gravy Bowl. Their Carbonara Poutine came with a black pepper bechamel, peas, pancetta, curds, pea tendrils, parmesan and sous vide eggs.
Chef Xavier Lacaze of Briggs Kitchen and Bar teamed up with Tim St. Pierre (Stampeders running back) to make a deceptively simple, yet oh so refined Newf’s Poutine, topper with chunks of lobster and lobster cream sauce. Roy threw the plates over the short pass, while Tim made the reception which became the winning touchdown right onto the judges table. Home field advantage went to Chef Roy Oh for his wonderfully spicey ‘Poutine for your Seoul’. This Korean curry tater tot poutine with classic curds, carrots, and green onion was my absolute favourite. Since I had brought my son along for this event, he learned quite early on to wait until the judges had finished their portions, then politely ask for their leftovers. He sampled all of the poutines, but this one ended up being his favourite as well.
Another tater tot based poutine came from the kitchens of The Unicorn Superpub. Their twist on a classic dish was the Tacotine with golden tater tots, Quebec cheese curds, house queso cheese sauce, AAA Alberta chilli, fresh pico de gallo, lime cream fresh, cilantro & scallions, all served inside a crispy flour tortilla shell. Charlie Power, another Stampeder running back with good hands in the kitchen, powered his way through the line to serve up this first down(ed) poutine.
Cam Dobranski (The Brasserie Kensington) and Rene Parades (Stampeders kicker) decided to go for the field goal on the last down with their Oxtail Poutine. Perfectly seasoned fries, rich red wine duck gravy, and unbelievable chanterelle emulsion…ah so good. They get bonus points for the appealing plating in my play book.Besides the fact that everyone went home with fulls stomachs and fun memories (I don’t think I’ll ever see so many chefs and Stampeders doing post-game shoju shots again!), the real winner is Mealshare. Mealshare is a non profit organiztion that pairs with restaurants in order to alleviate (or eliminate) hunger. For each mealshare item sold from a participating restaurant’s menu, one meal is donated to a youth in need. Poutine Week has been with Mealshare from the very beginning in 2013. With every poutine sold throughout the week, a meal is donated. Last year 5,000 poutines were sold in 7 days…quite an epic number of donations! With 2 days left, there’s still time to be enjoy a poutine (or two) and help out a great cause. For more information, check the Poutine Week website for poutine descriptions and participating restaurants.