Cheese. Meat. Potatoes. Gravy. Maybe with a pickle or slaw on the side. Comfort food beyond compare, that’s poutine.
Small wonder poutine has become such an iconic dish, and no longer only in Québec where it originated in the 1950s. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed poutine in its many variants clear across Canada.
Our current favourite is the smoked-meat poutine served at SumiLicious at Steeles Avenue East and Middlefield Road in Scarborough, just a few minutes from home. Perfectly fried potatoes, Montreal-style smoked meat with all its juices, and fresh curds from Fromagerie St-Albert Co-op. The result is superlicious.
We always order the meat fatty so it literally melts in your mouth. When we’re not up for a poutine, we go for a smoked-meat sandwich piled high with deliciousness. Either way, we’re in heaven, even when eating in the car on account of COVID-19 restrictions on dining in.
Sumith “Sumi” Fernando learned his craft over 17 years of working at iconic Schwartz’s Deli in Montréal. When Sumi and his wife, Shalika De Fonseca, both Roman Catholics, immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka two decades ago, neither had ever encountered Jewish food before.
During his time at Schwartz’s, Sumi became obsessed with the spicy, wood-smoked, mile-high meat sandwiches that drew crowds at all hours of the day. “I would see people going crazy when they took that first bite, shaking their head [in awe],” Sumi explained in an interview in Saveur magazine. “I wanted to do something like that.”
So, how did two Catholics from Sri Lanka end up serving Jewish food in a predominantly Chinese neighbourhood in Toronto? They picked that corner of Scarborough, on the Markham border, because, during his years at Schwartz’s, Sumi noticed most customers from Great Toronto lived in Markham. Market research completed, they opened SumiLicious in May 2018—to rave reviews.
Sumi turns tough beef brisket über tender by marinating it in spices for 10 days, followed by smoking overnight. The meat is steamed just before it’s sliced by hand to order. As we said, the result is superlicious.
Our all-time favourite is the most decadent poutine served in Canada. At famed Au Pied de Cochon in Montréal, the poutine is topped with foie gras. Not only that, the crunchy fries are made with duck fat! The curds, when we last enjoyed the dish, came from La Fromagerie Champêtre. Chef Martin Picard—Who remembers him as Wild Chef on TV?—has served the foie gras poutine since 2001, helping to make Au Pied de Cochon a destination restaurant for foodies from around the world.
Just look at the slices of foie gras, the squeaky curds and the crunchy fries in the mouth-watering photograph by André-Olivier Lyra published in a feature on Montréal poutine in Nuvo magazine. Oh, to be back in Montréal right now!
During a visit to St. John’s, Newfoundland, we ate twice at Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips where we were delighted to learn the poutine is made with Bergy Bits Curds from Five Brothers Artisan Cheese and not some industrial operation on the mainland. Local and artisan always tastes better.
Cheese Ambassador David Beaudoin, our friend in cheese, hosted an informative webinar on poutine recently sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada, featuring three recipes you can try at home. Watch it now.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a poutine he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.