Montreal, Chapter 1: Poutine on the Ritz

I went to Montreal for the first time last weekend for a screening of Surrogate Valentine and a small coffeehouse gig at the Pop Montreal festival.  The five day music/film festival sprawled across 58 venues with about 450 artists, including big names like  Arcade Fire, Stephen Malkmus, and Kid Koala. I flew in from New York, which was merely a 52 minute flight… pretty painless other than waiting through customs lines and lack of sleep after a whiskey party at my host’s abode before the 4am trip to the airport… but that is a tale for another time.

Let’s talk about Poutine.  Say it with me:  Cheese Curds, Gravy, Fries.

I was in Montreal for three days, and somehow I ended up eating it every day.  I tried not to, but it just sorta happened.  How I managed to survive, I don’t know.

Poutine #1:

My hosts in Montreal picked me up from the airport, and after a croissant and a 2 hour nap, took me out to get lunch. We sat down at this Poutine place called Banquis, and I thought we’d share a plate, but it was every man for himself.  Believe it or not, this is the smallest sized order.  I struggled to eat half of it.  You can’t really see the cheese curds, but they are there.  Chillin’…under the gravy…and fries… and onions… and mushrooms, bacon, peppers, and more fries and gravy.  This thing weighed as much as a child.  Homeboy across from me ate his whole plate- it was the same size sans fixin’s.


I’ve had it before, about 6 years ago in Toronto, but according to my hosts it’s not the same there.  Montreal-eans get all protective about their poutine.  To be honest, I forgot what it tasted like- but I felt like these cheese curds were more firm and chewy.  It was pretty good, but the portion and thought of eating that much alone kind of turned me off.  That’s a lot of heart attack right there.  I vowed not to eat any more cheese on this trip.

In the middle of eating this, I got a call from Kid Koala, who Eric Nakamura put me in touch with since he’s based in Montreal.  He was amused, and perhaps slightly worried that I was eating Poutine so early in the day.

“that stuff’s for late night, after drinking…”

He invited us to come by his studio, which was a mindblowing experience, but I’ll save that for another post.

Kid Koala in his natural habitat.

Poutine #2:

So on night #2 I saw a show, had some drinks with some awesome Montreal people, and it just sort of happened…

Poutine #2

I know the image looks pretty unappetizing, but this was better than the first place.  Maybe it was the whiskey, or the fact that 2 other people were helping me so I didn’t feel like such a beast.  The cheese was even chewier.  The gravy, graver.  Serious stuff. Again, I vowed… no more poutine on this trip.

Poutine #3:  Koala Style

Kid Koala approved

What do you say when one of the greatest scratch DJ’s says to you “let’s go eat some potatoes?”

You’re damn right, you say “AWWW YEEEAAAAHHH!”

So Koala took me and the brilliant animator/videomaker Monkmus to his favorite place- which does a baked poutine.  This was, by far, the best.  The gravy had a cinnamony spice to it, perfect consistency.  The fries were not soggy, I think the baking helped with that.  The cheese was melted gooey goodness, but still chewy.  I’m no food writer, but this was the best french fry/potato/cheese dish I’ve ever had.

I want to live in there.I want to live in there.


Stay tuned for Montreal, Chapter 2: Mutant Racoons!