You know what makes a poutine even better? When you don’t have to share it. Among the half dozen selections on Foster Poutine’s new menu (pdf), I was happy to just get the original, no frills poutine with fries, curds and gravy.
When I was a child, I remember my grandparents eating gross-looking gray potato blobs they called “putsins.” My grandfather was from Maine and spoke French. I have heard a rumor that every American who shares my unusual last name was a descendant of one guy and his four horny sons. Judging that both of my paternal grandparents had over a dozen siblings each, I tend to think the rumor is true.
These “putsins” they ate were an Acadian delicacy also known as poutine râpée. They are a combination of grated and mashed potatoes with chopped salt pork in the center, which are boiled for two and a half to three hours. Yum. I mean, yuck. I guess they are served with either ketchup or with maple syrup.
As I googled around to refresh this dim childhood memory, I was stunned, STUNNED, I say, at all the people who seemed to know about this dish. And there were plenty of recipes. We were actually able to talk to my grandparents over the summer about how to make putsins (as they pronounced it) and despite the grossed out memories of my childhood, we endeavored to have a go at making our own poutine râpée.
Not that long ago, we learned we had a cholesterol problem. I am using the Queen’s version of “we,” meaning, *I* have a cholesterol problem. But it’s quite likely that Dave may have a cholesterol problem also, since we eat pretty much the same thing. And he is also the man that dreamed up portlandpoutine.com. So if there was ever a case to use the royal “we,” this is it.
Part of my heritage is French Canadian, and it just seemed wrong that something like cholesterol could impede my ability to celebrate the food of my ancestors. Those brave French men and women who landed on the shores of New Brunswick after their long journey across the Atlantic, and warmed their hand around the, um, deep fryer.
There’s nothing we like more than a food related challenge, and we endeavored to discover if there was some way we could make poutine less bad for us. We knew there had to be a way.
I know I have a good chance of getting a free dinner if I mention going to a restaurant that serves poutine. I recently had such a night, where the thought of going home and actually cooking food just seemed dreadful and unbearable. I mentioned Lincoln, where they have poutine on the happy hour menu. Dave needed no further coercing.
I always marvel at at sleek, hyper engineered new restaurants in overwhelmingly giant spaces. I always wonder who has the money to create these ventures. Someone has a vision. But I wonder how they pay the rent.
Everything we put in our mouths at Lincoln was well executed and tasty. The menu is downright dainty. We started with fried fennel fritters with a Meyer lemon sauce. And of course, we ordered poutine, which came with a lamb gravy. We had never seen lamb gravy on poutine before. I normally don’t order lamb if given the choice, so we were curious how this was going to taste.
Oh my. I’m pretty sure this photos doesn’t make it look delicious. But it was. Oh, how it was. There was a lot of ultra-tender bites of meat, with hearty, well bodied, and dare I say soulful gravy. The curds appeared to be cheddar and the fries were up to snuff. It was a delight. The kind of dish you regret having to share. The kind of dish where you wish you could go back in time, to alert your past self to ditch the boyfriend for a night and take yourself out to dinner so you don’t have fend off the poutine with your fork.
We squeegeed up the last bit of gravy with the last bit of our fries. Ultimately, it is better to share such a dish so that you have equal chances clogging your arteries. We continued to nosh, he on a panzanella salad and I on a spaghetti squash gratin. I have lately come to enjoy spaghetti squash quite a lot, and historically have never refused anything made into a gratin. The combination seemed like it might have been virtuous. But it was not. It was utterly decadent. It was heavy and rich and wonderful.
In total, not the healthiest meal I’ve ever had. As the waiter cleared our plates, I joked that I would next order a stick of butter. Instead, (yes, we kept going), we had a slice of orange cake and a “44 Cordial.” This was a house made liquor, starting with rum, and orange and coffee beans. The orange is slit 44 times, and 44 coffee beans inserted into the slits. Then it is left to infuse for 44 days. We liked it. It was sweet, but not sickly. It was citrus, but it was warm and buttery from the coffee beans. We resolved to try making it ourselves. We will let you know in 44 days.
In all, Lincoln had a hip atmosphere, suitable for a date, and interesting, well-crafted food that was a pleasure to eat. And that poutine [Update: happy hour menu only]. Wow. Perhaps our favorite so far in Portland. We will be back.
3808 N Williams No. 127
Portland, Oregon 97227
There has been no arm twisting to find reasons to visit local restaurants serving poutine. It merely takes being “in the neighborhood.” Oh, we’re in SE Portland? There’s a restaurant serving poutine just a mile away? A couple streets over? Well, we should go. We’re in the neighborhood.
Look at that orange cheese! We had never seen cheese curds at Trader Joe’s before. And when I tossed them into the shopping cart, it made a certain Portland Boy very happy. We already had a seemingly bottomless supply of poutine gravy packets at home. We have used them for other dishes and they are actually quite tasty. And for the potatoes, we used a Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) recipe for “lighter” oven fries. But be ye not mislead. There was nothing light about any of this. It is unbelievably not light at all.