April 4, 2020

Winnipeg
-4° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

An ode to curds

La Poutine Week ooey gooey good

Every cheese begins life as a curd, but only select batches of cheese curds will end the journey sprinkled atop french fries and smothered in gravy.

La Poutine Week returns to Winnipeg on Saturday. Bothwell Cheese has been making extra cheese curds to prepare for the uptick in demand. More than a dozen of the 66 participating restaurants have listed Bothwell cheese curds as a key ingredient in their gooey creations.

Fries, pan-seared pork, baby shrimp, boiled egg, crispy pork rinds, cheese curds, green onions and topped with Palabok shrimp gravy at Cho Ichi.

Fries, pan-seared pork, baby shrimp, boiled egg, crispy pork rinds, cheese curds, green onions and topped with Palabok shrimp gravy at Cho Ichi.

"We do notice the increase in sales," says Lynne Foy, brand manager for Bothwell Cheese. "We’ll alert our operation staff that it’s Poutine Week... we want to make sure we can do an extra production of cheese curds leading up to the festival."

Sumptuous dishes make you want to clean your plate

Here is a sample of some of the 60-plus poutines available at restaurants in Winnipeg during La Poutine Week this year. You can find a full list at lapoutineweek.com.

Rise & Shine Poutine

Marion Street Eatery, 393b Marion St., $13

Fries, Bothwell cheese curds, Jack Daniel’s gravy, maple-smoked baked beans, sausage and bacon crumble, sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes topped with a a sunny-side egg.

Sunny D House Mac & Cheese

Leopold’s Tavern Academy, 414 Academy Rd., $17.75

Hand-cut fries, peppercorn chicken gravy, waffles, Sunny Delight hot honey fried chicken with macaroni and cheese.

La Tourtière à la Poutine

Nob Bar at St. Norbert Hotel, 3540 Pembina Hwy., $12.95

A mini meat pie, wedge fries and beef gravy infused with Little Brown Jug beer, topped with Saputo cheese curds and green onions.

The Drunken Pig at the Oakwood Bistro

The Drunken Pig at the Oakwood Bistro

Drunken Pig

Oakwood Bistro, 660 Osborne St., $16

Pulled pork slow-cooked in Winnipeg’s Stone Angel Brewery’s Onkel Georg red ale winter radler, mixed with a Crown Royal barbecue sauce over hand-cut fries topped with cheese curds, gravy and spicy crispy fried onions and an Onkel Georg reduction.

The Wellington

Le Garage Café, 166 Provencher Blvd., $16

Shoestring fries with red wine-braised beef, horseradish aioli drizzle, cheese curds, sautéed mushrooms, crispy fried onions, and a puff pastry twist, finished with house gravy.

Kobalap Fries

Cho Ichi, 1151 Pembina Hwy., $13.50

Fries, pan-seared pork, baby shrimp, boiled egg, crispy pork rinds, cheese curds, green onions and topped with Palabok shrimp gravy.

Clementine's vegetarian option, A Poutine for McCartney.

Clementine's vegetarian option, A Poutine for McCartney.

A Poutine for McCartney

Clementine, 123 Princess St., $9

A vegetarian poutine. House-made Kennebec fries, roast allium and porcini mushroom gravy, fried cheese curds, spicy pickled peppers, crispy capers, crispy celery root, crispy shallots and chives.

Beer Braised Jackfruit Poutine

Cocoabeans on Corydon, 774 Corydon Ave., $17

Beer-braised jackfruit, fresh-cut fries with Bothwell cheese curds, beer gravy and house-pickled vegetables. Gluten-free with a dairy-free and vegan option.

The production facility in New Bothwell has three vats of cheese going at a time. Milk is poured into the vats and stirred until it curdles. The resulting curds are either packaged into Bothwell’s cheddar cheese curd products or formed into a block and aged.

Fresh curds have become a delicacy for people who live near the town, located 45 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg,

"We’re a small town and everyone in the outskirts of New Bothwell will come to the cheese shop when they know it’s curd day and pick up some fresh cheese curds," Foy says. "If you get them fresh, they’re still a little bit warm and you get the extra squeak."

Cocoabeans is serving up beer-braised jackfruit, fresh-cut fries with Bothwell cheese curds, beer gravy and house-pickled vegetables. Gluten-free with a dairy-free and vegan option.</p></p>

Cocoabeans is serving up beer-braised jackfruit, fresh-cut fries with Bothwell cheese curds, beer gravy and house-pickled vegetables. Gluten-free with a dairy-free and vegan option.

While restaurants tend to get creative during La Poutine Week, which runs Feb. 1 to 7, cheese curds are a traditional ingredient because they don’t melt when doused with hot gravy.

"Cheese curds hold their shape because they have a higher moisture level... because it doesn’t have time to age, which removes that moisture from the cheese naturally," says Foy, adding she’s a poutine purist who enjoys her fries topped with beef gravy and extra curds.

The history of poutine dates back to rural Quebec in the 1950s, although there are several towns that lay claim to its invention. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia — a branch of Historica Canada — poutine originated when customers started adding cheese curds to their fries at either Café Ideal in Warwick, Que., or Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville, Que.

This is the third year Winnipeg restaurants have participated in La Poutine Week, which was created by the founders of Le Burger Week and debuted for the first time in Montreal in 2012.

The Wellington at Le Garage features shoestring fries with red wine-braised beef, horseradish aioli drizzle, cheese curds, sautéed mushrooms, crispy fried onions, and a puff pastry twist, topped with house gravy.

The Wellington at Le Garage features shoestring fries with red wine-braised beef, horseradish aioli drizzle, cheese curds, sautéed mushrooms, crispy fried onions, and a puff pastry twist, topped with house gravy.

Daniel Gurevich is La Poutine Week’s Winnipeg ambassador and says the food festival is gaining popularity.

"We’ve had more and more interest from the public and more people rallying around the event," Gurevich says. "Restaurants have stated that they get busier every year, so that’s good."

As new food festivals pop up nearly every year — Winnipeg’s second Fried Chicken Fest wrapped up last weekend, for example — Gurevich says there is a risk of oversaturating the market.

"Like any other event or product, I think people are going to try to take it to an extreme and then it’s naturally going to find its balance over the years," he says. "I think that we’re big enough that we can sustain festivals like this, but we’re small enough that there’s still some camaraderie between restaurants and participants."

Curds being made at Bothwell Cheese. (Steve Salnikowski / Chronic Creative)

Curds being made at Bothwell Cheese. (Steve Salnikowski / Chronic Creative)

Like Le Burger Week, the public is invited to cast a vote online for their favourite poutine at lapoutineweek.com. This year, $1 from every poutine sale will be donated to Agape Table, a charity that helps feed Winnipeg’s most vulnerable people.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Read full biography

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.