It was the best of ideas, it was the worst of ideas, it was a day of wisdom, it was a day of foolishness. This is how my epic tale of poutine consumption begins. Because how else would you describe a person's decision to eat, in under an hour mind you, two generous servings of a dish consisting of gravy-soaked french fries and squeaky chunks of cheese curd? Which isn't to say I regretted it. I've always tended to agree with Oscar Wilde's philosophy on life: "Everything in moderation, including moderation."
Late last year, Tourism New Brunswick, an office of the provincial government, invited me to spend a few days in Moncton, Saint John, and the capital of Fredericton, also known as the City of Stately Elms. By the time I turned up at Greater Moncton International Airport, warm weather had already gone south for the winter, and the nightly news forecast small amounts of snow for the duration of my visit. So, realizing that I'd be spending more time indoors than out, I prepared to experience New Brunswick with knife and fork in hand. And from my first meal to my last, I wasn't the least bit disappointed.
At Tide & Boar Gastropub, Chef Michel Savoie served a charcuterie board with house-made pate, smoked salmon, boar sausage, smoked beef brisket, Bay of Fundy scallops, and my first taste of dulse, a red seaweed common to the cuisine of the Maritimes. Plus, after sharing a bottle of Unibroue's Grande Reserve 17 with Chef Savoie and owner Chad Steeves, I can confidently say that this Belgian-style dark ale has the ability to make a memorable meal even better. Next, Chef Jesse Vergen at Saint John Ale House dazzled my senses with a tasting menu that began with enormous oysters on the half shell and finished with a fried pumpkin pie pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. Moosehead Cask Ale was my beer of choice that evening.
On my last afternoon in New Brunswick however, I spontaneously decided to double down on dining out. When I arrived for lunch at The Blue Door in Fredericton, my plan was to simply order a selection of local cheeses, a small plate served with crostini, candied walnuts, and an assortment of fruit. Healthy enough, I thought. But somehow, midway through my meal, a second dish appeared: an upscale interpretation of a Canadian classic. Substituting potato dumplings for french fries, Chef Shane Bauer topped his take on poutine with duck confit and microgreens. It was gone in a matter of minutes.
I didn't stop there though. Less than an hour later, I found myself standing in front of the cash register at Smoke's Poutinerie on York Street, staring up at a menu featuring more than 24 varieties of the popular late night snack. Apparently there are people who, when 3:00am on a Friday night rolls around, can't decide between a heart-stopping sandwich and a half-pound box of smothered fries. This is how I imagine the Philly Cheesesteak Poutine came to be. My instinct told me to choose the Rainbow, an arterty-clogging creation covered with guacamole, Sriracha, sour cream, and cheese sauce, but when it came time to place my order, I went with the Triple Pork—Italian sausage, double-smoked bacon, and chipotle pulled pork. I didn't make it to the bottom of my cardboard box, but that night I swear I got a far, far better rest than I have ever known.