Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub (Poutine Crawl) – St. Paul, MN

A bunch of roller derby people in the Twin Cities got the bright idea to do a Poutine Crawl. Not a one-night event, but basically go around the area trying every variety of poutine available. I stumbled across this group on facebook during its planning stages and half thought, “It’s too good to be true.” Alas, it WAS true!

The group set their first meeting date at Tom Reid’s Hockey Bar in St. Paul. Poutine originated in Montreal and if there’s one thing Canadian’s know (I’m not saying there IS one thing they know), it’s poutine. Doing some sort of metric math conversion, you’ll end up with Canadian hockey players love poutine. Tom Reid’s should have the best, right?

If you don’t know what poutine is, it’s simple (pronounced POO-Teen). French fries (probably called frittes in Montreal), cheese curds, and gravy. Sounds interesting, you have to admit. I’ve been a long time poutine lover and have found a few of my favorite in the area already. But if some cool people want to go and check them ALL out, then I can get on board with that. It’s brilliant!

There were eleven of us at this first gathering. The waitress cracked up when we all ordered poutine (and a LOT of adult beverages - we found out they have 2-for-1's the night we went!). We chatted a bit about which places were on the list and it turns out there are quite a few. Citypages had recently published a poutine guide in the twin cities, so we would start there.

Enough talk. Our poutine arrived. Most of them – Tom Reid wasn’t really expecting this many orders of poutine, so they came out in two shifts. Hilarious.

Here’s my take. The fries were better than average for a bar, so no complaints there. Nothing seasoned about them, or anything, just simple and good fries. The cheese curds weren’t deep fried, just straight up, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that’s the traditional way. However, the cheese was melted into pools underneath the fries and wasn’t very “curd-like”, and was not the most stand-out cheese. It got lost in the mix visually, and flavor-wise. Finally, the gravy – a beef-ish gravy – was a little bit bland for most of us. Could have used some jazzing up with salt, pepper, and maybe some sri racha (I don’t think hockey bars believe in this mythical rooster sauce). Apparently, when people heated their left overs up the next day and doctored the gravy up a bit, it helped. There was also a considerable amount of parsley shrapnel on the top of the whole pile. It didn’t add anything, unless by seeing green on top, you can pretend it’s a healthy hillock of food... (In which case, kudos to you, Tom Reid!)

I will also point out that it’s a pile of potatoes, basically. Which means it fills you up extremely quickly. So, mad props go out to Killsbury Doughboy for finishing his entire plate.

The rest of the group didn’t even come close, coughcough A-Wow coughough…

(D.Rough and I split a plate between us and it was the perfect amount. No point in OVER-clogging your veins this early in the crawl!)

Despite the fact that none of us were particularly enamored with this first run of the Poutine Crawl, we all decided poutine is a bit like pizza. Even bad poutine is still relatively delicious. I don’t think anyone complained during this thing, but we all know we’ve got some life-altering poutine still on the list! Looking forward to this year-long poutine crawl!!

It’s difficult to do a Top 5 list for one item, so I’ll forego this for the poutine crawl posts. I hope you understand.

Here are a few comments from the group:

Sam: Well that was a pretty good start. I'm excited for the next round! My take on Tom Reid's Poutine: The fries were excellent. Golden brown, light and fluffy inside, just lightly crispy outside. The curds were ok, but not fantastic, and were too melty to truly recognize as curds. The gravy was bland, referred to by one attendee as "too close to KFC." Overall: Good bar food, but we can do better.

Jessie: I agree. This was a good starting point. And I can relive the experience with the poutine that's still left in my fridge. I look forward to next time at Rye Delicatessen.

Pete: One of the indicators of a real cheese curd is it squeaks when you bite into it, hence why it's sometimes referred to as "squeaky cheese". Either the cheese at Tom Reid's was too melted to discern its curdiness, or they don't use actual cheese curds (probably the latter as real cheese curds can be expensive). The fries were very good, but I feel there's better poutine possibilities out there.

Elise: I believe only fresh curds squeak and I think once you heat them up you'll lose all squeakiness fresh or not. Jessie, be sure to report on the re-heating success of the left overs, that's always a good thing to know!

Doug: The great thing about poutine is you can`t really miss. Tom Reid`s was good but there is better on the horizon. The bad thing about poutine is the mini-strokes you have after eating too much of it. Also, it made me take a giant poo this morning. 2 flushes!!

A-Wow: It held up relatively well to reheating, and the addition of some garlic and pepper did improve the flavor. But I agree that we will find much better poutine in the future. The chest pains are already subsiding...


Stuart B said...

It's "Citypages"...and I've only had Burger Jones poutine, which was fantastic, but now I want to branch out!

Lexinatrix said...

I'm married to a Canadian, and he insists that the fried cheese curd variety of poutine is an abomination. According to him, the whole point of pouring molten-lava-hot gravy on fries is to form melty-cheese on them. He's declared Tom Reid's the One True Poutine in the Twin Cities, so I look forward to seeing your thoughts on the other spots you visit. Oh and tell Killsbury Doughboy he should be proud!