Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been telling myself I should try some of the big-chain corporate poutines out there. Unfortunately, life is too short to waste your time at places like McDonald’s, and I don’t want to shorten it even more by actually eating there. Last week, on a ride between Quebec City and Montreal, the driver stopped at one of those soulless chain store truck stops by the side of the highway to grab a coffee at Tim Horton’s. I was stranded and hungry. If there’s one thing I dislike more than McDonald’s, it’s Tim Horton’s (and their attempt to reduce our national identities to overly sweet coffee and terrible donuts), so here was my chance. Upon entering McDonald’s for the first time in twenty years, I was shocked to find that poutine was no longer on the menu. Luckily, it turns out the displayed menu has no relation to what the restaurant actually sells. I got my complimentary smile, grabbed my take-out bag, and ran out to eat my McPoutine.
Fries: You either like McDonald’s fries or you don’t. Although they’re made of dehydrated potatoes and lots of chemicals, I secretly like them. They have a nice crisp, and they’re usually properly seasoned with salt beforehand (actually a mix of sodium aluminosilicate, potassium iodide, and dextrose). They’re a bit airy and lacking girth for poutine, and their crisp doesn’t stand up well to the onslaught of hot sauce. Health is obviously not at the top of my list of concerns when eating poutine, but I am nevertheless worried about any food product that contains polydimethylsiloxane, a type of silicone, along with a dozen other multisyllabic ingredients that are supposedly safe for human consumption. 20/30
Gravy: A thin gravy that tastes like amped-up chicken bouillon, which is not as bad as it sounds. This gravy won’t win any awards for complexity, richness or originality, but it’s actually tastier than many powdered or canned beef gravies out there. A former employee told me they use a gravy powder that is whipped up “fresh” every day. The online ingredient list confirms that natural and artificial chicken flavours are indeed the dominant ingredients along with mustard, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder and a host of frighteningly un-natural sounding multisyllabic chemical products (titanium dioxide, disodium guanylate, potassium chloride, etc. etc.). The gravy doesn’t overshadow the other ingredients yet it isn’t too weak, either. The salt on the fries probably helps raise its flavour profile. 35/50
Cheese: Measly little crumbs. They don’t have that same-day fresh squeak, but they’re served at room temperature and there’s a decent enough quantity. A former employee told me that some McDonald’s keep them on the counter for extra squeak while others put them in the fridge. 12/20
Verdict: I had low expectations and this was better than I thought, but still a sub-par poutine that does not really taste like actual food.
Price: Affordable at $4.59, but it’s more of a side dish than a SUPERSIZED OBESITY-INDUCING EPIC MEAL.
Location: McDonald’s, (too) many locations.