This seasonal “shack à patates” an hour east of Montreal lies off the highway to Quebec City in backwoods Saint-Liboire. I’ve taken the Saint-Liboire exit many times over the years, since that’s where you can find the cheapest gasoline between Montreal and Quebec. But it’s worth driving beyond the gas station to the town itself. After some 5km through cornfields, you will arrive at an undiscovered gem: Cantine Dave & Dan.
Category Archives: Centre-du-Quebec
A few months back, I took a drive along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence river between Quebec City and Trois-Rivières. Once you’ve made it past the burbs, things get scenic. The town centre of Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly has a beautiful church, a charming creperie, and upscale shops. The next town, Saint-Croix, is not as quaint but it’s still nice. There’s still hope that this trip will be interesting. But it slowly turns to shit. Every subsequent town gets progressively uglier. By the time you’re in Saint-Pierre-les-Becquets, you can’t wait to get on the highway.
Casse-Croûte Le Relais Enr. looked as uninspiring as everything else in town, but it is often these uninspiring stops that have the best poutine. Moreover, the parking lot was full.
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.
Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville is one of the two places in Quebec that claims to have invented poutine. Although people had been combining cheese curds and fries as early as 1957, Jucep’s founder Jean-Paul Roy says he was the first to add gravy to the mix and call it poutine in 1964.
When asked where the name came from, Roy says many grandmothers used the English word “pudding” to refer to any kind of mix. In Québec French, this came to be pronounced “poutine.” Since Roy’s cook was nicknamed Ti-Pout, the staff used to joke around that “Ti-Pout is making poutine,” which eventually led them to enshrine the name in their menu. These claims are still hotly debated within the region, but it hasn’t stopped Jucep from parking www.linventeurdelapoutine.com as a domain name, not to mention plastering the claim all over their restaurant. Read more about Roy’s claim here.
Last week I took a trip through Quebec’s poutine heartland, the Bois Francs region. This is where poutine was invented back in the 1950s. Unfortunately, it is also one of the uglier regions of Quebec. Think flat farmland, strip malls, 1960s bungalows, and asbestos mining. But it also has lots of fromageries. Not the kind that make artisanal award-winning raw milk cheese that stink up your house – you’ll have to go to more scenic regions of Quebec for that. I’m talking about industrial dairy factories that produce squeaky poutine cheese and soft-serve ice cream for the local population. But don’t let that turn you off. This squeaky cheese is outstanding. It pales in comparison to anything you’ll find in Montreal or even Quebec City, chunks the size of Texas that squeal in your mouth with every bite.
Fromagerie Victoria, in Victoriaville, was recommended to me by a local. It’s an institution around these parts. The parking lot was packed with people when we got there in the evening, mostly young families off for a Sunday-night sundae. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed but we soon discovered that we could still get a poutine at the drive-thru. What a blessing!