The Maine Dish
Poutine saved me from hurricane sandy. Basically. Well, not really.
On Saturday, I did what any self-respecting Mainer would do: I flipped Hurricane Sandy the bird and stuck to my plan to visit New York City for the weekend. I figured the old adage, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” would apply. But I had spaced the whole “in Maine” part, so I was outside of the geographical boundaries of that (generally inaccurate) observation. I also made a mental note that the veracity of such statements shouldn’t be relied upon any time headlines like “Perfect Storm,” “(insert ominous observation here)…Since Record Keeping Began,” and “This Is the Worst Case Scenario” are thrown around.
This slow moving, angry wrath-wreaking, property and life-destroying chick, Sandy, ruined my trip. My flight already cancelled and every bus and train itinerary for the foreseeable future sold out, my only out was renting a shoebox and pointing it north before the storm hit. And I needed to go. Otherwise, my cushy 9th floor room at The Algonquin might end up being my high rent prison cell as the storm crushed the infrastructure of the city. But before I departed, I needed some comfort and some nourishment for the long journey ahead. So I did what any self-respecting French-Canadian Mainer would do: I ate poutine.
With the end of the world approaching, 1,400 calories worth of fat topped with fat chunks and fat sauce seemed like the thing to do. I’d certainly burn it off white knuckling the Cross Bronx Expressway with the mandatory evacuees…hundreds of thousands of resentful and frightened New York driver evacuees. Finding the ideal candidate was critical: it had to be topped with a thin gravy (this is critical to purists: no pasty flour-thickened gravy allowed) and huge chunks of young Cheddar cheese curds, just like Grandpa used to smuggle in from Canada during the war.
Now to hear my friend Nancy talk, you’d think that every time a bag of cheese curds crosses the border from Québec and lands in her refrigerator in Maine, a little angel gets its wings. Truth be told, she’s not that far off. But it’s not the flavor so much as the texture that makes this cheese ideal for poutine. Somehow, it manages to stay solid and be melty at the same time. Yeah, I said melty. This enables the cheese to cling to the fry without coating it, meaning you can taste the each component of the dish. And listen: if I’m going to eat 1,400 calories worth of anything, I better be able to identify why I’m enjoying the process of shortening my life and widening the girth of my thighs so much.
So dear readers, if you’re ever in New York and you’re jonesing for a fry mix fix, let me tell you what: Dive Bar‘s poutine is $6.00 of bona fide cheese curd heaven (Thanks to Brendan Spiegel’s The Daily Meal article, aptly titled, “New York City’s 6 Best Poutines” for vetting the candidates). It gave me exactly what I needed: a little taste of home and the will to leave that feather-topped hotel bed, leave Sandy in the dust, and head back to real life.
Pro tip: even if your mandatory evacuation (or impending hangover) occurs in the wee hours of the morning, they’re open until 4 am seven days a week.