Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.

This Month's "Well Said!"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

Ferran Andria

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The search for the perfect poutine.

Poutine may be the perfect food, and now I have found the perfect poutine. 

Poutine with Oscars sausage gravy
 and Maplebrook Farm cheese curds.
No one knows exactly when this North Country dish drifted south across the border from Quebec. Perhaps we can thank the colonial era fur trappers for this adopted local favorite. Poutine is truck driver hearty and diner simple.  It is as much a member of northern tier staples as the michigan, and is often consumed as a complement to that upcountry hot dog variant. If New York was a swing state, both presidential candidates would go out of their way to be filmed at South Pattsburgh's Clare and Carl's roadside stand, dressed in their finest flannel eating dripping mouthfuls of poutine, washing it down with cans of Genny cream.   

As plain and straight forward as a dish could be, poutine has not been immune to the nouvelle variations of modern gastronomy.  This pub and greasy spoon staple has been treated to toppings of everything from shredded lobster to rabbit. My favorite - until yesterday - was the dish created at Anthony Bourdain's favorite Montreal house of pork -  Pied de Cochon, where poutine is served topped with a slab of seared fois gras (and if I recall correctly, a side of Lipitor). 
Yesterday I tasted a dish that trumped that hands down. Now I appreciate that many purists are already grimacing at the thought of messing with what could be considered perfection. Why do we need still another variant of this heavenly blend of all three major food groups (french fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy). I'll tell you why. There was one missing component, and I didn't realize this until dinner last night at barVino Wine Bar and Restaurant in North Creek.
The story really begins in Warrensburg, at Rachel Ray's favorite smokehouse, Oscar's.  Oscar's does a great job with a number of items - smoked catfish for one - but I suspect that their number one selling item is their breakfast sausage, sold loose in small white and blue "chub" packages. You can often find this item in the refrigerated section of many North Country delis and general stores, to the left of the  Oscar's bacon (plain or maple) and just above the Oscar's horseradish / cheddar cheese spread. Amateur North Country home cooks like us try to impress our weekend guests with the local products like Oscar's sausage, serving it with our best scrambled eggs. Real chefs go one better. 
Luke Bowers runs the kitchen at barVino. Regular readers will recall that I am a big fan of Chef Bowers' talents, not only for his culinary proficiency but for his creativity. As a case in point I offer yesterday's discovery, one of Luke's creations, and one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. 
Words cannot do justice to this dish, which starts with some of the best french fries this side of Montreal - thin cut shoe string potatoes, cooked to a perfect golden crisp exterior with a luscious moist center, sprinkled with a good course sea salt. These frites are also available as a stand alone dish ($5) served with a basil and white anchovy aioli, and a North Country fin has never been sacrificed for a worthier cause. Until now. Then you would miss the best part, wouldn't you?  For this poutine he tops the frites with slightly melted cheese curds from Maplebrook Farm. (I have written about Maplebrook's wonderful burrata mozzarella in prior posts).  In a traditional poutine, a ladle of brown gravy is blended with the curds. In Luke's dish the kitchen substitutes a classic white sausage gravy, made with a simple roux and Oscar's breakfast sausage, and the savory result is nothing short of spectacular. An Adirondack classic is born.  
So there you have it. Drive immediately to North Creek, saddle up at the bar with a glass of Dogfish Head IPA 120 and prepare to be amazed. 

If you do stop in please let other readers know about your visit in the comments section.

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Ideas? Recommendations? Email me at NorthCountryJoe@gmail.com

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