The Franco-American Centre is bringing together Canadian food and American sports at New Hampshire PoutineFest, happening during the Fisher Cats home game on Sunday, June 26, in Manchester.
Eleven local restaurants will be serving up their versions of the Canadian speciality to hundreds of PoutineFest ticketholders.
“Poutine, if you don’t know what it is, is french fries, gravy and cheese curds,” event coordinator Tim Beaulieu said. “For Americans, you’ve probably had gravy on turkey or roast beef, and you’ve had french fries and cheese fries, but this is something different that pulls all those things together.”
Each attendee can get a 3-ounce sample from up to six of the 11 vendors, totaling a little over a pound of poutine. The vendors will stick to the basic poutine format, but there will be some variations, particularly with the gravies and what meats they’re derived from. The poutine will be prepared on the spot for each person.
“It can’t sit around for long,” Beaulieu said. “Once you combine the ingredients, they start to mush and it won’t taste as good.”
The vendors will also be competing for the title of “Best Poutine of the Fest” and the chance to raise the “Ceinture de Championnat,” a championship belt like the ones awarded in wrestling, during the second or third inning of the baseball game. The competition will be judged by experts on authentic poutine, including Marie-Claude Francoeur, the Québec delegate to New England; Shelley Walcott, WMUR news anchor and Montreal native; and WGIR personality and former Miss New Hampshire Samantha Russo.
The judges will take into consideration the poutines’ flavor, creativity, cohesion of ingredients and simply which poutine they liked the best.
“I think what’s most important is how the gravy tastes and that the cheese has what we call a ‘squeak’ to it,” Beaulieu said. “It can’t be soggy and mashed up. It has to be firm and have a little squeakiness when you bite into it.”
This is the Franco-American Centre’s first time hosting PoutineFest. Beaulieu said they’ve been brainstorming new events to shed light on New England’s Franco-American heritage and bring some of that culture back to the community.
The idea for a poutine event came from the results of a recent Google Trends analysis that showed that the Boston and Manchester areas have the second largest number of Google searches for poutine in the nation. Local restaurants have already been responding to the demand; all of the participating PoutineFest vendors will be featuring poutine that is a regular item on their menus.
“You wouldn’t think there’d be that many [local restaurants] that do poutine, but we’re just scratching the surface with these vendors,” Beaulieu said. “There’s a lot more that do it, too.”
The Fisher Cats will be selling poutine from their regular concessions as well, so fans who aren’t participating in PoutineFest can also enjoy the savory snack as they watch the game.
“In Montreal, it’s something people get at 2 in the morning after they’ve gone out to the bar,” Beaulieu said. “It’s great for when you’re having a couple beers and, instead of a burger or hot dog, you want to try something that’s a little different and unique.”