Mixed Fries

Mixed Fries

I grew up in curd country, in a far-off Shangri-la of saturated fat known as Wisconsin, where it is unremarkable to casually munch cheese curds out of a bag, like popcorn, and where a pile of them battered and deep-fried is a perfectly acceptable side dish. The first time I encountered poutine — which Acadian Mainers tend to call “mixed fries” or “fry mix” — was in Quebec, where I read the menu as a throwing of a gauntlet: we see your Wisco curd habits, monsieur, and we raise you rich brown gravy and a huge pile of fries.

I am no connoisseur of the dish, but because my upbringing instilled a certain laissez-faire attitude towards heart disease, I probably order more of it at restaurants than your average diner (for the table, you understand). I’ve been known to detour 40 or 50 miles out of my way to visit an Auburn sports bar or an Aroostook diner rumored to have the goods. And while the truck-stop variety — swapping out curds for stringy, commodity mozzarella, sometimes not even melted — is dismayingly common here, Maine’s bench of mouthwatering mixed fries is deeper than an industrial pasteurizing vat.

They’re legendary at Two Rivers Lunch in Allagash, piled high next to a burger. They’re damn near ubiquitous around Portland, where chef Rob Evans’s version at Duckfat, with Belgian fries and duck gravy, arguably set the standard in 2005, and where Blue Rooster subs tots and adds pork belly. I’ve literally stood in line for a plate of duck-confit poutine at the Black Birch in Kittery, where curds are melted to a sauce-like consistency and meat is piled on top like a savory little toque. In fact, I’ll throw down a gauntlet of my own: for quality, if not ubiquity, Maine’s poutine scene can go pied à pied with our northwestern neighbors. — BRIAN KEVIN

Brian Kevin is Down East‘s editor in chief.

Mixed Fries

I grew up in curd country, in a far-off Shangri-la of saturated fat known as Wisconsin, where it is unremarkable to casually munch cheese curds out of a bag, like popcorn, and where a pile of them battered and deep-fried is a perfectly acceptable side dish. The first time I encountered poutine — which Acadian Mainers tend to call “mixed fries” or “fry mix” — was in Quebec, where I read the menu as a throwing of a gauntlet: we see your Wisco curd habits, monsieur, and we raise you rich brown gravy and a huge pile of fries.

I am no connoisseur of the dish, but because my upbringing instilled a certain laissez-faire attitude towards heart disease, I probably order more of it at restaurants than your average diner (for the table, you understand). I’ve been known to detour 40 or 50 miles out of my way to visit an Auburn sports bar or an Aroostook diner rumored to have the goods. And while the truck-stop variety — swapping out curds for stringy, commodity mozzarella, sometimes not even melted — is dismayingly common here, Maine’s bench of mouthwatering mixed fries is deeper than an industrial pasteurizing vat.

They’re legendary at Two Rivers Lunch in Allagash, piled high next to a burger. They’re damn near ubiquitous around Portland, where chef Rob Evans’s version at Duckfat, with Belgian fries and duck gravy, arguably set the standard in 2005, and where Blue Rooster subs tots and adds pork belly. I’ve literally stood in line for a plate of duck-confit poutine at the Black Birch in Kittery, where curds are melted to a sauce-like consistency and meat is piled on top like a savory little toque. In fact, I’ll throw down a gauntlet of my own: for quality, if not ubiquity, Maine’s poutine scene can go pied à pied with our northwestern neighbors. — BRIAN KEVIN

Brian Kevin is Down East‘s editor in chief.

Mixed Fries