Spring is in the air, Ottawa! And…that means “The Great Canadian Fork Off” is on!
With the city basking in warmer temperatures [Hopefully we’ll get a break from the rain!], Sparks Street is gearing up for a second edition of Poutine Fest, starting Thursday, April 24th (tomorrow!) and running until Sunday, April 27th.
Launched in November 2013, Poutine Fest was an instant hit with young and old alike. A three-day festival (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), organizers hoped Ottawa would respond with the same enthusiasm it has shown for their now biannual Chicken and Rib Fest. With long line-ups during lunch hour on opening day, Kevin Hale, Programming and Events Coordinator of Sparks Street, exclaimed they already received more attendees than opening day of Rib Fest. However, Hale could not have predicted the sheer number of people, including young families, flocking to Sparks Street that Friday evening or throughout the following weekend. Blessed with mild temperatures and sunshine, Ottawa was unable to resist the lure of freshly fried fries, melted cheese, and hot gravy.
With 14 on-street vendors (called “street stars”) and 6 restaurants spread over three city blocks, Poutine Fest included local favourites like Vanier’s Snack Shack [Who can resist their famous garlic gravy? Who?] and Toronto-originating Smoke’s Poutinerie. Brick and mortar restaurants that make up Sparks Street Mall, like the Parliament Pub, dished up their takes on the Quebec classic. Two vendors traveled to Ottawa to participate in the inaugural event, Twisted Tomato from Hamilton and Le Smoking BBQ from Montreal. In fact, Le Smoking BBQ contacted organizers to participate. Thinking they had brought enough food for three days and with extra hired staff in transit, Le Smoking BBQ was such a hit with festival-goers they completely sold out by 8pm on opening day.
Don and I couldn’t resist checking out the action.
Better still, as one of Poutine Fest’s judges, I had the good fortune of sampling all the traditional and exotic offerings from each vendor. I can honestly say, it was the tastiest task I have ever been assigned.
Hale acted as host and coordinator, receiving samples delivered to the judges’ tent. He enumerated each and placed bowl after bowl of poutine in front of the panel for scoring.
Here are some of the more delicious and unusual exotic offerings:
Admission is free, meaning you only pay for the poutine. But, if you’re looking to try multiple poutine, a “Poutine Pass” is your best bet. For $25, you will be issued five tickets; each ticket is good for one 8 oz poutine sample at any participating vendor. Poutine Passes are still available for purchase at the Sparks Street BIA at 35 O’Connor Street, Suite 300 (behind former Yesterday’s Restaurant). They will also be available at the Poutine Fest Central Tent during the event.
If this isn’t enough to convince you to come to Sparks Street, check out the scenes below from opening evening. Although it was suppose to end at 8pm, line ups continued well into the night with vendors happily serving eager attendees.
I’ll be sitting on the judging panel again, so come drop by and say hello on Friday!
Ottawa, are you ready to get your curd on again?
Where: Sparks Street Mall
Cost: Free Admission or Poutine Pass ($25)
When: April 24 – 26: 11am to 9pm, April 27: 11am to 8pm
Tags: featured, poutine, Poutine Fest, poutinerie, sparks, Sparks Street