Story and photos by Michael Timmermans

Poutine is a legendary snack originating from Quebec made from French fries, cheese curds and beef gravy. Hundreds of different kinds of poutine with various ingredients have been created over the years, many of which were available to taste at Ottawa’s Poutine Fest.

The smell of french fry oil and gravy wafted above historic Sparks Street in Ottawa this past weekend.

The outdoor pedestrian mall was the site of Poutine Fest, dubbed the “Great Canadian Fork Off.” The free event ran from Nov. 15 to 17 and was the first of its kind held on the street.

History mixed with a legendary snack at Poutine Fest on Ottawa’s Sparks Street outdoor pedestrian mall Nov. 15 to 17. The free event was the first of its kind held on the city’s famous street.

Poutine is a classic dish from Quebec made by topping french fries with salty cheese curds and smothering them in thick beef gravy. The snack bar and diner favourite has grown to legendary status with hundreds of unique toppings mixed in over the years.

Long lines up for the french fry snack seemed the theme of the weekend. While not as many people hunted down poutine in the rain Nov. 17 as did on the previous unseasonably warm day, many line ups were still dozens long.

Seven Sparks Street restaurants, including Yesterday’s, Cock and Lion and Parliament Pub, and 17 street vendors, such as local pizza franchise Gabriel, Big D’s Dog House and Poutine Emporium, Vanier Snack Shack, Routine Poutine and burger joint The Works, all offered up their takes on the French-Canadian classic. Thai restaurant Green Papaya threw in an international flavour with Pad Thai poutine.

Contestants participated in a poutine eating contest on Nov. 16. The person who stuffed the most cheesy fries and gravy in their mouth walked away with tickets to an Ottawa Senators game.

Saturday’s sunny and unseasonably warm weather brought massive throngs of hundreds to the mall and long line-ups snaked for blocks. Some vendors seemed unprepared for the large crowds and started running out of supplies early.

The rain on Sunday didn’t dampen the spirit of Poutine Fest attendees. While the lines were smaller than the day before, hundreds still waited in the light drizzle for the legendary snack.

Smokes Poutinerie without doubt stood out the most among the festival’s 24 poutine vendors. Lumberjack-style plaid was the theme throughout and loud classic rock was blasted to the crowds waiting in the cold November rain.

While the festival’s website announced entertainment all weekend, none was evident and the lack of any was apparent.

Those who attended the festival on Saturday afternoon witnessed a poutine eating contest. Participants stuffed their faces with fries, curds and gravy for a chance at snagging Ottawa Senators tickets.

Poutine starts with potatoes. Lots of potatoes. Vendor Golden Fries tweeted: “One pig, a couple hundred onions, 1000s of potatoes, 400 lbs of St-Albert’s curds and SEVERAL hundred #lobsters later…#PoutineFest is over!” following the event.