The annual James Beard Award nominees for Best Chef in the Northeast include three familiar Maine faces: Rob Evans of Hugo’s, in Portland, and Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows, in Ogunquit. All are repeat nominees.
Frankly, I think if the judges visited Evans’ other restaurant, Duckfat, and washed down a bowl of poutine with a “$5 dollar” shake, he’d win Best Chef in the Country. But these awards aren’t about order-at-the-counter places; they’re about the places few of us can afford to dine outside of an ultra-special occasion.
Evans is trying to change that at Hugo’s, though. When it reopens, he promises it to be more local friendly, with a la carte as well as set menu choices. Yay! And of course, Gaier and Frasier also operate MC (MarkClark, get it?) in Perkins Cove. That, too, is a tad pricey, but the view alone is worth it, and you can order from the bar menu in the dining room.
But about that poutine. I know, I know, what the heck is it? It is probably the least healthful thing you can eat–my arteries start to close down simply when I say the word, poutine (pron. poo-teen).
Classic poutine is simply French fries, smoothered with gravy and topped with cheese curd. Duckfat, of course, uses its fabulous fries, which are double-fried in duckfat and seasoned, then topped with homemade duck gravy and Silvery Moon Creamery cheese curd. Yes! Add a chocolate shake and I swear I can feel my heart constrict as my thighs expand.
Only poutine that may rival it–if only the fries were crispier and tastier–would be that at Stoneham Ski Area’s Feu Follet Restaurant in Quebec (about 20 minutes north of Quebec City), where the fries are topped not with gravy, but demi-glace; not cheese curd, but chevre; and, the piece de resistance: foie gras. Like I was able to go out and ski after devouring that.