Chefs Choice: James Tetreault of BeaverTails 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - QUEBEC BECKONS James Tetreault of BeaverTails shows off a box of poutine at his Whistler Mountain Mid-Station location.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • QUEBEC BECKONS James Tetreault of BeaverTails shows off a box of poutine at his Whistler Mountain Mid-Station location.

At BeaverTails, demand for the titular treat is unlikely to subside any time soon.

But another stereotypically Canadian delight is gnawing into the pastry's dominance.

Owner James Tetreault, who with partner Yvette Zhang owns the BeaverTails stand at Whistler Mountain's Mid-Station, as well as a food trailer preparing for its second winter in the Coca-Cola Tube Park on Blackcomb Mountain, said poutine is steadily becoming one of his most popular menu items.

While the mobile unit is stationed on Blackcomb Mountain in the winter, it hits the road in the summer. Tetreault keeps locations and times updated on the Street Food App, which is available through Apple's App Store or through Google Play.

During the warm months, the trailer can be found everywhere from the Canada Day celebrations at Canada Place, the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival and the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival in New Westminster. Most come for the poutine.

"In summer, it's booked from May until September every single weekend," Tetreault, who is originally from Toronto, said. "We were Twittered — the longest line in food truck (festival) history. We had 126 people in line at a food truck show with 80 trucks. It's the biggest food truck show ever in Canadian history. I felt so bad for the customers since they had to wait, but they did. They get to the window and they're still happy."

Tetreault explained at the food truck festival there were five staff working their tails off to make the day go smoothly. He has staff for the truck from the Vancouver area, but for huge events like Canada Day, brings in some battle-tested ringers from the Whistler store to help lead the charge.

"They're seasoned. A lot of my staff here return every year. I've got some staff that has returned all three years I've owned this store," he said.

With customers and staff alike returning regularly, Tetreault theorized though some skiers and boarders will make the trip from Blackcomb to Whistler for the kiosk's all-American hot dog, it it's the French-Canadian allure that helps it happen.

The dish begins with a base of non-coated Cavendish Farms french fries from Prince Edward Island. From frozen, the fries get blanched before being immersed in canola oil in the deep fryer to order. When they're golden brown, they receive a dash of not just salt, but Hy's seasoning salt.

"I just find that this adds a better flavour to the fry than just plain old white salt," Tetreault reasoned.

With about half the fries nestled in the tray, in goes the first layer of Fromagerie Lemaire cheese curds, direct from Quebec. The reason? When those noshing down are at the point where they're just starting to think about where to take their poutine coma, the last bite can still be just as cheesy as the first.

"So many poutines out there, they don't use a real cheese curd. Some of them use mozzarella," Tetreault explained with a slight bristle. "We use Lemaire. It squeaks when you eat it, and that's the key."

When the two layers of fries and cheese are set, on goes the Berthelet gravy to help the melting process along. A couple shakes of "addictive" seasoning pepper completes the process.

"It just adds a little character to the gravy," he said. "Because of that, I buy this all the time."

That gravy, by the way, is not made of meat byproducts, but is made from a powder base of dehydrated vegetables like onion, garlic, tomato and beet. With a fair portion of the winter athletes minimizing or eliminating meat consumption, many are excited to learn they can enjoy a poutine without compromise.

"It just happens to be vegetarian gravy. You'd never know it," he said. "It's a positive. Most customers never ask, and if they ask, I tell them it's vegetarian gravy. They're like 'Wow, really?' and they get excited.

"It's a good thing it's vegetarian, because I gain customers."

Berthelet gravy mix is available for purchase at select grocery stores. Tetreault noted he has seen packets at Loblaws, in particular.

And, like many establishments these days, Tetreault is putting his own twist on the classic snack — a poutine with German sausage, initially a special offer for the Vancouver Christmas Market, will make its way up the mountain this winter.

"It's a German Christmas market, so I went and got permission from BeaverTails," he said. "I bought German sausage from a German deli in Vancouver. It went over well and I kept it in the trailer."

Poutine

Ingredients

2 medium-sized russet potatoes (roughly 12 oz.)

1 packet of Berthelet poutine sauce

Authentic Quebec cheese curds

Hy's seasoning salt

Seasoning pepper

Preparation

Chop potatoes into fries, roughly 1 cm thick. Blanch potatoes for 60 to 90 seconds. Cook potatoes in deep fryer or in fry pan until golden brown and cooked through. Season fries with seasoning salt to taste.

Prepare poutine sauce.

Put half the fries in a bowl or other deep receptacle. Add cheese curds. Add the rest of the fries and more cheese curds on top. Pour poutine sauce on top. Add seasoning pepper to taste.

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