Celebrate poutine week! Burn calories later.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashamd/ Some rights reserved.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashamd/ Some rights reserved.

Not sure how I missed it earlier, but hey! February 1-7 is Poutine Week in Canada!

OK, this is just the start of an unofficial culinary celebration. But organizers are hoping it takes off and one day, perhaps, Canada will honor this national favorite by making February 1st National Poutine Day.

For now, festivities are being held in four cities: Quebec City, Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto. As reported by the Huffington Post Canada:

Over 100 restaurants across the country will be creating their own version of poutine for $10 or less, while through a voting process, Canadians will get the chance to choose their favourites.

"It can be argued that it's our national dish, so why keep it all in Quebec? That's not fair. This one week is dedicated to our favourite comfort food — we can burn the calories later," says La Poutine Week co-founder Na'eem Adam.

For those who are not familiar, poutine is traditionally made with cheese curds, fries and gravy, and is one of the country's most iconic dishes, made popular in Quebec as a post-drinking indulgence.

Of course one need not dine out to enjoy poutine, cheese curds or cheese in general. That's all easily done in the home kitchen too.

Speaking of the regional love affair with cheese curds, it was just about a year ago when St. Albert, Ontario mourned after the town's old-but-thriving cheese factory burned to the ground on Superbowl Sunday, February 3, 2013.

St-Albert co-op was established in 1894 and remained the small town's largest employer as well as the main buyer for many local dairies.

This CBC update (with video) shows how far re-building efforts have come. A new 76,000 square-foot factory – 1/3rd bigger than the old one – is nearly complete. If everything stays on schedule, it should begin production this spring.

"We're really anxious to start the first vat of cheese. We just can't wait," said Eric Lafontaine, general manager of the St. Albert Cheese Co-operative.

"We're really, really proud of what we accomplished in one year. We know there's still a lot to do in a couple of months, but we started from nothing. … It's team work. Everybody put a lot of energy in it, we accomplished so much, and we're really, really proud."

A renovated store and a new restaurant are also part of the plan, both should be open in St. Albert this summer.

Of course, not everyone swoons for poutine, or cheese curds. But Poutine Week hoopla also serves as an example of creative ways to promote and market food.

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