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Judges assess entries in search for best poutine in St. John Valley

Seth Lagasse, one of five judges, digs into a Romeo Poutine at Roy’s Variety in St. Agatha during the Best Restaurant Poutine Contest. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

MADAWASKA, Maine — Directors with the St. John Valley Chamber of Commerce, along with a few members of the general public, participated in the quest to find the best poutine in the Valley on Friday.

Texture, flavor, uniqueness, and overall taste were the four criteria the judges used to assess the entries in the Best Restaurant Poutine Contest, being held in conjunction with the Acadian Festival.

Several area restaurants participated in the competition as an homage to the traditional Quebecois delicacy of french-fried potatoes covered in gravy and cheese curds. Among the entries were offerings from Morin’s Variety, Orchids, Tastee Freeze, Big Rick’s Burgers and Wings, Roy’s Variety, and Long Lake Sporting Club.

“We all have degrees in culinary — we watch cooking shows,” joked chamber director Brian Bouley, one of the judges. He was joined on the judging panel by chamber board members Brenda Forbes and Lois Muller, and by residents Cai Bouley and Seth Lagasse.

Forbes said she wanted to be on the judging panel because “it’s fun and unique. You get to meet a lot of people.”

Seth Lagasse, an active member of the community who serves on several boards in the Valley, said he was participating as a judge for one very important reason — “I’m training for the [poutine] eating contest.

The BBQ poutine at Long Lake Sporting Club features homemade BBQ sauce and some imported cheese blends. It is one of several entries in a Best Restaurant Poutine Contest being held in the St. John Valley in conjunction with the Acadian Festival. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

Lagasse quickly added, “I just really like poutine.”

The tour of participating restaurants began at 9 a.m. Friday morning and lasted until 12:30 p.m.. At each location, the judges were wowed with the presentation and creativity of the seemingly simple poutine.

“I like the creativity,” Cai Bouley said after the tasting on Friday. “A lot of people came out with a lot of creative dishes.”

Poutines like the Surf and Turf from Orchids, which featured filet mignon and lobster smothered in a bernaise sauce added a classy touch to the otherwise messy, greasy and tasty dish to which the Valley has grown accustomed.

Then, Tastee Freeze showed up to the party with their long list of fried, hearty, poutines crafted to never leave anyone hungry.

“It’s like a heart attack on a plate,” Cai Bouley said referring to the Cheese Stick Poutine from Tastee Freeze.

The S’Mores Poutine at Roy’s Variety in St. Agatha features a new twist on two classics: S’Mores and Poutine. It is one several entries in the Best Restaurant Poutine Contest. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

But the most different of all had to be the S’Mores Poutine from Roy’s Variety. Melted chocolate and marshmallows covered this mountain of fries that seemed to appeal to the judges.

The results of the competition won’t be known until Aug. 10, when the top three selections based on the four criteria will be announced. The judges also will select one entry as “Best Traditional.”

Winners will be announced during the 3rd Annual Poutine Palooza at Big Rick’s Burgers and Wings on Friday at 7:30 after the poutine eating contest.

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