Brigitte Tremblay of La Poutine told us that she loves working with other local businesses because of their character. “When you deal with a local supplier you’re not dealing with a business,” she said, “you’re dealing with people. And people have passion for their business.” What that means for her is that, whether she’s calling Heather at Legion 149 to order perogies, the Maltese Grocery to order meat or DeBruin’s Greenhouses for seasonal vegetables, she knows her suppliers will talk to her like a real person, not an account number. They’ll be eager to learn what she’s planning to do with their products and they’ll share their expertise, make helpful suggestions and tell others about what she’s up to. In a town like Thunder Bay, where the Two-Degree Rule rules, this kind of relationship is priceless: it connects you to the community.
Montreal-born Brigitte came to northwestern Ontario in the early 2000s and, drawing on her fine-food culinary training, quickly established herself among fans at the Red Rock arena, the Red Rock drive-in and eventually the Nipigon drive-in, where the infamous Champ burgerwas born in 2006. After almost a decade of delighting area tourists and locals alike, she set her sights on Thunder Bay. There were lots of reasons for the move including a bigger customer base, our large community of francophones, and a more sophisticated food scene, but the one closest to Brigitte’s heart was the availability of locally-produced ingredients, starting with the Breukelman potatoes that have formed the base of most of her dishes since she first opened here in 2016.
Traditional poutine, if you’re not familiar, is a dish made popular in Montreal. It consists of French fries sprinkled liberally with cheese curds and covered with hot poutine sauce, which is similar to gravy. For most of us, the options for that recipe have meant “cheese curds that melt” or “cheese curds that don’t.” For Brigitte, set loose in a community boasting local farmers, local makers and local retailers of fine ingredients, the options are endless. You can actually see her eyes sparkle as she rhymes off some of the goodies she’s found to use in her creations: Heartbeat Hot Sauce, Chino’s bottled Italian sauces and Pasta Shoppe pastas regularly show up on her menu and in her “limited time only” creations. Recently we spotted DeBruin’s cucumbers in her Dill Pickle Poutine. She’s even got The Cheese Encounter regularly supplying her with foie gras (which she boasts is even better than her own) for her Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Poutine.
Located as it is on St. Paul Street in downtown Port Arthur, La Poutine is a frequent stop for visitors to the city and serves as a delicious gateway for foodies looking to explore our city’s character by tasting it. After all, what do you do after eating fantastic pulled pork cooked in local Sleeping Giant beer but make the brewery your next stop?
Brigitte and her tightly-knit staff team marked La Poutine’s 2-year anniversary on October 1st, and are planning on launching a new menu sometime this fall to celebrate. We can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with next! Get a taste of Thunder Bay character at 16 St. Paul Street or visit them on Facebook for mouth-watering photos and more information.