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Column: Poutine is a treasure

Whenever I visit my hometown in Wyoming, my first stop is always Grub’s Drive-In.

From the first time I had a “Shamrock” cheeseburger, I was hooked, and it is one of my all-time favorite things to eat. On my last visit to Rock Springs, I was horrified that the local landmark had shut down. I was also dismayed that nobody from home bothered to tell me about this, but maybe it was because they knew it would not go well.

Shortly before Christmas, I heard the fantastic news that one of my former classmates who worked at the restaurant while we were in junior high, high school, and beyond, decided to purchase the business and return it to its original glory, which I’m sure she will.

Along with the “Shamrock,” my go-to each time at Grub’s was their double-fried French fries with a side of brown gravy. Hands down the best fries I’ve ever eaten, and the gravy is the ‘nectar of the Gods’. It’s just that good. I darn near flunked junior year math because I had so many tardies back to school late from lunch after eating at Grub’s, but I didn’t care. The juice was well worth the squeeze.

I was far from the only one of my classmates who seemed to enjoy fries and gravy. Whether it was a trip to Grub’s or the Sand’s Café, it was always a logical dish after a sports practice or some possible misbehaving out in the hills. I can even remember my mom talking about going to the New Grand Café in our hometown in high school to get fries with a side of gravy.

The first time I was watching a food show on television and saw poutine it quickly grabbed my attention. I had not thought about my old, trusted friend of French fries with gravy in quite some time, and to see cheese curds added to the mix made me want to jump for joy at this culinary masterpiece.

Whenever I would eat while on a trip out of town, I would always scout for poutine on the menu but never found it. In fact, it was not until I moved to Montana nearly a decade ago that I tried it for the first time. It was well worth the wait.

While I owned the newspaper in Whitehall, I decided to visit Three Forks for the first time. After some time driving around town, Melissa and I decided to grab something to eat at the Sac Bar.

As soon as I saw poutine on the menu, I knew exactly what I would get. Melissa was just as excited. What made it even better was they gave us the option of adding shaved prime rib and fresh jalapenos to the dish. Prime rib and jalapenos are two of my favorite things, so I jumped at the opportunity.

As soon as the server brought out the food, it was quiet for about five minutes as we both devoured our mountain of joy. The cheese curds worked perfectly with the homemade fries and scratch gravy. The prime rib and jalapenos were icing on the cake. This is an absolute destination dish, and I’ve been back to have it many times.

A few weeks ago, when the weather was well below zero, I was craving poutine. But driving to the Sac Bar was a bad idea, so I decided to make an impromptu version at home.

Based on the size of my belly, you might think I use the fryer at home a lot, but it is rare. It intimidates me to have hot oil on the countertop.

I knew the fries would take some time, so I used a package gravy mix. Had I been more ambitious, I would have made scratch gravy, but I was hungry, and doing the French fries was already a pain. I cooked them at about 325 for seven minutes and then a second cook at 400 for about five or six minutes, and they turned out perfect. They were not quite Grub’s, but pretty darn close.

I was pleasantly surprised to find cheese curds at the store quickly. On a side note, the fried cheese curds at the Iron Horse in Three Forks is another destination dish. Those things are freaking amazing. Back to the story, since I was on a poor person’s budget, I grabbed some deli roast beef instead of prime rib and jalapenos to finish the dish.

While it certainly was not as good as the Sac Bar, it was tasty and a great meal on a cold night.

As much as I liked it, I will save this dish for the professionals and a trip to the Sac.