Don’t sweat the small cheese curds going missing; your poutine is not in peril.
Although a fire Feb. 3 destroyed the famed St. Albert Cheese factory, the sudden shortage of the salty, squeaky base ingredient from the Eastern Ontario source won’t mean Gatineau Hills restaurants will be dropping the traditional Quebecois dish from their menus.
“Next week is going to be rough,” said Nancy Gagne, manager of Jean Burger, who had just read the story about the fire in the newspaper when the Low Down called. “After that, we’ll be OK.”
Gagne said the Rte 105 restaurant has enough curds in stock for at least a week while the St. Albert Cheese Co-operative shifts demand to its Mirabel, Que. location.
She said Jean Burger employees will refrain from snacking on cheese, and customers should not notice anything missing from the traditional gravy, fries and curds dish.
Gagne said Jean Burger has been using St. Albert’s cheese curds for the entire 35 years the restaurant has been in business.
Marc Letang, who operates the Depanneur M&R restaurant on Old Chelsea Road, said business will be tough with a St. Albert’s shortage, but it will not impact on his famous steak poutine.
“We’ve been eating their cheese curds for too long,” added Sarah Swan, co-owner of the Village House, which serves lamb poutine. She said they would likely resort to Glengarry Cheesemaking, which is a small Lancaster, Ont.-based cheese company, but would switch back to St. Albert’s once it’s back in operation.
Chelsea Pub acting manager Mark Gorman said the restaurant would resort to cheese from Montebello, if it runs out of St. Albert’s, a top seller from the cheese business that was founded in Eastern Ontario in 1894.
At press time, the cause of fire was unknown. But, according to the Ottawa Citizen, the blaze melted $4 million worth of cheese. No one was injured, but 120 people are suddenly without work.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for the upcoming Low Down feature on diverse, unique poutines in the Gatineau Hills.