Loaded fries, or poutine, are the new potato trend in foodservice, and consumers can’t get enough of the Canadian comfort food.
“We’re seeing a real resurgence of poutine. It has been very popular,” said Kendra Mills, marketing director, Prince Edward Island Potato Board, Charlottetown.
“It’s a French Canadian thing, originating in Quebec. And it’s really taken off as a comfort food item. Canadian Chef Chuck Hughes won an Iron Chef battle against Bobby Flay a couple years ago with a lobster poutine dish,” Mills said.
Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle, said the trend is seeing new interpretations, with the basic ingredients (fries, cheese and gravy) the only constants.
“In L.A., we’ve seen it combined with more Korean-style shredded pork. In the South, we’ve seen it done with chicken-based gravy,” he said.
In the U.S., poutine is often called loaded fries, and is popular with street food vendors and food trucks, but is becoming more popular at restaurants, Odiorne said.
Similar to a loaded baked potato, often served with sliced or shredded meat and cheese, poutine moves fries from a side dish to front and center as an entree.
Jamie Bowen, marketing manager for the Idaho Potato Board, says the trend for loaded fries is interesting because of the parallel demand for healthy recipes.
“If you’re at home, there are over 500 recipes on the website (http://recipes.idahopotato.com) of healthy potato options, but when you go out, and want to treat yourself, you have the loaded fry option,” she said.
“By loading everything together, it’s a little more upscale and restaurants can charge a little more for that,” Odiorne said.
Odiorne also promotes the use of Idaho potatoes for fresh-cut fries, noting the brand on menus.
“If a chain is using Idaho potatoes, it is important to have them call out this information to their customers, their competitors, and even their own employees to show that they care about the quality of their ingredients and have chosen to source exclusively from one state,” he said.
Another dish seeing a spike in popularity is hash. The Original Pancake House has added corned beef hash to its menu, which features freshly ground Idaho potatoes.