Pub food is meant to be a hearty complement to a night of drinking — fried, full of cheese, drenched in buffalo sauce, dunked in marinara. We often look for simplicity in bar foods — salty or spicy treats provide the strength needed for a night of hoisting pints.
This is a fact not lost on Backcounty Pizza & Taphouse, where classic pub treats abound. With a well-rounded list of drafts that takes up two full pages in their drink menu, a few snacks are highly recommended, lest you find yourself inebriated a little too quickly after a round of 10.5 ABV imperial stouts. This is one of Boulder’s largest beer bars (if not the largest), with nearly 70 domestic and international beers on tap, and more than 300 bottled beers, according to the beer-centric website FermentedlyChallenged.com.
Among the traditional fare — mozzarella sticks, jalapeño poppers, onion rings and spinach and artichoke dip — is a standout that can’t be ignored: duck ham poutine.
Poutine combines the best characteristics of pub food, with a foundation of crispy French fries topped with soft cheese curds and mildly tangy gravy. Add cured duck, and suddenly this provincial Canadian dish has an upscale feel.
But it’s still French fries drenched in gravy and cheese, so there’s no need to put on your coat and tails.
Much like pub food, a pub itself is a complement to a night of drinking. You want to feel comfortable at a pub. You want to be able to talk to your friends or play a game of pool or maybe some pinball. Backcountry is that pub — no frills, no gimmicks, just good beer and straightforward good food.
Which brings us back to the duck ham poutine, and its delightful simplicity.
Poutine comes in endless varities: Italian poutine with Bolognese sauce; poutine Dulton with ground beef and onions; doner poutine, with — surprise! — doner meat; poutine galvaude with shredded turkey and green peas. There’s breakfast poutine, with bacon, sausage and maple syrup. There’s cheesy lobster poutine, jerk chicken poutine, sweet potato poutine and foie gras poutine. Really, this stuff is meant for creativity.
But to get the thing right, you’ve gotta have squeaky cheese with a mild tanginess, and a thick, brown gravy. The gravy is typically made with beef stock, so that means browning or roasting beef or veal bones then adding aromatic herbs, onions, carrots and celery and simmering for a few hours. To get the gravy a little tangy, you can add a dash of vinegar, but just a touch.
Which brings us to the fries, the heart and soul of poutine. You’ve gotta keep them crunchy even after the gravy has been poured on. Some folks say that rinsing freshly cut spuds before frying them makes them crispier.
Adding duck ham adds just the right saltiness to the dish and a pleasant chewiness that is denser than the cheese curds.
Poutine is, without question, a perfect pub food. Paired with the laid-back attitude and free-flowing beer at Backcountry, it makes for a fine night of relaxation.
Backcountry Pizza & Taphouse. 2319 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-449-4285.