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It's a long way from its roots in 1950s Victoriaville to a glam hotel ballroom, but poutine is the latest must-have addition to the stylish wedding reception. So how does the messy mix of French fries, gravy and cheese curds ("poutine" loosely translates into "mess") transform itself into a suitable snack for women in gowns and guys in tuxes?

Gourmet poutine reduces the drip factor by scaling down portions and serving them in short martini glasses or tumblers. Simple to make at home, gourmet poutine also ups the taste factor by using specialty cheeses or substituting sweet potatoes for the fries.

My favourites include braised beef poutine, with traditional frites, beef gravy, melted Swiss cheese and tiny morsels of braised beef. I also do pear poutine with matchstick fries, poached pear (cut in cubes) and melted aged cheddar (you can substitute plums). And I like sweet potato poutine (the fries are made the same as regular French fries) topped with grated parmesan cheese and a lamb gravy.

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Although you can use frozen fries, I recommend fresh, especially since you can buy blanched matchstick frites at specialty shops. Just about any combination of savoury seasonings will work, as long as it complements the gravy. So sea salt and herbs de Provence are great - pesto not so much.

Assembling is a snap: Fill your choice of vessel with fries (because your gravy will be warm, you can even pre-fill the glasses), add meat or fruit and the cheese and top with warm gravy to finish.

Et voilà.

Sebastien Centner is the director of Eatertainment Special Events in Toronto (www.eatertainment.com).

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