MADAWASKA, Maine — There is apparently nothing that can’t be improved by combining it with fried potatoes, cheese curds and gravy.

Just ask Samantha Berry, executive chef at The Inn of Acadia’s Voyageur Lounge, where her unique twists on the traditional Quebecois poutine are ramping up the gooey combo to gourmet status.

“Poutine is the ultimate comfort food,” Berry said. “That is what we base our ideas on. Anything that is rich, comforting or savory can be put on it.”

Like an expert sommelier pairing wines and foods, Berry and Voyageur Lounge sous chef Andrew Malencia have created more than 30 different options offered as rotating poutines of the week.

Customer favorites, according to Berry, include the breakfast poutine with sausage gravy, curd cheese, crumbled bacon and fries; chicken pot pie poutine; seafood Newburg poutine; chicken alfredo poutine; and cheeseburger poutine.

And those fries? Large, wonderful steak-cut potato or sweet potatoes lurk under the curds and gravy.

At the Voyageur Lounge, an order of Berry’s poutine — whether appetizer or full size — often is a meal unto itself.

Last week Berry offered up beef stew poutine with chunks of tender beef, carrots, peas and a rich gravy poured over fresh cheese curds and steak fries.

Berry has been refining and re-tooling her Voyageur menu ever since the restaurant opened on the Inn of Acadia’s third floor nearly two years ago, when owner Jonathan Roy converted the former convent into the northern Maine boutique hotel.

Each room has unique, locally produced artwork, furniture and accessories highlighting the area’s lumber, potato, paper and forest industries and history. Prices range from $79 to $149 per night, depending on the season.

“It’s important to me to keep things as local as possible, whether it’s the food or furnishings or decorations,” Roy said at the time. “That is part of my goal. There is a lot of talent on both sides of the border, and there are many opportunities for collaborations.”

These days Berry’s menu selections range from St. John Valley standbys, such as baked stuffed haddock, grilled steak and French onion soup, to the more atypical offerings such as Asian nachos featuring seared ahi tuna on crispy won tons or the cheese and truffle sacchetti stuffed with four different types of cheese and black truffles.

This last year Berry has also started “theme nights,” with menus tailored for a Great Gatsby Night, a pirate night and most recently a romantic Valentine’s Day evening out.

On some weekends there is live music featuring local bands and soloists, and Berry said customers often come for a night of great food, music and company and will book a room for the night at the inn.

And, lest anyone forget, there is always the poutine.

“Everyone loves french fries and finger foods,” Berry said. “So you put that together with their favorite comfort food, and you get a masterpiece.”

The Inn of Acadia and Voyageur Lounge is located at 384 Thomas St. in Madawaska. Complete information on prices, menu options and reservations can be found at or by calling 207-728-3402.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.