Unless it's maple syrup, it's unlikely many Americans could identify an example of truly Canadian cuisine. But it seems one national dish, a belly-busting concoction born in La Belle province, is creating a buzz south of the border.
Poutine - a mixture of French fries, cheese curds and hot gravy - is making it onto menus alongside typical American fare like cheeseburgers and chili dogs.
Thierry Pepin, an actor and model who moved to New York from his native Quebec six years ago, opened a restaurant last summer dedicated to the hearty dish. T-Poutine (the T is for Thierry) is located in the Lower East Side, close to bars and the club scene, and offers 12 different variations of the item on its menu.
"It's great, but it's not easy," says Pepin of the reaction to the calorie-laden creation, often described as a "heart attack on a plate."
"A lot of Americans haven't heard about it, are skeptical about it. But the ones that come to the restaurant open-minded, they want to try it. For the most part, they all love it."
The rib-sticking dish is believed to have originated in rural Quebec in the 1950s, and several communities lay claim as its birthplace. One such tale involves Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Que., who was asked by a customer to add cheese curds to an order of fries and deemed it "une maudite poutine (roughly translated as "an unholy mess"). The addition of gravy came later.
Pepin says many of his customers are New Yorkers who attended McGill University in Montreal and got hooked on poutine. Canadians living in the Big Apple are also regulars, he says.
Now, it seems, poutine is going mainstream. T-Poutine and Pepin were recently featured on ABC News, which took a lighthearted look - replete with Mounties and lots of frozen tundra - at the invasion of this most Canadian of foods into the heart of its southern neighbour.
Poutine is also a big hit in south Florida, where the Grenier family has been serving the dressed-up french fries at their Dairy Belle ice cream parlour/fast-food outlet in Dania Beach for the last decade.
Francois Grenier, who runs the outdoor restaurant with his parents and sister, says most of their customers during the winter are Canadian snowbirds, many of them from Quebec.
"During the season, with the Canadians down here, we go through about 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of cheese a week," says Grenier, explaining that the restaurant has that all-important poutine ingredient shipped from a farm in Wisconsin.
"They're the real thing - real cheddar white curd cheese."
Americans' reaction to their first sight of poutine is mixed, to say the least, concedes Grenier, who moved with his family to the Sunshine State from Victoriaville, Que., in 1992.
"By the window when you order there's a big picture of poutine ... And there are people who will just look at it and they're like, 'What is this?' And they'll tell you it sounds disgusting or it sounds great."
Those with more adventurous palates who try poutine either "totally love it or they totally hate it," says Grenier. "But we have expanded our clientele with that. A lot of Americans now have come to it. A lot of Hispanics are eating it, because the Hispanic culture loves cheese and they love it."
Poutine aficionado Ronna Mogelon of Dunvegan, Ont., sampled the Dairy Belle's offering last year on a trip to Florida and pronounced it "fabulous."
The artist, who grew up in Montreal, began penning a blog called the Poutine Chronicles, asking North American followers to send in their favourite spots for the sinfully rich dish.
"There's something about poutine that just sort of calls your name," says Mogelon, whose quest for the ultimate poutine draws her inexorably to roadside chip stands.
"I thought it was a summer dish because it's sort of fun to sit outside and have a poutine. But there's something also I unfortunately discovered - that when it's cold out and you go for a poutine, it's almost like your grandmother rubbing your tummy or something. It's warm. It's all cosy and melty cheesy."
"It's like oatmeal with a bit of tooth."
That poutine is considered a supreme comfort food - and reputedly an antidote for a night of heavy imbibing - is a fact not lost on Lee Seinfeld, owner of the Dive Bar in New York's Upper West Side.
"I put it on my menu because my son went up to Canada eight years ago (on a school trip) and he came back raving about it. And he's a kid that was just such a fussy eater."
"He just fell in love with it, so he convinced me to try getting it," says Seinfeld, who has had some trouble finding a reliable supply of cheese curds.
And how did his customers react to this foreign food?
"Well, you know, it's funny, the Canadians or people who have had it before seem to get it," he says. "But sometimes Americans - the cheese is cold and you pour the hot gravy on the cheese, so they wonder why the cheese is not melted. So sometimes they're a little bit confused."
"When they try it, they usually come back and have it again. I sell a lot of cheese curd, a lot of poutine."
Pepin of T-Poutine hopes the dish could one day be as popular with Americans as Mom and apple pie. He's thinking of opening other T-Poutines and perhaps franchising.
"There are still a lot of places in New York City I think I could open ... I would like to open a couple more, in Brooklyn and around. Places like Vegas would do really well or anywhere in the South. People love cheese. And it's something new."