Tuesday, August 04, 2015

A Moment of Silence



With great respect, I'd like to ask for a moment of silence for Bob Lucas, the owner of Donkey's Place in Camden, who passed away on Friday after a battle with lung cancer. In recent years, I have discovered and been blown away by the food, the fries, and by all rights, the best cheesesteak ever, at Donkey's. The Philadelphia area, and the world, has lost a legend.

Details about the man and his life can be found here, as well as my reviews here. Condolences go to the family, and we'll see you soon as always.

Friday, July 31, 2015

French Fry Diary 682: New York Reuben Potato Chips


Do Us A Flavor 2015 Taste Test #4 - New York Reuben flavored potato chips, submitted by Jeff Solensky:

I have to admit up front, that much like the Gyro, this catastrophically picky eater doesn't actually know what a Reuben is either. I know, I know, but that's what Google is for. According to the internet, a Reuben is a hot sandwich composed of corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on rye bread. It can also include mustard or Russian dressing.

Uh huh. None of that sounds good to this catastrophically picky eater, but The Bride was very excited to try this one, a New York Reuben being right up her alley. And again, the ingredients offer no help whatsoever - Reuben Seasoning tells me nothing. Aren't there laws that say they have to tell us exactly what's in stuff?

I was intrigued by this one myself, as this was the only flavor submitted by a restauranteur, and notably one whose place was a deli. When I opened the bag, my eyes almost watered, the smell was so strong and overwhelming. I was not going to enjoy this and I hadn't even taken a bite yet.

The Bride immediately smelled the sauerkraut and tasted the caraway seeds they put on rye bread. She liked them and said they definitely reminded her of a Reuben. She had more than a few before I even tried them.

All I can say is this was not my thing at all, and did not like this chips one bit. The Bride is solid evidence that some folks might like them, but I did not.

If I put these in last place, Gyro in third, and Biscuits in second, that leaves Truffle Fries solidly with my vote. Which ones would you vote for?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

French Fry Diary 681: Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips


Just days after I found the first two Do Us A Flavor potato chips from Lay's, The Bride found the other two, also at a Walgreen's. So I guess there'll be no great chase after the final flavor this year, and also, if you're hunting them down - Walgreen's should be your first stop.

Do Us A Flavor 2015 Taste Test #3 - Southern Biscuits and Gravy flavored potato chips, submitted by Hailie Green:

As silly as this might sound coming from someone who likes potato products so much, I'm not a gravy guy. So no gravy on my mashed potatoes, no gravy on my fries, and certainly no gravy on my biscuits. This is why poutine scares me so much, gravy. It's also why I was annoyed at a friend for a while back in the nineties when he put gravy on my fries. Hey, fries are serious business to me.

Biscuits and gravy however, like a Do Us A Flavor finalist from the past, Chicken & Waffles, is a Southern favorite. Although I actually like both chicken, and waffles, I was willing to give these a chance. Then I saw the bag, with that weird white stuff on the biscuits. That's gravy? I thought gravy was brown. Wow, this year's Do Us A Flavor contest is a learning experience...

Once again, the ingredients reveal very little, as the vague and mysterious "Biscuits and Gravy Seasoning" tells us nothing really. The quote from Hailey Green does imply this is her Grandma's recipe however. The aroma when the bag was opened was not bad, but I was stymied by The Bride's reaction after a bite. She wanted to see the bag, "So what are these supposed to taste like?"

I'm not sure if that's a good sign or not. The Bride concluded that they didn't taste like they were supposed to, or maybe she'd never had Southern biscuits and gravy done right. I tried one and got the biscuits taste right away, that flavor was flawless, and then a bit of sour cream. This was a very heavy flavor for a chip.

I would definitely put the Southern Biscuits and Gravy potato chips solidly in second place so far. They are definitely better than the Greektown Gyro, but nowhere near as good as the West Coast Truffle Fries.

Tomorrow - New York Reuben!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #212



This terrific twice-baked potato (so good I had to try a bite first) was served with dinner at a recent family gathering at Villari's Lakeside. Dinner was great, just the tip of the iceberg of the fun had at the event.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

French Fry Diary 680: West Coast Truffle Fries Potato Chips


Do Us A Flavor 2015 Taste Test #2 - West Coast Truffle Fries flavored potato chips, wavy style, submitted by Angie Fu:

I have to admit, these potato chips had me both excited and worried at the same time. On the one hand, it rocks to have a Do Us A Flavor finalist based on French fries, but on the other... while it's a grail seasoning for fries, one has to be very careful how much truffle oil or seasoning one puts on a fry or chip. Not enough and it's untraceable and too much you may get sick.

A nice feature this year is the finalist's name on the front of the bag, as well as a picture and quote on the back. I think this is a nice personal touch. "Every time I see Truffle Fries on the menu, it is the first thing I order... the aromatic flavor is mouth-watering." Angie Fu really likes truffle fries, good for her.

I also wanted to note that just like yesterday's Greektown Gyro's ingredients included "gyro seasoning," these chips include "truffle fries seasoning," although they actually tell us what's in them this time. Among other things, these chips include Romano cheese, Parmesan cheese, and actual black truffle.

Upon opening the bag the aroma was not overbearing and actually pretty pleasant and enticing. After The Bride tried the first one for me, proclaiming, "They're pretty good," I felt a bit better than I had with the Gyro chips and tried one of them. They were indeed pretty good. We only tried a couple each of the Gyro chips whereas we began to devour these Truffle Fries chips right away.

I tasted the Romano and Parmesan cheese right away, and after a few chips the truffle was there as well, as a cumulative aftertaste. Not too much, not too little, just the perfect amount of truffle. Somebody at the Frito-Lay labs really knows what they're doing. These are some really good potato chips, and as a bonus, they're wavy making them excellent for dipping.

So far, two finalists down, the Truffle Fries have made a high mark to beat. These were very good. There is one nagging question however... how are west coast truffle fries different from east coast truffle fries? 

Now to find the other two...

Monday, July 27, 2015

French Fry Diary 679: Greektown Gyro Potato Chips


Unlike other years that I have done this, I was able to find two of the 2015 Do Us A Flavor finalists just scant days after they were announced. Usually there is an extensive hunting process but I found the Gyro and Truffle ones at the local Walgreens, so yay to Walgreens and props to the Lay's distribution department. Now if they could just get some BBQ Ruffles to the South Jersey area (hint HINT), I would really be happy.

Do Us A Flavor 2015 Taste Test #1 - Greektown Gyro flavored potato chips, kettle cooked style, submitted by James Wagner:

As a catastrophically picky eater, I have to be up front about this. I am not even sure what a gyro is, let alone what it tastes like, so this one was difficult from the get go. I know it's Greek, and I know how to pronounce it (see, being a Nia Vardalos fan pays off), but beyond that, I am lost. One source I found online indicated it was meat, onions, tomato, French fries (!), and tzatziki sauce rolled into a pita. Fries, eh? Now you have my attention.

Now tzatziki sauce, made from yogurt and cucumbers (I think) doesn't sound all that appetizing to me, and the 'meat' part could be just about anything - beef, pork, chicken, veal, or mutton. I'm getting less excited. The kicker is the picture on the chip bag itself, not a fry to be found. I guess Lay's and James Wagner don't read Wikipedia.

The ingredients list, among other things, and besides potatoes, sour cream, gum Arabic, and the vague and mysterious "gyro seasoning." I am getting less and less excited, but enough procrastination. Oh well, let's do this.

As I've learned in previous years' Do Us A Flavor contests, it's always best to let The Bride try one of the chips first. When I opened the bag, it was a good smell, but I knew I was not going to want any of these. We kinda talked about this on the most recent episode of The GAR! Podcast - just because it smells good doesn't mean you want to eat it.

The Bride said she could taste the sour cream and she could taste the lettuce, and it did remind her of a gyro - but "a potato chip should not taste like that." I tried one tentatively, and thought it too weird and spicy with a bad aftertaste. Some folks might dig this one, but I did not like it. Greektown Gyro would not get my vote.

Tomorrow: Truffle Fries!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #211



Friend and podcast partner Ray Cornwall sent this one to me, and we even talked about it on this week's episode of The GAR! Podcast.

These Somebody Else's fries come from Jack & Mike's Brickhouse Bar & Grille in Brick, NJ. The meal was gluten-free, and apparently this was Ray's first encounter with potato wedges. He has got to start eating out with me more. Potato wedges are everywhere.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Do Us A Flavor 2015



The finalists have been announced. Special thanks to sometime FFD contributor Jessica Walsh for hipping me to it.

The selections this year are New York Reuben, Southern Biscuits and Gravy, West Coast Truffle Fries, and Greektown Gyro. Hmmm… tricky tricky flavors this time. Details can be found here. I am sure reviews will be forthcoming…

Thanks again, Jessica! Be sure to check out her very cool blog here, and please don't forget to vote in the new FFD poll on dipping sauces to the left.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

French Fry Diary 678: KC Steak Fries


When I write I usually have to have something on in the background. I used to have one of the 24/7 news channels going. My rage at them (all of them) being more opinion than actual news stopped that. Then I tried CourtTV, but once the Jodi Arias trial started, that too proved a distraction.

And then there was QVC, which worked for a while with its innocuous programming. While the recent Isaac Mizrahi moon-is-a-planet kerfuffle is typical of the channel, the foodie in me was soon seduced by their cooking shows. The Kansas City Steak Company sells their wares on QVC often, including their juicy Steakburgers and huge hot dogs, both tempting, but I never broke down and ordered anything until they sweetened the deal with... wait for it... French fries.

The package arrived just a few days later, a big styrofoam box with dry ice in it, along with three smaller black boxes marked Kansas City Steak Company. One box had the burgers, another had unusually large hot dogs, and the third - two big white label-less one pound bags of French fries. I couldn't wait to try them, and by them, I meant the fries.

From what I saw on television, KC Steak Fries (TM) are seasoned steak fries, long planks of natural cut potato, with a golden brown sprinkling of spices. They could be deep fried, but everyone knows that frozen fries are best baked. The reality of the situation was a bit different.

But first, a word about the other stuff in the package. The hot dogs are made from 100% beef, and are huge, approximately an inch longer and twice as thick. They will make most rolls seem puny. These dogs take a little longer to cook, but wow. The burgers, excuse me, Steakburgers, are also huge, and pretty good too, a five ounce patty of corn fed ground beef from western Kansas. Thumbs up.

At first sight, out of the blank white bag, they were natural cut steak fries, some coated in Kansas City's special 'old bay' seasoning, and some not, very uneven. I have to be honest, as excited as I was when I first saw them on QVC, I was a little disappointed when I opened the bag. We'll see how they cook. After all, the dogs and burgers were great, why wouldn't the fries be as well?

The directions were not quite right, so keep an eye on your fries, and cook appropriately. I had to keep cooking them for an additional five minutes. The crispier and crunchier these fries were, the better they were. The fries are certainly seasoned, but I have to say I wasn't getting an Old Bay vibe. They were good, but not that good. I would definitely get the dogs or burgers again, but maybe not the fries.