Wednesday, August 31, 2011

French Fry Diary 262: Cabanas for Breakfast

Breakfast on day two of our Disney Dream trip brought us back to Cabanas. Hitting these places early in the morning is always the best idea as they get crowded very quickly, even Cabanas with its hit and run style buffet. And of course, no matter what kind of buffet, seating is always first come first serve.
On the menu as far as the favorite fried food goes, there were the usual hash brown squares that are barely inedible and did not make the jump to my plate, and the wonderful roasted potatoes that did. I was surprised to them both available. From experience, usually the hash browns come out later in the trip when they've run out of the good potatoes. However, the Disney Dream being so big, they never seemed to run out of the good stuff.

The roasted potatoes are new and red potatoes chopped up into bite-sized chunks, seasoned and baked in a marinade, along with peppers and onions. These are soft and succulent, and along with copious amounts of the magical food called bacon, they are easily the best thing about breakfast on the Disney boat.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Very Scary Toy

This product is from Bandai, the folks that make the very cool Godzilla toys, and it comes from Japan. It's apparently a toy kitchen, with which to make inedible fast food, including French fries. It's called "Konapun."

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Monday, August 29, 2011

French Fry Diary 261: Enchanted Garden, Disney Dream

Day one of our vacation on the Disney Dream brought us to the Enchanted Garden for dinner. The Enchanted Garden is one of the new restaurants on the Disney Cruise, on both the Dream, and the new Fantasy. Its theme is that of a garden that changes from sundown to nighttime - the decor changes color and mood, and like the old Animator's Palate, it's a slow subtle visual treat. Most visually exciting is the sun going down at the rear of the room.

We also got to meet our waitstaff - Fitz (who we had had before and gave us wonderful service and care), Goncalo from Portugal, and Charlie from Liverpool. Excellent service is always one of the amazing features on any Disney Cruise, and they were no exception. The best part is that they will be there for us for every dining experience on board.

Charlie absolutely rocks just because he was trying so hard to be American and say 'fries' instead of 'chips,' but that was cool with me. And we also bonded as he's a big comic book fan too.

The potato selections at dinner were very good. The Bride had a twice-baked potato, which looked very good and she said it was okay. I had both the wonderful hot baked potato that came with my excellent steak, and the French fries (chips to Charlie) I special ordered.

Great baked potato, and steak fries - hotter than at Cabanas earlier in the day, and baked. Aces for the fries, as was the bananas foster for dessert. The bananas foster was another stepping stone first for this catastrophically picky eater, loved it.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

French Fry Diary 260: Cabanas, Disney Dream

This is the first entry of my vacation log for French Fry Diary, enjoy! After a long day of running around, starting at four in the morning, going from passenger van to plane (including a stopover in Raleigh) to bus to finally boat, I was worn out, and Cabanas on the Disney Dream was like an oasis.

Number one, Cabanas is big, really big. Compared to the buffets at the top of the other Disney ships, it's downright huge. It's so big that while it looks like a buffet it works differently, sort of a hit and run instead of a waiting in line deal - yeah, it's big enough to do that, and not make folks mad.

It's so big we were looking for our friends we were cruising with and it seemed like we were walking forever before we found them. Get the idea, it's big and the Disney Dream is even bigger. When we found them, my friend Dom, aware of my unfortunate addiction immediately directed me to the steak fries. Yeah, he's cool like that.

The steak fries were pretty typical for buffet style steak fries, except they were very good. Of course that might have just been that I was so hungry from the day, or just that Disney magic. Anyway, they were very good, grocery freezer steak fries, probably deep-fried (not, as I learned later in the cruise, they don't deep-fry) but they tasted baked.

I also had grilled ribeye (also suggested by Dom, who is also very conscious of me being a catastrophically picky eater, he knew me waaay back when I didn't eat pizza...), wonderful Disney rolls and key lime pie (first time for me, proving I'm not hopelessly picky) for dessert - a very filling lunch. I can't wait to come back for breakfast, or for dinner tonight at the Enchanted Garden.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Philadelphia Legend Passes Away

I've been on vacation for a couple weeks, and while I was gone, away from the computer, a Philadelphia legend passed away. Joey Vento, the founder of the neon lighted Geno's Steaks in South Philly, across the street from just-as-famous rival Pat's Steaks, died Tuesday of a heart attack in his home in South Jersey. He was 71.

Vento started the restaurant with its amazing cheesesteaks (and fries) in 1966, and been going strong ever since, warring with friendly rival Pat's and other up-and-comers like Jim's and Tony Luke's. There may be preferences, but any real Philly cheesesteak is the best. Ask anyone from 'round here who gioes to this end of the Italian Market, they will tell you they order a steak from both Geno's and Pat's.

In recent years, Vento had gotten into some hot water with a sign at his establishment that read: "This is America: When order please speak English." Despite what it sounded like, Vento really had the best of intentions - making the ordering process smoother, rather than anything racist. Either way, we have lost a local legend with a mad passion for his food. We should all go get a "Whiz, wit'" in his memory, and don't forget the fries.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Julia Child's Vichyssoise

August 15th is Julia Child's birthday and to celebrate, is spotlighting their favorite classics by the great chef. One that is right up our alley here is vichyssoise, made with the wonderful potato. The recipe can be found here. Check it out, try it out, and enjoy. Julia would want it that way.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

French Fry Diary 259: The Capital Grille, Cherry Hill NJ

My good friend Ken came up from Kentucky to spend some time with us here in the wretched state of his birth, New Jersey. My job, while he's here, is to ruin his diet. Also, because he'll let me. The problem sometimes with doing French Fry Diary is that many of my friends and family are on diets, and they won't/can't come out to play with me when it comes to reviewing fries. So, sometimes, I save the big ones for when Ken visits. Such was the case with the Capital Grille at the Cherry Hill Mall. We decided to go there for a late winter lunch and see what we could see.

The Capital Grille is a very ritzy place, various ceramic animal heads and a few birds of prey around a classic wood decor and an onsite wine reserve and butcher shop. Regarding that last bit, our server Christopher, who was very friendly and informative, says TCG specializes in dried aged beef. And extra points for Christopher - he didn't discriminate against us in t-shirts and jeans as opposed to everyone else there in office suit attire. We felt very out of place, but he made us feel at home.

I ordered, go ahead and guess what I ordered, folks, yes, a burger. Even in a classy restaurant, this catastrophically picky eater and fast food junkie still goes for the burger. This was a wonderfully rich chopped sirloin burger, but still a burger. Bread came and included a crispy flatbread that tasted a bit sweet. The burger was superb (dried aged beef, remember?), one of the best burgers I've had in a while, but that's not what you're here for, you want to hear about the favorite fried food, right?

The French fries were regular cut natural cuts called Parmesan Truffle Fries. Now truffle is one of the Holy Grail ingredients when it comes to fries, both truffle oil and truffle salt. The third in the triumvirate is of course duck fat. These fries were cooked in a garlic truffle oil with Parmesan and shaved parsley. They were very crispy, possibly deep-fried - very very good, but underneath it all they weren't that special. On the other hand, Ken said they were best fries he'd ever had, and that the spices made them. I thought they were great but if anything the truffle oil might have overpowered them a bit.

So despite the difference of opinion on the fries, my trip to the Capital Grille, and my first encounter with truffle oil, was a terrific lunch with a great friend. Good food, good conversation, good times.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

French Fry Diary 258: Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

I was at Trader Joe's (yes, again), and I saw these sweet potato spears in the vegetable section. Now while the packaging said, "Premium Sweet Potatoes Peeled, Cut and Ready to Cook," my devious mind thought, "Wow, I bet I could deep fry those!"

The Bride thinks that's a cry for help, but I think it's culinary creativity. Let's just not think about the fact I think about deep-frying most food. The directions on the back of the bag want you to bake them, but I'm just obsessed.

Of course, if these really were 'homemade,' as I say at the top of this blog entry, you would have to peel and cut the sweet potatoes - so just for our purposes, we'll just pretend we skipped a few steps.

I popped them in the deep fryer thinking I'd just do 'em like I always do my fries - par-fry, shock-fry, drain, then munch. After giving them the first fry, it occurred to me I wouldn't known when the sweet potato fries were golden brown, after all they were already orange at least! I went until they were almost black and looked crispy - but test-tasting determined they were not.

I decided enough was enough and plated them. The Bride thought they were way overdone but pronounced them good. Yeah, I made her try 'em first. They were done and pretty good, but I thought they needed something, but I wasn't sure what would be appropriate. Sugar or salt? Barbecue sauce or something sweeter? Thoughts?

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #13

Strictly speaking, Chipotle Mexican Grill, while mind-bogglingly popular, does not have French fries. They do however have chips that are served in a fantastic paper bag that just says "CHIPS." Man, I love those bags.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

French Fry Diary 257: Ore-Ida Grill Fries

I've known how to do this for some time, even tried it myself and posted it on French Fry Diary last summer, but it seems now the big French fry companies are catching on to the grilled fries bandwagon.

I recently received an email from Ore-Ida suggesting you "take those sides outside," "keep your cool with hot sides" and "get your grill on." They also offered several recipes for fries and other favorite fried foods on the summer barbecue grill. Check them out here.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

French Fry Diary 256: Skewers 2011

I am always willing to give a place a second chance. I had gone to Skewers quite some time ago and was unimpressed. The mom-in-law had been recently and highly recommended Skewers so I went back - and surprisingly, just by accident, ran into the mom-in-law there. She must really like the fries there! Seriously though she treated me to a nice lunch, and I got to try the fries again.

As opposed to last time where there was much confusion as to what kind of fries Skewers had from one day until the next, things seem to be pretty consistent these days. With a bright new website, a new menu, and a new attitude, Skewers is the place to go. As far as the favorite fried food goes, they have Salt and Pepper Fries and Chickpea Fries. I got the former, catastrophically picky eater that I am.

The fries were natural cuts with sea salt and pepper, and lightly deep-fried. They were definitely different from the crinkle cuts I had last time, which were notably not the ones that had originally been recommended to me. These were good however, and the pepper gave them an extra kick. They were not greasy at all, and almost had a baked texture.

Skewers also offered chickpea fries, also known as panisse. From the devious interwebs, panisse is "a culinary specialty from a region in northern Italy, but it is equally known and appreciated in south-eastern France. It is made from a base of chickpeas, which are fried or baked. It is usually formed into logs, cut, fried in oil, and consumed hot."

I was tentative, but I wanted to give them a try, and tried to on a later visit. I was shocked to find that they were no longer on the menu! Apparently they are a seasonal item. At least being a seasonal item, it means that they might be back. Oh well, I'll try again at some point.

I am so glad I came back after that first time, thanks, Mom. Aces for the fries, good stuff. Check out Skewers in Marlton - for seasonally inspired Mediterranean cuisine.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

French Fry Diary 255: Utz Honey BBQ Potato Chips

When I worked at a 9-5 office job we had an Utz delivery guy come in once a week with free chips and sometimes new test flavors. Nice guy and good memories, and good times. I like Utz a lot, they have great products.

On a recent trip to see family in Maryland I saw some Utz stuff I had never seen before, at an ice cream parlor of all places. They had crab chips (we were in Maryland after all), Carolina BBQ chips, and my favorite flavor - Honey BBQ. Guess which one I brought home.

Utz BBQ chips come in two styles - regular and with ridges, you never know what you're going to get. When I opened this bag of Utz Honey BBQ Flavored Potato Chips I got regulars not ridges, which was fine. I like the mystery.

The bad news is that they weren't that great. They had the lingering aftertaste and touch of heartburn that some barbeque chips have, and also a weird grainy quality sort of like Jack and Jill chips. They weren't horrible, I would have them again, they just weren't preferable.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

French Fry Diary 254: Booger the Fry Loving Dog

My friend Terry Willitts has guest-blogged for me here before at French Fry Diary, and at Welcome to Hell as well, a few times. Here is another entry from him, one that started with a conversation on Twitter. I'll let Terry take it from here...

"Booger, the shelter mascot who loved fries"

I've been an employee of the West Volusia Humane Society since 2004. The WVHS is a non-profit animal shelter that has been around since 1955, and since 1999, has been a no-kill shelter. It's run solely on donations, and its tagline is The Little Shelter With The Big Heart.

In 2004, one of the "office dogs" (mascots, if you will) was an English Mastiff (or just Mastiff, as they were the original Mastiff breed - the other Mastiff breeds were created by breeding Mastiff with another breed) by the name of Bridget, though everyone usually called her Booger (or "Boogs" for short.) She was a big dog, weighing about 140 pounds in her prime, and by the time I started working there, was easily 9-10 years old. (Like the majority of the animals that end up there, she was found stray, so there was no way to know exactly how old she was.)

Booger was well loved by just about everyone and had quite the personality - unless you were another dog. She only tolerated one other dog, and that was her best friend, Annie, who is still the mascot at the shelter to this day. Any other dogs, Booger thought did not belong in her office or on her property, and if she saw them, she'd usually act all tough.

There's a story told from a few years before I worked there. One of the employees was leaving the state, moving away, and on their last day of work, pizzas were ordered in for a little pizza party. Shortly after the pizzas arrived, everyone went outside for a group photo. When they went back inside for the pizza, they found one of the boxes, open and upside down, on the floor. When the box was picked up, there was no pizza in sight. There was, however, a very sated looking English Mastiff.

By now, you're wondering why there's a person guest-blogging about a dog at an animal shelter who likes pizza. Well, as much as she liked pizza (and she LOVED pizza, obviously), her favourite food in the world was French fries. She spent much of her day sleeping in her office (she and Annie had their own office, it's true), but nothing would snap her out of slumber and bring her into the front office like the smell of French fries. Any time any of our helpers or volunteers would run to the burger joint for food, I'd always make sure that they got a small order of fries for Booger (and Annie, of course) to have.

Even if they didn't get some for Booger, she'd come out and beg for them - and if they didn't want to give her any, she was tall enough she could take them right out of the lap or hands of anyone seated.

Sadly, she developed cancer and on Saint Patrick's Day a few years ago, the hard decision was made to have her put to sleep, as the treatments for the cancer were not helping and she was feeling more pain than we felt was fair to her. However, that day, we made sure we had burgers and, more importantly, fries, for lunch, so she could have her favourite meal one more time.

The West Volusia Humane Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in DeLand, FL. As the economy has worsened over the past few years, donations (which are the sole funding for the shelter) have not been coming in as much. If this story touched you in any way, please visit the WVHS website and make a donation (either via PayPal or mailing in a check - it's a tax-deductible donation!)

Terry Willitts is an employee (formerly full-time, but cuts had to be made, and after thirteen months of unemployment, they were able to hire him back part-time) and blogs over at This is really the best blog ever. and tweets as cr8dv8 and would love for you to follow him on either.

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #12

Guess what this is.

Oh yeah, it's something so yummy, so decadent, so nutritionally nasty, that just looking at this will make any Health Nazi have a coronary on sight. This is beer-battered deep-fried bacon, with, oh yeah, fries.

The Bride found this on the DIS Unplugged Message Forums, mmmm... bacon... and fries...

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

French Fry Diary 253: The Legendary Melrose Diner

Everyone of a certain age in the Philadelphia area knows the Melrose Diner. If not from living in the neighborhood and actually hanging out and eating there, then from the jingle that accompanied their radio commercials, "Everyone who knows, goes to Melrose..."

After one of the Philadelphia Wings games this past season, a group of us (The Bride, her sister, and friends Judi and Marc) wanted to grab a bite and talk. The Melrose was convenient, so we took in this historic landmark for some grub - including the favorite fried food.

The legendary Melrose Diner has a wonderful smell inside that fills you with joy as soon as you open the doors. It's the true scent of a good diner - pie and chocolate, nothing beats it. Our very helpful, friendly and entertaining waiter Nick took good care of us that night. It should also be noted that the tight booths of the Melrose are sooo not for larger folks. One would assume if you eat too much there, after a while you'll have to go somewhere else with bigger booths.

Marc was nice enough to let me get a photo of his fries and let me try some, so I ordered the home fries for myself, so I could get a double dose of the favorite fried food this trip. I couldn't convince anyone to order the onion rings though, maybe next time. The fries were old school crinkle cuts that tasted baked even though they were probably deep-fried. I could also see that the staff was making extensive use of a microwave in sight. It didn't matter, this was comfort food at its best in one of the area's greatest diners.

As I said, I ordered the home fries, or as Nick called them, the hash browns. These were shredded potatoes fried in what tasted like yummy bacon grease - the old fashioned way. They were really really good and I cleaned my plate. As an added bonus, they had crushed ice in the Cokes. Really, how can you lose? Good friends, good times, I'll be back to the Melrose.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

French Fry Diary 252: The Best of Both Worlds

According to this article (clicky-clicky), starting in September, McDonald's will be introducing a new Happy Meal for kids that includes both fruit and fries.

This may not be what the Health Nazis want, but I suppose it is a 'happy' medium. The order of French fries will be a new smaller size serving, and for those who insist on just getting apple slices, instead of fries, you can do that too.

Although, I have to add, if you want apple slices instead of fries, I have to wonder why you're at McDonald's to begin with. Going to McDonald's and not getting fries is kinda like taking a shower, but not getting wet - but maybe that's just me.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #11

These are Famous Dave's BBQ Chips.

I got these as a side with my burger at Famous Dave's in Owings Mills MD. These are easily the best homemade barbeque potato chips you will find in any restaurant. Check 'em out next time you go to a Famous Dave's.

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