Saturday, March 27, 2010

French Fry Diary 101: The Pub, Pennsauken NJ

The Pub has been a fixture on the Airport Circle (or what’s left of it) for decades. I had stopped going there some time ago because of difficulties with the no smoking law in NJ restaurants. With that cleared up I finally went back. It was never a question of the food, only the air.

The Pub is a beautiful place, somewhat out of time. Great bar lounge, semi-ancient video games off in a hidden corner and a gigantic dining hall reminiscent of medieval times. A couple of the prime features of The Pub experience are the enormous help-yourself salad bar, and the hot fresh loaves of bread brought right to your table. Mostly though, The Pub is known for its open-air char-grilling. It’s a thrill to see the open flames billowing from the ovens and knowing that your steaks or other meats are being perfected there. Sorry, barbequing – it’s a guy thing.

I got my usual, the chopped steak, basically a glorified hamburger, but it made me very happy. The best chopped steak of its kind in my opinion, and it comes with a big thick wonderful onion ring with some delicious au jus ladled over it. But that’s not why you’re here – you’re here for the favorite fried food.

I ordered the steak fries I remember from my last visit some eight years ago, although it should be noted that The Pub also serves a terrific baked potato as well. Either choice is usually amazing. Unfortunately, it seems the steak fries are not what they once were, or at least weren’t this trip. They were kind of unspectacular, but tasty with the au ju. On previous visits, the steak fries were almost perfection.

I did notice something odd during dinner. Other guests who had ordered the crab cakes or the actual hamburger (as opposed to the fancy one I ordered) also got fries as a side, but they weren’t steak fries, they were regular cuts. It made me wonder how many different fries are available at The Pub, and why it doesn’t say anything about it on the menu.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Mexican Zucchini Oven Fries

For this week’s Food Network Fridays, we’re going back to Rachel Ray. This one comes from the "Check Your Carbs" episode of "30 Minute Meals."

The recipe for Mexican Zucchini Oven Fries can be found here and has quite a kick.

For the actual video, click here.

Check it out.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

"Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" airs tomorrow night on ABC.

While I don't mind Jamie Oliver, also known as The Naked Chef, joining the force of the Health Nazis in the idea that the potato is not a vegetable but a starch - mostly because it's technically true - but what I do mind is how he is slagging off the French fry.

Come on now, Jamie, what did French fries ever do to you, besides give you enjoyment? And your dad runs a pub... are you telling me he doesn't serve chips?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

French Fry Diary 100: Hot Potato Café

I found out about the Hot Potato Café in perhaps one of the more notorious and uncool ways to find out about a restaurant – on Chef Gordon Ransey’s "Kitchen Nightmares" TV series on Fox. The show frequently uncovers at most horrifying and at least disturbing conditions in restaurants before Ramsey helps to turn the place around in his own unique way. Luckily, the Hot Potato Café was only suffering from business woes, and not anything sanitary.

The episode itself wasn’t that bad as Gordon dealt with the three sisters who are owners and the chef niece. It was a decidedly popular episode, having taken place some months before and covered widely in the local press. It was so popular that for days after it aired, the restaurant’s website was unavailable. It’s notable to mention that many folks will hit a restaurant’s website the night it appears on "Kitchen Nightmares" to see if it’s still open. Trust me, the Hot Potato Café is.

Another plus about the Café is that it’s local to the Philadelphia area. That and the name itself, made it a prime destination for French Fry Diary. As a matter of fact, on the episode they appeared in, Ramsey even employed a ‘potato expert,’ Richard Marsh, head chef of Cherry Hill’s Andreotti’s Viennese Café, to help them with their potatoes. Hmmm, something tells me I’ll be going there soon as well.

We decided to make our visit to the Hot Potato Café something special so The Bride and I made reservations for Valentine’s Day night and braved the scary snow-piled streets of Philly to get there. We were between blizzards so this was not as easy as you might think. Still, all in all I think it was well worth it.

Once seated, we were greeted with complimentary Parmesan fries in a metal cup. These were natural cuts with flakes of Parmesan just sprinkled lightly – quite hot and quite tasty. The fries that are packed inside the cup under the top layer are extra special as they are even hotter and the cheese is melted just right. Complimentary fries? Wow, what a wonderful phrase. That is certainly a winning start to any meal as far as I’m concerned.

The drinks came in Mason jar jugs. Nice touch, and you can see mine, full of Coke, next to the complimentary fries. Refills on the drinks were quick and friendly. Our waitress, Erin, was very nice, cooperative and informed - and she made our evening a joy. The décor was interesting and fun. One nice bit was that the restrooms were marked ‘Spuds’ and ‘Sweet Potatoes.’

Our appetizers were the Hot Potato Chips. These were some of the best homemade (or restaurant-made for that matter) that I have ever had. They were the perfect thickness between a scalloped potato slice and an actual potato chip. The cheese however – a tasty Parmesan cheddar sauce – has a sogging effect on the chips, so not cool (that it made them soggy, not the sauce - that was great). These were also topped with scallions and bacon, but nowhere near enough bacon.

While enjoying the appetizers and the complimentaries, we had time to look around a bit more. While some of the décor that Gordon Ramsey had put in was still there, the menu was different – different from his menu, but also different from their original menu. No worries though, the current menu was just great. I ordered a burger, a choice not available on Ramsey’s revamp, and I’m glad it’s here. The placemats were fun, filled with various potato facts and oddities. I knew about a third of them already, vast storehouse of useless knowledge that I am – especially when it comes to the favorite fried food. Yeah, I know, I’m pitiful.

The Fishtown Fries came as both a side order with my burger and in a basket as well. I couldn’t taste the promised Old Bay seasoning at first, but they were very good – once again natural cuts, kinda reminiscent of the Pop Shop. They came with sides of ketchup and cheese. The burger was handformed and also very good. The basket, also much like the Pop Shop, was a large portion – so large we took them home afterward. That was where we found the Old Bay seasoning – not evenly distributed but hot and yummy, and it was a good hot.

Our Valentines night at the Hot Potato Café was a wonderful experience, and we would definitely go back. Again and again. One hundred percent recommended.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Rachel Ray's Oven Steak Fries

Another Food Network Friday, and another Food Network recipe. This one comes from Rachel Ray.

Oven Steak Fries, don't they look delicious?

The recipe comes from the "30 Minutes with an Attitude" episode of "30 Minute Meals."

The full recipe can be found here. Enjoy!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Paula Deen's Disco Fries

Today's edition of Food Network Fridays comes from Paula Deen - Disco Fries!

A delicacy up in the New York City/North Jersey area diners, this recipe comes from the Food Network's southern queen. These even come with the signature cheddar cheese and gravy. Paula even put them in paper cones for the picture!

Check it out here.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fries with That

This YTV teen sitcom from Canada ran for fifty-two episodes in 2004, and revolved around a fast food place called Bulky’s run by teenagers. From all indications it was pretty bad, but at least it had fries in the title. Mmmm... fries...

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Confetti Nibbles

Sorry, no picture of the dish this time, but I guess one kind of confetti is better than no confetti at all...

Confetti Nibbles


20 small round red potatoes
1/2 cup bottled reduced-fat ranch-style dressing
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon dried -- or 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed
6 hard-cooked eggs -- chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions -- with tops
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
fresh dill sprigs -- optional

Place potatoes in large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Cool.

Cut each potato in half. Cut a small slice off bottom of each half so it can stand upright. Using a small spoon, carefully scoop out center of each potato half, leaving a firm shell. Set aside. Coarsely chop potato centers. Set aside, Reserve potato shells.

In medium bowl, stir together salad dressing and seasonings until well blended. Stir in eggs, onions, red pepper, and reserved potato centers until evenly coated with dressing.

With a small spoon, carefully mound about 2 tablespoons of salad mixture into each shell. Cover and chill to blend flavors. Garnish with fresh dill sprigs, if desired. Makes 40 Appetizers

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

French Fry Diary 99: Munchos

These potato crisps, or more accurately ‘potato snack,’ not chips, come from the Pringles school of design. Munchos from Frito-Lay are processed from dehydrated potatoes and are perfect circles before hitting the frying oil. Their selling point is their lightness. They have an almost fluffy texture as if they’ve puffed up during cooking.

Taste-wise they continue the fluffy light vibe. They also don’t quite have a potato taste. I guess that’s what it is. I’m not sure really. They get shapes like kettle chips, which make them excellent for dipping, especially with slightly melted ice cream or cheese.

The taste however gets old after a while. If I haven’t had Munchos in some time I will crave them, but if I’ve just had some – it will be some time before I want them again. Weird. Munchos are good once in a while, and great for dipping.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Crispy Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary

Crispy Roasted Poatatoes with Rosemary

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
24 small round red potatoes, peeled (about 2 lbs.)
1 1/4 tsp. dried whole rosemary, crushed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Heat oil in a 10" cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
Add potatoes and cook for 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Add remaining ingredients; toss gently.
Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until browned, stirring every 30 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings (about 90 calories per 3 potatoes). Enjoy.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

French Fry Diary 98: Tony Luke’s, Philadelphia

This was a hard review to write, because I like Tony Luke, Jr., a lot.

Tony makes entertaining commercials, how to videos. He faced off with Bobby Flay on television and showed him up, he provided food for the folks making "Eye of the Tiger" a few years back, and of course I love his new grocery store miracle – the microwave at home cheesesteak – that actually tastes like a real cheesesteak. And that last bit is why I had to finally try the real thing. After weeks of loving the microwave version – I needed to do it for real – and while I was there, review the fries.

The night was frigid cold after watching the Philadelphia Wings lose (again) so I was glad that the area for the long line at Tony Luke’s was sheltered unlike other famous Philly cheesesteak places. It was in line however that we saw the sign. I had intended to merely try and review Tony’s fries, but this sign promised something far more exotic in the realm of the favorite fried food – “Frank Fries” - oh yeah, baby, you know we had to give those a try as well.

The cheesesteak was perfect, and the bread, which Tony always stresses is one of the most important elements, was more than perfect. I can’t rave about the roll enough. This is a damn good cheesesteak, one of the best in the city, period. The problem, unfortunately, was with the fries. As I said, I like Tony a lot, so I kinda wish this was Cheesesteak Diary, and not French Fry Diary, ya know?

The curly fries were just average, and worse than that, they were overdone. Maybe it was because they were busy (which they were, eleven o’clock on a Saturday night, and they were crazy hopping, the line filling the shelter and spilling into the street) and rushed, or maybe this is the regular state of the fries – but they really weren’t great.

The Frank Fries were... interesting. They fall into the realm of non-potato fries, so not really fries, but they were good. They sorta have that bubble gum flavor Jelly Belly vibe going on that this shouldn’t taste like this, but it’s good. They are more or less corn dog strips waaay well done with an onion ring batter texture. All in all, they weren’t bad, I’d get ‘em again.

Tony Luke’s is definitely the place to go for a cheesesteak, all aces there, but for fries... maybe not.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Baked Potato Chips

Simple, easy, buttery, tasty...

Baked Potato Chips

3 pounds white baking potatoes cut in to 1/8 inch thick slices

4 tablespoons butter melted

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Place potato slices in a single layer in pans. Brush generously with butter. Bake 15 minutes or until brown and crisp around the edges. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Yeah, baby.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

French Fry Diary 97: Reflections for Breakfast, Harrahs, Atlantic City

Reflections is one of the main casual restaurants at Harrah's in Atlantic City. Again, as with any trip to the casinos, there is the problem of when any given restaurant is actually open. The hours are so sparse and confusing that each restaurant has a sign in front of it with its hours for that particular day. I kid you not, it’s that bad. I have an image in my head of a monkey with a hat full of numbers and that’s how the opening and closing times are chosen.

I’m beginning to think that there is really only one dining and kitchen staff here at Harrah's because when I called the concierge to find out what was open for breakfast – Reflections was our only choice. And when confronted lightheartedly with my monkey analogy, the man at the end of the phone became Queen Victoria with a "We are not amused" attitude. Gotta love Harrah's.

Breakfast, I ordered pretty much my regular, including home-fried potatoes and bacon. These breakfast potatoes were diced potatoes, well cooked and not greasy, and soft and tasty. Actually very good breakfast potatoes for this type. There were mystery strands of grass throughout them though that I could not identify. Harmless but unidentifiable.

The bacon however was mostly inedible, crispier than kettle cooked potato chips. That’s the petrified bacon to the right of the potatoes there in the pic. After mentioning it to the waiter, these charcoal crisps were replaced by slightly less crunchy bacon. Sigh. This must be how the chef cooks bacon I suppose. If I come back for breakfast, maybe I’ll just ask for my bacon raw and see what I get.

Speaking of coming back, I probably should, though for dinner or lunch next time. The menu mentioned something that made me perk up immediately – 'endless fries.' Next time, friends, next time.

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