Thursday, September 30, 2010

French Fry Diary 150: The British Chip Shop, Haddonfield NJ

My mom-in-law hipped me to this place after an afternoon of shopping in Haddonfield with the girls. Haddonfield is a fairly upscale historical and pleasant town nearby that caters to walking traffic and a small town atmosphere. And the girls had lunch at what the mom-in-law called an authentic fish and chip shop.

My ears immediately perked up. A what where? I hit the interwebs and discovered that yes, it was true. The British Chip Shop had opened in July with an official grand opening on October 1st. Perusing the online menu .pdf, I found a place that resembled Cookes of Dublin, and it was right here in New Jersey.

Besides the obvious, fish and chips, they also had a variety of other distinctly Brit fare like bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, tea sandwiches, fried Mars bars, scones, black pudding, beans on toast, curries and crumpets. Yes, all that, but disturbingly, no Coca-Cola. I guess they can be forgiven for that omission, as long as the chips are good. So we planned to return that evening for dinner.

The British Chip Shop is a beautiful place, very authentic and nicely decorated. There's rugby playing on the big screen TV, distinctly British pop music overhead, HP sauce and Sarson's malt vinegar on the tables and union jacks everywhere. I loved the pub atmosphere, and especially the "Mind the Gap" sign. We hadn't even ordered and I was psyched.

For an appetizer we got the homemade crisps (potato chips) with horse radish sauce. They were scalloped potatoes thickly sliced, but not too crispy and hot in a good way, and served in a small paper bag, traditional style. I loved these, but could have gone for a bit more crisp and seasoning. Could have been hotter, but they were still very tasty, and heads above anyone else out there making these babies. Almost as good as those at the Hot Potato Café, and that's a serious compliment.

Our other appetizer was the deep fried green beans, which like the crisps are not on the menu, so make sure you ask for these terrific treats. These non-potato fries were very tasty, more battered and fried than those at T.G.I. Friday's. Both appetizers are recommended, so make sure you get them.

The beverages were all Brit authentic. I got the Barritts Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, the in-laws got a Scottish soda called Irn Bru, and The Bride, an Anglophile from way back, got something she's been itching for since her last trip overseas, Ribena. The Ginger Beer wasn't Coke, but it was quite good, sort of like ginger ale, but with an extra kick.

Finally the food came, and while it was a wait, no one minded as it was all cooked to order. I had gotten the chicken and chips. The chicken was quite good and very hot and crispy, and sort of reminded me of what I had at Monk's Café in the city. But now on to the main event, the favorite fried food…

The chips are the extra thick steak fry cuts that characterize real English chips, hot and soft in the center and crispy outside. They are almost perfect, and begging for vinegar like a good English chip should. These chips are really fabulous. When I am asked what the best fries I've had are, I usually answer unwaveringly Cookes of Dublin in Orlando - but The British Chip Shop right here in New Jersey gives them serious competition. I might be changing my ranking. These are damn good fries. I am impressed.

Also, much like Cookes of Dublin, they offer the deep-fried candy bar as a dessert. I was amazed I still had room after this wonderful filling meal, some of which I took home, but the four of us split a deep-fried Mars bar anyway. Yummm… it was luscious, heaven in a mouthful.

All told, this was a terrific meal experience at a very reasonable price. The British Chip Shop is highly recommended by French Fry Diary, and I can't wait to back again. Please check them out tomorrow for their official grand opening and ribbon cutting. This place rocks!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

French Fry Diary 149: Trader Joe's Garlic Fries

When it comes to upper crust gourmet grocery shopping, I'm a Whole Foods guy. I prefer Whole Foods over Trader Joe's. They are really the same kind of store. I like Whole Foods' butcher shop and also those delicious chocolate orange jellied candies that Trader Joe's has. Other than that, Trader Joe's is basically Whole Foods light.

Trader Joe's Garlic Fries, from the picture on the bag, look mouthwatering, but it's just a 'serving suggestion,' so yours might not look like these. Upon opening the bag, the truth is revealed. These are just thicker than usual, slightly battered regular cuts, with the garlic seasoning in a separate pouch to be put on the fries after they've cooked.

Without the garlic, these fries really aren't that bad. Actually they are quite tasty. The garlic itself is very aromatic and overpowering however. I think the fries are better without it myself, or maybe with just a touch. Good fries though.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Potatoes & Meat

Tonight a new series debuts on the Food Network.  It's called "Meat & Potatoes" and features host Rahm Fama seeking out great places to find the nation's best meats, and one would assume potatoes as well. 

Read more about Rahm Fama here, and more about the show here

Tonight's premiere episode is called "Between the Buns" and probably spotlights stuff like burgers and hot dogs.  And where burgers are, the favorite fried food can't be too far behind, so we'll look forward to that.  Mmmm... fries... 

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Butternut Squash Fries

Here's another twist on non-potato fries with these Butternut Squash Fries.

I found these on the Proceed With Caution food blog, the one that promises "learning how to cook, one recipe at a time."

Check them out here.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

French Fry Diary 148: Luigi's Pizza Fresca

It's been a long time since I've been to Luigi's Pizza Fresca, as a matter of fact, I don't think it even was called that the last time I was there, almost a decade ago. The main reason I haven't been there is the Wawa that ruled the strip mall closed, leaving it anchorless. No Wawa, no reason to go to Pizza Fresca. It's sad, but true when you're in a strip mall that's difficult to get to.

The World Cup, Spain vs. Portugal, was on when I was there (yes, that long ago, takes a while to get these entries online, the backlog is so long…) and there seemed to be more than a few folks just for that. Good crowd for a hot summer afternoon, and always nice to see Americans worked up over a sport that isn't football or baseball. But while a good crowd, they were certainly more "Jersey Shore," than say, soccer fans.

When I had been here in the past, the steak sandwiches were notably spicy, but in a good way. Unfortunately, coupled with the closing of the Wawa, and our preference for Pat's and Sal's, we had not been here since. Steak sandwiches didn't matter now however, we were here for the favorite fried food today. And some soccer and vuvuzelas.

Like I said, I just got fries. Other folks who had ordered pizza, subs, salads and steak sandwiches and even entire meals (including fries) were served ahead of me. I think I had been forgotten. Finally they came, and the waitress almost gave them to someone else on their way to me. I was forgotten. Or maybe the cooks and waitstaff were too involved in the World Cup.

The fries were standard regular cuts, deep fried, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Hot, not very greasy, but nothing spectacular other than being hot. Bland and unsensational covers it, I think. For the record, there are also Luigi's Pizza Frescas in Burlington and Philadelphia, but I've never visited. Kinda doubt I will now, except to people watch, and watch the World Cup again.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Carrot Fries

Fellow food blogger Megan, of the terrific food blog What Megan's Making came up with this healthful variation on the favorite fried food - Carrot Fries!

Check out Megan's recipe, thoughts and blog here. Mmmm... fries...

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Monday, September 20, 2010

French Fry Diary 147: Herr's 1853 Kettle Chips

I was hipped to these by someone who knew I was a potato chip aficionado, but didn't try them right away. When I finally did, I was blown away, and now I can't find these great chips anywhere. Apparently they are 'limited edition.' If anyone sees Herr's 1853 Kettle Cooked Potato Chips anywhere in the South Jersey/Philadelphia are, please let me know.

I'm not usually big on kettle chips and quite honestly don't understand their recent wild popularity on the snack shelves. They are okay, but most of the time I find them too crispy and crunchy. I know, as if there could be such a thing. I just like the standard chips better.

The 1853 chips however changed my mind on that point. I loved these. They are not as crunchy as the standard kettle chips, and actually reminded me a bit of the old Wise regular chips, when they were good, back in the day. Right thickness and the right amount of salt. The bubbles rock, perfect for dipping.

The 1853 name and origin story on the back of the bag harken back to the supposed legend of the first potato chips in Saratoga Springs NY in 1853. When an annoying customer didn't like the cut of his French fried potatoes, Chef George Crum cut his thinnest ever for him - creating the first potato chips - much to that customer, and billions of future customers' delight. You can get the full story here.

Herr's is trying to recreate that experience, and in my opinion, has made a darn good chip. Other than Regular, they also come in the following great flavors: Buttermilk & Herb, Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar and Barbeque. Interesting flavors, the Barbeque has a mild smoky bite not found in Herr's standard bbq chips. Recommended, if you can find them!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

French Fry Diary 146: Catastrophically Picky Eaters

Imagine me standing up in front of a roomful of strangers, and saying, "Hi, my name is Glenn Walker, and I am a catastrophically picky eater." Sometimes at mealtimes out with a group of people, or before I was married on dates, I have felt like I should be a part of some Picky Eaters Anonymous group like that. Even here on French Fry Diary I have invented the term, catastrophically picky eater for myself, at first as a joke, and sometimes as a defense mechanism.

Yeah, I like, no, scratch that, I love French fries. And there are a few foods that I also really enjoy, but there are far more that I really don't, and won't even try. I'm pretty strictly meat and potatoes. Over the course of my relationship and later marriage to The Bride I have branched out a bit. Pizza and Chinese food, for example, are things that I never would have touched in my teen years. And I have endeavored to try at least one new thing every time we go on vacation. So I'm not completely insane.

But. I just saw a show on the Food Network that made me not only think I'm completely normal, but made me rethink if I'm even in the running for that Catastrophically Picky Eater title. The show was called "My Life in Food" and the episode "I'm an Adult Picky Eater." Wow.

The episode followed three adults - a woman who pretty much only ate breadsticks, a man grilled cheese, and yes, a woman who ate the favorite fried food. It also talked about a website specifically for adult picky eaters, Picky Eating Adults Support, and a convention (a little one) for folks with this problem. And it is a problem, these folks are definitely suffering. I guess I'm not a catastrophically picky eater after all.

In closing, it is worth noting, that at their get-together, most of them ordered French fries. Come on, who doesn't like French fries? …well, maybe, one or two of these folks, but that's okay.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

French Fry Diary 145: The Devil Burger

Here's a Somebody Else's Fries quickie.

The Bride went to an after-work event in Philly a while ago at a place that had been recommended to me several times as somewhere I absolutely had to try their fries - Devil's Alley.

Once I saw this cellphone pic, I knew why - their Devil Burger comes with both French fries and onion rings on it. Mmmm... I assure you folks, there is a Devil's Alley review on its way...

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

French Fry Diary 144: Tacoma and the Plaza

For today's Somebody Else's Fries, here are two pics from my friends Crystal and Jeff.

The first one is of some tasty looking regular cuts from an unknown restaurant/bar in Tacoma Washington. They appear to be batter-fried or invisicoated and sprinkled lightly with Parmesan, and maybe garlic (Jeff couldn't remember, but it's cool, just look at those fries).

Our second Somebody Else's Fries aren't even fries at all, but everyone's second favorite side dish, onion rings. This photo was taken at the Diner at the Plaza on Snyder Avenue in Philadelphia. These thin crispy onion rings just look so perfect and delicious.

Crystal says, "That was my dinner... Pork maybe? Or steak? Whichever it was, they were like the lightest shoestring onion slices fried and garnished..."

I'll have to get over there and try them sometime...

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

French Fry Diary 143: Burger Wow

Here's one from The Bride. As an attorney she does a lot of traveling and so has to eat on the run a lot. Occasionally when the hustle and bustle of traveling breaks down her diet, she'll get the favorite fried food. And when she does, she thinks of me. And takes pictures...

The last time she was in New Hampshire, she stopped at a place called Burger Wow at the Mall of New Hampshire, and got these batter-fried regular cuts just slathered with melted orange cheese.

As good as they might look however, The Bride reported back to me that they really weren't that good at all. Shame. I guess it's burgers wow, fries blah.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

French Fry Diary 142: Marriott Room Service

Unfortunately I am still recovering from surgery so I'm taking it easy for a bit. That's why the French Fry Diary has been so sparse of late.

So this week, while I'm resting up and catching up, I'll be posting pics of the favorite fried food that friends have sent me on their adventures.

Presenting today's edition of Somebody Else's Fries - Marriott Room Service...

My buddy Ray sent me this one from the road. It's a bacon cheeseburger and natural cut fries from Marriott's hotel room service. I remember being told this was quite good. I'll trust Ray on this one. :-)

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

French Fry Diary 141: Squid Fries

Twitter friend and Philly foodie LucindaLunacy, also known as Jen Walker, no, not The Bride, the other Jen Walker, turned me on to this for the inaugural edition of Somebody Else's Fries - Squid Fries.

In several Tweets, she not only described the fries, the restaurant, and also provided a pic. Here you go, as I asked her where she got those fries:

"At a Korean place called Cafe Soho. Standard steak fries, but instead of a seasoned salt it was a spicy seasoned pepper...

"It came with ketchup and a soy/pepper sauce to dip. On top also were squid strips cut in fry length and deep fried...

"Like a thicker, meatier calamari. SO GOOD. The chicken wings were the hit of the table though...

"Here is where the place is:

"The place also has a great beer and wine selection and all kinda neat Asian frozen drinks, bubble tea, etc. Mod and kitsch...

"The music was all K-Pop and Korean hip hop too. Lol."

Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me. Well, except for the squid, that is. Thanks, Jen!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

French Fry Diary 140: More Shake Dipping

Something a bit different this week for Food Network Friday, I'm going to talk about something I saw on "Chopped Champions" last week.

"Chopped Champions" is the a trumped version of "Chopped" for the new season. In this reality television competition series, four chefs go up against each other in three rounds - appetizer, entree and dessert - using four mystery ingredients they find out about just seconds before they start. Sometimes the ingredients make sense, and sometimes they are as twisted as say - celery root, chicken wings, salt water taffy and a pickle. The chefs have to produce something amazing, creative and tasty in a limited time using all four ingredients. Hilarity ensues.

In "Chopped Champions," the competitors are all chefs who have won on the show before and are going for a bigger cash prize and more difficult challenges. The first round of this new competition aired last week and featured in the dessert round two specific mystery ingredients - fingerling potatoes and some type of chocolate. So guess what one chef made? Yeah, you got it. Matchstick fries, and some sort of chilled chocolatey sauce in which to dip them in.

Nope. I'm not crazy. Mmmm... fries... and shake...

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Shanah Tovah

For the Jewish New Year, here's a potato latke recipe from

Potato Latkes

yield: Makes 12 to 16 latkes

active time: 45 min.

total time: 45 min.

What is the secret to making great latkes? We found that the starchier the potato, the crisper the latke. As for varieties, we tested baking potatoes (the starchiest), Yukon Golds, and boiling potatoes (the least starchy) and liked the flavor of them all. You can easily double this recipe for a crowd.


* 1 pound potatoes
* 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

* Accompaniments: sour cream and applesauce


Preheat oven to 250°F.

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

Cooks' notes: Latkes may be made up to 8 hours ahead. Reheat on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, about 5 minutes.

Grating the potatoes, soaking them briefly in water, and then squeezing out the liquid (as we've done here) keeps the batter from turning brown too quickly.

Check out the full details here. Happy New Year!

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

French Fry Diary 139: Wendy's

With all the hubbub of Wendy's changing their French fries due to low standings in the Zagat survey, I figured I had better review the old ones before they replace them with natural cuts.

Wendy's French fries (for now) are regular cuts, a little more golden brown in appearance than may be desirable - while some of them may look burnt - they're not. They are best when hot, but as with most fast food places - that's the luck of the draw. In fact, they get cold rather quickly and do not reheat well.

These fries are excellent for putting on your burger. Being a purist, I prefer a plain burger to get the full effect and taste of the fries. But the best way to enjoy Wendy's fries is in your Frosty. I've talked about this before here. Others do this too, so I'm not the only weird one here.

Frostys have just the right thickness (so do the shakes at Sonic) and consistency for this. If you really want to live dangerously, dip the fry-covered burger in your Frosty. Kids, don't try this at home, and everyone else, do so at your own risk.

Wendy's also has some pretty cool alternate dipping possibilities in the sauces for their boneless wings. These include the honey bbq, sweet and spicy Asian and spicy chipotle. I've also talked about this before, at the risk of repeating myself. My vote goes to the honey bbq.

As far as the fries go, there's nothing wrong with these fries really, and unless the new natural cuts are really really good, I think this will be a step down. Don't do it, and if you do, be careful. Hopefully we'll still have the old fries in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area for a while.

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