Sunday, October 31, 2010

Health Nazi Ruins Halloween

When I was a kid, Halloween was different. Sure there were one or two nuts out there who would spoil it for everyone with a pin or a razor blade, but let's face it, those psychos were few and far between, and our parents would check over our candy when we got home. You could even go and have your candy x-rayed if you were particularly paranoid.

A rule of thumb presided - unopened, sealed treats were fine. And money or the much-cherished McDonalds gift certificates were even better. Nobody could mess with them. And back in the day, a fifty cent McD piece of paper could get you an order of free fries!

Well, yesterday a dietician hopped on the Health Nazi bandwagon. Here's that person's letter:

No Halloween French Fries

As a registered dietitian, I was horrified to read a pediatrician's claim that 80 percent of children under 12 months old regularly eat French fries [Living, Oct. 27, "Doctors Detail How To Keep Kids Well"]. Whether this is accurate or not, proper nutrition for children is undoubtedly one of the most serious problems facing our nation.

Unfortunately, located directly below Churnin's article was Korky Vann's article "Here's The Ticket For Halloween." Vann informs parents of a special fast-food Halloween deal: a $1 coupon booklet that contains tickets for free orders of French fries and a soft drink.

Vann's suggestion to hand out these coupons on Halloween in order to save money is discouraging. Easy access to inexpensive, high-calorie foods is one of the major barriers in fighting the obesity epidemic. Why encourage readers to celebrate Halloween by endorsing an industry that has such a devastating impact on the health of our country?

Traditional "fun-sized" Halloween candies are much lower in calories than a serving of fries and soda. Please don't feed French fries to your neighbors' babies this Halloween. Here's a better way to save money: find out whether you qualify for federal food assistance programs at

Wow. I think I'd rather have a razor blade in a caramel apple. And I think this dietician is probably against Christmas, Valentines Day and peanut butter in schools too. Party pooper.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

French Fry Diary 160: Whispering Canyon Café 2010

On our last trip to Walt Disney World, our dinner at the Whispering Canyon Café was one of the highlights. In the gorgeous lobby of the Wilderness Lodge, this restaurant is not just good food, it's an interactive experience disguised as an old west hillbilly homey eatin' joint. Reminiscent of the now-defunct Adventurers Club (come on, Disney, bring it back!), this is about fun and atmosphere more than the food, but the food is great too.

The favorite fried food is just as good as it was last time, as was the show. The fries were regular cuts, hot and especially tasty with the barbeque sauce that comes with the ribs. The Bride got the sweet potato fries which were very crispy, and not bad, and that's saying a lot considering I'm really not a SPF guy.

One small disappointment this trip was that they changed up the shakes. Last time we had had these 'all you care to drink' shakes that came in a staggering variety of flavors. There were traditional like chocolate and the like, but also stuff like bubble gum and mint and butterscotch. By the end of the meal we had almost tried every type. Now they only have the primary flavors - brown, white and pink. Still damn good either way.
All in all, horse races, the Hokey-Pokey, straw throwing, and especially server attitude - this was a fun dinner and night. And don't forget to ask for ketchup!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

French Fry Diary 159: Everything Pop 2010

For this most recent trip to Walt Disney World, The Bride, her parents and I stayed at Pop Century, the same place The Bride and I stayed on our last trip. This is one of the discount resorts, no frills, but everything you need. And everything you need can be found at the shopping/eating complex in the lobby, called, appropriately enough, Everything Pop. I've reviewed the place on my last trip but figured I would do a quick check up as long as I'm here again.

The French fries are the natural cuts that are the standard fare for WDW and can be found universally (pun unintended) throughout the parks. These are adequate, but of course at Disney World, it's the atmosphere and the whole OMG-we're-in-Disney vibe that helps the experience. Sometimes it makes even the mediocre fries taste better. I mean, the fries at Casey's Corner are the very same as these, but guess which ones are more fun, ya know?

These aren't great but they're not bad either. Especially after a long day filled with three to four hours of Southwest Airlines delays, these were just fine. And seeing as Southwest's delays made a trip to Cookes of Dublin (the best fries period) impossible, it was nice to get any kind of fries today at all.

On day two of our trip, the 'rents and I hit Everything Pop for breakfast, always a yummy time at WDW. The bacon is perfect but they never give you enough, something that can be easily remedied on the Disney Cruise in a few days, wink-wink, and the breakfast potatoes, which unlike the WDW fries, take on a few different forms, are always terrific.

This morning I got natural cut diced potatoes, sometimes red, sometimes not. These were very hot, very good and well worth the wait. Mmmm... I could easily eat these every morning.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back from Vacation

I'm finally back from vacation and I had lots of the favorite fried food while I was away in Walt Disney World and aboard the Disney Wonder.

Check back here over the next few days for reports from my trip.

Photo courtesy of the I Can Has Pixie Dust blog from the entry found here.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

French Fry Diary 158: Chili's

It's been years since I had gone into a Chili's but The Bride and I were lured in recently by their two-entrees-plus-an-appetizer-for-twenty-dollars promotion. The ad was playing, and still is, non-stop on television, and the food just looked too good. Never say that these kinds of promotions don't work, because now Chili's is a regular dinner destination.

For our appetizers, on the recent visits we have gotten both the Texas Cheese Fries with Chili, and the Crispy Onion String & Jalapeno Stack. The former is an order of Chili's standard Homestyle Fries but topped with cheese, chili, jalapenos, onions and best of all, bacon. Not my style, but not bad, and bacon always makes things better. The latter are some terrific onion straws with a small handful of batter-fried jalapenos thrown in. The few jalapenos are easily identifiable for those (like myself) who aren't fans and the onion straws truly rock. Recommended.

For my entrée I have always gotten some form of the Chili's Chicken Crispers. These are larger than usual chicken tenders with just enough crunch and just enough tender (for me anyhow) and served with a killer smooth barbeque sauce. For my sides I usually get the juiciest sweet corn on the cob I've had in a while, and of course, the fries.

Chili's Homestyle Fries are very crispy natural cuts sprinkled with salt and pepper. Crispy on the outside but they are still hot and soft inside. These are fantastic fries in their subtlety. You won't stop eating them, and the barbeque sauce goes even better with the fries than with the chicken crispers. And best of all, because the portions were so big, I took them home, and all reheated well when baked in the oven.

To top off the meal, Chili's has these one dollar wonders called Sweet Shots. These are shot glasses filled with all the goodies to make any of the following flavors - key lime pie, red velvet cake, warm cinnamon bun, and warm double chocolate fudge brownie. Wow, ultimate dessert.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Burger Bar's Perfect French Fries

The book "Burger Bar" by Hubert Keller with Penelope Wisner, available here, purports to have a recipe for 'perfect' French fries. Here it is:

Perfect French Fries

Serves 4

Perfection takes time. Three days, in fact. The long soaking leaches starch from the potatoes so they turn golden and crispy on the outside and white and fluffy on the inside.

Build your own: Depending on how you choose to cut your potatoes, you can make fat or skinny fries, wedges or shoestrings. Skins on or off, your choice. I like to serve fries in small earthenware flowerpots. You could also fashion a cone of parchment paper and fit it inside a narrow glass as a holder, then fill the cone with fries.

4 large (about 2 pounds) potatoes, preferably russets, peeled, if desired
6 to 8 cups vegetable or sunflower oil for deep frying
Coarse sea salt

Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water to cover, then let them soak overnight, refrigerated. The next day, drain and cut them. For skinny fries, cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut these lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips. For fat fries, simply increase the width of your slices. For wedges, cut the potatoes lengthwise in half, then cut the halves into wedges. To make evenly sized wedges, if the potatoes are very fat, you may need to cut a lengthwise slice out of the middle of the potato and either discard it or cut it into fat fries. For shoestrings, use the julienne blade of a mandoline and cut the potatoes into very fine strips. However they are cut, place the potatoes in a bowl, cover with cold water, and again let them soak overnight, refrigerated.

When ready to fry, drain the potatoes well and pat dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel. Cover a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Put 2 cups of oil per potato in a deep, heavy pot or deep fryer. The oil should fill the pot at least one-third full.

Heat it to 250˚F. Working in batches, fry the potatoes until they are cooked through but remain almost white, about 5 minutes. Drain on the prepared baking sheet. The fries may be prepared up to this point several hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Just before serving, heat the oil to 360˚F. Again working in batches, fry the potatoes until they are golden and crisp. The timing will depend on the size you have cut your potatoes, but allow about 3 minutes for skinny fries. When done, drain them briefly on paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt. Scoop them into a bowl and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

French Fry Diary 157: Big John's 2010

I've reviewed Big John's CheeseSteaks & More in Cherry Hill before and was sorely disappointed with their French fry selection. This was mostly because they had changed it.

As noted in my previous review, Big John's Famous Fries (they are even still called that on some of their menus) were indeed famous. When I would ask folks where the best fries were, they would say Big John's. They used to have delicious, crispy pixie crinkle-cut shoestring fries, in generous portions to go along with their terrific steak sandwiches and equally famous pickle bar. The last few times I have visited the restaurant however I have been confronted with sad substitutes.

This time, instead of the fries expected I got even crappier fries than before. And I thought only Burger King was capable of lowering the standards on their French fries. These were deep fried natural cuts, very hard, not crispy, overdone in the worst way possible. This was epic fail, guys, these were really bad French fries. Do you have any idea how bad the fries have to be for me not to want them?

Big John's - the steak sandwiches are still aces, but avoid the fries at all costs.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

French Fry Diary 156: Chick-fil-A for Breakfast

I love Chick-fil-A, even at breakfast. I love the Chicken Biscuit, and especially the Chick-n-Minis. I like 'em so much I think they should offer the latter all day and not just for breakfast. Are you listening, Chick-fil-A corporate? All day, baby. Try it.

Unlike their other breakfast foods however, their hash browns are not so great. What makes this most sad is that Chick-fil-A has some of the best fast food franchise fries with their Waffle Fries. You would think they could put some of that potato genius to work on their morning version.

Chick-fil-A Hash Browns are thick but quarter-sized potato medallions. They are more crunch than potato however. Deep fried in canola oil, but unfortunately they taste more of the oil than of the potato. They come sixteen to twenty per order, sometimes whole and sometimes broken. It's sad, but these, along with Burger King's, are among the worst of the fast food hash browns.

Chick-fil-A still has those amazing Waffle Fries, some of the best, but man, if only they had them, or something similar for breakfast.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

French Fry Diary 155: The Pop Shop, Breakfast

I have talked about the Pop Shop before and how it's one of my favorite restaurants in the area. Of course, until very recently I was not a big fan of their breakfast, preferring instead their lunch and dinner fare, which feature those fantastic Pop Fries of theirs.

One very decadent but highly addictive new menu item has brought me around to their breakfast offerings - the Cinnamon Bun French Toast. Oh yeah, baby, just imagine it. Trust me, it the best thing you will ever taste for breakfast that doesn't include the favorite fried food. This is a breakfast item to die for. I can't recommend this enough. It's a masterpiece.

Now of course, while you're at the Pop Shop for breakfast, you might as well have some of their home fries as well. These shredded potatoes are lightly fried with salt and pepper and sometimes in need of a bit more seasoning, but keep in mind they can be cooked to order and you can season them yourself. I always like my shreddeds a bit well done and they will do it if you ask. They go great with bacon, and bacon at the Pop Shop is always perfect.

The bacon, the home fries, and the Cinnamon Bun French Toast are a killer combination and always a terrific breakfast. Check it out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

French Fry Diary 154: Cook Fries Like an Iron Chef

On his TV show "Cook Like an Iron Chef" on the new Cooking Channel Iron Chef Michael Symon shows us how they do it in the Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium. Gee, do ya think I could have used the words 'Iron Chef' a few more times in that sentence? Anyway, the episode I just watched had the secret ingredient of the potato, so I was mesmerized.

Symon made 'Pan Roasted Diver Scallops with Potato and Celery Root Puree and Brown Butter,' and 'Potato wrapped Pacific Cod with a Grilled Leek, Red Bliss and Purple Peruvian Potato and Lobster Salad,' with their recipes found here and here, but what really caught my eye was when he made, yeah, you guessed it, French fries.

Iron Chef Mike Symon put an interesting spin on the favorite fried food with his 'Duck Fat Fries with Rosemary and Parm with Greek Yogurt Aioli.' First and foremost he cooked them in duck fat, a luxury I have yet to try. Rumor has it the best fries are done that way. But he also deep-fried sliced garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary in with the fries as well, an intriguing technique, and there was also only one fry, as opposed to the par-fry/shock-fry method.

He can keep the yogurt and aioli, but the fries still looked darn good. You can check out the recipe here at the Cooking Channel website. Mmmm... fries...

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Monday, October 11, 2010

French Fry Diary Suggestion Box

Okay folks, here's your chance to tell me about your favorite French fries!

We're planning a trip to Walt Disney World in a couple weeks, and although this is far from our first trip, and I've done many entries on places down there to have the favorite fried food, I am looking for your suggestions.

Where is the best place in the parks for fries? Who has the best, or the worst? Is there some place I have missed in the past, or somewhere you all think I have mis-reviewed? Help me find the best fries in Walt Disney World!

And also, the same goes for my home territory in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area... who has the best, who has the worst, what is the next place you'd like to see me review? Tell me what's on your mind.

Please contact me here. Let's see what we can find!

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Friday, October 08, 2010

French Fry Diary 153: Moules Frites

Burgers and fries, fish and chips, meat and potatoes. Sometimes there are foods that just naturally go together. In the world of the favorite fried food, there is one more variation on that angle, maybe one of the lesser known, but there it is - moules frites, or mussels and fries, and that's what we're talking about this Food Network Friday.

A recent episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" explored the topic a bit and spotlighted one of the best places to get this Belgian specialty, Granville Moore's in Washington DC, from Executive Chef Teddy Folkman.

The crux of each episode is that Bobby Flay attempts to beat a traditional favorite of an established restaurant and chef with his own new recipe. The results are usually mixed. Bobby usually wins, but here I will invoke the superhero fight rule - whoever's title the fight takes place in is the winner - that's why Bobby wins. When he does. In my opinion.

Here's the recipe Bobby put up against Granville Moore's: Steamed Mussels with Coconut-Green Chile Broth and Black Pepper French Fries with Smoked Red Pepper Aioli. Yeah, wow, what a mouthful. See the recipe here.

Teddy's moules frites won, on the show at least, kicking the superhero fight rule to the curb. Going on the fries alone, because I don't think mussels would be in my wheelhouse, I think I would choose Teddy's as well. Mmmm... fries...

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

French Fry Diary 152: Five Guys Cajun Fries

I love Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The burgers are better than most fast food places as are the fries, as a matter of fact, they are some of the consistently best franchise fries out there. One of the best things about Five Guys is the simplicity of the menu, including the fries - two sizes and two kinds - and I'd never tried the Cajun Fries, yet.

As friends and family converged on Five Guys for an August Saturday lunch, I felt brave and decided to try the Cajun Fries for the first time. We ended up with two orders as friends and family were game to help with the French Fry Diary experiment. The consensus was pretty unanimous.
The Cajun Fries at Five Guys are the same as the regular fries, natural cuts, but dusted heavily with Cajun seasoning. The seasoning includes, according to the manager on duty, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, white pepper, and 'spice.' These are hot, oh so hot. So hot I think I burned the tip of my tongue and the roof of my mouth, yow. I had to suck on ice cubes to cool off.

Thankfully we also got the regular style fries as well for those of us with milder dispositions. And as always, the peanuts and the burgers were terrific, but I doubt I'll be getting the Cajun Fries any time soon. They weren't bad just very hot. There's a time for that, and folks who love that, just not me. I still love Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Tower of Fries

I got this one from the al-Masri al-Yum food review blog. Always great stuff there.

Here the tower of fries from EuroDeli is discussed.

Well, in all honesty, I'm not really sure the tower of fries is actually from EuroDeli, but they do get a good review, and that is a great pic…

Mmmm... tower of fries...

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

French Fry Diary 151: Gene's Food

Yesterday I was at the Collingswood Book Festival, a local literary event with small town flair that has some amazing writers and functions. The town makes a day of it, closing off the main drag and doing a whole deal, great stuff. What does this have to do with the favorite fried food you might ask, well, I'll tell you. At one end of the main street, were the food carts. Hot dogs, pretzels, funnel cakes, and yeah, you guessed it, French fries.

The chalkboard next to the window declared this particular cart to be "Gene's Food" and also offered funnel cakes, chicken fingers and fresh squeezed lemonade, all in a variety of sizes. So as I listened to the cool sounds of She Hates Me, I got the medium fry and a can of Pepsi, all for a measly five bucks even, tax included, one would assume.

The paper containers that designated small, medium and large were all pretty close in size, so I would estimate you get the same amount of fries in any size. The fries were natural cuts, and very hot. They were also more than a little bit greasy. This was probably due to the fact they just dropped them for the second fry, the shock fry, when I ordered them. That shock crisp is nice, and actually manages to cancel out the greasiness somewhat.

These fries are good in a crunch, when you are craving and there's nothing else around, but the fact is I was still in Collingswood, just yards from the Pop Shop and a handful of other really cool restaurants. With that thought in mind I actually felt kind of foolish, but there you go. Next time, Pop Shop for sure.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Rachel Ray's Roasted Thick Potato Chips

For today's Food Network Fridays, we're going with a recipe from Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals" - Roasted Thick Potato Chips.

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Serves: 4 servings

* 2 large Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
* 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing potatoes
* 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
* 2 tablespoons grill seasoning

Heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Thinly slice the potatoes lengthwise 1/8-inch thick. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on nonstick baking sheet. Brush the potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, rosemary and grill seasoning. Bake potatoes turning once 25 minutes until crisp. Serve hot.

Check out the original recipe here.

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