Tuesday, November 30, 2010

French Fry Diary 180: The Funplex Café

The trip to The Funplex in East Hanover, New Jersey, was a road trip to help celebrate the birthday of my dear friend, the Dark Crystal. The Funplex is a gigantic arcade, that among other things, has laser tag, amusement rides, giant ball pits, a total immersion theater, MagiQuest (The Bride's favorite that she discovered at similar places in Myrtle Beach and Great Wolf Lodge) and, believe it or not, a café.

After an exhilarating game of MagiQuest, we hit the café, and guess what I got? That's right, the favorite fried food. These were barely warm Invisicoated regular cuts, and pretty tasteless save that of the oil they were deep fried in. They were however good in a pinch. Let me be clear. These are not good fries. But if you are tired from MagiQuest or laser tag or just plain arcading… you might just eat all of them without realizing it. Great but evil marketing plan.

The best part, discovered while waiting for our pizza (a dozen times better than the fries), is that the Funplex apparently has its own brand of oregano and garlic powder. Intriguing. And I guess it keeps you from taking it home maybe? Either way, neither made the fries taste any better. Go for the games, not the fries.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

French Fry Diary 179: O'Boisies Sweet B-B-Q

One last potato-oriented hurrah from my vacation to the Disney regions comes from Philadelphia International Airport, while waiting for our luggage, I found a snack machine that had these happy chips in it.

While not strictly potato ships according to the packaging, their official name is O'Boisies Sweet B-B-Q light and crunchy potato crisps. I am always suspect when the word 'crisps' is used. They are thick, and excellent for dipping, sort of a mutant cross between Munchos and kettle chips, with a subtle bbq taste, slightly addictive.

They come with a "Flavor Caution"... "Although we advise against it, O'Boisies Sweet B-B-Q flavor snack chips are so yummy, you might catch yourself hugging random strangers on the street." I'm really not sure what that means, and I wouldn't go that far, but these are good chips.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

French Fry Diary 178: Glee's Tot War

I'm about two weeks or so behind on this one. I blame the NaNoWriMo and The Bride's picking order on what we watch on the DVR. Nevertheless, I was quite surprised to get a double treat when we watched "Glee" tonight. Not only did I get another episode of one of my mildly favorite shows, but I also got tater tots.

I knew something had to be up when they kept showing the tater tots during cafeteria scenes and sure enough the plot began to turn on them. The villain of "Glee," cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch, has become the principal and decided to wage war on 'unhealthy' food, specifically the tater tots, or as they call 'em on the show, 'po-tater tots.'

The episode "The Substitute" also features guest-star Gwyneth Paltrow and the songs "Forget You," "Conjunction Junction" and a mash-up of "Singin' in the Rain" and "Umbrella." Oh yeah, and lots of shots of tater tots. Mmmm... tater tots...

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pie Fries

Wondering what to do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers? Well, the folks at Jersey Bites have an idea for at least your Thanksgiving pie leftovers. Pie fries!

Well, not really pie leftovers, but what's leftover after you've baked your pies can be made into a wonderful new pastry snack. To learn the secrets of Allison Heller's pie fries check out the blog entry at Jersey Bites from the other day here.

Mmmm... pie fries...

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Friday, November 26, 2010

French Fry Diary 177: Wegman's Signature Whipped Potatoes

My mother-in-law is a wonderful cook. Unfortunately she just doesn't cook that often. Let's be honest here, cooking is a lot of work. And cooking for Thanksgiving is the most work of all in that arena. For that reason, the last few Thanksgivings have been courtesy of Wegman's. And again, honestly, the folks at Wegman's aren't bad cooks either.

This year in particular, probably because of this blog, I have been hearing a lot of folks talking about the potatoes from Wegman's at Thanksgiving. Specifically the mashed potatoes. Officially called Wegman's Signature Whipped Potatoes, these are buttery mashed potatoes, quite addictive and tasty when hot. Not mom's, or even mom-in-law's, and a bit more liquid-y than I would prefer, but darned good for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey Butter

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey Butter

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling potatoes after cooked
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Lay the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on a roasting tray.
Drizzle the oil, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper over the potatoes.
Roast for 25 to 30 minutes in oven or until tender.
Take sweet potatoes out of the oven and transfer them to a serving platter.
Drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

French Fry Diary 176: Wendy's New Fries

After a very busy week, I finally got around to trying Wendy's new French fries this weekend. The Bride and I checked out the Mount Laurel Wendy's on Route 73, the same one we tried for the old fries a few weeks back (but posted yesterday).

I was surprised to see all the promo material for the fries already up. I had visited Wendy's more than a few times in the last couple weeks and had seen no evidence that there was even a change in the wind, especially not in the TV commercials currently pushing the new dollar menu. One might think new fries would be big news. Finally it was here inside the restaurant.

At the counter we were greeted by a gentleman, a real charmer, perhaps new, who wasn't the most pleasant person, I'm sad to say. I'm sure he'll learn. I got the number one, which was a Single Combo, not always the best choice for me as I like my burgers plain and sometimes the employees can't grasp that concept. It worked out fine this time.

Between The Bride and me, we had a large and a small order of Wendy's new fries. These were, as advertised, natural cuts, but with a distinctive shape. At first glance they appeared similar to the old fries, but closer inspection proved them flatter, almost like miniature steak fries. The signage proclaimed 'with sea salt,' which I looked forward to, but I barely tasted it. The bottom line is that yes, these new fries are very good, and would even be better if they were a bit crispier… but Wendy's old fries are still superior to them.

Speaking of the salt, an odd fiasco happened while we sat eating the new fries and watching Michael Vick and the Eagles tear up the Giants. A woman with a service dog got into it with our friendly counterperson about the fries. She wanted fries without salt and he pretty much refused to drop a new batch. From what I heard he was insisting that he could refry them and the salt would burn off. I don't think the woman fell for it, but I couldn't be sure as Vick scored again for the Eagles.

But back to the fries… One area unfortunately where Wendy's new fries definitely fail is in the Frosty dipping department. This is vital, and a major reason to go to Wendy's (at least for me) over other fast food places. These new fries are so thin/flat that they break or bend when you dip them into the thick goodness of the Frosty. Dipping is no longer an option. This is not a good thing.

I also ordered a small order of the new fries for the road. Hot and crispy and good for car-munching on the way home, but alas, once home - these fries did not reheat well in either microwave or conventional oven. For the record, the old ones did, just like their burgers and chicken nuggets still do.

Final verdict - these new fries are good, but not as good as the old ones. Extra points come off for the Frosty problem. Perhaps Wendy's might decide to offer both kinds of fries? That would be a good solution.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

French Fry Diary 175: Wendy's Flashback

After my reports on Wendy's changing their fries and then my initial review of Wendy's former fries, I was contacted by someone who worked with the Wendy's company who urged me to re-try the old fries, and then when the new fries came out, try them as well, and compare and contrast. Well, let's be serious here, no one has to twist my arm to eat the favorite fried food, so I went back to Wendy's.

I like Wendy's old fries, heck, I love 'em, regular cuts that simply rock. They're good for sandwiching and especially for dipping in your Frosty. I'm really not sure what else I can say. I could note that over the years, if I had to complain, I have noticed that sometimes they either come too salty or with no salt at all. That could be a complaint of any fast food place but I have noticed it consistently more at Wendy's. But again, I really like Wendy's fries, saying otherwise is just looking for a problem. Even gold bricks are heavy, you know what I mean?
Rather than belabor the point I will instead bore you with a vivid memory of Wendy's from the past. In the mid-nineties I spent a year unemployed. Too picky when looking for work, and too stupid to think I could make a living writing, I took to delivering flowers for a very generous local florist who paid me under the table. It was good work, hard work, and I learned to use a map (in the days before Mapquest and GPS) better than anyone should ever need to.

In all my deliveries criss-crossing two counties to make secretaries and birthday girls and boys happy, I kept passing the same Wendy's restaurant, the one on the Route 38 circle, over and over again. It became a haven, especially around lunch time, for both bathroom breaks and a snack. Strapped for cash (I was still unemployed), I would always get the same thing - a small Coke and a small fry (yeah, I was addicted even then).

A dollar and seventy cents - I still remember that to this day because I got it so much. My stop at Wendy's was always a highlight, an oasis in an otherwise lousy day. And the fries from this one Wendy's were always perfect.

I'll be back tomorrow with my review of the new French Fries at Wendy's. See you then.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

French Fry Diary 174: Johnny Rivers' Grill & Market, Orlando International Airport

Southwest Airlines always has their gates off the beaten track no matter what airport you go to. If you arrive at any airport, be assured that Southwest will be the furthest point from where you are. In an airport like Orlando, one so big that they need a train to get you to your baggage, Southwest is pretty far from any of the malls or food courts. What is close to Southwest's gates is a place called Johnny Rivers' Grill & Market.

This is a tiny little oasis squeezed between two gates with an unimaginably tiny seating area and an even tinier 'market' where you can order and purchase stuff like sodas, candy and peach barbeque sauce. It does smell really good, specializing in Cajun fare, with delightful pictures rather than a menu. Here I was, with lots of time on my hands, and a taunting picture of golden brown steak fries overhead. So I ordered fries and a Dr. Pepper (which was odd, isn't Florida the land of Mr. Pibb?).

Ten minutes later I got a very generous portion of shoestring French fries. They were very hot as they were made to order, and they were sprinkled heavily with salt and cracked black pepper that gave them quite a kick. Not bad for an airport snack, and I would have been more than satisfied had it not been for that teasing pic of golden brown thick steak fries on the menu.

This place really has no web presence. I did find numerous bad reviews of the food at this particular location. The chef Johnny Rivers (not the Memphis Secret Agent Man from the Poor Side of Town, it should be noted) is apparently also responsible for the menus at such myriad restaurants as Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, the Hawaiian Tropic Grill and Prime Minister Steakhouse. I guess he didn't spend much time at the airport.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

French Fry Diary 173: Gino's Flashback

Gino's was my first fast food experience. It was first restaurant to move in nearby, even though we all knew there was a McDonalds several miles up the White Horse Pike, Gino's was five minutes away, and right next to the Acme where just everyone did their grocery shopping. How could you miss it?

One visit after a long grocery trip to bring home lunch and I was indoctrinated at a very tender age. I remember loving the fries even then, surely an early sign of the mental illness that troubles me even now.

Gino's was huge then. Even the sign, that of a cartoon football player holding aloft a gigantic bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was huge and one of the highest points in Berlin NJ. The home of the Gino's Giant, the later Sirloiner, and of course the Colonel's chicken held a prominent place in my childhood years.

I remember one traumatic moment when I was five or six when I was given a soda to carry as we left the counter with our take out, and me being a dumb and clumsy kid, I dropped it. I remember it went everywhere when it hit the floor, and I was horrified. Another fond Gino's memory was when a friend had her birthday party 'catered' by Gino's with Kentucky Fried Chicken her parents brought home. That party was the envy of the neighborhood.

The fries at Gino's were long shoestrings, maybe a bit greasy, but always a treat. The novelty of fast food was still a new thing for us hicks back then. The Berlin Gino's eventually closed and later became an Arby's then a Roy Rogers and now it's a Jersey diner, but it has retained its distinctive Gino's structure through the years. Later, when I was in college I noticed they had changed their fries to regular cuts similar to Roy Rogers, not surprising as they had been purchased by Marriott. And then they vanished altogether.

Gino's is still missed, and despite what the new Gino's is trying to do, it's not the same. But I still have my memories. Check out the memories of others here.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

French Fry Diary 172: Triton's, Disney Wonder

Day four brought us to both brunch and dinner at Triton's. For our late brunch I had the French toast, bacon and roasted red potatoes. At Triton's there were a bit better and hotter than they had been up at Beach Blanket Buffet, and in a much larger portion. Also the bacon was reasonably cooked, not crunchy like glass as it has been most mornings up there. I guess it is a matter of where you go.

For our last dinner on board the Disney Wonder I had the best meal of our cruise. French bread as an appetizer, aged Angus beef tenderloins, bacon (yes, bacon!) wrapped green beans and side order of French fries - because it's a French restaurant after all.

These larger than usual regular cuts were the exact same delicious and nearly perfect fries from our first aboard ship at Animator's Palate. Dessert was an old-fashioned ice cream sundae. This definitely made up for last night. Not just the best meal on the cruise, but the best meal - not to mention service, Stafford and Myriam were first class - I've had in a long time.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

6 NC sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Place the sweet potatoes in a 2-quart casserole, cover, and cook in microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, apricot preserves, salt and pepper in a small microwave bowl and cook on high for 3 minutes, stirring each minute.

Add the orange mixture to the potatoes and toss lightly. Microwave on high for 10 minutes or until heated through. Baste with the sauce twice during final cooking. Garnish with the walnuts over the top.

Makes 8 servings

From the [just potatoes] Yahoo! Group.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

French Fry Diary 171: Room Service, Disney Wonder

Whether you're in a fancy hotel or on a cruise ship, there is just something both amazing and enticing about the very concept of having food brought to you in your room. And the idea that they can bring you almost anything reasonable is good too. Whether it's bacon at a comic con in Baltimore or French fries at sea aboard the Disney Wonder - it's just magic.

Evening three of our most recent Disney Cruise I had a rather disappointing dinner so some time around two in the AM I decided that the magic of room service was needed. Macaroni and cheese, her favorite comfort food, was the weapon of choice for The Bride. I wanted, come on, what else would I want? If your answer isn't French fries, you haven't been paying attention for the last eight years.

I wondered what kind of fries would come. Last time, on board the Disney Magic, room service brought steak fries, a type I've yet to see on this trip on the Wonder. I know that so far on the Magic, I have seen regular cuts, natural cuts (on the top deck, at Pluto's Dog House and Pinocchio's Pizzeria, same as the Magic), slightly larger than regular cuts and something deliciously close to British chips.

What arrived were the less than satisfying natural cuts from the upper decks. Well, at least they were hot. Deep fried and unseasoned, these were good for the middle of the night munchies but little else. The mac and cheese satisfied as well. I honestly think if I hadn't been expecting steak fries - I might have enjoyed this more.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

French Fry Diary 170: Beach Blanket Buffet, Disney Wonder

Much like Topsiders on the Disney Magic, Beach Blanket Buffet, on the Disney Wonder, is a buffet style cafeteria up on one of the top decks, specializing in breakfast but also dinners on occasion. Throughout a cruise trip, Topsiders would feature various styles of potato, and BBB is much the same.

Upon boarding the ship, while waiting for our luggage to arrive we hit the Buffet and I found the afternoon treat of roasted red potatoes. Not hot, but still rather tasty, especially for the road weary traveler who had just found out there was no Whataburger between Orlando and Port Canaveral. Us poor fry guys gotta take what we can get.

The red bliss roasted potatoes would turn up at breakfast at the Beach Blanket Buffet for at least two more days, but as with all my other Disney Cruise experiences, as the trip goes on, the breakfast potatoes take a nasty turn the longer you're aboard. The last two days we were 'treated' to disgusting processed squares of sad hash browns. Rarely hot, and never tasting of anything more than the grease they were cooked in, they are just not good. Think Chick-fil-A hash browns only bigger and squarer. Ick.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gino's Grand Opening

Just a reminder, folks, the recently reviewed Gino's Burgers & Chicken is having their official Grand Opening tomorrow - Sunday, November 14th at their King of Prussia PA location.

Come on down between noon and three in the afternoon and get the new Gino Giant at 1970s prices (that's fifty-nine cents!), limit one per customer. And there's a ribbon cutting at 1:30 PM. Check it out!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

French Fry Diary 169: Triton's, Lunch, Disney Wonder

Lunch on board the Disney Magic, at Triton's twin, Lumiere's, was always marked by a terrific burger and some of the best fries around, so I was psyched to try the same at Triton's aboard the Wonder. After breakfast of Day Two (I know, the absolute last time I should be thinking about food) I passed the lunch menu for Triton's and saw the half-pound Angus burger with French fries, and I knew I would be back later.

And I was. Just not for the burger. When I came back and glanced at the menu my eyes were drawn immediately to something else - steak frites. Yeah, I hadda have some of that. I can come back for the burger. When in a fancy restaurant, go fancy, so I did.
The steak was very good, a bit tough, but that's my own fault for asking for very well done. I also got a grilled tomato, not my bag, and also, yeah, there were fries too. These were very tender natural regular cuts, good portion, and not crispy. Not crispy, but neither were they soggy or greasy. Their soft hot consistency actually seemed an excellent match for the steak.

Interesting side note - I was chatting with a fellow passenger while at that first lunch, who happened to be a chef himself. Being me, I talked about the French fries, and how I thought it was odd that I ordered 'steak frites' and yet did not get steak fries. He said that just because they are called something that doesn't mean that's what they are for. He further said the fries I got were appropriate to the meal I got. Ooookay.

I am reminded about what Freud supposedly said, "Sometimes a train is just a train." I guess the same goes for steak fries. Hey, at least they were good.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

French Fry Diary 168: Parrot Cay, Disney Wonder 2010

Our first foray into Parrot Cay on this Disney Cruise trip was on Day Two for breakfast. Now of course, like many of the restaurants on the DCL, I'd been here before, but every dining experience is different with Disney, and especially with the cruise. The breakfast potatoes this time around were red bliss potatoes halved and quartered and simmered in a succulent sauce, tender, hot and just right.

Day two's dinner returned us to Parrot Cay. And just for kicks, I did not order any fries. I bet I caught you off guard with that one. There were fried and potatoey stuff on the agenda however. My appetizer, a delicious island jerk chicken came with tasty dried and deep fried shredded carrots, and my entrée came with a yummy twice baked potato. Good stuff, and a nice change of pace.

Day three's lunch got me back to Parrot Cay, and that burger and fries you'll read about in a future entry. The burger I had been hankering for since the previous morning was my Parrot Cay lunch. While ninety-nine percent of the ship was ashore at Disney's private island Castaway Cay, it's my favorite time on the boat. No crowds, just rest and relaxation, peace and quiet. Maybe I'm just a freak, but that's how I vacation. So I had much of the restaurant to myself as well that lunch time.

The burger was a half-pound slab of succulent Angus meat on a toasted roll. Wow. This was the best burger I had eaten in quite some time. The fries were slightly larger than regular cuts, similar to those that first night at Animator's Palate, but not quite. Still very very good.

If I had to say anything negative at all, it had to be that the fries were a bit dry, but that's my fault, because I'm not a ketchup guy. I did surreptitiously slip a few under the bun and on top of the burger (like I might sometimes do at McDonalds), and that was terrific. What a treat, and a wonderful lunch.

Dinner for day three was also at Parrot Cay, which was also Pirate Night, a great event on board the Disney Cruise. Folks, passengers and cast members alike dress up like pirates, sing, dance, eat, drink and shoot off fireworks - not necessarily in that order. Fun all around, but I wish that carried over to the dinner.

Scrapbookers might be upset at one corner Disney has cut in that the Pirate Night menu is no longer a rolled up take home treasure map dealie. That was a bit of a disappointment but I had ordered a side of fries with dinner so I thought things were all good. Don't count on it.

The French fries were regular cuts, and nothing at all what I got just a few hours earlier for lunch. These fries were just bad in comparison with the usual excellent quality on board the cruise line, but just bad, period. We're taking Old Country Buffet under a heat lamp for a week bad. On a good note, the beef ribs that I got as my entrée (and were only just okay) came with a barbeque sauce that was excellent for dipping and made the fries just a bit better.

All in all, despite one off night for dinner, Parrot Cay does remain my favorite of the Disney Cruise Line restaurants, and I do look forward to coming back.

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