Monday, January 31, 2011

French Fry Diary 208: "Dirty" Potato Chips

I think this potato chip wins for most words on the front of their bag. They're all natural, and their name is "Dirty" Potato Chips, of the Sea Salted variety. Underneath that it says, "We Kettle Cook In A Premium Peanut Oil Blend For A Crunchier, Tastier Potato Chip!" Yeah, just like that, all capped, a grammarian's nightmare, and I don't know why.

Other than the annoying caps, these chips should make the Health Nazis happy, as they have zero transfat, no artificial colors or flavors, no MSG, no preservatives, no wheat glutens, no artificial sweeteners and they are also kosher as a bonus. They should love these babies.

I didn't. They are virtually tasteless, almost like deep-fried Communion wafers, if you can imagine. The bag says 'sea salted,' but I couldn't tell if there was any salt at all - it certainly didn't taste like it. They are kettle cooked as mentioned above, and quite crunchy, but tasteless. These are the tofu of potato chips. Fail.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gordon Ramsay's French Fries

I'm a big fan of Chef Gordon Ramsay, and his various TV projects. Invariably I have seen him make the favorite fried food on many occasions but rarely does he take the time to show how or give any details. However, in his book Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food, he provides the following recipe. Check it out.

Gordon Ramsay’s Chunky French Fries

These home made French Fries are a welcome change to the soggy, oversalted French fries most of us are accustomed to. I’ve prepared these fries and my only caution is to make sure you don’t over-boil the potatoes or you end up with hash browns instead of french fries.

You can find this recipe and many more like it in Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food. Make sure to get a copy if you don’t already have one.


2 1/4 lbs potatoes (scrubbed or peeled)
sea salt and black pepper (I just used kosher salt)
5 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
few thyme sprigs
few rosemary sprigs (leaves only)
Olive Oil

Cooking Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 425 with a roasting pan inside.

Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch thick French fires. Parboil in a pan of salted water for about 5-7 minutes until just tender. Drain and pat dry.

Put a single layer of potatoes on the roasting pan and scatter the garlic and herbs over them. Drizzle generously with olive oil (this step is important if you want crispy fries) and sprinkly with salt and pepper. Use a pair of tongs to toss the potatoes and coat well with your seasoning mixture and the olive oil.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the fries are golden brown and crisp, turning a few times during the baking. Drain on paper towels and serve! These go really well with Lela’s Famous Burgers.

Mmmm... fries...

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

French Fry Diary 207: Red Robin Burger 2010

Recently The Bride surprised me by taking me to lunch at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, the notorious home of the Bottomless Steak Fries at the Oxford Valley Mall. It made my day completely. Our waitress was Cynthia, very very nice, extra friendly and very quick service, she made this surprise lunch a delight – other than the company of course.

Cynthia recommended the Tower of Onion Rings (as if we weren't going to order them anyway), which she seemed to think was better than their fries. Well, she could be right, except the rings aren't bottomless, but they are hard to finish nevertheless. They are sooo good. Big rings with lots of onion and panko crumb coverings, served with ranch and chipotle. And it's just amazing how they stack them up by size on the tower spindle. Yummy.

I also got a burger (of course) but pay attention, much like In-N-Out Burger, Red Robin also has a secret menu. If you want a plain hamburger with nothing on it, the code words are: Natural Burger. Rock on, Red Robin's (Semi-) Secret Menu.

The Famous Bottomless Fries are steak fries with just a touch of seasoning – and the best part is – that they keep coming. Deep-fried crispy on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside. If I had to have any complaint, it would be that sometimes they are just a bit too seasoned sometimes. It's a mix of salt, pepper, paprika and a few other spices, but still terrific.

And nothing beats that bottomless thing – and when the refills come, they are hot, hot, HOT! Don't burn your fingers. Red Robin is the place for fries and onion rings, thumbs up for both.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

French Fry Diary 206: Red Robin Puts It in Print

The last time we visited Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, we saved the paper our second serving of Bottomless Steak Fries were delivered on because we thought it was so much fun. Here's a list of everything it said:

"More! More! More!, Bottomless Yummm, Sure you can have more, Fill 'er up, Bottomless is where the yummm is, Eat, Load up the spuds, Enjoy your meal, Steak fries taste best when they're bottomless, Seek the bottom" and "Munch," along with the "Bottomless Fortune: More steak fries are on the way," and the non sequitors, "Bottomless freckled lemonade... ahhhhh!" and "Chew on this: It's impossible to lick your elbow."

Fun, fun, fun. And it's all true! Mmmm... bottomless fries...

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The French Fry Fairy's I Love Potatoes Contest

Kindred spirit the French Fry Fairy is having a terrific contest this February, check it out above. More details are available here, and don't forget to follow the French Fry Fairy on Facebook and Twitter!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

French Fry Diary 205: The Biography of the Bottomless Steak Fry

From the Red Robin website:

The Biography of a Bottomless Steak Fry

Shhh... don’t give it away, but here’s the secret to our Bottomless Steak Fries®: It all starts with big, perfect potatoes. We only accept the highest-quality premium potatoes from the finest growing regions with the best soil in North America. The result? Steak Fries that are crispy and golden on the outside, and, like a freshly baked potato, tender and full of flavor on the inside. Big fries with big flavor. One more thing: Our perfectly seasoned Steak Fries are always cholesterol free and cooked in zero trans fat oil. Oh, and they’re bottomless, so dig in. Bottom-of-the-fry-basket anxiety does not exist here. That’s our Honest to Goodness® promise to you.

Man, it just doesn't get any better than that...

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

French Fry Diary 204: Red Robin Burger 2003

Here's a French Fry Diary flashback. Red Robin Burger was the first official French Fry Diary road trip. We were lured to the restaurant, quite a distance away at the Oxford Valley Mall, by their website that promised 'legendary bottomless steak fries.' There was a .gif of a moving image with constantly falling fries that said b.s.f. and nothing else. Bottomless Steak Fries? Oh, come on, you knew I had to investigate.

So we selected a night, and my friends Marni, Ken and Laurie came with on the trek to the closest Red Robin Burger location just outside the mall. It was a nice trip if a long one, but with friends, it goes by fast, and besides there were fries waiting at the end of this journey.

The onion rings were crispy and tasty. The shakes were good as were the sundaes. The burgers were big and juicy. The main event - baskets of steak fries with the skin on, were not very hot, but at least warm, slightly greasy, and if you ask, the waitstaff will refill the basket.

It's no wonder they're bottomless, you can only eat so many of these sub-par fries.
Maybe we went on a bad day but I've a hunch not. I probably won't be going back.

Now the above was my impression of eight years ago. I have gone back, and I have been impressed, as you can see from subsequent reviews... to be featured this week...

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

National Grilled Cheese Day at the Pop Shop

January 20th, at least according to some folks, is National Grilled Cheese Day, and to celebrate, one of French Fry Diary's favorite restaurants, The Pop Shop, in Collingswood NJ, has one of the best offers around.

For every grilled cheese sandwich purchase you make, you get a FREE order of fabulous Pop Fries, so make sure you stop by for what is always a great treat!

And as far as what the real date of National Grilled Cheese Day is... well, the school of thought varies. But I think we can all agree on one thing - is it ever not time for a grilled cheese? Especially when they come with such great fries. Mmmm... fries...

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

French Fry Diary 203: Fries of the Philadelphia Wings

It's Philadelphia Wings Lacrosse season again, and that means semi-weekly trips to the sports complex in Philly named, for the moment, the Wells Fargo Center. This is the former First Union Center and the Wachovia Center and who knows what else. By the time I post this review, it may have changed its name yet again. And that's the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, to differentiate it from the other dozen WFCs across the country. Whatever happened to real names for stadiums?

There are two major choices for the favorite fried food at the stadium, at least in the poor seats, and they are Boardwalk Fries and Chickie's & Pete's.

Now Boardwalk Fries isn't so much an actual location as the fry of choice at many of the food stands at the stadium. This first visit I got mine at Grille Works. It was six dollars for a cup of these natural cuts. Sure, it was a fair serving portion but still, the price was enough to make me want to go to a movie theater. These were not happy fries, limp and greasy, and sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how long. The cheese is also different from last year and not as good.

The second game this season, also a loss, sigh, I went to Chickie's & Pete's, with two locations within the Wells Fargo Center. I've reviewed Chickie's & Pete's before, also in the context of within the stadium. Someday I'm going to get to one of their actual restaurants for a review, can't wait.

The price of these have gone up since my last review to $8.50 and you only get one tub of the white creamy cheese sauce any more. Perhaps they found out the extra cup was being used for soft pretzels and hot dogs. Now they charge two dollars for extra, but it's still worth it.

These Crabfries are some of the best around, pixie crinkles smothered in old bay seasoning that makes them hot, and you'll need something cold to wash them down. The cup is huge but you will eat them all, they're that good. And if you don't, they reheat well at home for a snack after the game. These babies are addictive, thumbs up.

That's two games and two losses for the Wings. Hopefully they will start playing better so I can watch the game instead of reviewing fries. And maybe then they can start doing something about the price of parking around here. Man, Wells Fargo must need money bad for what they charge for parking...

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Wasn't Me!

I swear it wasn't me. I was home, and The Bride can attest to it. Hey, I might have even been making French fries myself. And there you go, nobody needs to get hurt over French fries when I'm around, because I can make my own.

All kidding aside, Sunday night in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, there was a shooting, reputedly over French fries. They were sharing them at first, as it should be done, and then a fight erupted, ending in gunfire. The assailant escaped while the victim went to the hospital in critical condition. No word on the fries.

Check it out here at Action News and CBS Philly.

Seriously, guys, sharing fries is always preferred. Thanks to my friend Bryan for simultaneously hipping me to this, and questioning my involvement. Watch it Bryan. *wink*

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

French Fry Diary 202: Devil's Alley Bar and Grill

The Devil Burger and fries. This has been a whispered legend to me from friends and emails since I started doing French Fry Diary. A burger topped with onion rings and French fries, ooooh. The Bride had been here before, and like I said, I had several recommendations as well - so I couldn't not come here.

The Devil Burger is a, according to their menu, half-pound sirloin burger topped with onion rings and fries, served with a side of cheese sauce. Halloween-ish imagery aside, this is still a monster of a burger. A burger, onion rings and fries together? Yeah, baby, does it get better than this?

Devil's Alley itself has a nice eclectic atmosphere, open to the street, and cozy. However if you're looking for it on Chestnut Street and haven't been there before, you might miss it due to lack of signage. Once you're there however, you'll never forget it.

When served, the Devil's Burger is an interesting construct, and presentation. The natural cut fries were inserted into the just average beer batter onion rings and held in place by toothpicks, and placed on top of the burger. More fries and rings were also stacked on top as well. It was bit hard to eat the burger until all the fried toppings were removed.

Additionally I got a side order of fries that were a bit overdone, but the ones on top of the delicious burger were just right. It seemed that the toothpick-held batch of deep-fried goodness was deep-fried all at once, similar to the Potato Onion Web we got at CityWalk's Rising Star in Orlando. Mmmm... now that was good.

The cheese sauce was thick and flavorful. The Bride and the mom-in-law both thought it reminded them of the old Horn & Hardart macaroni and cheese. The waitress never got back to us on what was really in it when we asked. The food was good, not as good as the whispered legend of the Devil Burger, but we'll definitely go back.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

French Fry Diary 201: Lay's Kettle Cooked Original Potato Chips

My biggest complaint with Lay's Potato Chips is how thin they are. In my opinion, they are so thin, they are almost insubstantial. It's why I lean toward Herr's and other brands most of the time. When I saw Lay's Kettle Cooked Original on the shelf, I thought they might be different.

The process of kettle cooking potato chips requires a thicker chip most of the time, but it seems Lay's has kept with their thickness (or thinness) factor. While they taste just like Lay's (a bit greasy and also too salty for my taste) and have the funky cool dipping shapes that kettle cooking creates, they are still too thin for me. I imagine they might break while dipping just like regular Lay's.

These are good in a pinch, like any Lay's, if they are the only brand in a vending machine, and you need a potatoey snack, but not recommended.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

French Fry Diary 200: Smashburger

Colorado-based Smashburger opened in 2007, not just French fries but also deep-fried green chilis, pickles, sweet potato fries, banana peppers and fried onions all frizzled up. That last one called haystack onions. They also have veggie frites – flash fried carrots, green beans, asparagus, with sea salt and black pepper. This is also probably why, along with Elevation Burger, and too far out of state contenders Whataburger and In-N-Out Burger, Smashburger is one of the places I get the most recommendations for. Several dozen folks have told me I have to check out the fries at Smashburger, so it's a serious contender.

So we were in the wilds of North Jersey (yeah, "Jersey Shore" land) for a New Year's Eve party, and knowing we were also in the land of Smashburger - I called to see if they were open, so we set out to the Riverside Square Mall for a New Year's Day lunch.

Once we were there (the GPS and the street signs had some real difficulty in determining where this mall actually was), the place reminded me a bit of Cheeburger Cheeburger in design, and similar to Gino's in ordering. You order at the counter, take a number with you and they bring the food to you.

As expected, catastrophically picky eater I am, I got a plain hamburger, and The Bride got something more normal, for sides we got the Smashfries and Haystack Onions to share. The burger was a bit greasy, but very flavorful, and very filling. All things considered, it was the best part of the meal. Notably, the burger was even better with the Smashfries or the Haystack Onions sandwiched under the roll.

Now on to the main event, the favorite fried food at Smashburger - the Smashfries. At first sight, the fries themselves were nothing spectacular, just standard shoestrings deep-fried, as they would have been at any diner or pizza joint. Then the magic happens. They are tossed in olive oil, rosemary and garlic to give them that extra special kick. This is a great trick to trump up the taste of not so great fries and the flavor combination can't be beat. The problem is of course, the fries, tossed in oil after cooking, tend to be a bit greasy.

The Haystack Onions are thin sliced onion rings and onion straws that are positively addictive, much better than the fries, and definitely recommended. I am reminded a bit of the Onion Strings at Famous Dave's. Again, the problem is that they are also a bit greasy. Both these and the Smashfries come in ersatz baskets, and in good portions.

As mentioned above, the grease is the problem. The burger is a little greasy, the onions are a little greasy, and the fries are a lot greasy. Separately it might be forgivable, except maybe for the fries, but together it literally leaves a bad taste in your mouth and stomach.

I would definitely come back however. I would get the burger alone, and maybe the onions, and maybe the flash-fried veggies as well, and definitely one of those tasty looking shakes - but probably not the fries. The large variety of options here at Smashburger was why it was originally planned as a group French Fry Diary field trip. With three or four friends along, we could order and try all the different things on the menu. Not this time, but maybe next time.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Potato

French fries in India is serious business, especially if you're McDonald's. Much of the menu isn't what most Hindus can eat, so the vegetarian options, the biggest of which is the the McDonald's French fry, have to be the best.

Forbes India presents this tale of Vikram Bakshi, the CEO of McDonald's India and his search for the perfect potato. Check it out here.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

French Fry Diary 199: Arby's Bait and Switch Onion Rings

What was advertised...
The new thing at Arby's is their Steakhouse Onion Rings. Now those last three words bring to mind a certain image - big thick panko battered onion rings, the kind that come next to, or on top of a big thick juicy steak. First and foremost I think of the ones that come with your steak at The Pub.

Luckily, so as to avoid confusion with the fantasy onion rings one's mind might conjure, Arby's new Steakhouse Onion Rings are accompanied by ads throughout the restaurant so you know what they look like. And they look darned good, perfectly shaped and tasty.
What we got... 

We got our order and left, as we were in a hurry to meet friends at our place, so it was a quick dinner on the go - real fast food. When we got home, I was in for quite a shock. I don't know what happened to my "Steakhouse Onion Rings" but I got crappy onion rings instead, and they certainly weren't anything like what was pictured at the restaurant. These were greasy, flimsy, falling apart, and not at all tasty. And five onion rings at $1.99, so not worth it…

Not cool, Arby's, so not cool. If you want to do something to make up for this fiasco, bring back your regular cut French fries or those delicious onion petals instead...

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Ultimate Hash Browns

For Food Network Fridays this week, we're taking a page from the ultimate - Tyler Florence's Ultimate, or more accurately "Tyler's Ultimate."

Today's recipe is Tyler's Baked Potato Hash Browns, which appeared on the episode "Ultimate Steak House," along with fun stuff like Salt Crusted New York Strip and Bearnaise Sauce, among others.

Check out the recipe here, or see below. Enjoy!

Baked Potato Hash Browns
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


* 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
* 1 cup bacon lardoons
* 1 medium shallot, sliced
* 1 egg white
* 4 green onions, roughly chopped
* 2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel potatoes and wash. Use a mandolin, or food processor with the grater attachment, to finely shred potatoes. Place in a kitchen towel and squeeze dry.

Take a 9-inch oven proof skillet and add bacon and sliced shallots. Set over medium heat and render fat, 4 to 5 minutes. Shallots will caramelize. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and shallots and put in a large mixing bowl (reserve the bacon fat and pan) with potato slices, egg white, green onions, and thyme leaves and season well with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Spoon mixture into the hot pan with the bacon fat. Pack it in well pressing down with a large spoon to compress the mixture a little. Drizzle the top with some extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When it starts to get golden brown and crispy around the edges flip the hash brown over and pop into the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before running a knife around the edges and then inverting the potato onto a cutting board. Slice into wedges, garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley and serve.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

French Fry Diary 198: Kettle Brand Backyard Barbeque Potato Chips

This was one of the bbq potato chips chosen by Slashfood some time back as an overall winner in their Who Has the Best Barbeque Potato Chips survey. As I had never tried Kettle Brand Potato Chips, let alone their 'Backyard Barbeque' variety, I had to give it a shot when I saw them at the local Whole Foods.

Just looking at the bag, there was much promise with the claims of "great taste... naturally" and "now more barbeque" so I couldn't wait to try them. For the Health Nazis out there, it will delight you to know that these also had no trans fats, preservatives or artificial flavors among other things to make those folks happy. The tear for opening the bag however worked against traditional logic in opening potato chip bags, and it should be noted, their tear tab ripped it open badly and made it unresealable. Use a scissors, kids.

The chips themselves are thick and with the twisted kettle shapes and waves best for dipping. The flavoring is a nice and subtle mix of smoke, tomato and honey - good but mot overpowering, very tasty. I would have to agree with Slashfood on this one. They're not better than what Herr's or Wise has, but still some good bbq chips here. Thumbs up.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

French Fry Diary 197: The Medport Diner

The Medport Diner is the pinnacle of the Jersey Diner experience. It's perfect for after a date, after a movie, a theatre show, a school event, a midnight movie, gaming, hanging with friends or just that late night diner run. Nothing beats the Medport Diner.
Nothing beats it even on the food level. Sometimes diner food is iffy, but the Medport is the king of diners, at least in this area. Their fries are natural cuts, a bit thicker than regular cuts, always hot and tasty. The onion rings are big, panko coated with lots of onion. The home fries are scalloped cut potatoes, well done, just like my mom used to make.
All come in big portions and usually come home with me for reheating later, which they do quite well. The Medport is so good that I have trouble deciding which to get. The Medport Diner has innumerable reviews online, its own Facebook page, even an Urban Dictionary entry, but sadly, no website. Still, it's always a fun experience. Recommended.

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