Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #4

This one comes from my buddy Ray who says, still concerned about the lack of Roy Rogers outside of the turnpikes in New Jersey, "Not a dream - a real Roy Rogers in Toms River!"

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Monday, May 30, 2011

French Fry Diary 229: Return to the Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza

So here I am, on Memorial Day weekend, back at the Molly Pitcher rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. The last time I was here, neither Arthur Treacher's nor Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill nor even Nathan's were open.

Surprisingly, tonight, Sunday of one of the busiest traffic weekends of the year at 10:45 PM - they were in the process of closing again. So it was Roy Rogers by default again. No complaints there, I love Roy Rogers, but I did want to try the others.

It should be noted that the real Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill is in Banson, Missouri, and that I could find no record of this one on the internet. Also, this Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips is one of those affiliated with Nathan's, and not one of the 'real' ones from Ohio that has the 'real' Arthur Treacher's chips. All I would have gotten here is Nathan's fries anyway. Again, no complaints, but I want the real chips, you know?

Now I have to figure out if these closings are something deliberate against me or do these restaurants have weirder hours than those at Harrahs. You know, the casino, another place that is open twenty-four hours a day. I just find it funny. I mean, do 7-Eleven or 24/7 convenience stores close up parts of their store at inopportune times?

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

French Fry Diary 228: Cool Dog Café

This place had been taunting me for weeks since their sign outside went up, long before the Cool Dog Cafe even opened up. It teased me with two words - "Belgian Frites." Oh yeah, so I had to get here sooner or later. It has since become one of my favorite local restaurants.

Their take home menu says that their Belgian Frites are "Simply the best fries you've ever had... crispy on the outside, moist & tender on the inside. You'll never return to France." On a later visit, one of the owners, so proud and passionate about his fries, told me that my fries actually started cooking the day before - a par-fry after cutting, soaking and drying, and then a shock-fry when ordered. Yeah, that's the way to do it.

I made it in to the Cool Dog Cafe for the first time a few days after they had opened. I got a hot dog, a nice extra long dog on a regular bun which came on a plate but my large order of Belgian Frites came in a big brown bag.... Hmmm... What's up with that? The large paper bag was full of fries, and this was indeed a large order. Hot and tasty, I found them to be natural cuts, and very very good. And just for the record, the dog was good too.

I could complain about the bag o' fries, as the grease slowly soaked through the bag, and they weren't especially Belgian nor frites. But I won't. While they might not be exactly what fry freaks like me think of when we think of Beligian frites - these are damned good fries.

Aside from the unorthodox way they were served these were essentially the same natural cuts that could be had at Pat's or Five Guys. They have a bit more crunch and there is much to be said about the portion size - they aren't Belgian frites, but really, who cares? These fries are contenders, and better (yeah, I said it) than either Pat's or Five Guys.

I was the only one there for lunch when I was there for the first time, with Sirius radio blasting as was the heat, and news and women's basketball were on the two big screen TVs. It did start to fill up as I was getting ready to go so that's good. I have been back, many times (I told you I liked this place), and now it is usually hopping.

Malt vinegar is on the table, along with ketchup and mustard, so their heart is in the right place when it comes to fries. And they also had Coca-Cola products, and free refills at the fountain, always a plus in my book. Also on the condiment bright side is the killer Jack Daniels glaze that is available for burgers or dogs, but is perfect for the fries as well. They also have the first sweet potato fries that this catastrophically picky eater has wanted to eat more than one of. In fact, I like them almost as much as the regular fries.

Check them out at their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Check for their specials. I recommend the sliders, the dogs, the toppings, and especially the fries. They are probably not what I would have expected when I first saw that "Belgian Frites" sign, but man, are they good - highly recommended.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #3

Today's Food Network Friday is also a Random Tater Pic of the Day.

Hungry Girl is, in reality, Lisa Lillien, a foodologist and just plain foodie who's not only hungry, but also shares her recipes and cooking tips with all of us.

She has a daily email newsletter and her own show on The Cooking Channel, she's even on Twitter. But most of all, she just rocks.

Here is a screen capture from the beginning of her show where it's raining crinkle cut French fries on her. See? I told you she rocks.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BBQ Potato Skins

With Memorial Day Weekend right around the corner, it's barbeque season, as a matter of fact, I think May might even be National Barbeque Month. Anyway, here's a recipe from the Just-Potatoes group, enjoy!

BBQ Potato Skins

2 large russet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat oven at 350F. Clean and bake potatoes in oven for 1 hour. When done, allow to slightly cool and cut into halves.

Preheat grill to medium heat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4 inch thick shell for the toppings. Cut the potatoes into quarter wedges, brush with butter and season with salt and pepper. Place on grill and cook until crisp, about 10 minutes. During the last few minutes of grilling, remove potatoes and place on a cookie sheet. Top the potatoes with cheese and bacon and place back on top of grill.

While potatoes are grilling, combine the sour cream and horseradish in a small bowl and mix well. Place potatoes on serving plates and top with the green onions, chopped tomatoes and the sour cream horseradish sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives, for garnish.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

French Fry Diary 227: More Than Ice Cream

These Somebody Else's Fries come from a place called appropriately enough More Than Ice Cream on Locust Street in Philadelphia.

"The fries were phenomenal." These are the words of my friend Crystal who got a chicken salad sandwich and an apparent 'autocorrect abundance' of fries for just under twelve dollars. Yeah, autocorrect, doing its duty by mangling my notes from my magical iPhone. Whatever the word was, autocorrect translated it as "nitriles."

Thanks, Crystal, for another great Somebody Else's Fries. Mmmm... fries...

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is It a Good Idea to Microwave a Big Bag of Chips?

If you have been on the internet for any length of time you have run into these guys. They put anything and everything in the microwave... so you don't have to. Today's object - a big bag of Lay's Wavy Potato Chips.

Kids, don't try this at home...

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tabu - Addendum

What is that old Styx song from the 1980s say? "Nothing ever goes as planned, it's a hell of a notion..." Yeah, this is something like that.

Yesterday I posted a review of Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar that was almost a year old. The plan was to post a review of last year's Eurovision on my pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell, and then link that in the Tabu review because that's where the Eurovision party was held. Yeah, just like the Styx song, I never finished the Eurovision review, so the French fries review languished for over a year.

Well, as one might expect, after a year, my review is painfully outdated. No shoestrings anymore, but I want you all to know that Tabu has a wonderful menu that includes, among other great stuff: seasoned waffle fries, sweet potato fries, garlic smashed potatoes and also something called chicken cheese fries.

The Tabu website can be found here, and they are also on Facebook and Twitter. Definitely check them out!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

French Fry Diary 226: Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, Philadelphia

I had the pleasure of attending Ricky Paul's first annual Eurovision party at Tabu last year. It's an upscale sports bar in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Philadelphia that also serves an interesting array of barfood, including the favorite fried food.

The upstairs where the event was held was a terrific place to watch your favorite sporting event or European song contest, very cozy and chic, with funky décor and big screen TVs.

The Shoestring French Fries offered by Tabu are standard shoestrings from the grocer's freezer, deep fried, but not greasy. They are crispy, warm and perfect comfort food for watching the tube. Nice, very good.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

French Fry Diary 225: Chick-Fil-A

The claim to fame of Chick-fil-A is their sandwich. The Chick-Fil-A Sandwich was originally created by S. Truett Cathy at the Dwarf Grill in 1946. The chicken is pressure cooked in a deep fryer, the buns rolled in butter, with the trademark pickles of course. The pickles were originally intended as a surprise for the customers. Wow, what a surprise! And while the sandwich, sans pickles of course for the catastrophically picky eaters among us, is darned good, that's not what we're about here. We're here for the favorite fried food.

When I first encountered Chick-fil-A, it was an overlooked little diamond in the rough at the lonely end of the Echelon Mall back in the 1970s. Nobody but a select few knew about it, but those lucky few loved it. Among them were my fry-enabling older sister and brother - thank you, Bobbie and Warren. I still love Chick-fil-A, and them, to this day.

While today Chick-fil-A is world renowned for their amazing Waffle Potato Fries, that's not how they started. Their original fries were shoestrings, similar to Burger King's fries of the time (the good ones, although maybe a bit limp and greasy, but in a good way) and came in single orders in paper sleeves the size of a BK or Mickey D's small fry. A large order however, was a long sleeve, about eight to ten inches long that three of the small orders could be put into one on top of another. Yep, you got it. One large order of the old Chick-fil-A fries was actually three small fries. As always, they were innovative and ahead of its time.

After a while Chick-fil-A caught on and malls everywhere had their own stores and soon, Chick-fil-A began to open their own free standing restaurants outside of malls, hell, sometimes nowhere near malls. In that space of time, specifically 1985, they changed their fries. I'm not sure it was for the better, but it was for the different, and a good kind of different, as Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fries are among the best in the fast food world.

The waffle fry is a complex beast, and a combination of several potato-cutting styles. They appear to be discs that are natural cuts in a criss-cross pattern that allows for more even cooking when deep-fried. Chick-fil-A fries are always hot and perfect for munching in the car ride home, so getting two orders on a drive thru run is always necessary. They're addictive.

The waffle fries themselves are huge, sometimes requiring three or four bites. This is truly a prime potato product for the favorite fried food. Now I'm not a fan of potato skins so the tops and bottoms don't thrill me much, but for those that do dig them, those are treasures. And also the tiny bits at the bottom of the bag are very yummy.

Part of the original charm of the Chick-fil-A franchise was that you could take the Chick-fil-As, the boneless white chicken 'patty' (for lack of a better word), and re-heat it when you got home, sometimes days later. They would come six to a box, shaped like a barn (it may have even been called a barn, I don't recall). You could even buy your own Wonder Bread hamburger rolls, butter them, heat them and make your own sandwiches. When the Chick-fil-A sandwich became more popular, they kinda stopped selling the chicken patties unfortunately.

Reheating their food at home still works for any of their chicken products, and also their fries - whether you're using the microwave or the conventional oven. That's really something. But remember if doing a sandwich in the microwave, take it out of the bag. There's foil inside, and if you forget, there be fireworks and eventually fire. Soooo not fun.

I love these fries, they rock. Many try to recreate the magic of the Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fry, but nobody comes close. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #2

After being frustrated by Elevation Burger not being open when they were supposed to be the other night, I decided to make my own natural cut shoestring French fries deep-fried in olive oil. They didn't come out too bad at all, did they?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

French Fry Diary 224: The Original Saratoga Chips

On a recent trip to the Cracker Barrel, I picked up a box of The Original Saratoga Chips. Reputedly these are the original potato chips. The real thing, baby.

The story goes that George Crum was a cook at Moon's Lake House, a resort in Saratoga Springs NY. One August day in 1853 a rather annoying customer complained that Crum's French fries were too thick and kept ending them back.

Crum, angered by this customer finally cut his potatoes paper-thin, over-fried them and over-salted them - then sent them out to the man. Much to Crum's surprise, the customer loved them and so did others. These Saratoga chips became so popular that Crum was able to open his own restaurant. They remained local until a man named Lay discovered them, but that's another story.

At least that's what the legend says. I was surprised to find this cardboard box at the Cracker Barrel general store. It was almost like finding the chip Holy Grail. These even had the "Moon Brand" trademark on the box, and were from Saratoga Springs NY.

The box also has wonderful sayings printed on it like "A delicious delicacy," "an excellent lunch food," "may be served with any beverage if desired." the back of the box also recounts the tale of George Crum and the Saratoga chips.

This treat is brought to us by the Saratoga Specialties Co. in Saratoga Springs and contains just potatoes, vegetable oil and sea salt. No transfats, baby.

Inside the box there was a more traditional potato chip bag, but sealed and unmarked. I carefully opened it and poured some of these babies out. I have to say I was more than a bit disappointed. The chips were pretty standard kettle chips, not bad, but not great either. The Bride liked them a lot more than me it should be noted.

What disappointed me the most was the $5.99 I paid for this little bag in a box. Well, I guess the anticipation and entertaining box were both worth the price of admission.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

French Fry Diary 223: Cracker Barrel

The Cracker Barrel in Mt. Laurel is almost completely hidden on Route 73, unless you know it's there, you will completely miss it.

Now I used to come to Cracker Barrel all the time but not to eat. Most Cracker Barrels have old-fashioned general stores in them, their Old Country Store, in their words. Before these chips went out of business (or out of the area) the stores used to carry delicious Charles Chips. These chips were fantastic, many folks might remember they came in a big cookie can sometimes. Well, when Cracker Barrel stopped carrying Charles Chips, I stopped coming. I think they carry Route 11 chips now.

The Bride and I had planned an excursion to the Elevation Burger at the Moorestown Mall but when the hours given on their phone message didn't match the hours on the door we ended up looking at a sadly dark and locked Elevation Burger. On the dejected drive home we decided on the hidden Cracker Barrel.

I was brave and in a living-dangerously mood so I ordered a hamburger steak and steak fried. I know, I'm daring. The food came very quickly and was warm, not hot so I wonder if it was cooked to order.

The fries were natural cut steak fries, warm and kind of soggy, but as good as they could be in that condition. The food was not bad, but then again, it wasn't that good either, you know?

Bonus points - while they serve Coca-Cola products, they also serve ice cold Stewart's root beer from the bottle. Nice.

On the way out, as you have to pay your check in the Old Country Store, we ended up purchasing a few old timey items - Moon Pies, coconut patties, a bottle of Sioux City Sarsaparilla root beer and a box of original Saratoga potato chips - but that will be for another FFD entry, folks, be patient!

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #1

I'm kinda borrowing this idea from my buddy Rob Kelly of the amazing Aquaman Shrine where he occasionally does the "Random Panel of the Day," here's my first "Random Tater Pic of the Day."

This is late night breakfast at the Medport Diner, including hash browns, bacon, English muffin and Coca-Cola. Mmmm...

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Monday, May 02, 2011

French Fry Diary 222: Andy Capp's BBQ Fries

I have disliked these things for a long time. First of all, they're not even really fries, but a corn and potato snack similar to a cheese pug with neither the cheese nor the puff.

Originally created by Reg Smythe, Andy Capp was a bit of a misogynist, if still amusing, comic set in the north of London, and it ran for decades. In the early seventies the character became the spokestoon for Andy Capp's Fries. They came in many varieties, including the newly returned BBQ flavor.

The 'fries,' and I use the term loosely, are covered in a strong smokey barbecue dusting, but other than that they are very unflavorful. The cornmeal and processed potato score high on the bland meter. They truly lack even the you-can't-eat-just-one concept that even the worst potato chips have. These are really bad.

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