Friday, July 29, 2011

French Fry Diary 251: Herr's Fireman's BBQ Chicken

Yeah, it's another impossibly long name for a type of potato chips - Herr's Fireman's BBQ Chicken artificially flavored potato chips. Like their two (at least two that I know of) meat flavored chips (Baby Back Ribs and Kansas City Steak) it's a challenge to even try. Meat flavored potato chips as a concept just seems wrong. For me, Herr's is hit and miss on good chips. I love the 'pig chips,' but I doubt I'll ever have the 'cow chips' again.

The Fireman's BBQ Chicken chips are described on the back of the bag as having the "right off the grill smoky flavor of succulent barbecued chicken." It also claims "a special blend of herbs, spices and a touch of tangy marinade." A look to the side reveals an unappetizing mix of chemicals in the ingredients, as well as the rather scary words, "chicken flavor."

When I tried them I didn't get the chicken flavor promised, and I guess that's a good thing. The chips were ripples like the pig chips, and also like them they are well spiced. These are good hot BBQ chips if nothing else, I liked them.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

French Fry Diary 250: Arby's

I've already talked about my unpleasant experience with the onion rings at Arby's but I haven't actually reviewed the place yet. Arby's has changed quite a bit in the last few years when it comes to the favorite fried food. They used to have very good natural cuts, and as noted previously, terrific Onion Petals, but no longer. No Onion Petals, and the lack of a burger product are why I usually don't come to Arby's. And I'm really not a big roast beef guy.

Arby's started back in 1964, as old as I am, in Ohio. The RB in the name stands for Raffel Brothers, the founders, not roast beef, as most folks think. They are known for their roast beef sandwiches however, and their big cowboy hat logo and their 'horsey sauce.' They're part of the Wendy's company and they serve Pepsi products, and at the beginning, they served potato chips, not fries. They haven't been very successful in my area, however, as many of the restaurants that have opened, haven't stayed open more than five to ten years. Just sayin'.

Usually when I would come to Arby's I would get one of the chicken sandwiches, which is sometimes a pain in the neck to get the folks behind the counter to understand the concept of plain. "Just the chicken, and the bun," and still they get confused. Their shakes are pretty good too. They used to have shake it up chicken nuggets with bbq sauce that were great but no longer. And I would get the aforementioned Onion Petals quite often but they don't have them any more either.

What they do have, and have had for some time are Curly Fries. I believe these are among the first fast food franchise curly fries. They are natural cut and well seasoned. They are very good when hot, but this order, gotten on a Sunday afternoon at the nearly empty Arby's in Oaklyn, were barely warm. The cuts are very nice, lots of corkscrews. I like the corkscrews. I still wish they had the old natural cut fries too - it was nice to have a choice, or to have both.

They also have something called Loaded Potato Bites. Little triangles of potato product stuffed with sour cream, cheese, chives and God only knows what else - these were so not my thing. I did not like them. Sometimes they also have Potato Cakes, sort of a poor man's McDonald's Hash Brown, but not for breakfast. I'll review them on another trip I guess, as this one was not good so far.

Not a pleasant experience this stop, guys. Arby's, please bring back the natural cut regular cut fries and the Onion Petals.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

French Fry Diary Suggestion Box

It's that time of year again, vacation time. Shortly I will be leaving the safe confines of the South Jersey/Philadelphia area and journeying out to my usual predictable vacation spot - Florida and thereabouts.

So now I'm asking y'all out there where the good fries are in and around Orlando, Walt Disney World, Nassau, on board the Disney Dream, and even in the Orlando and Philadelphia airports.

And not to exclude the rest of the world, I am always taking fry recommendations from anywhere.

Please let me know via email or in the comments section here and maybe I'll come back with a review. And thanks!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

French Fry Diary 249: Iron Hill Brewery, Maple Shade NJ

The Bride and I are always looking for new places to go to dinner with the in-laws, and if they have fries, it's a bonus for me, and indirectly for you folks too. After trying to get over there for the two years the Iron Hill Brewery had been open in the Moorestown/Maple Shade area, I was finally able to convince them to go. This restaurant is a very big place, and as advertised has a working brewery on site. All the beers and even root beers are brewed there, and it was also promised, the food was made to order from scratch as well. I was looking forward to this.

First off, the customer service was excellent, and our waitress Jessica was just wonderful, friendly and accurate. Her care and attention actually reminded the four of us of the Disney Cruise. I decided to live dangerously as a catastrophically picky eater and get the burger. With an upcoming return cruise already on our minds, I can't help but compare this delicious burger to the ones I got at lunch on board.

The presentation of all of meals brought on a further comparison to the Disney Cruise. The Iron Hill Brewery knows what they are doing, as far as making the food look great. Mom-in-law got baked fingerling potatoes with her steak, and The Bride had an egg roll sampler that came with a salad splash that included little matchstick fries. The fries that came with my burger however, not so great. They were deep fried natural cut regular cuts that were nothing spectacular, and quite frankly probably not made to order, unless it was some time ago.

That said, it was a delicious meal and we would definitely come back. It was topped off with a fantastic root beer float for dessert. Maybe next time I will give the onion rings and the sweet potato fries a try. While the fries were only okay, the restaurant is definitely recommended.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

French Fry Diary 248: The Oregon Diner

While New Jersey is principally known for its diners, the phenomenon does spread throughout the region, with some famous ones, and not so famous ones in the city of Philadelphia. One of those is the Oregon Diner. Friends Crystal, Anthony and frequent visitor Jeff used to live right around the corner, so this 24/7 diner became the default meeting and chatting place in the late night hours. Trust me, it wasn't about the food, it was about convenience.

Unless you get a booth, and tat's usually if you have for or more, you don't get seated up front, they put you in the back - most of the time, waaay in the back. It's a long walk for us, and it's a long walk for the waitress - so wrong orders, extra needs and soda and water refills? Looong wait. And that's if your waitress is even looking out for you or paying attention. If they get a hint that you're from Jersey rather than Philly, you'll never see her again. Nights at the Oregon Diner are not feasts of customer service.

For this reason, one tries to keep the orders very simple, and order lots of extra water at first, and hope for the best. This night, it just happened to be convenient, as our friends no longer live around there, but we still ended up there. As this was probably one of the last times I'd be there willingly, I decided to get a review out of it.

Jeff got a pizza burger, which came with fries. These were typical diner fries - regular cuts covered in Invisicoat, and only slightly warm, and deep-fried, at least once. The Bride got chicken croquets with mashed potatoes. They were warm, not creamy or stiff, and just barely warm. I had to wonder how long they had been in the kitchen. I got my usual late night breakfast diner default - home fries. They were sliced potatoes, some overdone, some barely cooked, and all just barely warm.

I am so glad we are done with this place. In a land of diners, this is one of the worst. Only Olga's could come close.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #9

My attempt at homemade English chips. Not bad, very tasty, the texture and size were good, but I'll try again. And just for the record, they are not that salty, for some reason my camera flash just lights up the salt like beacons.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

National Junk Food Day 2011

Apparently, today - July 21, 2011 - is National Junk Food Day.

I hope y'all went out there today, even in the sweltering over-100 degree heat that's beating down on the East Coast, and celebrated - preferably with some fries.

When I was looking for information online about National Junk Food Day, I was surprised that there was a day at all. A lot of what I found was attacks on the junk food and fast food industries by what I like to call Health Nazis. Shame.

Well, I hope they had a Happy National Junk Food Day too.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nendran Chips

These aren't your average everyday chips, this video, and the accompanying description from FIXOVISION tell you all about it:

If you have been if you are from South of India you will for sure recognize the Kerala Nendran chips. It is one of the popular snacks in Kerala. It is also called variously as "Nendrangna Chips", "Upperi" or "Kaya Varuthathu".

One generally snacks when not hungry enough or for just time pass. But the any time snack of "Nendran Chips" is purely entertainment.

The humble Nendran Chips is the most popular of all the plantain products. The Manjeri Nendran is the best suited for making the crispy, crumbly chips.

Deep fried in Coconut oil and seasoned with salt, it beats hollow any other type of snack (chips that is).

Any visit to my home town in Palghat (Palakkad) Kerala is not complete without buying loads of this stuff, both for our consumption and give away. Last week when I was at Palghat for the annual Kalpathy Ratholsavam (temple car festival), I was amazed to find a mechanical device doing the same job as the chip maker did. Slicing the raw banana into fine, even, thin and well engineered pieces, and putting them directly into the frying "uruli" filled with fresh coconut oil.

As if by magic, the pink Nendrans fall into the oil pan and emerge a crispy yellow. Too good to see and eat.

Dont even think about salt intake or you LDL levels. Grab a handful and start munching :))

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

French Fry Diary 247: Golden Corral

As a rule, I am not fond of buffets. They are either very good, or very very bad. There is the whole idea of several people possibly touching your food before you get it. And yes, I know, food is always touched before you get it - but you don't see it, and it's not other customers touching it. I know, I'm on the brink of OCD here, but the same-spoon-for-everything thing gets me too.

And then we come to Golden Corral, and hope that the above does not apply. Those of us in the area who regularly use Route 73 have watched this particular Golden Corral in West Berlin be built and gave anxiously awaited its opening. First of all, it's hard to miss, as the sign is gigantic, and can be seen for miles.

The buzz has been very good from friends and family about the restaurant and the food, but things being what they are it took a while to get there. A lazy afternoon with the in-laws and the promise of baby back ribs, and we were off to Golden Corral. Sadly, since the visit, we've heard that quality has gone downhill in the short time they've been there. To make matters worse, the baby back ribs we all saw on TV ads, was a special that had ended. No baby back ribs at all.

For a late Saturday afternoon they were packed but we were greeted by the friendly and helpful waitress Julia. The picky eater then trekked to the buffet to see what they have to offer. I ended up with a very tender steak cooked on a grill, a cheese garlic biscuit that looked just like the bread things at Red Lobster (not the same taste but still quite good), and something called "Steakhouse French Fries."

These were standard steak fries, probably frozen and baked, but hot and very good. With those kind of fries and this kind of place - hot is important. Also available were mashed potatoes, baked potatoes (sweet and regular), and tempura onion rings.

They had a lot here to choose from, almost everything except baby back ribs and chocolate soft serve. Still, it was quite good, and despite my initial OCD fears, it turns out the buzz was right. Golden Corral was pretty good, and so were the fries.

Postscript: Golden Corral makes up got its buffet reputation in the restroom department. No operational stalls in the men's room and no toilet paper in the ladies' room. I guess we won't be back. I can make steak fries at home.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

French Fry Diary 246: French Fries and Curry

As seems to be the rule with movies with the word 'fries' in the title (see Freedom Fries and Home Fries) this film has very little to do with the favorite fried food.

While it's not really a Bollywood film, I really wish French Fries and Curry did follow the formula, I mean, the DVD even comes with a Bollywood style music video as a special feature. The movie, the first (and I hope the last) feature from English filmmaker Sarmishtha Parida, follows three women as they look for their Mr. Rights. Oddly writer/director Parida chose to film it on videotape, which at first seems cheap, and a bit disorienting, but you get used to it - except for all the freeze frames.

The title comes from the fact that one of the girls likes Indian food, and one of the others has a French fry addiction. We never learn what the other woman likes to eat. There are many restaurant and eating scenes but no fries. Talk about false advertising...

French Fries and Curry is ponderously written, filmed and acted, not to mention having values that are scarily prehistoric for being made in 2004. Even the voiceovers exhibit bad acting. This is bad, even worse than the worst student film you've seen, sooo slow and sometimes painful to watch.

This is a truly terrible, terrible, movie, probably one of the worst I've ever seen - and that's saying a lot. And to top it off, no fries. Boooo...

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #8

A little place called Humdingers Burgers and Fries in Toledo, Ohio came up with this cool concoction for after your meal - dessert fries! They sooo need to open one of these up in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area...

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

French Fry Diary 245: Chickie's & Pete's Crab House and Sports Bar, Parx Casino

Stuck at Parx Casino again while The Bride gambled, I swore I wouldn't go to Foodies again but this time I decided to try Chickie's & Pete's in the casino. This was my first time having their World Famous Crabfries in a restaurant setting as opposed to counter service at a sports event.

Notable from seeing the Crabfries on a menu for the first time it's worth mentioning that they have zero trans fat, and are cholesterol free and gluten free. I ordered the Crabfries of course, plus the Onion Ring Tower. We didn't get the Crabby Sweets, but were intrigued by these Crabfries made from sweet potato. Maybe next time. Also, no Coke, but Pepsi, but I'll live.

We were served a rather large serving of the Crabfries, which I think is bigger than the same priced serving in a cup at the Wings games. There was the added bonus of an extra cup of the cheese. They were as delicious and hot as ever. If I haven't mentioned it before, these pixie crinkle cuts with spicy hot old bay seasoning are fantastic. And while I could have dug on in with my fingers I ate them off a plate with a fork, just for the different experience. No difference, the Crabfries were still rocking.

The Onion Ring Tower arrived, reminding me a bit if Red Robin's version, only bigger. These thick rings came with three dipping sauces - barbecue, ranch and cucumber wasabi. The last was a bit overpowering but I really liked the barbecue for both the rings and the fries. The rings also seemed to have a hotness of their own, but it might just be aftermath of the spicy hotness of the fries.

This was a terrific experience, as I expected it to be, and there are many reasons to return - including quick friendly service (thanks, Shannon) and new food items to try. Highly recommended.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Guy Fieri's Yucca Fries

For this Food Network Friday we turn again to Guy Fieri, mostly because he's one of my favorite chefs, but also because he knows his fries - even when they're not made of potatoes! Here's his version of Yucca Fries:

Recipe courtesy Guy Fieri

Show: Guy's Big Bite Episode: Mojito Chicken

Prep Time: 15 min
Inactive Prep Time: --
Cook Time: 10 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 servings.

•3 cups canola oil
•1 tablespoon fine sea salt
•1 teaspoon black pepper
•1 teaspoon paprika
•1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
•2 pounds fresh yucca
•1 lime zested

In medium Dutch oven heat oil to 350 degrees F.

Place all spices in mixing bowl, and combine thoroughly.

Peel yucca tubes with heavy-duty vegetable peeler until bark is completely removed. Cut yucca into strips: 1/4-inch wide, 4 inches long. Add yucca into oil and fry until golden brown. With a slotted spoon remove the yucca from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Season hot yucca fries with spice mixture and lime zest and serve on a warm paper - towel-lined platter.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

French Fry Diary 244: Trader Joe's Beer Battered Vidalia Sweet Onion Rings

I picked these up at the same time I got the Handsome Cut Potato Fries, also a new product, I was intrigued by the combination. I'm not a fan of beer battered onion rings, but I love rings made with sweet Vidalia onions, so I had to give it a try.

On the bag for the Trader Joe's Beer Battered Vidalia Sweet Onion Rings, a lot is made about how it's all about the sweetness of the Vidalia onions, and the beer batter. Of the latter, the batter (loving the rhyme) is described as light and airy with just the right amount of crispness. Let's just say Trader Joe's is really proud of these babies.

They looked like standard beer batter rings to me when I was preparing them, so I covered my bets and hit them with some Billy Bee Honey BBQ Seasoning - great for onion rings or Nathan's frozen grocery fries or just any fries at all. I hoped they wouldn't need it. And they're very big rings of onion, as is the way of the Vidalia.

I cooked 'em up in the oven and made them a little bit crispy crunchy because that's how I like my onion rings. The sweet Vidalia comes out but I'm glad I used the seasoning as it covers up the beer batter. Not good, I would rather have panko bread crumbs instead.

I enjoyed them but unlike the Trader Joe's Handsome Cut Potato Fries I doubt I'll get these again. However if you like beer batter rings, maybe these are for you.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy National French Fries Day 2011

For those not in the know, today - July 13th - is National French Fries Day.

Now I don't know who is in charge of making these days up, but you can be sure that here at French Fry Diary, this is one I'm glad did get made. So do your best to get out to a restaurant of your choice and get some delicious fries. Hopefully, this blog can direct you to some of the better fry outlets.

Or you could make the holiday (and trust me, this is a holiday) more personal and make some French fries at home yourself. There are lots of recipes here at the blog, or you could just do it my way.

However you do it, celebrate the day with the favorite fried food, Happy National French Fries Day!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

French Fry Diary 243: Trader Joe's Handsome Cut Potato Fries

Yep, I'm back at Trader Joe's again, this time for another new store brand product. These frozen grocery fries are called Trader Joe's Handsome Cut Potato Fries. Now I'm not exactly sure what 'handsome cut' means, but just for the record, these inexpensively priced fries are natural cut shoestrings.

Trader Joe's is kinda arrogant about these Handsome Cut Potato Fries. The bag makes a lot of how these are natural cuts made from Northwest spuds and that there's extra flavor because they still have skins. I don't know about that. I always thought that natural cut just meant skipping the extra step of peeling the potato.

Now these fries are very good, but they require more bake time than the instructions on the bag directed. They also cooked unevenly which I will blame on the non-uniform cut. Unlike other shoestring fries, these are not all identically cut - and perhaps that's what 'handsome cut' means. As I said these are still very good fries, I will definitely be getting these again.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Guy Fieri's Double-Fried French Fries

For today's Food Network Fridays we have another recipe of the favorite fried food from Guy Fieri:

Double-Fried French Fries

Show: Guy's Big Bite
Episode: Fuel the Fieri

Prep Time: 15 min
Inactive Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 8 servings.

4 (4 to 5-inches long) russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 quarts canola oil
1 tablespoons fine-grain sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel potatoes on the sides, leaving the ends with the skin on. Cut the potatoes into 1/3-inch slices and then slice into 1/3-inch sticks.

Fill a large bowl with water and soak potatoes, submerged, for at least 30 minutes up to 24 hours. This will help remove the excess starch from the potatoes and keep them from oxidizing.

Heat a heavy stock pot fitted with a deep-fry thermometer with oil to 325 degrees F.

Remove potatoes from the water, and pat dry to remove excess water. Add 2 handfuls of potatoes to hot oil. There should be at least 1-inch of oil above the potatoes. Par cook until potatoes are light brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove potatoes, gently shaking off excess oil and let drain on rack. Repeat until all of the potatoes are par cooked.

Raise heat of oil to 350 degrees F.

Cook potatoes again, 2 handfuls at a time, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from oil, shake off excess oil, and season lightly in a bowl with salt and pepper. Repeat until all potatoes are cooked.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Cow Appreciation Day 2011

It's that time of year again.

Tomorrow if you come into Chick-fil-A dressed in any way like a cow, you get free food. Cow costumes, even partial cow costumes get a free meal on Friday, July 8, 2011. Details are here.

And of course, while you're there, don't forget the Waffle Fries!

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