Wednesday, November 30, 2011

French Fry Diary 302: Herr's Honey BBQ Potato Chips

I always kinda dug the bag for Herr's Honey BBQ Flavored Potato Chips. The brick background conjures a backyard barbeque with a very gangsta-looking honeybee who looks as if he just sprayed the wall with graffiti that reads "Honey BBQ." Yeah, I'm easily amused.

These chips have everything that the regular Herr's Barbecue Potato Chips in the gold foil have with two important differences. The Honey BBQ chips have honey, and actually it seems to be the only addition in ingredients - and they have ripples, just like the, duh, Herr's Ripples Potato Chips in the pink foil.

The honey is thick but not sticky. If the Wise Honey BBQ Potato Chips have just the flavoring of honey, the Herr's variety taste like the honey was just poured on - and that's a good thing. Very sweet and very good, although, like the regular gold foils, they can be seasoned inconsistently. Just a little is just enough.

The ripples are wide, and like the regular pink foils, these are thick chips, which make them just perfect for dips. Anyone know why Herr's other chips have become so thin in recent years? Longtime readers of French Fry Diary will know I like dipping into ice cream and these are among the best for that.

These are darn good chips, and highly recommended. Mmmm... Chips...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #27

A few days late, but better late than never. These are the mashed potatoes from this year's Thanksgiving dinner. This year the the event I attended was at The Bride's aunt's and her partner cooked for us, the in-laws and a dozen or so of his family, a wonderful family occasion as it should be. Oh yeah, and the potatoes were good too. ;-)

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

French Fry Diary 301: The Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza, Yes, Again

Three strikes and you're out is the baseball metaphor. This is my third trip to the Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza, a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in North Jersey. It has a Roy Rogers, a Nathan's, an Arthur Treacher's, and a Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill, among other shops and food stops. The last one in that list has never been open when I've been there.

This trip I arrived just after nine PM on a busy Saturday night. Like last time, there were employees in there at Dick Clark's, but none would talk to me, let alone look at me. I think at this point, this must be some sort if scam, and the AB Grill is never open. It's a mirage obviously.

The Arthur Treacher's was open and doing a brisk business, but as noted on the last visit, I only could have gotten Nathan's fries there. Do I have to visit Ohio to get real Arthur Treacher's chips?

Oh well. Instead I got Roy Rogers fries, some milk and Cinnabon for the road, and made my way back home. Perhaps tonight I will dream of a day when the AB Grill will be open or I can get Arthur Treacher's chips at an Arthur Treacher's...

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

French Fry Diary 300: Wise BBQ Potato Chips

There are few that come close. Herr's are everyday good, and rule with the different with their honey barbeque and baby back ribs flavors. Michael Season's honey barbeque are healthy good and darned hard to get except by mail - do they have them in any local stores? But truth be told, Wise is the king of the barbeque potato chip.

Now I'm not a big fan of the Wise regular chips as I find them too thin, and are often spotty and greasy. This, happily, is not a problem that their BBQ variety has. Now this might sound stupid, but I like these chips so much that I remember when I first had them. I was… very young, and my enabling big sister had gotten a bag at one of the local neighborhood stores, Valenti's. The bag was white cellophane, about the size of a $3.99 bag today with the old trademark Wise owl on it and a price tag of thirty-nine cents. I was smitten. Wise BBQ Flavored Potato Chips are among my absolute favorites.

Some folks say that pretzels are what you dip in ice cream, that it is a natural match, so much so that they make cones out of pretzels. Now I'm not going to say they should start making potato chip ice cream cones, but darn it, chips are much better for dipping in ice cream in my opinion. And the best are the Wise BBQ chips, the hot and cold, sweet and salty contrast is terrific.

Even my old cat Badger thought so. He loved ice cream and Wise BBQ chips. Many times I would have a bowl of ice cream on the table, open a bag of chips, then get up to get something - didn't matter what - and Badger would hop up on the table and start lapping up ice cream, and then invariably stick his head in the bag of chips. When I would come back, he'd know he'd been caught and run - unfortunately the bag would be stuck on his head. He'd leave a trail of chips around the house before getting out of the bag. Man, I loved that cat, my buddy for seventeen years, but wow, he took a lot of ice cream and especially Wise BBQ chips from me.

And I know that Bobby Flay is famous for this now with his Crunchburger at his Burger Palace franchise, but I was doing this decades ago. For an extra crunch, and flavor, I put Wise BBQ potato chips on top of and under my burgers. I also use crushed Wise BBQ potato chips as a fried chicken coating much the way Planet Hollywood used to use Cap'n Crunch for their World Famous Chicken Crunch - and again, I think I was doing it before them. I also sometimes use Frosted Flakes, but that's a completely different story - and favorite fried food.

The Honey BBQ Flavored Potato Chips from Wise came out just a few years ago and quickly became a favorite of mine. They are sweet, and have just the right amount of honey. Sometimes I like a bit more, and when I do, I go for the Herr's Honey Barbeque, but far more often it's Wise. Even if you just lick the seasoning off these, it's good. Although these aren't as good on hamburgers as the regular BBQ, these are equally good for dipping, especially in ice cream. Whereas sometimes the regular BBQ get hot and you need liquid refreshment just to go on, these go down smooth and sweet.

Speaking of sweet, the Sweet Heat BBQ Flavored Potato Chips from Wise just came out, as you can see from the pic, they are brand spanking new. These chips seem innocent at first, with just more visible seasoning than the two types above. They're tasty and sweet, and just as addictive - you will have eaten at least a half-dozen before your mouth catches fire. Yeah, these are hot, but it's a good hot, similar to Lay's Tangy Carolina BBQ potato chips. And that's a good thing. These chips would be very good for dipping into ice cream, because the cold might put out the fire.

Now it should be noted that I can't really have most of Wise's various BBQ chips all that often because of the salt content and especially the MSG. Hey, Wise, isn’t it about time you start trying to make these without MSG? Please? I'll be your best friend...

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #26

The Bride took this of a recent lunch at Chick-fil-A at the Echelon Mall (or whatever it is they're calling it this week) food court. Notice the yummy cheese sauce, and the wonderful Waffle Potato Fries of course!

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

French Fry Diary 299: T.G.I. Friday's

A while ago I was seduced into reviewing T.G.I. Friday's by my buddy Ray raving about their new menu and especially their new Steak Fries. Now the prospect of a new menu at Friday's doesn't phase me so much as it seems like they change their menu every other week, but new Steak Fries, yeah, I had to see that. And so we went.

Usually T.G.I. Friday's is one of my favorite restaurants but the customer service varies and sometimes ends making us avoid the place for months at a time, until we get a craving for something there, or have forgotten how badly they treated us last time. They have a lot of meals I like, but also a constantly changing menu, so sometimes they don't stay around for a while. Notably, over the years, I have loved their steak on a stick, Jack Daniels chicken and burgers, and the onion rings. Half of those items are currently gone from the menu, for the record.

The night we went we had a very enthusiastic waiter, who was very eager to sell me on the then-new fries when the option of sides came up. He described them as "KFC potato wedges, only fresh." So, right out of the starting gate, before they even came - I knew they weren't even steak fries, but potato wedges. Talk about false advertising…

As encouraging as the waiter was, the service really wasn't. The salads came with uncooked bacon and no fork. We were not off to a great start at all. Of course all of the wait staff had vanished. We finally flagged down an employee in a dress shirt (a manager?) sans flair, who promised to fix things and after a short wait, did.

Friday's has a variety of fry options currently. The usual fries are of the natural cut type and really nothing special. When dipped in the Jack Daniels barbeque sauce, they are amazing, but as far as I'm concerned, anything dipped in that stuff is amazing - I love it. They also have the Crispy Green Bean Fries - flash-fried green beans - not really fries, but actually a nice interesting treat.

They also have less than satisfying beer-battered onion rings. Friday's seems to change their onion rings/straws once a week just to flummox me. They never have the kind I want when I want them. They used to have very crispy thin onion rings and onion straws that were to die for, but seemingly not anymore. I guess I'll have to wait for another menu change.

My meal finally arrived, and it came wrong. Instead of the Jack Daniels Chicken I ordered, I got the chicken and shrimp. Again, after a short wait, the right dinner came. Remember what I said about customer service? Anyway, on to the favorite fried food. The regular cut natural cuts came hot, and were salted and peppered, with way too much salt actually. And when I say too much salt, you know it's waaay too much salt. And then there were the "Steak Fries." Our waiter was dead on when he described them as KFC potato wedges but I would actually give KFC the win on this one. They were not hot, and as opposed to the regular fries, these had too much pepper. They also come with the option of parmesan cheese.

The customer service continued to drain me. While our waiter was friendly and cooperative, he was no so good in the execution of his job. He was not only slow with the utensils, napkins and drink refills, but hard to find when we needed him. And he spilled hot Jack Daniels sauce on me too, not his fault, but it didn't help.

Now my correct order came far too late for me to enjoy it with my dining party, so I ended up taking most of it home. The chicken and the regular fries are always good later whether nuked in the microwave or heated up in the oven. The potato wedges did not do well in either area, and were trashed.

A few more words on the Jack Daniels barbeque sauce - I love this stuff. I love it so much that I have tried on occasion to recreate it at home from online recipes. It's never quite the same. Our waiter was cool enough to give me two small containers of it to take home with my chicken and fries. It's darn good on other fries, burgers, steak, etc. as well. It's one of my all time favorite dipping sauces for the favorite fried food. Friday's, if you want to do something right, bottle that stuff.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

French Fry Diary 298: 365 Mesquite Barbecue Potato Chips

Back at one of my favorite places to shop, Whole Foods, I had just picked up a couple burgers from their incomparable meat counter and I was looking for chips to not only go along with them, but also to go on top of the burgers for flavor and crunch. Barbecue flavors are usually the best and I spied something new - 365 Mesquite Barbecue Potato Chips Classic.

Now 365 is the Whole Foods store brand, not that there's anything wrong with that, but like most WF snack products, the bag is just about impossible to open without a scissors. Something really has to be done about that.

These chips are thin regular potato chips, inconsistently seasoned, but not greasy. They have an interesting but pleasant smoky afterburn if you eat more than a few at a time. The seasoning contains a few intriguing wild cards like cinnamon and celery, as well as the usual suspects like cayenne and paprika.

Bottom line, they worked well on my burgers, adding that extra crunch and extra flavor. Yum. Recommended.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #25

Today's image comes from the opening scenes of the third season premiere of HBO's "Hung." Featured is Sweet Potato Sensations in Detroit, which has a variety of sweet potato sensations like pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cobblers, cookies, yams, baked sweet potatoes, ice cream and even t-shirts.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

French Fry Diary 297: Jenga Fries

These snazzily stacked fries came from Sazon Restaurant & Café, a Venezuelan restaurant in Philadelphia as Papas Fritas. The Dark Crystal took my buddy Ray there and they sent me this great pic. Thanks for the Somebody Else's Fries pic, folks!

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

French Fry Diary 296: Zinc Café

This is where we went for The Bride's birthday this year. She had a late night at work and then a Pineland Players meeting so we had to schedule dinner in a tight schedule and also do it somewhere in Medford so we would have time. I got online with Urbanspoon with my iPhone and found the Zinc Café, a place with perfect timing and location that we all agreed on.

The Zinc Café is kinda tucked away on Stokes Road, so if you don't know where it is, you might miss it, but you'll also be missing out on one of the best local restaurants around too. This was a rare find indeed. It's a little small, but you can also eat outside. It's cozy, and a little dim, but it's great atmosphere. Small town meets fancy coffee shop, friendly and cool, I liked it a lot.

The menu has an amazing selection, both healthy and bad for you, both simple and exotic. No Coca-Cola products but they had Boylan instead. My cane cola was a welcome change of pace. They also had appetizers of thin crispy breadsticks that tasted like matzo, very addictive. I could have been happy just with the soda and the sticks.

The Bride and her mom got salads with some amazing add-ins, and we were all surprised by the crisp, fresh and colorful vegetables. The Bride got a grilled cheese sandwich (it's what she wanted for her birthday) with a few cheeses I couldn't pronounce. I got a burger (surprise), which was just terrific, and of course, with the burger were fries.

The French fries were natural cut shoestrings, another sign of high class, at least by this fry guy's estimation. They were very crispy, and had a certain kick we couldn't quite identify, but it was a good kick. All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I really think I have found a new favorite restaurant.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Random Tater Pic of the Day #24

Not really a tater pic today but I wanted to record a cooking triumph for myself, and as we do cover the favorite fried food's cousin, the Onion Rings, here occasionally, this does fit. I have been trying to make onion rings from scratch for years, but I never seem to get the dredging and battering part right. This time I did, and here they are, my mostly perfect homemade onion rings. Enjoy, I know I did.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

French Fry Diary 295: Maxx's Burgers, Shakes, & Ice Cream

I had gotten a few recommendations for Maxx's Burgers, Shakes, & Ice Cream - and since they were fairly local in Moorestown, I wanted to try it. We had tried to find this place once before, but the tiny map on their website confused us enough to give up and go to Elevation Burger. We made a mistake.

We tried again a few weeks later, using the map and looking for cross streets and driving very slow. Despite poor signage (their sign is red on white on red and shares space with a brighter All State sign), we found it. It's little, but worth it.

The first thing that hit me was the soda fountain that offered RC Cola, Diet-Rite, 7-Up and Stewart's soda products. Wow. They also had "Mexican Coke" in bottles, Coca-Cola made with sugar cane - too cool.

Everything us made from scratch and to order. Nothing was started until we ordered. We got our sodas and moved back to the depths of the place to wait for our food. It's built inside a house, so it has many rooms, and is bigger than it looks. There's a guitar and a cymbal on the wall so I suspect that this place might have once been themed after Andy Warhol's Max's Kansas City, but who knows, I saw nothing to definitely indicate that. I was happy, as I haven't had RC in a while, and I had forgotten how good it was, mmmmm...

I got my usual, a burger, and because Maxx's is the original home of Andy's Fries, I ordered them - hand cuts sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and truffle oil. Gourmet style. Maybe...

Let's do the good news first. The burgers are phenomenal, really out of this world good. The burgers are homemade killer good, and come on soft sesame seed buns. Heaven. The Mom-in-Law got the Cruncher, which was close to my heart as it was covered with Ruffles. However, it is notable that they mixed up our fry orders, that's why there are Ruffles with my Andy's Fries.

Speaking of potato products - that's the bad news. The menu tells of hand cut fries, but what I got was frozen grocer shoestrings, deep fried. They were indeed sprinkled with Parmesan and truffle oil, but still, it wasn't the same.

I won't complain too loudly or long, because the burgers were so good. Really, outside of a fancy restaurant or a backyard grill, this was the best burger I've had in a long time, and the rest of the family concurred.

We will definitely be back for the burgers, and the dollar hot dogs are very tempting especially as they have been recommended by a FourSquare friend. We had no room for dessert either after those hearty burgers, so we'll also be back for shakes, sundaes or ice cream. Maybe not for the fries however.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

French Fry Diary 294: Safeway Barbecue Potato Chips

The first thing that attracted me to this store brand of chips at Gennuardi's was the unique art on the front of it. Gracing the front of the 10.5 oz. bag of Safeway Barbecue Flavored Potato Chips is a gigantic chip with a bull Magic Marker-ed over it, and signed by the Snack Artist TM.

The gigantic chip kinda unnerved me. At the bottom of the bag it said "Product Enlarged to Show Texture." It made me compare real chips to pic for a while, just to check out the "texture." I never thought to notice the texture if potato chips before.

The bag continued to amaze when I realized it had one of those special resealable zipper seals. The problem of course is that the opening is in the top front of the bag, instead of the more logical, more reasonable top of the bag. If nothing else, it makes it more difficult to get the chips out - and really, getting the chips out is goal one for a potato chip bag.

The chips themselves are pretty standard for store brand, similar to Herr's gold foil potato chips. They're good, if you can get them out if the bag...

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