Tuesday, January 31, 2012

French Fry Diary 330: Good To Go

This place, Good To Go, just opened recently in West Berlin on the site of an old McDonald's. The McDonald's formerly here moved up the road when the powers that be demolished the Berlin Circle. No circle, no traffic, no traffic, no business - and the new pattern made Good To Go fairly difficult to get to. The dead strip mall that surrounds it is evidence that McDonald's was right to move.

Good To Go promises great fast food and healthier choices. I have to admit, I had not heard good things about this place, but decided to give it a go anyway. The McDonald's was pretty much intact inside, and it was clean but fairly empty at lunchtime. The counter service was quick and friendly, and I was asked at least once how my meal was.

As far as the favorite fried food goes, they have pretty standard natural cuts. They were hot and just a little greasy but flavorful. They came in a paper bag a la McDonald's small fries, which is a nice touch. The fries also come in bay and cheese varieties as well as sweet potato fries.

The rest of the menu has burgers, sandwiches, chicken, tacos, salads, and the like. They also had Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer on tap, a big plus in my book. Not at all as bad as I'd heard or expected, but pretty good. I would definitely come back again. I hope the location doesn't kill them.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nadia G.'s Parmesan Potato Croquettes

I love Nadia G. and her "Bitchin' Kitchen" over on the The Cooking Channel. It is easily the most entertaining, as well as informative, show on the network. On the episode "Impress the In-Laws" she makes the irresistible Potato Croquettes. They are matched up with Roasted Tomatoes and Filet Mignon. Here are the recipes:

• Roasted Tomatoes
• 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 cloves garlic, crushed
• Pinch Greek oregano
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• Pinch brown sugar

• Parmesan Potato Croquettes
• 4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 3 green onions, finely sliced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• Olive oil, for pan frying

• Filet Mignon
• 4 steaks, at room temperature
• 2 tablespoons steak spice (recommended: McCormick Montreal)
• 3 tablespoons canola oil
• Balsamic Syrup
• 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar*
• 1/4 cup real maple syrup
• *Cook's Note: Minimum 7 years old

To make the roasted tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cherry tomatoes and garlic in a large baking dish in a single layer. Sprinkle them with Greek oregano, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and brown sugar. Mix well. Roast for 40 minutes.

To make the Parmesan potato croquettes: Boil the potatoes in enough salt water to cover for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain. Saute the green onions and garlic in extra-virgin olive oil for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent and garlic is golden. In a big bowl, combine the onion and garlic mixture with the boiled potatoes. Add Parmesan cheese, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and mash together. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pour enough olive oil to come 1/4-inch up the side of a heavy fry pan and heat to 375 degrees F. Roll the chilled potato mixture into finger shapes. Dip the fingers in the beaten egg, then coat them in Italian-seasoned bread crumbs. Fry the croquettes in the hot oil for 30 seconds, until all sides are equally crispy and golden.

To make the filet mignon: Season the steaks with a pinch of steak spice. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the steaks to the hot pan. Sear the steaks for 2 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the steaks for another 2 minutes per side. Tent the cooked steaks in aluminum foil and let them rest for 10 minutes.

To make the balsamic syrup: Heat a pan on medium-high heat, add equal parts maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, and stir for 3 to 5 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and slightly reduced. Serve immediately, drizzled over the filet mignon.

How's that for a rockin' dinner to impress the in-laws. Or anybody? Go, Nadia G.!

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

French Fry Diary 329: Pop Chips

My first impression of Pop Chips is that they are crazy hard to open, without the use of a scissors, a blowtorch, or an AK-47. Wow, do you want us to have these things or not?

I have been hearing about Pop Chips for quite some time, from friends and family, from the Pop Chips Twitter, from strangers, and from ads. But it wasn't until recently that I actually saw them in a store. I snapped up a bag each of regular and barbeque.

Their big claim to fame is that they are not fried nor baked, but popped. Now I'm still not sure exactly what that means, I mean, potatoes don't exactly 'pop' like corn does - but I tried 'em anyway. My first impression is that they were like a natural version of Munchos. Yeah, that's it. If Munchos were natural potato chips instead of dehydrated potatoes. The difference would be that Munchos have that extra corn taste that Pop Chips don't have. The difference is more accurately the rice flour in the ingredients - which also adds a bit of a rice cake flavor to them, but it's all good.

The Bride was very happy with the calorie count, and also has become partial to the salt and vinegar flavor as well. They are all natural, with no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors, no cholesterol, no transfats, no saturated fats, and gluten-free. The bags make a lot out of them being healthier. "Nothing fake or phony. No fake colors, no fake flavors, no fluorescent orange fingertips, no wiping your greasy chip hand on your jeans. No, really." And as you can see, they even have a sense of humor about it.

The barbeque flavor is what the folks at Pop Chips call "the tangiest barbeque taste this side of the Mason Dixon." This might not be true, but these are very good, and the brown sugar in the ingredients does give them a sweet kick.

Pop Chips are a great healthy snack, no scratch that, Pop Chips are a great snack. Recommended.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #32

Here's my buddy Ray from last week's Philadelphia Wings game. It was his first game, as well as his first time at Chickie's & Pete's. Here, he's enjoying Crab Fries for the first time. Mmmm... fries...

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Monday, January 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 328: Outback 2011

Recently my buddy Ray and I were going to have a guys night out at the movies, and wanted to have some dinner beforehand. It wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. Our last resort after trying Applebee's, the Library II, and even McDonald's was finally the Outback Steakhouse.

How I've reviewed the Outback before and wasn't really all that thrilled. This time however, I found a meal I was quite happy with. But first, a few words about the Outback's signature appetizer item, the Bloomin' Onion.

The Bloomin' Onion is a wonder of culinary science. It's a one pound onion cut to bloom open, breaded and deep fried. Beautifully crispy, and the breading has that spicy extra kick most Outback food has. The kick is very hot, you will sweat, so have a beverage nearby. Being the catastrophically picky eater I am, I usually pass on the mayonnaise horseradish sauce, but other folks tell me it's good. This time it was a little underdone, but Ray and I still demolished it. Hands down, the Bloomin' Onion is still the main reason to come to the Outback.

The meal I found was the Chicken on the Barbie that comes with a delicious barbeque sauce, that was also very good on the Aussie fries. I'm not that much of a fan of the regular natural cut fries, but this barbeque sauce made them so much better. Good meal, good friend, and good customer service… unlike Applebee's…

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Friday, January 20, 2012

French Fry Diary 327: Chopped: "Frozen Fries With That?"

For Food Network Friday, I have something special today. The Bride and I love the Food Network show "Chopped." After being turned on to it by my friend Ray, we became quick fans, tuning in every Tuesday night at ten in the PM to see four chefs compete to make the best dishes from mystery ingredients in a limited amount of time. It's a hoot hosted by chef Ted Allen.

This past week, one of the mystery ingredients was a favorite of French Fry Diary - frozen grocery fries in an episode called "Frozen Fries With That?". Yeah, baby.

The four competitors were actually of extra interest this time out as two were from restaurants that I have gotten as French fry recommendations, and also one of the chefs had worked for one of the others in the past, so it was a bit of a grudge match going on. There is always fierce but friendly competition on "Chopped," but this episode was more charged than usual.

Competing this time were Chef Ian Friedman of the Rainwater Grill in New York City, Chef Adrienne Grenier of 1500 Degrees in Miami Beach, Chef Clark Barlowe of the Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville Maryland, and Clark's former employer, Chef Dan Giusti of the 1789 Restaurant in Washington DC. A juicy grudge match of employer and employee, young and old, that promises to rock the house. The judges this episode include Maneet Chauhan, Amanda Freitag, and Chris Santos.

The favorite fried food, in the form of Frozen French Fries, was introduced in the appetizer round, along with three other mystery ingredients - Cube Steak, Salsa, and Queso Fresco. Truly it was a challenge masked in simplicity. That said, I am quite stunned by how little was done by the competitors with the fries - after all originality is one of the marks of the contest.

Chef Dan decides to make Steak Frites, deep frying the French fries and seasoning them with southwester spices and scallions, chives, and lime zest. Seriously, just deep frying the fries? Wow.

Chef Clark attempts a Chimichurri Steak & Fries. He is frying his fries in a pan, but he is also julienning some purple potatoes to join them for a little color and taste difference, nice.

Chef Ian is kinda arrogant, stating that he is above the ingredients. Great, another fry snob. He makes Marinated Steak with Two Salsas, 'truffling' his fries. He also added some wacky mustard to his salsa... ewww...

Chef Adrienne is the only one who is even slightly original, insisting that just making fries is too obvious. She chops them up into a hash with peppers and onions, to go with her Steak & Eggs. Rock on, Adrienne.

I'll leave it up to you to decide who got chopped in this round, and in the entrée and dessert rounds, as well as who wins the whole fry bag... just as I'll leave it up to you to watch this episode when it comes around in reruns. It's a great show, made even better by the presence of the favorite fried food. Mmmm... fries...

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

French Fry Diary 326: The Aborted Applebee's Attempt

Let's be clear up front. Applebee's neither cares nor has any pride in their French fries. They are not included in their online menu as a side or an appetizer. You have to hunt them down to even see a picture of them on said menu. I guess if you're ordering online, fries just aren't an option.

It's been a long looong time since I've been to Applebee's. This is due to their always consistent customer service, which was bad. The last time I went to Applebee's was for my birthday about six years ago, and even then it had been a while before then we had gone. For my birthday I wanted a certain volcano fudge cake they had so we went, and from the way they seated us, to the food, to the wait time, to the getting orders just outright wrong, they assured us that their customer service was, as I said, consistent.

My memory insists that I have rarely had a good meal at Applebee's. I do remember once getting some really good onion rings, with Panko bread crumbs and shredded cheese mixed in, but I also recall the service that night being Applebee's standard. The fries as I recall are non-impressive salt and pepper natural cuts, nothing to write home about, and as I said before, Applebee's obviously doesn't think so either.

Further and much closer inspection of the online menu revealed that Applebee's also has crispy red potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, crispy onion strings, and fried onions, although I could not find these items alone, much like the fries. Now you're probably asking why wouldn't I just order those items a la carte, right? Well, those of you asking that question have obviously never experienced the fine, fine customer service at Applebee's. Good luck with that.

All that said, my buddy Ray came down for a buddy movie night. We were going to see the Hindu special effects spectacular Ra. One, and the only real restaurant near the theatre is Applebee's. At first I was hesitant, but seeing as Ray had just gotten back on to Weight Watchers, and Applebee's has a special WW menu, we went for it.

When we got there, it was packed, because it was a Friday night, of course. There was a thirty-minute wait. We weighed our options. Go someplace else, or wait a half hour for crappy service? Applebee's aborted this night, maybe another time. We'll try again.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #31

Here's a Somebody Else's Fries entry from my sister-in-law who spent a weekend in New Orleans with her husband recently. These fries are from the Gordon Biersch on Poydras Street near the French Quarter. Their signature Garlic Fries will make sure no one will talk to you afterward, very strong, but very delicious. Thanks, Amy!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

French Fry Diary 325: Chickie's & Pete's 2012

It's that time of year again, yeah, that's right, it's Philadelphia Wings lacrosse season. Now lately, this is a bittersweet thing. I have been, along with The Bride, members of her family, and various friends over the years, a season ticket holder for the Wings since roughly 1990. I like lacrosse a lot, it's pretty much the only professional sport I follow with any real passion. They used to be world champions, and always in the finals, and always a rough team to beat. Not so much lately. Lately, they get beat a lot, and badly.

I think this might be the last season we get tickets. That's how bad it's been. Regardless, the highlight of any opening night for the Wings home season -besides the game of course- is getting a giant cup of those Crab Fries from Chickie's & Pete's. Now this year, The Bride couldn't make it so I brought my friend Jeff, busting not only his lacrosse cherry but also his Chickie's & Pete's as well.

I don't think he was intending on eating many fries if at all when I offered. He'd already downed a Campo's cheesesteak before I got back to the table before the game. As always the fries were addictive, and like The Bride, Jeff also really dug the mystery cheese they give you as a side. I've never been a fan myself, just gimme my fries, ya know?

The addictiveness kicks in when you're still eating those cold fries from that huge bucket an hour and a half later as the game closes. Yeah, they're even good cold. The Wings lost that first game by the way, horribly, like 12-22, but there were seven fistfights (including the rare goalie on goalie fight) in the last thirty seconds of play. That is something. Maybe we will hold on to those tickets...

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Monday, January 16, 2012

French Fry Diary 324: 25 Burgers

Like Smashburger, 25 Burgers is mostly a North Jersey phenomenon, but with one location in my area, in Woodbury. The claim to fame of 25 Burgers is that you have at least twenty-five choices, including angus beef burgers, chicken breast burgers, and other specialty burgers. They've been around since 2009, and have expanded their franchise since.

The day after New Year's Day was a day off for most folks, so The Bride and her folks decided we'd make a road trip to 25 Burgers, as I had wanted to for some time. Over the last couple years I have gotten several recommendations for their fries, so I was looking forward to it.

25 Burgers, other than Boardwalk Fries, also offers cheese fries, chili cheese fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, and potato pancakes as sides as well. For this trip, I ordered the rather inexpensive Boardwalk Fries, along with my usual plain burger. Notably, this is a Pepsi place, no Coca-Cola products, but they did have Orange Crush on tap. Bonus points.

The restaurant itself reminded me of Five Guys in color scheme, very red and white and checkered. The overhead music was oldies and the walls were covered with pics of Marilyn, Sinatra, Elvis, and other icons of the 1950s and 60s. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

The burgers can be huge, depending on what you order. Mine was small, others were big, and all were (no choice) well done. And like Tony Luke says, it's all about the roll - and the rolls are fabulous. The burger, other than being a bit more than well done, was fairly good. The Bride got the Maui Burger, which she liked, but found unwieldy to eat. It might be better without the roll, and with a knife and fork.

The fries, very golden brown, were regular natural cuts, and very spicy. I found them similar to the fries at Checker's, spicy with the crunchy coating. The difference though is the size, these are shorter than Checker's fries, which are pretty long. That said, we might have just gotten to the end of a batch. Quite addictive, but have a drink close by as they have time delay heat. The mother-in-law liked them a lot.

All around, it was a good lunch with the family. I don't know if we'll be rushing back any time soon, but it was pretty good.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

French Fry Diary 323: Champps Americana 2011

I didn't want to come back to Champps in Marlton, but it was a family decision and a family lunch, so I figured I'd make the best of a bad situation and try their "world famous" waffle fries this time. 

Unfortunately, Champps Americana was not accommodating. When it came time to order, the waiter had bad news. They were out of waffle fries. What? Are you kidding? I was a little bit ticked, especially when I was giving them a second chance. I certainly wasn't going to order their inadequate steak fries. Although here's a pic of them on my nephew's plate.

I did order their Kobe Beef Sliders and split them with The Bride's brother. The menu described them with cheese and toppings on the side, and miraculously that's how they came. They were quite good too.

All in all, a good meal with good company. Much of the family was together so it was a special occasion. It's a shame about the fries though, but I guess no fries are better than disappointing fries.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #30

Today's random pic come from the webcomic Toothpaste for Dinner by Drew and Natalie. It speaks the truth.

Special thanks to the Dark Crystal and her Tumblr for hipping me to this. Rock on, girl.

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Monday, January 09, 2012

French Fry Diary 322: Smashburger 2012

Smash. Sizzle. Savor. That's what it says on the windows at Smashburger, and it pretty much says what the burgers there are all about. They are fantastic. And after re-reading my first review of Smashburger last year, the burger, and the Haystack Onions, are why we came back.

Like last year, The Bride and I were in North Jersey for New Year's Eve -good friends and good fun- and we decided to again hit Smashburger in the Riverside Square Mall in Paramus for lunch. It was just the two of us and we were hungry, as opposed to exploring the menu or writing reviews (although you knew it was coming, I couldn't let you folks down), so we just got the usual fast food staples.

However, remembering the grease factor of our first visit, I ordered the Haystack Onions over the Smashfries, although The Bride did get them. The fries - shoestrings with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic - were as bad as last time. The burger on the other hand was better, an almost perfect roll too, and it was less greasy than I remember, as were the onions. I wished I had remembered to sandwich them though, that would have been great. The Bride still held on to her opinion about the greasy burger while I was thoroughly satisfied with mine. We also shared a terrific vanilla Butterfinger shake.

I walked away from this visit much happier than I did last New Year's, and anxious to try it again. I think perhaps next year we'll make Smashburger an official annual tradition, and invite some of our party mates along as well. Maybe I can convince someone to try the various flash-fried veggies next time.

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

French Fry Diary #321: The Boxing Day Expedition

The night of Boxing Day, the day after Christmas here in the States, The Bride, her folks, and I decided to go out to dinner. No one could make up their minds as to where to go, except for me, who had an ulterior motive, so it was left up to me to decide.

I wanted to try a fairly new restaurant in Moorestown that had been recommended to me called A Battered Tartan, a good old-fashioned fish and chips shop. I wanted, you guessed it, fries - or in this case, real British chips. We figured it would be like the last time we went blindly into Moorestown with a GPS, if we couldn't find it, we could always go to Elevation Burger.

I tried calling first, but got an answering machine. We had made up a secondary plan to go to Maxx's, but it seemed that their website was down and phone disconnected, shame, I really liked that place.

We did find A Battered Tartan, but they were closed. We'll be back, as the menu has me excited. As somewhat planned, we ended up at the Moorestown Mall Elevation Burger, having their terrific (this time) natural cut shoestring fries. All in all, a good Boxing Day.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Sweet Potato Matchsticks

Since we've been talking lately here about matchstick fries, for Food Network Friday today, here's a video of Tyler Florence making sweet potato matchstick fries:


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