Friday, March 30, 2012

French Fry Diary 358: Denny's, Clifton Heights

Welcome to possibly the last Denny's on Earth, it's in Clifton Heights, PA. This was our second Denny's of the night. The first one, over by the Philly airport was closed for renovations. Going to any Denny's was actually a surprise as they seem to have left New Jersey en masse suddenly about six months to a year back.

They used to be everywhere. Then slowly they disappeared, not sure why, but they did. Maybe it was bad publicity from certain racial incidents, or maybe the bad karma from buying out Sam's, formerly Sambo's. I won't go into that, it should for just speak for itself.

The Denny's took forever to find, even with dual GPSes, but my friends Jeff, Marc, Judy, and the Dark Crystal held out and made it through the wilds of Pennsylvania after the Wings game to get here. Once there, I was overwhelmed by the menu, several pages long and full of upscale diner-y goodness. That part of the 24/7 Denny's diner hasn't changed since I'd last visited one.

Guess what I finally settled on. I know, too easy. Burger and fries. I had wanted breakfast, but I don't know when I'll ever see a Denny's again, so I wanted to get fries to review, just in case it's another decade before I see another Denny's again. My buddy Ray had actually recommended them a few months back as well, so I had to try them.

First thing I noticed was that Denny's still had the huge glasses of Coke I remembered. That's a good thing. The burger was huge which made the pitiful portion of fries even more irritating. The vertically crinkle cut fries, to add injury to insult, we're only just warm. The less than twenty fries were quite potatoey and would probably have been pretty good if they were hot. Also, you can see in the picture that they were very liberal with the salt. Others in our party got breakfast potatoes that were shredded and browned well. Burger aside (which was very good), I kinda wish I'd gotten them instead.

I was full and satisfied at the end of the meal, so that's a good thing. Conversation with good friends always makes for a good time. And that includes the conversation at the next table claiming that that Hawkeye brought nothing to the Avengers. But I wish there had been more fries, and hot fries. The Denny's rating for this venture stands at all stars for the company of friends, and most of the food, but not so much for the French fries.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

French Fry Diary 357: Gourmet Basics Smart Fries

I am always intrigued by potato snacks that try to be healthy. I've been seeing Smart Fries from Gourmet Basics on shelves for a while and I finally picked up a bag, the flavor I picked was 'classic sea salt.'

There are lots of healthy bonuses with these so-called Smart Fries. They are cholesterol free, sugar free and transfat free. The problem is they are also kinda flavor free as well. They claim they have potato in them but I didn't taste it, heck, I certainly didn't taste any salt either, sea or otherwise. It's not that they're tasteless, but they are very bland. Perhaps I should try some of the other kinds like honey BBQ or vinegar splash.

They are kinda a skinny round tube in the shape of shoestring French fries, and are good for dipping. They are air popped and very low in calories. Not my first pick, but a good healthy snack, thumbs up.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #41

Friends Taryn and Brian are back today with another Somebody Else's Fries from their recent trip to South Carolina. This time they took a pic of more fries not local to my area, at Zaxby's. Check 'em out.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

French Fry Diary 356: Herr's Lattice Cut Potato Chips

My lovely Bride bought these for me, a new Herr's variety, Lattice Cut Potato Chips. They are also kettle cooked with sea salt, as well as 'all natural, as the front of the bag hype contends. From the picture, speaking of the bag, they looked like waffle cut fries, only flatter and more chippified.

When I opened the bag, I was quite surprised, and that was a good thing. The chips were much thicker and much less frail than I thought they would be. These chips are very thick, more so than a lot of Herr's chip products. These are the absolute most perfect chips for dipping. Not only that they taste great, almost to the point of being addicting. I love these!

My only problem with these is that they're from Herr's, and the last time I liked a Herr's product this much (1853), they disappeared off the face of the earth and became almost impossible to find except by mail order. I sure hope these Lattice chips last.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #40

Today's Somebody Else's Fries come from my friends Taryn and Brian who recently visited South Carolina. While they were there, they went to Sticky Fingers and got some fries, along with their Memphis Dry Rub ribs and cole slaw. Mmmm... they look tasty...

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Friday, March 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 355: Friday Night Fish Food

When you're a little kid you sometimes see patterns but you don't always understand why they are until years and years later. This is one of those things, and of course it's got to do with the favorite fried food.

When I was little, my mom worked second shift so my big sister Bobbie - a notorious but loved early French fries enabler in my life - would make dinner every night. A favorite meal was what my small mind called 'fish food.'

Fish food consisted of a variety of Mrs. Paul's products, then not as soul-crushingly expensive as they are now. Usually there would be fish sticks, deviled crab cakes, fried scallops (my favorite, well, second favorite) and of course, French fries. The fries were usually regular cut or crinkle cut, really the only ones available back then. These were all baked together, despite the various temperatures and times instructed in the directions. They usually all came out all right.

I loved this meal, and still do, as it brings back good memories of my childhood. I didn't realize at the time that this meal usually fell on a Friday night, a holdover of the old Catholic (Mom was raised Roman Catholic) fish on Friday thing during Lent.

Later as an adult living at home, I would make this meal. I got more scientific and precise about temperatures and times. I also found that I liked shoestrings better with the various 'fish foods,' and enjoyed the aroma mix of everything together.

Still, Friday or any time, I still remember and love the fish food meal. Mmmm... fries...

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

French Fry Diary 354: The Sonic Justice League of Tater Tots

I had wanted to write about this ever since I found out about this, but as was mentioned earlier, most of the Sonic Drive-Ins in the South Jersey area have suddenly closed up. Why, I don't know, but there went my opportunity to collect some of my favorite super-heroes in the shape of some of my favorite fried food.

Luckily my friend Marni managed to pick me up a Wonder Woman Tater Tot. Sonic has been including in the kids meals, officially called Wacky Pack kids meals, plush tater tots dressed like DC Comics characters. What is most interesting about these 'super-tots' is the selection of characters included. Here's the rundown: Clark Kent (!), Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter (!), The Flash, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, Supergirl, Bizarro (!), Plastic Man (!), and Superman.

Of course this doesn't make Sonic Tater Tots taste any better, or reopen closed Sonics in the area, but it sure is pretty cool. More kids meal toys need to be this cool.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

French Fry Diary 353: Bassett's Original Memphis BBQ

The Bride and I had our hearts set on Sonic as we headed back across the Walt Whitman Bridge from a day in Philly. We quickly had our hearts broken as we saw no lights or cars at the Sonic. They were closed. Like closed for good. I personally was kinda shocked as this was the same Sonic Drive-In that was blocking traffic when they first opened.

Hungry, we looked around. It was Sunday so no Chick-fil-A, we didn't really feel like Five Guys, so we decided on Bassett's Original Memphis BBQ. They had fries, so good deal.

The Bride got brisket and I ordered chicken tenders and fries. The drink selection was interesting. Besides Stewart's in bottles they had some odd flavors on tap, among them real sugar cane cola, outlaw orange and a diet cola as well - all Bassett's brand microbrews.

The Memphis Fries, as they were called, were standard crinkle cuts and probably frozen and deep-fried, but they were hot and very tasty. They were also perfect for dipping and soaking up the barbecue sauce. I got the mild, but I probably should have gotten the hot. No worries, both are at the table.

The Bride loved her bacon and cheese fries, though she wasn't sure what kind of cheese was used. My chicken tenders were regular breaded tenders but smothered in that terrific barbecue sauce. This was a great meal and a great surprise. Maybe it's a good thing that Sonic was closed, we'll definitely be back.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

French Fry Diary 352: Open Nature Crinkle Cut Fries

I was shopping for fries, as I am wont to do, with a mind toward being healthy. I know, I am quite the paradox. I was at Genuardi's and I saw these - Open Nature Crinkle Cut Fries.

Like some of the so-called healthy potato chips, the makers fill the front of the bag with their claims. These fries are 100% natural, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial flavored or colors, no other unpronouncables, just potatoes, canola oil, citric acid for the color, and a little but of dextrose so they brown. Go team healthy!

The cooking instructions gave me the option to bake or to just throw health to the wind and deep fry. Though tempting, I found the second choice funny. I opted to bake. The fries had commonalities with organic fries I've had in the past - quick to brown (but thankfully not burn) and in need of seasoning more than usual fries.

All that taken into account, salt seasoning and barbecue sauce added, the Open Nature Crinkle Fries were very good, much better than I would have thought. I will definitely be trying these again.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #39

Well, St. Patrick's Day weekend is over, and hopefully you got into Burger King to get your free French fries (if you even like their new fries, that is).

While the fries might not be free any more, I bet you can still find some of that green Heinz ketchup to dip them in if you look for it.

And as long as we're playing clean up from the big Irish weekend, here's something from comic book writer Gail Simone's Twitter: "Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan. If you don't cook boxty, you'll never get a man." Well, then.

Hope y'all had a good St. Paddy's Day!

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Boxty for St. Patrick's Day

Here's another Boxty recipe, this one is from the Just-Potatoes group, by way of the Dorie's Recipe Box group:

Boxty from Ireland

1/2 pound potatoes, unpeeled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and grated
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter, or as needed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Scrub the unpeeled potatoes and prick them several times with a fork; place onto a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, cool, and peel. Mash the potatoes with the buttermilk. Stir in the grated raw potato, flour, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Melt the butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Scoop the potato mixture into the skillet to make 3 inch cakes. Fry until golden and crisp, turning once, about 5 minutes per side.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Guy Fieri's Boxty Cakes

For the Food Network Friday before St. Patrick's Day I have something special for you - Guy Fieri's recipe for Irish Boxty.

For the uninitiated, boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. The name comes from the old Irish and means poor house bread. Here's Guy Fieri's recipe for it, from the "A Fiery Irish Supper" episode of "Guy's Big Bite"...

Total time 40 min
Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
Yield: 4 cakes
Level: Easy

• 1 cup peeled, grated raw russet potato
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 (3/4-pound) russet potato, peeled and quartered
• 2 cups fresh cauliflower florets
• 3 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
• 2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
• 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 egg
• 1/2 cup canola oil, divided
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

Cover the raw potato with the milk. Add in 1/4 cup chicken stock. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, add the quartered potatoes, cauliflower and enough chicken stock to cover. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, cook until fork tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Strain the potatoes and cauliflower. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes and cauliflower with the cream cheese.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices and baking powder and mix well. Add the mashed cauliflower and potatoes and fold to combine. Add the egg into the raw potato mix, and then fold into the cauliflower and mashed potatoes. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more chicken stock.

Heat a nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. When hot, add 1 cup of the mixture and gently spread out in the pan uniformly until you have a large circle (8 to 9-inches in diameter). Cook until the edges begin to brown lightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently flip over with a thin, flexible spatula and cook 2 minutes on the other side. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.

Fill half with some Double Jack Stew and fold over. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

French Fry Diary 351: In-N-Out Burger

One of the places I get the most recommendations to do reviews of their fries for here at French Fry Diary is In-N-Out Burger. The problem is that while In-N-Out is a strictly west coast place, I am strictly an east coast guy. Sigh.

There is good news however. On The Bride's recent west coast excursion she had the chance to visit an actual In-N-Out Burger, and she got all sorts of stuff for me (no food, just giveaway items), and kinda reviewed them by proxy. Isn't she just a sweetheart?

The Bride was hungry and stopped in on her way to Los Angeles from Anaheim after midnight. She was surprised to find them both open and very busy. Almost sounds like White Castle a little.

Not knowing about In-N-Out's secret menu, The Bride just got the standard burger, fries and a drink. She saw others getting melted cheese and other stuff on their fries but didn't see it on the regular menu. She knows why now. Among the fries available from the secret menu include several variations of soft to crispy to extra crispy (almost like meat - light, light well, well, extra well), cheese fries, and the notorious animal fries.

In-N-Out Burger peels (sometimes) and fresh cuts their fries from Kennebec potatoes in house for hot and tasty regular cut French fries. The Bride said her fries were a bit underdone, so I wonder if maybe she said the word 'light' at some point while ordering.

Either way they looked good, and the burger tasted good. Hunger appeased after midnight by the west coast's famous In-N-Out Burger. Maybe I'll get there in person one day.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #38

More from The Bride's work conference in Los Angeles... another catered business lunch in the Ghostbusters hotel, and another serving of potatoes. In the serving tray this time are Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes. Mmmm...

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

French Fry Diary 350: The Pop Shop 2012

I love the Pop Shop in Collingswood NJ, but that's probably evident to regular readers and eaters here at French Fry Diary. I love the Pop Shop for their fries, their great food and service, and not just because The Bride used to babysit the owner - yeah, I went there. We go there all the time with family and friends, and that's what it's all about - just a terrific restaurant for family and friends, and food.

I haven't written about them for a while and felt it was time to remind folks, and inform new folks how really cool a place the Pop Shop Cafe & Creamery is.

Our latest visit was with The Bride, her folks and two friends from out of town. We had intended breakfast on a late Sunday morning but, as usual, the place was packed. I think at one point there were as many folks waiting as there were sitting, but it moved rather quickly. Business is good, but business is always good because the food and service are so terrific. We had a bit of a wait - Sunday mornings are always busy - but eventually we were seated, and it was so worth it. As always.

It was close to noon though after the wait. Now I had a choice to make as breakfast is always served at the Pop Shop. I could get the deviously decadent Cinnamon Bun French Toast or my usual Deluxe Burger Platter. While the former is wonderful, I decided to be good and get the burger.

The Pop Shop burgers are always terrific and the Deluxe Platter comes with the Pop Fries, great natural cuts that are perfectly crispy and hot. They come in a variety of styles (Maryland, Gravy, Whiz, Mozzarella Pizza, Louisiana, Spicy, Chili Cheese and Collingswood - mostly toppings on their already amazing fries), but I'm a purist, I like the regular fries. I hadn't had them in a bit so they were extra good.

The Bride got breakfast, and those are her home fries with cheese in the pic. Mmmm... cheese... One of our friends, Deb, on the other hand, put sour cream on hers. To each their own, I suppose.

Another great meal was had with family and friends. I have to give you one warning though, folks, Collingswood now has 24/7 parking meters. Sad to have to interrupt your meal to feed the meter, and it's a hefty price, but for the Pop Shop it is sooo worth it.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #37

These were called Roasted Marble Colored Potatoes. They were served to The Bride at a catered business lunch in Los Angeles, at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel.

For film trivia fans out there, it's notable that that this hotel's ballroom was notably destroyed by Slimer and the Ghostbusters in the 1984 movie.

"We came, we saw, we ate some spuds."

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

French Fry Diary 349: Herr's Tangy BBQ Flavored Popped Chips

It would seem that the popularity of Pop Chips has caused at least one of the major potato chip company to fire back as it were. The other day at CVS I came across a tiny six ounce bag of Herr's Tangy BBQ Flavored Popped Chips. I picked them up right away.

It was not so much the fact of competitive popped chips or even the barbecue flavor - but the word 'tangy' was what grabbed me. I admit I was excited. If they could make a 'tangy' barbecue flavor of popped chip, could regular or kettle tangies be next? Of course it might just be a ploy like when McDonald's added the word 'tangy' to their McNugget BBQ sauce without changing the formula one bit.

For the health-conscious, there's a lot to be happy about as they are, as noted on the front of the bag, all natural, gluten free, and with no transfats, preservatives or cholesterol. The chips themselves are round, but with more broken pieces than Pop Chips. And for creatures made from potato flour, the taste is not bad but that may just be the BBQ flavor covering up any bad taste. Not a bad snack at all, and a step above the BBQ Pop Chips.

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