Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #48

I guess Burger King is really serious about making fast food just a bit more upscale. These pics adorn the entrance of my local Burger King. Notice the fries served in paper cones the European way. Hmmmm... please, somebody let me know when Burger King actually starts serving them that way. That's when I'll believe it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

French Fry Diary 377: Outta Philly

I had been aware of this place for quite some time, but finally, with the family, this past Memorial Day weekend, I got a chance to go to Outta Philly, on White Horse Road in Voorhees, NJ. There's no reason to sugarcoat it, folks, but I was blown away. This is where you should be eating, and not just for the fries.

We were greeted at the counter by one of the owners, Dean, who runs the place with Rob. Dean is a very entertaining host and he immediately and playfully got on my mother-in-law's case for being from Philadelphia but not knowing how to properly order a cheesesteak. For the uninformed, and those who have never been to South Philly's Pat's or Geno's, there is even signage at Outta Philly to help you along.

I loved Dean's attitude and banter from the moment we walked in. We were made to feel relaxed and at home, not just customers, but neighbors, friends, family. This is all a part of the atmosphere of the restaurant. The walls were decorated with various examples of Phillyspeak, with meanings and pronunciations. Besides a TV with the Phillies game on, there were also large logos of the Philadelphia sports teams, announcing proper allegiance to the Phillies, the 'Iggles,' the 76ers, the Flyers, even the Union. We confronted Dean on why no Wings logo, and found he's actually a big lacrosse fan, so I'm guessing he's working on that one.

They had a fair selection of fountain drinks, and add it yourself ice chest, a personal retro touch I liked. There was also a full selection of Herr's potato chips, keeping in the Philly vein, for folks who didn't want fries or rings as a side. Our food was brought out to us, after we watched it made. Fries and rings were not dropped until we ordered, and we were informed they were made from scratch. We watched them cut the meat in front of us. When I say from scratch, and made in front of us, I mean it.

I got a Wiz Wit (refer to the sign). For folks outside the Philadelphia area, that's a cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz - the good orange stuff - and onions. It's Phillyspeak, and how you order if you were at Pat's or Geno's. Now let me be clear here, and it might be blasphemy. I haven't been to either of those places in about two decades, I know, a trip is long overdue, but this Wiz Wit was the best cheesesteak I have had in years, maybe decades, maybe ever. It even beats Jim's on South Street, and local Cherry Hill fave Big John's. Yeah, it was that good. I loved it. The cheese was very hot, and the onions were very big, the shaved rib-eye steak, and roll were perfect. Regular readers know how hard I am to please, so take this as the truth.

The French fries are natural cuts, and as I said, not dropped until they were ordered. They were hot, crisp, just right, and easily rival those of Five Guys and Cool Dog locally. They are also available with old bay seasoning and white cheddar cheese (Outta Fries), with jalapeño and onions (South Street Fries), with homemade chili with cheese (Chili Fries) and with Whiz, bacon and sour cream (Loaded Fries). Great stuff!

Taking to co-owner Dean afterward, I know that he knows his fries. He has it down, and rattled off the secrets to making the perfect fresh cut fries like he knew it like the back of his hand, and he does. Dean has a background that includes many other restaurants, including Ruth's Chris Steak House, put simply, the man knows what he's doing.

The onion rings were big thick rings, possibly Vidalia, but I'm not sure. The coating was perfect, and not greasy at all. Much like the cheesesteak, these were the best juiciest onion rings I have had in quite some time. The mom-in-law loved the remoulade sauce that came with them.

The entire visit was an absolute treat. I loved Outta Philly and will definitely go back. They also have hoagies, sandwiches, salads, lots of other great stuff I didn't get to sample on this visit. They are a little off the beaten track but sooo worth the trip. Definitely check out Outta Philly! Fully and highly recommended.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

French Fry Diary 376: Burger King Hash Browns

One would think Burger King Hash Browns would have everything going for them. They have had years to study the competition before they got into the game about ten years after the Golden Arches when it comes to breakfast, theirs should be perfect.

They are essentially constructed identically to McDonald's hash browns with diced potato pieces condensed into little bite-sized crown discs instead of a big oval. They also have deep fried crispy outer layers, with the bonus of a little bit of seasoning.

Even with what looks like more flavor, the BK crowns are kinda tasteless. Really, they are just terrible. They're not as bad as Chick-fil-A, but nowhere near as good as Mickey D's. As far as fast food hash browns go, McDonald's is the clear winner. At least BK has French Toast Sticks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

French Fry Diary 375: Mixto

A night out was planned with The Bride and some of her friends (and also my friends, as they were all her friends first in high school before I met her, I call them her friends). Usually we only get together at particular events in which one or most are involved in the event, there's not much downtime to just talk. This was the idea behind this get-together, just relax and chat.

Marc and Judi were there, as well as another friend who had chosen the restaurant in the city - Mixto. Now I had heard of Mixto, but living out in the suburbs I don't get into the city as much as I'd like, I had never been. Mixto is a lovely two-story restaurant in downtown Philly that brings a wonderful Latin, Cuban and Caribbean flavor to its fare. I loved the décor, but the wait, even on a Saturday night was horrendous. Good thing the food, and especially the company, was great.

I ordered the Whisky Rib Eye, which was delicious by the way, but then I asked The Question, because I did not see the favorite fried food on the menu. You know what The Question is, right? "Do you have French Fries?" They did, and they brought them with my steak.

The Mixto fries were regular cuts, likely frozen but it didn't matter because they were done well. They had a different kind of batter covering. It was apparently designed to come off, to flake off during deep-frying. This created those tasty cracklings like you find leftover in the box at Long John Silver's, but in this case, they were attached to the fries. This was surprisingly good.

We had a wonderful night out with friends, were joined by others later on, and we had dessert at More Than Ice Cream. I didn't get to try the fries there as it was dessert, remember? Next time. A terrific night all around, I can't wait to do it again. And the next time we go to Mixto, I want to try the mofongo.

Friday, May 18, 2012

French Fry Diary 374: Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings

I don't really like Funyuns, but I thought I did. When it comes to onion flavored snacks, Funyuns is the granddaddy of the onion flavored snacks. It would seem that it would also be the best, but I say no. What's funny is I've reviewed other onion flavored snacks, like those from Burger King and 7-Eleven, expecting them not to be as good as Funyuns, but it's not true.

First things first, it should noted that the only reason I'm writing this review is product placement and possible subliminal advertising. I had been watching "Breaking Bad," and prodded by the character Jesse Pinkman's predilection for Funyuns, I decided I needed to get some too. See, it does work.

It is also worth mentioning that Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings are just a lot of corn meal, vegetable oil, lots of chemicals, and just a touch of onion extract. Not much of an onion ring at all, is it? And they are very crunchy, which is the problem I have with them - I think they're too crunchy. But maybe that's just me, I do seem to be in the minority on this, so what do I know? I don't like these things, remember?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

French Fry Diary 373: Sensible Portions Sweet Barbecue Potato Straws

As one might imagine I stroll up and down the snack aisle in the supermarket a lot. When I see something that catches my eye and might be good for the blog, I'll grab it. Such was the case at ShopRite the other day with these Sensible Portions Potato Straws, and of course I went for the Sweet Barbecue flavor.

Forewarning, I found them in the healthier section of the snack aisle, and probing truth in advertising, these are all natural, with no preservatives, no cholesterol and no transfats. They're even kosher. But like most potato snacks, they are barely potato. They're made from potato flour, that's potato flakes and potato starch. Sound appetizing? Yeah, exactly. That's why I got one of the flavored kinds, because usually the plain version of these types of snacks taste like cardboard.

Fortunately that is not the case here, or maybe it is, but the not unpleasant sweet barbecue flavor covers it up. They are quite tasty and addictive, and luckily the portion size is noted on the bag in a few places to make sure you know. It's thirty-eight straws in the seven ounce bag I bought. And as someone who watches portion sizes, let me assure you, that's a very big serving.

The Potato Straws themselves are two inches long each, and the size of shoestring French fries otherwise. It is interesting to note they are really straws, in that they are hollow. Like a Twizzler, or a real straw, you can even drink through them. They are also terrific for dipping.

All in all, this is an excellent find, and a tasty snack. I will be picking these Sensible Portions Potato Straws up again for sure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

French Fry Diary 372: Mastoris

Recently a friend of The Bride's, and a Trenton local legend, Randy Now opened up his Man Cave & Consignment Shop up in Bordentown New Jersey. We, along with her parents, looking for a nice drive to get out of the house, attended the grand opening. Great place, wonderful stuff, and there was a rocking band there opening day. If you're in the area, definitely stop by, it's worth it.

Afterward, we were still up in the Trenton area and we had the munchies, so after much discussion (there are so many different places to eat), we decided to go to Mastoris. This place is legend among New Jersey diners, in fact, it is probably one of the most famous, and the classiest of the New Jersey diners. I had never been, so this was an experience. I have heard both good and bad about the place in my time on Earth so I was interested in finding out for real. I also wanted to try the, duh, what else, the French fries.

Mastoris is a landmark, a piece of history. In existence since the 1920s, it is both a fancy and homey diner with extra rooms for larger parties, fireplaces in each room, and some folks even have their wedding receptions there. And as if to secure your having dessert one way or another, you have to walk through their luscious bakery just to get to your seat. They hit you here or on the way out, you will get dessert. We got a nice table near one of the fireplaces and our waitress seemed very nice and eager to please, especially to prepare our food however we wanted it. Regular readers know that's a plus for me, the catastrophically picky eater.

I was stunned when the waitress handed out the menus however. It was huge. I kid you not, this was a twenty-page menu, plus a two-sided one sheet with today's specials on it. Lifting the menu was a workout. They have to have everything, or at least that's what one would think, based on the menu. I shudder to think what Chef Gordon Ramsey would say. Frequently on "Kitchen Nightmares," that's one of his pet peeves, and he always cuts the menu down to one sheet. Mastoris would probably give him a conniption.

One of the things that Mastoris is most famous for is their cheese bread, and to a lesser extent, their cinnamon bread. Like the restaurant itself, the cheese bread is a thing of legend. I am always hearing stories of folks who will drive for hours to get some of this bread, and then take some home with them as well, thanks in no part to walking out through the bakery, I'm sure. I couldn't wait to be served, especially with that kind of build up. Now I might be blasphemous saying this, but here I go. The cheese bread is good, no doubt, but as far as I'm concerned, the cinnamon bread is to die for. Keep your cheese bread, just leave the cinnamon bread for me, okay?

When my burger and fries arrived (Oh come on now, you knew that was what I was going to get, right? If not, you haven't been paying attention.) the first thing that hit me was the sheer size of it. The burger was gigantic. I had to cut it in half just to attempt to eat it. This is where Mastoris gets an A+ for portion size, with the burger. It was good hot, but not so much when just warm. Despite the size and look of the ginormous hamburger, I have to say, it was only just okay.

The French fries were steak fries, standard from the grocer's freezer and deep-fried. They were really good, as good as those kind of fries get, mind you, and I really would have liked to have had more, but. And this is a big but, so big, Sir Mix-a-Lot would be happy. The fries came in such a ridiculously small portion compared to the giant portions of everything else. Not as small as at Denny's last time, but still. Speaking of the big portions - on everything but the fries - we walked out with five Styrofoam containers, none of them containing fries.

Just so you don't think I'm being psychotic (well, not that psychotic) about the portion of the fries, it should be noted my father-in-law also got the steak fries, and there weren't enough for him either. The mashed potatoes were also quite good, although they weren't from my order.

On a side note, I thought the service was quite good, but my mother-in-law felt it was the worst service she'd ever gotten at Mastoris. She said that they were usually more attentive and personable. I was floored by this. Our waitress was twenty times nicer than at, say a Denny's or an Applebee's, but then again, I guess that says a lot, doesn't it? We must have gotten our waitress on a bad day, I'll have to go back. All in all, it was a good family afternoon dinner. Good times.

Friday, May 11, 2012

French Fry Diary 371: Ben & Jerry's Late Night Snack

For today's entry here at French Fry Diary, I have something very different - ice cream! Ben & Jerry have a new flavor inspired by "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," called Late Night Snack.

Now I like Jimmy Fallon quite a bit, and I love The Roots, although I don't get to see the show as often as I like. I was delighted to find out that an ice cream flavor has been created to honor them, and especially one I could write about here. Late Night Snack is vanilla bean ice cream with a salty caramel swirl and fudge covered potato chip clusters.

It doesn't sound like my thing at all. I prefer fudge over caramel, and really don't like crunchy stuff in my ice cream (I am very anti-jimmy/sprinkle), but surprisingly I really liked this. Thumbs up for Late Night Snack, and props to the Ray-man for hopping me to it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #47

We stopped at Cool Dog Cafe recently to talk business about the Pineland Players, but more importantly we got dinner, and especially their great fries.

Since the last time we'd been there, they added a cheddar cheese sauce for fry dipping. This is some luscious cheese, perfectly melted, the kind you get in the best grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mmmm... Good stuff. Just one more reason to be going to the Cool Dog Cafe more often.

Monday, May 07, 2012

French Fry Diary 370: T.G.I.Fridays 2012

After a movie with The Bride and her parents recently we went over to the Marlton T.G.I.Fridays to get a late night meal. It wasn't in my mind at all to be writing a review as I had done Fridays at some point last year. I guess I could have ordered and written about the crispy green bean fries, I suppose, but honestly it slipped my mind.

Anyway, I was surprised by new fries on the menu. I've complained about Fridays' ever-changing menu before. I'm a firm believer that if you do something well, keep doing it. Don't change it or do something else. I still miss their steak on a stick. Among the new menu items were sweet potato fries and Parmesan steak fries.

Now as we learned on our last trip to Fridays, what they call steak fries are not actually steak fries but potato wedges. I know I know, semantics, but it's important fry semantics.

These new fries are simply the old potato wedges with Parmesan and parsley on them. Notably there's too much Parm and pars if you don't like that stuff, and not enough if you do. Weird. They were okay when hot, and very potato-ey, although The Bride thought they were kinda dry. They microwaved well when we got home.

I'll save the sweet potato fries, and the crispy green bean fries for a future visit.

Friday, May 04, 2012

French Fry Diary 369: Jeff Mauro's Butter Garlic Oven Fries

Here's a special treat for today's Food Network Friday. I've shared stuff from the Sandwich King Jeff Mauro before, and as I've mentioned I like the guy. He has a healthy respect for the favorite fried food.

In the season two episode of "Sandwich King," called "Bigger, Better Burgers," one of Jeff's takes on potato wedges is featured. You can find his recipe for Butter Garlic Oven Fries with Herbs here. Check it out.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

French Fry Diary 368: McDonald's Hash Browns

Back in the early 1970s, McDonald's revolutionized, and quite possibly created the fast food breakfast. With the introduction of the Egg McMuffin, they had one food item that contained an entire breakfast, almost. The only thing missing - a breakfast potato product. Enter the McDonald's Hash Brown.

McDonald's Hash Browns are a pinnacle of culinary engineering. Crunchy crisp oval, deep fried with super-diced Russet potatoes inside. Unlike hash browns that came before these held together into one unit as opposed to being loose pieces. This was a miracle at the time in several regions of this country.

Now, as with anything at fast food restaurants, the quality and taste depends on who's at the fry station and how well they can follow directions. Often in recent times, I have noticed that Mickey D's Hash Browns have become greasier than they were back on church Sundays when we used to go after services when I was a kid. The diced Russets have become smaller and more compact I have also noticed.

Just like McDonald's famous fries, many have attempted to recreate this breakfast item, but few even come close.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #46

Daphne at the Bloody Stake restaurant in the "Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated" episode "The Secret of the Ghost Rig."

One wonders how she keeps that girlish figure after twelve hands full of finger fries. Doesn't matter, I'm more of a Velma guy anyway.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

French Fry Diary 367: Helsinki Street Fries

I just recently was writing again about my trip to Finland in 2007, this time for my new gaming blog (The Non-Gamer's Gamer's Blog, shameless plug, clicky-clicky), and it got me thinking about the night of the 2007 Eurovision Final, and my encounter with Helsinki street fries.

The Bride and I went to Helsinki, Finland in 2007 to see Eurovision, as I said. There was only one ticket so I sent the wife to see it live while I watched on television with a group of friends. We agreed to meet up at the gigantic train station in the middle of the city and rude back to the hotel together.

Well, Eurovision is a big deal in Europe, especially in the city where it happens so afterwards the streets were full of people celebrating and having a good time. Picture New Year's Eve in Times Square at midnight, but without the crime, the attitude, or the confetti. The train station and the street outside it were packed, so walking was slow.

As we shuffled slowly past a food cart, we decided to get a snack, mostly because the aroma was so tempting. The Bride, brave thing that she is, got some sort of mystery meat on a stick. I suppose she liked it. I saw what I wanted right away - you guessed it - the favorite fried food.

Gloriously they came in a small paper cone with a plastic fork. These were skinless diced potatoes, cut into one inch by one inch cubes and deep fried. Best of all, they were very hot, almost too hot to eat. They were very good and made the rest of the walk to the train a treat - more than any walk hand in hand with The Bride usually is, you know. Wink wink. I would love go back to Helsinki again someday, and maybe get some more street fries.

Photos by my friend John Donges, who also took the trek to see Eurovision, thanks, man!