Friday, June 29, 2012

French Fry Diary 388: Long John Silver's 2012

Since seeing the latest television commercials for Long John Silver's, I had suspected that they had changed their fries. The ones in the ads were natural cuts as opposed to the lightly battered crispy shoestrings they used to have. New fries? So I had to try them.

So I went over to the Long John Silver's and Taco Bell combo that's the only place to get LJS in my area. It was lunch time but not really all that crowded, but yet my wait time was about fifteen minutes. It seemed as if the crew was more concerned with drive thru than the customers at the counter. The drive thru was moving at quite a clip while about a half a dozen of us waited inside.

I got my usual - the chicken and chips. The chicken planks, battered white chicken strips, we're as good as ever. There was the usual tasty deep fried crumbs at the bottom of the box, along with the prerequisite hush puppies. This time however the hush puppies were kinda greasy and had a different texture, but that wasn't the only thing that was different.

Long John Silver's did indeed have new fries, and bad ones, a definite step down in quality and uniqueness. They were natural cuts lightly peppered and barely warm. There's nothing wrong with natural cuts, but these were disappointing natural cuts, and a much smaller portion than previously.

This was not a pleasant visit to my local LJS. I'm not writing them off completely though. Thankfully I can still get chicken planks a la carte.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #50

I made these deep fried crinkle cut potato slices from fingerling potatoes I got at Whole Foods. And I seasoned them with a special Fries Seasoning I'll talk about in a future blog entry. I know, it kinda defeats the purpose of shopping healthy, but mmmm... they were good...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who Has the Best Fries in Philly?

In celebration of National French Fries Day this coming July 13th, FooBooz wants to know where you can find the best French Fries in Philadelphia.

You can check out the article, the comments, and vote here.

And special thanks to Allison for hipping me to this!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

French Fry Diary #387: Pop Shop Pancake Fries

The family and I visited the Pop Shop for breakfast this past weekend and I was surprised to find one new item on the menu in particular - Pancake Fries!

They are described in the menu like this: "Our fresh made Bettys, cut into strips, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with cinnamon cream cheese for dipping."

The Pancake Fries are wonderfully presented in a paper cone and fry holder, with the aforementioned cream cheese in one side dipping cup holder, and pancake syrup in the other.

Not only did they give the illusion of looking just like the Pop Shop's great Pop Fries, they were delicious. A crunchy pancake delight, just another of the so many reasons to go to the Pop Shop for breakfast!

Monday, June 25, 2012

French Fry Diary 386: Ian's Onion Rings

I saw these at the Whole Foods recently. Ian's Onion Rings? I had never heard of them before, so into the basket they went. Sure, why not?

As it turns out that Ian's Natural Foods in Massachusetts also makes gluten-free chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and something more in line with our obsession here, potatoey Alphatots. I'll have to track that last one down for a future blog entry.

The bag made a lot of promises. No wheat or gluten, no milk or casein (whatever casein was), no eggs, no nuts, and no soy. These "Gluten-Free Crispy Golden Battered Onion Rings" had a lot to live up to, and I hadn't even gotten them home yet.

Soon as I got home I couldn't wait to try them. First they are sliced thinner than standard onion rings, which is good, I like that. Second, their coating is neither wonderful Panko nor yucky beer batter, but corn flakes. That rocks. That makes for an extra crunch, always a good thing.

The coating that I love so much will become a problem if you choose to deep fry these babies however. They will crisp very quickly. Burn is more like it, giving you delicious onion, once you bite through that rock hard shell of course. What doesn't burn will fall off and fill your deep fryer with debris that will be a pain in the butt to scoop out. Deep frying - not recommended.

For the record, there are no microwave instructions, despite it saying 'microwave' under the cooking directions. On closer inspection, what it says is microwaving is inadvisable. In mad scientist mode I tried it anyway, so you won't have to. It was a disaster with soggy way too chewy onions. Baked is the way to go 100%.

Very quickly, test it out to get the right time as it's variable to the oven and thickness of the rings, you will have very tasty and crispy onion rings. Unlike most freezer rings, these might need a bit more seasoning however, I dipped mine in barbecue sauce. You can add what or dip with whatever you like. These are really terrific. Recommended. Can't wait to try Ian's fries.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Best and Worst Potato Skins

Recently the Huffington Post did a survey of appetizers in chain restaurants looking for the best and worst in potato skins.

Yeah, that's right. The Huffington Post did this. Just when I think I'm wasting my time talking about French fries all the time, an almost legitimate news source proves me wrong by going even more trivial.

Now I'm not a real big potato skins fan, chiefly because the point is to scrape the potato part out (that's the part I like) and put other stuff in. Me, I'd rather have a baked potato, ya know?

Anyway, if you're interested in the Huff Post's findings and opinions, the full article is here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

French Fry Diary 385: Ruffles Ultimate Sweet & Smokin' BBQ

I love Ruffles, they make a great dipping chip. But then I saw this. Ruffles. Ultimate. Really? When I first saw those words on the shelf at my local Wawa, I was entranced. I had to know what Ruffles Ultimate was. And even better - Ruffles Ultimate with sweet and smokin' barbecue flavor, what a bonus.

So of course I snagged a bag. The packaging held some clue. Apparently Ultimate Ruffles are all about 'hardcore flavors' to crush a 'hardcore hunger.' Apparently the Ultimate style chips come in the regular Original and there's also a Kickin' JalapeƱo Ranch flavor. I don't think I'll be trying those. These, however, promised on the bag that my hunger was about to get blown up by a spicy, sweet and smoky taste bomb. Boom. Well, then.

I have to say, once opening the bag and trying them, these are indeed no ordinary potato chips. Heck, these are no ordinary Ruffles. The ridges are huge, bigger than any I've seen on any other ridged potato chip. They are more like Herr's pink foil Ripples but much bigger, and cut much differently than regular Ruffles. These chips would be and are amazing as dipping chips, especially with my favorite, ice cream as the cold contrasts with the heat of the chip.

Yes, be warned, these are very hot chips. No playing around here, these are hot, but it's a good heat. Have something cold and refreshing nearby to wash these babies down with. The seasoning is very heavy, almost making the chips a bright solid orange, and they are indeed both sweet and smoky.

These Ruffles are very close to ultimate. Bravo. Much like Herr's with their Lattice Cut Potato Chips, Ruffles has found a way to make a better dipping chip. Thumbs up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

French Fry Diary 384: Burger King Sweet Potato Fries

I'm not sure if it's just for the summer or for good, but as part of Burger King new fancier fast food initiative, they have introduced, among many other new items (several barbeque sandwiches of beef, chicken and pork, and an already infamous bacon sundae), sweet potato fries.

These sweet potato fries are the same size as their regular fries, only flat, as if cut in half long-wise. Sort of like miniature steak fries and a little like Wendy's fries. I've already mentioned here about my distaste for BK's now not so new fries, but I have to say I wouldn't mind if they came in this sweet potato fry shape. That would be innovative, and probably more enticing and tasty.

They taste good. I was very impressed. I'm not a sweet potato fry guy most of the time, and I thought these were very good. Better than the regular BK fries, and it has to be said, best while hot. As they cooled they were sadly less appetizing. These sweet potato fries are a nice change of pace. I would get them again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hungry Girl's Grin 'n Carrot Fries

From this week's Hungry Girl email newsletter, featuring "Make 'n Fake Fries," we have this recipe which uses carrots instead of potatoes.

Grin ’n Carrot Fries

1/2 of recipe: 116 calories, 1g fat, 428mg sodium, 27g carbs, 8g fiber, 13g sugars, 2.5g protein -- PointsPlus® value 0

Ingredients: 1 1/2 lb. carrots (about 8 large carrots) 1/4 tsp. coarse salt, or more to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray. Cut carrots into French-fry-shaped spears, fairly equal in size. Lay them on the sheets, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip spears. Bake until tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside, about 15 more minutes. (The thicker the fries, the longer the cook time.)


Thursday, June 14, 2012

French Fry Diary 383: Paul's Idaho Potatoes

Sometimes you want and you want, and you get what you want, and sometimes you just get disappointed. Such is the case with Paul's Idaho Potatoes. The Flutter Fries I had waited so long for were just not good. And it wasn't because Ken and I had already had a terrific lunch at European Republic either, it was just an all around bad experience at Paul's.

To be fair, Paul Idaho Potatoes, or Paul's Idaho Fries, has a long history down the shore, specifically in Wildwood. They've been doing their fresh cut, natural cut boardwalk fries cooked in peanut oil down there for well over three decades. I've had them, once upon a time, before I started doing French Fry Diary, and they were pretty good.

I have to say however, their South Street Philadelphia location was a bit of a disappointment on all points. First, they didn't take credit cards, which really wasn't a problem, but we had to hunt down an ATM before we could partake. The man behind the counter at Paul's was not the most friendly or helpful sort it should be noted. We were left to find an ATM on our own in a neighborhood I would guess he knew better that we did. Have I mentioned South Street isn't as pleasant as it once was? Yeah, that's the kind of place where we found an ATM. On a side note, Paul's is actually pretty pricey for what they serve - they should accept credit cards. Five for Flutter Fries and four for lemonade just for example.

On the plus side, once we had cold hard cash in our hands, it was fun to watch Mr. Congeniality make the Flutter Fries. A whole (Russet, I think) potato is fed into something like an apple-coring device, and from there the potato is cut into one continuous flat spiral slice. From there, it's dumped into hot oil, I'm assuming peanut oil, for a few moments. Then Mr. Friendly puts them on a paper plate and with a shove pushes them over the counter to us.

There's a lot here on the plate as you can see from the images. They were not good. They were as appetizing as they looked, and for the record, looked nothing like the pictures up on the walls. The Flutter Fries were crispy like potato chips, but also very greasy having just come out of the oil. If they were shaken out, it wasn't done well. As chips, had they not been so oily, they might have been good to take home and use as dipping chips. The Flutter Fries, more chips than fries, really, also needed a lot of seasoning. The salt worked okay, but the ketchup available there was kinda iffy. Bottom line, we didn't finish them, and left most of them on the tiny counter at Paul's.

After waiting so long to try these, the afternoon (not counting lunch at European Republic and chilling with my buddy Ken) was just one big disappointment. I don't think I'll be coming back to Paul's, even for the regular fries. That's how bad this experience was. Shame.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

French Fry Diary 382: European Republic

One of the problems with doing this blog is finding folks to go try new restaurants and fries with. Most of my friends who live around here are always like, "Fries again, really?" So it's always fun when a friend visits from out of town. We get to go on new fry excursions. My friend Ken is always good for that, even though I think his lovely wife doesn't appreciate his waistline when he returns home. But that's not all my fault. The boy does have a weakness for Tastykake as well, and stocks up while here in the land of the Tastykake.

After picking friend Ken up at the airport we had firm plans to go to Paul's for lunch. You remember Paul's Fresh Cut Idaho Fries on South Street, they tempted me a few months back with their flutter fries, also known down the shore as tornado fries, just without the stick.

So there we were on South Street, walking on our way to Paul's when we saw a sign over our heads with a picture of fries, frites even, in a paper cone. We had to stop, just had to. Well, I had to. I was mesmerized. Fries. Paper cone. I was inside before Ken knew I was gone. The place was called European Republic. They specialize in wraps, but notably they also have European style fresh cut frites with over twenty different toppings.

Three guesses why we stopped, and the first two don't count. Paul's flutter fries could wait. We decided lunch was going to be here. Also since Paul's was only fries and funnel cakes, not a great balanced lunch, we decided to do lunch at European Republic. Inside, it was a cozy narrow place like most on South Street. The music playing overhead could have easily been Eurovision, completing the atmosphere. I ordered the small frites, and got the BBQ sauce. I know, I played it safe, but still I couldn't wait to try those frites. Ken got the peanut sauce for his frites and a wrap as well.

The frites were real frites. Fresh cut, thick cut, deep fried and golden brown, they were wonderfully hot and crispy on the outside and hot, soft, and potato-ey on the inside. These fantastic frites were served in paper cones and were, as I said, very crispy. I was in heaven with these nearly perfect Belgian frites. Ken said the wrap was pretty good too. I can't wait to go back! Highest recommendation.

It should be noted that their website only lists a Chestnut Street location, but there still is the restaurant on Sixth and South. Definitely get there, either place, and try these terrific frites.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #49

I recently re-visited Luigi's Pizza Fresca in Marlton. I had been there once before for the blog. Other than a just okay cheesesteak (I have been spoiled for life by Outta Philly), I got an order of onion rings to split between our party. These are two of the grocer's freezer deep fried rings we were served. A disappointment.

Monday, June 11, 2012

French Fry Diary 381: A Battered Tartan

I have been dying to come here to A Battered Tartan since I first heard about it. First, it's quite small, a quaint storefront off the beaten track on Mill Street which is right off Main Street in Moorestown. Four tables and a counter, thats it, but it was enough. Not what I expected at all, the British Chip Shop in Haddonfield, this is not, but it is authentic and heartfelt.

As we ordered the man behind the counter wrote our order down and brought out some fresh cut potatoes, drying them. This told me right there and then he knew what he was doing when it came to the favorite fried food. We watched as he made our order from scratch, battering the cod, wrapping the cheesesteak spring rolls, dropping the chips, etc., all in plain view. Oooh, the magic of cooked to order.

While we sat, The Bride and I perused the menu, so many options and possibilities for a next trip, and we knew there would be a next trip. I got an orange Irn Bru (very sweet) and The Bride got a Diet Coke despite the fair selection of UK soft drinks. There were also Flake bars and Mars bars on the counter as well.

The Bride's cod was very good, as was the tartar sauce, and the batter was perfect. The cheesesteak spring roll was even better. Great start. I love this place. There is some contention on their menu in that "we're British & we don't serve fries," I might argue that. While cooked exquisitely, these were natural cut fries. Very hot, very good, served on brown wax paper, and wonderful with the Heinz Gourmet Malt Vinegar on the counter - but let's be kind, these are chips in name and attitude only. And notably, these were not the regular cuts depicted on their website either.

So much to eat, we took some home, and were even told how to reheat it for later. An excellent and enjoyable experience and meal. Also very very reasonably priced. Highly recommended.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Bobby Flay's Grilled French Fries

It's barbecue season so it seems like a good time to show you this - Bobby Flay's recipe for his Grilled French Fries, as well as a variety of condiments to go with. Enjoy!

I have to wonder however why he does serve these at his Burger Palace...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

French Fry Diary 380: Dirty Potato Chips Mesquite BBQ

This is part two in our series on the longest name ever on a bag of potato chips. It kinda gives new meaning to the phrase 'all that and a bag of chips.' Part one can be found here. Okay, let's do this, today I am reviewing (let me take a breath) "Dirty" All Natural Potato Chips Mesquite BBQ We Kettle Cook In A Premium Peanut Oil Blend For A Crunchier, Tastier Potato Chip! Whew.

I've done the regular dirty chips before and I was very unimpressed. I recall comparing them to communion wafers because of their lack of flavor and seasoning. These, being Mesquite BBQ, I'd hoped would be different. That's why I picked them up the last time I was at the Cool Dog Cafe for a to go order.

On the bonus side, they have no transfats, no artificial colors or flavors, no MSG, no preservatives, and are kosher and gluten free. Unlike their regular brothers these do have flavor, a nice hot barbecue taste. As a matter of fact they have a lot of seasoning. They also have a nice kettle cook, with wavy shapes good for dipping. Recommended.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

French Fry Diary 379: Alexia Onion Rings

I've mentioned these dozens of times but I don't think I've ever actually reviewed them. Other than Mrs. Paul's Onion Rings, which I don't think they make any more, Alexia Onion Rings are my favorite grocer's freezer rings.

Now I've talked about Alexia's beer battered rings, but these are the real deal - 'Crispy Golden Onions with Sea Salt' and the Panko bread crumb covering. Alexia does it best. No cholesterol and no transfats either, so how can you lose?

There are deep frying instructions, in small print, probably because they are not great done that way. Of course if you like extra crispy and crunchy, go for it. It's not my preference, especially when baking them is healthier, and tastier. Unlike a lot of frozen grocer side snacks I talk about here, Alexia's directions are perfect as far as timing and temperature.

I sometimes open the bag, add various seasonings, then coat them Shake N Bake style in their own bag. But that's just me. I love these rings and dip them in barbeque sauce, or you can even make your own dipping sauce from the recipe on the side of the bag.

Alexia Onion Rings rock, period, recommended.

Monday, June 04, 2012

French Fry Diary 378: The Killer Potato

This past weekend news reached me of a particularly dangerous white potato. While being peeled alive, this potato cut my friend Taryn with a potato peeler.

Fearless to a fault, she got a Band-Aid on her pointer finger and went back to peeling. Again the potato forced the peeler to bite her, this time on the middle finger. After another Band-Aid and some tender loving care from her husband Brian, Taryn recovered nicely.

The offending veggie was subdued after the second attack. No one is really sure what happened to the killer potato after that however. Rumor has it the potato was put on eBay, but that's just rumor. Evidence does seem to suggest that it was in fact *gasp* devoured for its crimes.

Thanks to Taryn and Brian for the image, and for risking their lives in the pursuit of a potatoey good meal.