Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Fries

Just to remind everyone that there are actually some good things named after hurricanes, these are hurricane fries, also known as tornado fries. Mmmmm... fries...

Sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the hurricane the last few days.

Friday, October 26, 2012

French Fry Diary 429: Nadia G.'s Duck Fat Fries

You folks know how how much I love Nadia G. and her "Bitchin' Kitchen." I watch religiously, or so I thought. Recently my buddy Ray told me about an episode I had apparently missed. It's called "Getting the Romance Back," and featured recipes for rib-eye steak, oysters with creamy spinach alfredo, strawberry shortcake, among others, and, yeah baby, duck fat fries. Yeah, I know, how could I have missed this one? So after a long search through the Xfinity schedule grids for weeks, I finally found it.

The episode presents a dinner designed to get couples who have been together a looong time some romance into their lives. And you know Nadia, she does it with style. And here's the recipe for both the ribeye and the fries from Nadia's website:


Fries: 2 cups warm water, 1/2 cup raw sugar, 2 russets, cut into 1/4 inch fries, 3 cups duck fat, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, Freshly cracked pepper, Sea salt

Beurre blanc: 1/4 cup good dry white wine, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 2 shallots, minced 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, roughly chopped, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, Freshly cracked pepper

Steak: 2 1 inch thick rib-eye steaks, at room temperature, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, Freshly cracked pepper, 2 tablespoons butter

Recipe tools: Medium saucepan, Large pan, Salad spinner

Directions Making the fries: To warm water, add raw sugar and whisk.  Soak fries in sugar water for 1hour or overnight. Strain and dry off in salad spinner. In a pot heat duck fat to 325˚F. Blanch 1 cup of fries at a time for 5 minutes, until cooked but not crispy. Remove and raise temperature of oil to 375˚F. Fry for 3-4 minutes until golden and crispy. Season with cayenne, pepper, and salt.

Making the beurre blanc: Heat saucepan on medium high. Add white wine, vinegar, and shallots. Let boil and reduce down to 2 tablespoons of liquid. Take off heat and let cool for about 1 minute. Put saucepan back on burner without turning on the heat. Throw in a few butter cubes at a time; whisk until butter is melted. Continue until all butter is melted. Add tarragon, salt, and pepper. Mix. Cover, turn heat to very low and let sit.

Making the steak: Heat canola oil in a pan on medium high. Season steak with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 ½ minutes per side, for medium-rare. For last minute of cooking, add butter and melt. Remove steak from heat, tent and let rest for 5 minutes.

Place steak and fries on a plate and top steak with sauce.

See the whole recipe here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

French Fry Diary 428: Fictional Fast Food

Recently my friend Terry asked me if I was ever going to write about fictional fast food, specifically that of the DC Comics universe. I had never really thought about it, but there is a bit to be said about it.

Much like its cities, like Metropolis, Gotham City and Opal City, which are made up rather than part of the real world, there are many other facets that are fictitious as well like companies, sports teams, and yes, even fast food restaurants.

There's Big Belly Burger, which just made its prime time TV debut in the third episode of "Arrow." There is also O'Shaughnessy's, sort of a Denny's, named after DC Comics writer/editor Denny O'Neil's penname.

There's also Burgie, a major fast food chain. Burgie is a close cousin to real world counterpart McDonald's with its sideways Golden Arches forming a B. One or all of these restaurants probably served Soder Cola. Big Belly Burger appears to be similar to Bob's Big Boy, and is owned by LexCorp, for better or worse.

And nope, sadly I have no idea what kind of fries they serve...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 427: Alexia Multi Grain Onion Rings

This kinda goes against the grain, doesn't it? But I'm open-minded. When I saw these Multi Grain Onion Rings from Alexia, whose other products, especially their onion rings, are great... I picked them right up. I can do healthy, and bonus, no transfats.

The package promises crispy golden onions with hearty grain breading. The first thing I noticed when I opened the bag was that they looked different from the regular Alexia o-rings, darker color breading with specks, almost weirdly polka-dotted. Still, I was down and popped them in the oven. There were no deep fryer directions, and honestly I'm pretty sure if they were deep fried, I think that breading would burn. So baking it was.

Now I have to say they are good, well, maybe just okay. The onions are very good, they are those great Spanish onions that Alexia always uses. But the breading is very bland, and despite the baking directions, they did overlook a bit. If you like your rings very crunchy, these might be for you.

I dipped them in BBQ sauce, and the second batch I did a shake and bake deal with what was left in the bag and some BBQ seasoning. They were a little better. They definitely need something extra, and watch your cook time, but definitely worth a try.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #66

My friend Cindy was volunteering in her daughter's class, cutting out laminated cards for a food group matching game, when she noticed my favorite food was one of the veggie choices, so she sent this pic along. Cool stuff! Thank you, Cindy! Proof positive that French fries actually are vegetables. ;-)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

French Fry Diary 426: Rustic Grille

I keep hearing good things about the Rustic Grille in Medford, not necessarily about the fries, but had never been there. I was out with friends looking for dinner in Medford, after being frustrated by the Zinc Café being closed again (this was the second time I wanted to show it off and it was unexpectedly closed). We saw the Rustic Grille and decided, what the heck.

We seated ourselves, and after getting our drinks, placing our orders, and talking for a while - we sat ourselves again, as the air vent over our heads in the ceiling was dripping on us. Not a good start to dinner.

When the food came I was pleasantly surprised. I got chicken tenders and fries. Very tender chicken tenders - very good, although I was a bit disappointed that the barbecue sauce that came with it were packaged, from Unipro Foodservice. Not cool. What is this, McDonald's?

The fries were steak fries, probably deep-fried, but with a texture that tasted baked. These are proof that simple and cheap can actually be really really good. I liked these a lot. Definitely thumbs up on these great steak fries.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

French Fry Diary 425: Wildfire BBQ Co. Breakfast

On our previous two visits to the Wildfire BBQ Co. in Stratford NJ, one of which I've written about here, we had heard lots of good things about their breakfast, both from folks who worked there, and were eating there. So the next time friends came in to visit, we went to breakfast.

We were really the only folks there the Saturday morning we visited, a party ahead of us were picking up. There was quite a wait, and in their favor, there was only a waitress and a cook in attendance. The Bride and our two friends were impatient and not happy with their meal if I'm being honest, but it should be noted in the defense of the folks at Wildfire, everyone at the table cleaned their plates completely. Of the four of us, and yes, I'm in the minority, I liked it. It wasn't perfect, far from it, but I liked it. Any problems with the food could have been remedied by just asking for the food differently (i.e. more well done, less well done, over easy, etc.).

I went simple. Hash browns and bacon. The hash browns were standard shredded potatoes, possibly from the freezer, but also possibly fresh - I didn't ask. They could have been a bit crisper, but then again, I could have ordered them that way. Same thing with the overdone bacon. It wasn't burnt, just cooked more than I usually would have liked. The potatoes also could have used some more seasoning - but there again, I could add that at the table. I enjoyed my meal. The rest of my party expressed disappointment. I would go back, I will go back. I liked it, and recommend the Wildfire breakfast. Check it out.

Postscript: Since writing this blog entry a couple months ago, the Wildfire BBQ Co. has sadly closed. The rumor is that they will still be doing catering. You can check out the website here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

French Fry Diary 424: Avocado Oil Potato Chips

I came across these on a recent trip to Walgreen's, believe it or not. Good Health Natural Foods, the folks behind the world's first avocado oil potato chips, make three different flavors - Barcelona Barbecue, Chilean Lime, and regular, "with a pinch of Sea Salt." They seemed just exotic enough, also safe enough for this catastrophically picky eater to give a try.

According to the company these are the first avocado chips as I said. Avocado oil comes from the pulp around the fruit's pit, and has a much higher smoke point than other oils. It also supposedly has lots of vitamins and monounsaturated fats.

Rumor has it that similar to tofu, it carries the flavor of other foods well. Many olive oil manufacturers make avocado oil in the off season because it's a year round crop. Its main use however, disturbingly, is in cosmetics for its moisturizing and lubricative properties.

The packaging talks a lot of talk about the 'good fats,' anti-oxidants, and the miraculous virtues of avocado oil. But enough science, and hype, especially if I'm going to eat these things. The regular flavor lists only potatoes, avocado oil, and sea salt as its ingredients. The potatoes are fairly small making for a small chip - even smaller by kettle cooking. Small, but kettle twisted for excellent dipping, these aren't bad, but not great either, and they had a clean, decidedly not greasy taste.

I'm not really sure what makes the Barcelona Barbecue variety all that special, beyond the name. The ingredients are the same as the regular plus all the standard suspects when it comes to barbecue potato chip flavor. Not too hot, and kettle cooked like the regulars, so they are great for dipping.

The Chilean Lime flavored chips are the real prize of the three varieties. Not only were the chips in this bag bigger than those in the Sea Salt or Barcelona Barbecue bags, but these also had a delightfully unique lime zing to them. It's almost like a cold bubbly 7-Up on a hot day, but in a potato chip. Thumbs up.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Tater Pics of the Day #64 and 65

Here's a quick peek at Wendy's new logo, and a prototype of what the new restaurants will look like. Quite a difference, eh?

Friday, October 12, 2012

French Fry Diary 423: An Open Letter to Smashburger

Dear Smashburger,

It's that time of year again, that time when The Bride and I plan our New Year's Eve. For the last two years we have attended a party up in the wilds of North Jersey at the home of our dear friends Jan and Rob. And for the past two years, we have had lunch on New Year's Day at Smashburger.

You can see my reviews of those two visits here and here. As you can see, I really dig Smashburger, but you guys are sooo far away. We don't get all the way up to North Jersey all that much, as a matter of fact, it's just once a year.

Have you given any thought to opening a restaurant in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area? Maybe more South Jersey than Philly, cuz that's where I am? I know there are lots of burger lovers around here who would just love to sample and continue to visit should a Smashburger location open around here. I know I would definitely eat there more than once a year. Give it some thought, and I'll see you on New Year's Day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

French Fry Diary 422: The TapRoom & Grill

Spur of the moment, The Bride and I found ourselves with time on our hands together on the Sunday evening before Labor Day. We decided to take in a movie later that night so all we needed to do was find a nice place for dinner. We were on the road, so we pulled over and started Urbanspoon-ing. We had decided on going to The Pour House, a place I had heard good things about when we passed by The TapRoom & Grill.

We weren't exactly sure where The Pour House was, and were having a not so fun time making the GPS work, so we figured what the heck, and pulled into the parking lot of The TapRoom. It looked nice, and was empty for a Sunday on a Labor Day weekend, so we went in. It had a nice interior and décor, an old-fashioned bar restaurant. I liked it, so we stayed. We'll get you next time, Pour House, promise.

We got a cozy table, and we held hands, and watched the Jerry Lewis mini-Telethon Show as we had a spur-of-the-moment romantic dinner off in our own little corner of the mostly empty place. For an appetizer we ordered the crispy onion straws, but they never did come. No harm, no foul. The waitress, who was otherwise really good, had forgotten. It's cool, we didn't need the extra calories anyway, and she made sure we weren't charged. She did also forget to give us utensils though.

I got my usual, a burger and fries. The burger was char-grilled, and very good, except for the big pickle spear on the plate that soaked the plate, the fries and the burger bun with its errant juices. The fries were a cross between regular cuts and shoestrings, sized halfway between the two, and deep-fried. Pickle juice fries are just not my thing, accidentally or not. The non-pickle stained fries were the best part of the meal, that and the company of course.

I liked The TapRoom a lot, despite everything, and I think we'd go back. We had a really enjoyable time, and the food was pretty good for the most part. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

French Fry Diary 421: Jake's Wayback Burgers

This place has been on my to do list for quite some time. The location I had heard about and gotten so many recommendations for was over the bridge in Philly though, on Cottman Avenue, across from the old Roosevelt Mall (there used to be a Gulliver's there that I absolutely loved), so it would take some planning for a road trip. Imagine my surprise when after getting my haircut I found a Jake's Wayback Burgers had opened right store on Route 73 in Voorhees.

The first thing that struck me about Jake's Wayback Burgers was how much like Five Guys the layout of the place was. Granted, the music was more oldies, the menu was bigger, no peanuts, and (boo hiss) they had Pepsi products instead of Coke, - but other than all that, this could have easily been a refurbished Five Guys. The burgers are cooked well done on the griddle however, just like Five Guys, and are very similar except for their bigger size and the softer non-sesame seed bun.

The burgers are wrapped in brown wax paper, printed to look like newspaper but detailing the chain's history, restaurant reviews, and the different burgers they have available. The various sides are also served on and/or in this brown wax paper. It's a nice touch, reminiscent of when fish and chips were wrapped in newspaper. I like it.

Their fries also have something in common with Five Guys, but they're not as good as theirs. They are natural cuts, cooked to order. They're nothing spectacular - not great, not bad, and remember to eat 'em while they're hot. They are also a bit saltier than I would have liked. They do reheat well in the oven later however.

Besides fries as sides, Jake's Wayback Burgers also has onion rings and house made chips. The big deal here is the house made chips, nearly perfect homemade potato chips, not greasy and full of a big crispy crunch. I would have preferred myself a bit more flesh on them, but then they'd be more potato slices than potato chips in that case. These are all crunchy potato chip goodness, and better than any bag of store made chips you can buy. These chips are awesome.

Folks who know me and have been following the blog a while know I'm not fond of beer batter onion rings, but here at Jake's I may have found the exception. These big beer battered onion rings might look greasy but they are not. These big (but not thick) rings are deep-fried to a golden brown crispness with a juicy sweet onion within. They're delicious.

On the second visit, yep, that's right, I went back, the onion rings and the house made potato chips were even better.

So, if you like Five Guys or not, come on out and try Jake's Wayback Burgers. The burgers are good, and the onion rings and the house made potato chips are awesome. The big thick shakes are also highly recommended. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #63

Another food truck from this weekend's Collingswood Book Festival. I think it may have been the same one from a couple years ago. There just aren't many food trucks in the South Jersey area.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #62

This one is from this past weekend's Collingswood Book Festival, from one of the various food trucks and carts that were there, this one very proud of their favorite fried food.

Friday, October 05, 2012

French Fry Diary 420: The Supersizers Go... Victorian

I caught this one on The Cooking Channel. "The Supersizers Go..." is a BBC show unfortunately inspired by Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me. The hosts, food critic Giles Coren and radio personality Sue Perkins, pretend to visit a specific time period each episode and basically bitch about the grossness and nutritional non-value of that era.

I discovered the Victorian episode while flipping through the channels and discovered them talking fish and chips. I was hooked, pun unintended. I set the DVR for record when it was repeated later in the evening so I could write about it for you fine folks.

I liked Sue right away as she was also a fussy eater, maybe not a catastrophically picky one, but still a non-adventurous pain in the butt after my own heart. The first mention of the favorite fried food was regarding breakfast. The Victorians ate fried potatoes for breakfast, among other fattening items, fun stuff like mutton cutlets and smoked mackerel with anchovies, all of which they noted the calorie counts.

Among the oddities and goodies I learned in the show include that despite her horrible diet, Queen Victoria lived to the grand old age of eighty-one. I guess fried potatoes every day are a bad idea. I also learned, and this one's for the "Doctor Who" fans, that jelly babies, at least according to this show, date back to Victoria's era. Maybe The Doctor introduced them early.

Something else I've gotten from the episode is that in Victorian England, despite the fried potatoes and jelly babies, they ate a lot of disgusting crap. I'm talking cow's brains, heads, and ears, and that's just for starters. Luckily though, after dinner, Giles and Sue went out to a chippie for fish and chips, a street dish that originated at this time.

Fish and chips, again, according to the show, comes from Jewish immigration to the UK from Poland and Russia. Jewish families could not light a flame after sundown on Fridays so they battered and fried their fresh fish to make them last longer for the weekend. Again, Sue steals my heart by saying fish and chips is one of the greatest inventions of all ages, even over and above the electric lightbulb.

Probably one of the few dishes they actually enjoy throughout the episode, they sit and happily eat their fish and chips, from newspaper cones, with their hands. Yeah, baby. Potato croquettes pop up later, as do many courses of garbage dinners, a trip to a pub, and a Christmas meal. Trust me, the fish and chips were the highlight of this fairly educational romp.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pizza Tot Cassarole

Pizza Tot Casserole Recipe

Prep: 10 min. Bake: 30 min., Yield: 6-8 Servings

Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, 1 medium green pepper, chopped, 1 medium onion, chopped, 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed tomato soup, undiluted, 1 jar (4-1/2 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 package (32 ounces) frozen Tater Tots

Directions: In a large skillet, cook the beef, pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the soup, mushrooms and Italian seasoning. Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Top with cheese and potatoes. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 6-8 servings.

This recipe and photo courtesy of Taste of Home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

French Fry Diary 419: Boulder Canyon Potato Chips

On a recent road trip I saw some potato chips I had never heard of before so I picked up some snack bags. One of them was Boulder Canyon Totally Natural Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. Yes, they are very healthy, because as we have learned in the past, the longer the name of the potato chip, the healthier they are.

Joking aside, if you've been to the Boulder Canyon website, you know what a terrifically health and environment conscious company they are. Some of their packaging is even combustible. The bag talks of their corporate support of Green Energy and American Rivers. They are very green. Also, regarding the bag, it was crazy hard to open, another sign of healthy chips, as we know from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's products.

The chips follow suit by being gluten free, cholesterol free, trans fat free, all natural, the ingredients including only potatoes, oil, and salt. That's probably also because the Totally Natural style are the regular chip, no extra seasonings or flavorings. That's a problem. While they were nicely thick, lots of crunch, good kettle shape for dipping, and not greasy at all - they were also not salted well at all. Seriously needs salt, despite what the ingredients say.

Good chip for dipping as it would take on flavor that way. I would definitely be interested in trying some of the other styles, especially the Hickory Barbeque, but these were just okay.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

French Fry Diary 418: The Justice for Potatoes League

Other than being a self-confessed (and obsessed) French fry freak, I am also a big comic book geek, so when I saw a recent Ore-Ida commercial featuring the Justice for Potatoes League, an obvious play on DC Comics' Justice League, they had me immediately.

Not superheroes in the traditional sense, the League is composed of one determined little blonde girl with a microphone and her younger sidekick Jackson with his camera who confront folks in the supermarket about how Ore-Ida French fries products don't have as many calories as they think they do. Because, trademark notice, "Ore-Ida may surprise you."

I like this new advertising campaign because all too often, the favorite fried food gets a bad rap. Nice to see fries getting some good publicity.

The Justice for Potatoes League has its own website on the Ore-Ida site, and even their own Facebook page. Don't forget to 'Like' them!