Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Name's the Thing at Sofa King

Seriously, I can't be the only person who wants to know what liquid nitrogen milkshakes and Aretha Frankenstein's onion rings are like. I wonder what kind of fries they have?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

French Fry Diary 442: Ponzio's Preview

This is more of a review by proxy even though I did get to try some of the fries. So this is more of a Somebody Else's Fries than a proper review, however it's worth noting we'll be back at the end of the year. Ponzio's is where we will be getting together with our friends for the holidays.

It has been a very long time since I've been to Ponzio's, possibly since college, although I had been in their tiny bar once or twice since then. Much like Olga's Diner, Ponzio's is a South Jersey, and specifically Cherry Hill, landmark. It's been at the Ellisburg intersection, and before that the more recognizable Ellisburg Circle, just about forever. I have heard in recent years they had become much more classy and upscale.

After a recent high school reunion at the Coastline, The Bride and some of her friends visited Ponzio's. Thinking of me (and my obsession) as she almost always does, she got some fries, took some pictures and even brought some home for me. Does she love me, or what?

The Bride ordered the Bay Fries, specifically Johnny & Feef's Famous Bay Fries. I do however have to wonder how famous they really are, because they weren't Google-able. These pixie crinkle cuts, with Old Bay seasoning, and white cheese on the side, are startlingly similar to Chickie & Pete's Famous Crab Fries (which are for reals famous). I suppose that's why Ponzio's feels the need to put the words "Better Potatoes Better Seasoning Better Cheese Sauce" almost as if they know you're going to compare them to Chickie & Pete's anyway.

On that comparison, the only thing I can say is once home, while the Ponzio's fries did reheat well both by baking (the best way) and microwave, they were not as resilient as Chickie & Pete's. C & P reheat very well, great treat for the next day - these, not so much. I liked the Johnny & Feef's, but they are still a weaker imitation of the real thing.

I look foreword to our holiday visit to Ponzio's.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

French Fry Diary 441: Heinz Deep Fries

I have another fries flashback for you here. Back in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Heinz, who besides making obviously their ketchup products among others, also owns Ore-Ida, made a product called Deep Fries. Mostly you could only find them crinkle cut style, but a few times I did find a regular cut straight fries style available.

The big deal with Deep Fries is they had a coating of vegetable oil that was 'activated' as they baked, making them extra crispy and tasting just like deep fried French fries. They were also a bit more expensive, if memory serves. And if you decided to live dangerously and deep fry them they became super crispy (and maybe a tad greasy, but not to their detriment).

I remember the bags were white with a black (cuz its dark inside the oven) pic of the fries sizzling on an oven pan. Like most frozen fries they were par-cooked, but of you ate one before baking they tasted awful. I assume it was the oil. Other frozen fries are a great quick snack, especially in the summer, straight from the freezer. That said, fully cooked is always much better.

I couldn't find many images, but just check out the commercial at 1:30 on the YouTube clip above. As you can see these 'self sizzling' fries were sprayed with vegetable oil to cook them just a bit more. Deep Fries disappeared some time in the 1980s sadly. I liked them a lot.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Denny's Hobbit Menu

In anticipation of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Denny's has introduced an entire Hobbit/Middle Earth menu. Pictured above, Gandalf's Gobble Melt, full of magical turkey, stuffing, and cheese among other culinary wizardry. Don’t forget the Hobbit fries (not made from real Hobbit, I swear).

Friday, November 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 440: Houlihan's

The original plan was for my buddy Ray and I to go to the new pub attached to Aloft up in Mount Laurel, called Miller's N.J. Ale House. Once we arrived and saw the ridiculous amount of people outside the restaurant carrying those fancy table-waiting beepers, we decided to look elsewhere. I drove around and around, almost driving Ray to madness (no restaurants there, unfortunately), until finally we settled on Houlihan's in Cherry Hill, in the Wegman's shopping center where the Garden State Racetrack used to be.

I really didn't know what to expect. The first and last time I had ever been to Houlihan's, was when it was at the Cherry Hill Mall, on a very bad double date from well over two decades previous. I'm going to guess that things had changed. If nothing else, Ray was a better dining companion.

This new Houlihan's was a bit of a maze once inside, and it was very dark. Restaurants that are dark always make me nervous. Is there something they don't want me to see, or worse than that, see clearly? I shouldn't have worried. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the menu however. It was as big as a Sears catalog. Seriously, sixteen pages. It not only could stop a frigging bullet, but it also would've made Chef Gordon Ramsey crazy, as he is always an advocate of a short, concise one page menu.

However on one of those sixteen pages was a wonder in itself - a frites bar - six different types of fries. Oh boy, says the fry guy. They had Disco Fries, more or less a Jersey specialty, but these sounded more like Canadian poutine. Also Parmesan Frites, Truckstop Fries, Pickle Fries (made from pickles, ick), American Fries, and Sweet Potato Fries, topped with cinnamon sugar. Hmmm… cinnamon sugar. I'll have to try that next time I make sweet potato fries at home.

The waitress was very nice, and said everything was made from scratch. So after I ordered my usual, the burger and fries, I asked for onion rings, not on the menu. I know, I was being a pain in the butt by doing that, but I was in the mood for onion rings. She said they didn't do onion rings, but offered up onion straws. That was cool, but… Is it just me, but if you make everything from scratch, why would onion rings be a problem?

After a relatively short wait (although it was kinda long considering how few people were in the restaurant, but they do make everything from scratch, so…), our food arrived. The burger was fairly good, and served on an egg washed challah soft roll, which made for an interesting contrast to your average burger.

The French fries were natural cut shoestrings, deep fried but not too greasy. The problem with them was the same thing I contended with at The TapRoom & Grill - pickle juice fries. There were two big pickles on the plate next to the fries. Just not my thing. The onion strings were really just very thin deep fried onion rings and strings for the most part. Tasty.

After a two decade hiatus, I would definitely come back to Houlihan's, if only to try the rest of their frites bar, but seriously, all kidding aside, it was a good dining experience.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Best French Fries in the U.S."

Some folks may think differently, but I've never been that good at this shameless self-promotion thing. But here's something I think you folks might enjoy.

Way back in March when I visited Walt Disney World with the family, I gave a phone interview to writer Laura Kiniry. She's a great lady and a terrific writer, and we talked at length about French fries for about a half-hour - Laura in comfortable San Francisco, and myself in the only quiet spot I could scope out in the middle of Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom. Oh, the wonders of technology!

Last week, the article appeared at Travel + Leisure online, co-written by Laura, and Brendan Spiegel. Not only does it quote yours truly, but it also features several places in the United States where the best fries are to be found, a few of them we've even talked about here at French Fry Diary.

Check out the article here. Mmmm... fries...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

White Castle Thanksgiving?

Catching up here, I haven't said anything so far about White Castle's fairly new Sweet Potato Waffle Fries. Here's a pic, and I'll have a review up as soon as I try them.

Speaking of White Castle, I have to pick your brains out there. Does anyone have the recipe for White Castle cheeseburger stuffing? I have heard rumors there are also WC fries in there as well. Anyone got it?

Monday, November 19, 2012

French Fry Diary 439: Popeyes, Delaware House

It's been quite a while since I've been to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (or as they are colloquially known, Popeyes Chicken), not since they started to replace local area KFCs at least, and I've never been to the Delaware House rest stop on I-95 despite passing it perhaps hundreds of times, so why not kill two birds (or chickens) with one stone?

Delaware House, recently renovated a few years back, is a more likely stop on I-95 now that personal favorite Maryland House is now itself being renovated. Oddly enough, the first time I had ever been to a Popeyes was also at a rest stop, this one somewhere between Chicago and Milwaukee back in 1992. I remember two things about the visit - the biscuits were good, and there was a 'gentleman' giving out business cards at the rest stop declaring himself a 'procurer of companionship.' Uh huh.

That didn't happen this time. Delaware House is actually rather nice, and has a loungey food court vibe. Originally The Bride was going to get pizza at Famous Farmiglia, but once she smelled what Popeyes was cooking, to paraphrase The Rock, she joined me in line there. Despite what seemed a long line on a busy Friday night, we were quickly taken care of with a friendly smile. A-plusses for customer service and appreciation.

The Bride and I shared some spicy chicken tenders, and I got a biscuit and some fries of course. The biscuits are still just as good as I remembered. The Cajun Fries were crispy and battered natural cut shoestrings, as opposed to the regular cuts I had gotten the last few times I'd been to Popeyes. I wonder if that's a franchise-wide change or unique to this location.

The fries came in an old style fast food paper pocket, but overflowed into their own mini-box, which was a nice touch. Some of the fries were stuck together in batches due to the batter in the deep frying - nothing wrong with that, just interesting. The Cajun spices and cracked black pepper gives the fries a good zing, not unlike those at Checkers. Good stuff.

Good relaxing stop and dinner break, and best of all, no pimps. ;-)

Friday, November 16, 2012

French Fry Diary 438: Sandwich King Onion Rings

We've talked about Jeff Mauro the Sandwich King before. The Bride and I are fans. On his show, called surprisingly enough, "Sandwich King," sometimes he makes a side or two that may be of interest to folks here at French Fry Diary. In the season two episode "Classics with a Twist," he makes baked onion rings.

Here's Jeff's recipe for Oven Baked Onion Rings:

Prep Time: 10 min, Cook Time: 20 min, Level: Easy, Serves: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 4 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 cups buttermilk, 4 eggs, 3 cups panko breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 large yellow sweet onions, such as Maui, sliced 1/4-to-1/2-inch thick

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place parchment paper onto 2 baking sheets and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the flour, paprika and 2 teaspoons salt. In another bowl or shallow dish, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. Add half of the flour mixture to the buttermilk and beat until smooth and thickened.

In a separate bowl, combine the panko, olive oil and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Lightly dredge the onion rings in the flour mixture and then drop into the buttermilk. Drain the excess batter and then dredge in the panko mixture.

Arrange on the prepared baking sheets in a single layer. You can place smaller rings inside bigger rings if necessary, just make sure there is space between them. Then place in the oven. Cook until golden brown, 14 to 20 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, flip over each onion ring to ensure even crisping and browning.

Check out the complete recipe here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

French Fry Diary 437: Flavor Town Under Siege

The big news in food the last few days has been the scathing review of Guy Fieri's restaurant in New York City, you know, where food critic Pete Wells of the New York Times tore the chef a new one for his Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square.

For those of you who missed it, read it here.

Wow. Huh, how about that? I have commented on the Facebook, and to friends that I wish someday I could write something like that. That is a solid piece of writing, so incisive, so destructive, so hateful - and so to the point. Pete Wells hated his experience at Guy's American Kitchen & Bar obviously.

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Also check out the article that accompanied the above video here.

But as noted above in Guy's rebuttal on "The Today Show" this morning, this Wells guy must have had some other agenda. You can't possibly hate everything about a place, especially when, as Wells admitted, you've gone there four times.

I've had crappy service and food at some of my favorite restaurants, and really good service food at some of my least favorite. Things change with the day. Even at McDonald's and Burger King, whose skills lie mostly in consistency, you can get different food from day to day.

And as much as I envy Pete Wells' mad writin' skillz, I like Guy Fieri quite a bit. He's the man. Anything that may be wrong will be fixed, and anything else is a fluke, I'm sure. At least until I get to review Guy's American Kitchen & Bar myself someday. Hmmm... I wonder how the fries are…

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diablo Potato Chips

Ingredients: 2 large russet potatoes, 6 cups vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon Cajun-style seasoned salt, divided

Thinly slice potatoes; place in a large bowl of ice water. *

When ready to cook: Heat oil in a deep fryer to 360 degrees F, or until a bread cube browns in 1 minute.

Drain potatoes on paper towels. Sprinkle with some seasoned salt. Lower potatoes into deep fryer with a slotted spoon. Fry in batches until chips are golden, about 3 minutes.

Remove chips from deep fryer with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle with remaining seasoned salt. Place chips in a serving bowl.

* The potatoes can be sliced and kept in water in an airtight container for up to 2 hours before frying.

Servings: 4

Recipe courtesy of the Just-Potatoes Yahoo! Group.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Burger Lounge for Hurricane Relief

We've talked about California-based Burger Lounge, home of the original grass-fed burger, here before. Today, and this week, they're doing something very special for folks in this geographical area.

“Hurricane Sandy’s wrath has left thousands of people in New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas without shelter, power and water. Many of us here in Southern California have friends and family in these devastated areas. Our heart goes out to all whom have been affected by this terrible storm. As thousands of individuals and business generously reach out by donating to the relief effort, we at Burger Lounge will donate to the American Red Cross a full week’s sales revenue from our two newest stores located in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. It is also our hope that this donation encourages others to make contributions, small and large to help get these people back on their feet.”
– Dean Loring, President & CEO, Burger Lounge

Thank you, Dean, and Burger Lounge, and to the folks dining at those two locations this week. You rock.

Monday, November 12, 2012

French Fry Diary 436: Lay's Wavy

I gotta say right up front that I am not a fan of Lay's potato chips. Like Wise's chips, I find them just a bit too thin for my tastes and sometimes too greasy as well. I guess that's why I found Lay's Wavy Original potato chips such a pleasant surprise.

These chips, while being rippled, similar to Herr's 'pink foil,' are substantially thicker than the usual Lay's chips. This means more potato flavor and also a better dipping chip. This is a great party chip.

I was also very surprised by the amount of large and sizable chips in the two packages I picked up (two for one sale at CVS). There were many many more than other bags of chips. When most bags are nothing but crumbs and broken chips, Lay's Wavy still had big whole ones.

I have to admit puzzlement over the 'Original' claim on the package. I understand that these are the regular chip flavor, but by saying that, doesn't it imply there's a Wavy version of say, barbecue or sour cream and onion? If so, I've never seen them. And if a barbecue does exist, bring it on!

Great party chips, great dipping chips, recommended.

Friday, November 09, 2012

French Fry Diary 435: Red Lobster 2012

We've been doing this over a decade. Longtime friend Marni's birthday gift has always been dinner at Red Lobster, and this year is no different. Of course, the restaurant in Cherry Hill took some getting to, as our dinner fell on the first snowstorm of the year, one week after Hurricane Sandy hit. Not happy weather.

Slow start as we were waiting for The Bride to come from work. Luckily there were the wonderful cheese garlic biscuits to enjoy. I've said it before, and I'll say it again here, the bread things are really the only reason to come to Red Lobster.

I had planned to get onion rings as an appetizer with the peach bourbon BBQ sauce. I had looked at the menu online and was psyched. When it came time to order? All out of onion rings. No onion rings. Really? I waited eleven months for this, and all I got was an empty plate of disappointment. At least I, ahem, we, had bread things.

The fries were pretty much the same as they had been the last few trips here. The natural cut fries, a little over done, very crisp regular cuts with pepper and parsley. They were very good for dipping with the peach bourbon BBQ sauce or the maple glaze from the maple glaze chicken I ordered for my entree.

I might come back sooner but I suppose I'll definitely be back next November. Happy Birthday, Marni, from me and French Fry Diary.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

French Fry Diary 434: Herr's Natural

These potato chips really surprised me. The full name on the bag is Herr's Natural (in huge letters) Kettle Cooked Potato Chips (then below that with no preposition) Sea Salt. Other than the sea salt and the bright orange packaging, I had to wonder, what differentiated these chips from the regular Herr's Kettle Cooked Potato Chips?

After trying the chips, I have to honestly say that I haven't a clue. They looked and tasted the same to me, almost exactly the same. Crunchy and thick and twisted, they are excellent for dipping. Still no answer as to the difference, but they certainly were good.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

French Fry Diary 433: P.J. Whelihan's 2012

Yeah, I came back. I came back to the place where I found a hair in my fries - P.J. Whelihan's in Medford Lakes. Only because we were coming out of seeing The Bride in the Pineland Players production of "Bye Bye Birdie," and that's where the cast and crew were going, we went. I was not enthused, but we went. I was outvoted, I wanted the Medport.

So, once there, I determined to give the fries a second chance, and also try the onion rings. I went for a different kind of favorite fried food this time - PJ's Famous Fries - old bay seasoned crinkle cuts, but sans the American cheese. Or at least that's what the menu said, and what I ordered. Last time I was here, I got natural cuts. And sadly, since the last time I was here, they got rid of that wonderful Guiness BBQ sauce. Boo. Hiss.

The Famous Fries were fairly standard crinkle cuts but slightly flatter on one side than on the other, kinda like an oddly shaped Nathan's fry. They were also quite long, only lightly seasoned with Old Bay, and very addictive. I passed on the American cheese but it would've gone well with them. They were great while hot, but unfortunately got cold rather quickly.

The onion rings were thick cut and lightly crunchy. Almost perfectly done. I liked these best on this trip. They came with a creole mayo sauce that my good friend, the Dark Crystal, really disliked, more vinegar than mayo. I got the Hot-n-Honey signature wing sauce for my fries, and that was more buffalo than honey, still hot, but not the kind of hot I was looking for in a honey BBQ sauce.

All in all, this time it was a good visit, and pleasant visit. And best of all, no hair...

Monday, November 05, 2012

French Fry Diary 432: Peas of Mind Veggie Wedgies Baked Apple Fries

I'm usually love or hate when it comes to non-potato French fries, especially when they are touted as healthy or 'good for you.' These apple fries are a good example.

Peas of Mind, by their own admission, and advertising, makes all natural eats for growing kids. These baked apple fries are part of the Veggie Wedgies branding. These fries also come in broccoli, carrot and cauliflower. All of them are vegan, fat free, gluten free, dairy free, and soy free. One could also surmise they're also fun free, but that would just be mean. There is also no artificial flavor, no added sugars, and low in sodium content.

So these baked apple fries rack up high points in the healthy area, but how do they taste? Soon, young Fry Jedi, soon. Well, first, while they are baking, they smell great thanks to cinnamon being one of the ingredients. The others are apples, dehydrated potatoes (a surprise), water, baking powder, and sea salt.

Those dehydrated potatoes are a problem because that's the bad bland taste in these otherwise okay apple fries. They definitely need something, maybe to dip - honey or organic ketchup is suggested by Peas of Mind. Maybe whipped cream also.

The baked apple fries were good for a change of pace, but I don't think I'd try them again, I'd prefer natural apple strips.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #68

This pic of burger and fries (and pickle!) from the Buttonwood Grill in Peddler's Village, in New Hope, PA comes from fellow writer and blogger extraordinaire Liz Henry.

Check her out at The Six Year Itch and Aiming Low. I think she's really cool, and she writes real good too.

Friday, November 02, 2012

French Fry Diary 431: The Sandwich King's Hand Cut Fries

It's Food Network Friday, so here's another entry and recipe from the Sandwich King Jeff Mauro. In the episode entitled "Hot Diggity Dog," Jeff visits Gene's & Jude's in his hometown of Chicago, where they specialize in a very special kind of hot dog - one smothered in fresh cut French fries.

If I was local to Chicago I would have checked Gene's & Jude's out, but since I'm not, I'll have to depend on Jeff via the magic of television. As per usual on "Sandwich King," after learning how to do it at the restaurant of choice, Jeff heads home to create his own version of the sandwich. Including the fries. Mmmm… fries…

Here's Jeff's recipe for Hand Cut Fries with Celery Salt:

Prep Time: 15 min, Cook Time: 15 min, Level: Easy, Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients: Vegetable oil, 4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed, peel-on, Celery salt, for sprinkling

Directions: Fill a 6-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven two-thirds of the way full with oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 375 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Fry the potatoes in batches, until golden brown, 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the potatoes with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with celery salt and serve immediately.

Check out the full recipe here. "Sandwich King" airs new episodes on Sunday mornings.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

French Fry Diary 430: The Disney Food Blog Podcast

Those of you out there who know me know that I've dabbled in podcasts in the past, and currently participate in two on video, the All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast and the Biff Bam Popcast, notably, neither about French fries. I also enjoy listening to the podcasts of others.

One that I have been listening to lately actually does talk about French fries from time to time, that's the Disney Food Blog Podcast. It's hosted by A.J. Wolfe of the Disney Food Blog, which I've mentioned here once or twice, and Brad Johnson of WDW for Grownups, also a very cool site. Regular readers know how often I'm in Disney, so of course I'm digging the Podcast.

In episode 5, something was mentioned that I had never heard of but sounded right up my alley - Figaro Fries at Pinocchio's Village Haus in the WDW Magic Kingdom. My ears perked up until they mentioned they had been discontinued. Sigh, too late. Apparently these were natural cuts covered in lettuce, cheese, ranch dressing and tomatoes. You can check them out at the DFB here.

That was where I went after I heard about them on the Podcast. See what else is there? Isn't that cool? They did a report on the favorite fried food available elsewhere in the parks, including a few I have yet to sample myself.

And if that's not enough, in the next episode, they go into a rather lengthy discussion about poutine and Le Celier in EPCOT's Canada. I love these guys!