Thursday, December 27, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #78

Each Christmas Eve, The Bride and I exchange one gift each. This year she got me a variety of rare potato chips! I'm sure you'll be seeing more of these chips in the next few months. What a terrific gift! She knows me so well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

French Fry Diary 451: The Hanukkah Dog at Home

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, my mother-in-law got the very last Hanukkah Dog from the Cool Dog Cafe on the last night of Hanukkah this year. She really enjoyed it, and although we love her a lot, we were really jealous watching her eat the very last one.

Mom was so thrilled with Cool Dog's holiday special that she was telling everyone about it, and everyone was equally enthused about it. While we have all vowed to get to the Cool Dog Café earlier next year, we also determined to make our own when the family got together at Christmas.

So here is the homemade Hanukkah Dog. Makeshift and without the sautéed onions, Mom made a few of these on Christmas Eve night. I had two myself, and they were very good. Not that fries on a dog are an unknown quantity, Gene and Jude's in Chicago are famous for it, but I am ashamed to admit that this was my first time. It won't be my last. Thanks, Mom, and thanks to Cool Dog Café for the inspiration.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

French Fry Diary 450: Allen's Clam Bar

Allen's Clam Bar, on Route 9 in New Gretna, New Jersey used to be my late father's favorite restaurant. Now, keep in mind, my father was a man who did not go out to restaurants. Once he was retired, he went to McDonald's in the morning for coffee and gossip with the other old men, and would grudgingly accompany the family out when my sister from Nebraska would swoop in once a year - but other than that, he was not a restaurant guy.

My father was a woodsman and a hunter, a farmer and a country boy. I could see how this place in the middle of nowhere would appeal to him. And as I accompanied him on many instructional and fun walks and rides in the woods, I can easily see how he would enjoy the one to two hour drive through the Pine Barrens to get to Allen's.

He and my mom would go there on summer weekends to enjoy the air, and the ride - and I suppose also the food and the ambiance. I had the opportunity to go to Allen's twice. The first time I think was my dad trying to show me what he thought a 'real' restaurant was like, and second was the truly painful experience of the parents taking me and a girlfriend to a 'real' restaurant. I miss my parents a lot now that they're gone, but even in hindsight, this latter trip holds no joy.

Allen's Clam Bar is a place out of time. If I recall correctly, and this is going back nearly three decades, the place had a dirt parking lot and a wood floor porch. The inside was more of a small but empty general store out of the 1920s that someone had awkwardly set up tables and chairs in. Cramped and dusty, although not on the tables, I was greeted by a very simple menu, printed on the placemat. As I recall, the waitresses also exude a rustic Piney charm - take that any way you want to.

The menu consisted of a variety of seafood items, most of them fried, that all came with two sides, the only one of which this catastrophically picky eater would eat was the favorite fried food. On both trips I got the fried scallops and two sides of French fries.

Each of my orders - the scallops, the fries, and the fries - came on a big paper plate, so I had three piled high paper plates. I remember that the scallops may as well have been Mrs. Paul's (nothing wrong with that, I love Mrs. Paul's scallops) were it not for their large size. The fries were definitely from the grocer's freezer (regular or crinkle cut, although pics online may indicate they're now natural cuts) and deep fried in the same oil as everything else, so they had that unique fishy tinge - not necessarily a bad thing.

Allen's Clam Bar is still there, but I haven't been back. I understand why my dad liked it, and I'm sure my folks had good times there. I found some pics of the place online. It doesn't seem like it's changed much. I don't remember the shark though. Maybe I'll get back there someday, and have some fries for my dad.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

French Fry Diary 449: Burger King Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries

I know, insanity, but the very same day I blasted the customer service at a local Burger King, we decided on BK for dinner.

Upon arrival at my local Burger King, Marlton, not the infamous store #9865, my friend Jeff and I found ourselves in a non-moving line of one. The shift manager Tom was handling a very picky customer buying the last of the Cinnabon. The transaction was not the easiest, for either of them. But there was more to it than that.

Apparently we had just missed a verbally abusive exchange in the drive-thru. The customer came to straighten it out, and got in line behind the Cinnabon lady. Tom managed to handle the situation, not without drama, providing a bit of pre-dinner theater before my friend Jeff and I got to order.

We were there to try Burger King's new Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries, and that we did. They were a bit thinner than most curly fries. I wasn't sure if it was because they had been overcooked or if it was something to do with them being made from sweet potatoes. They had lost a bit of their sweetness, and were not very good. I wouldn't get them again.

I also got the new Popcorn Chicken, and was similarly unimpressed. At least they still had the Coke Freestyle machine. I should have gotten a burger, or a chicken sandwich (which this store does have). I have to say, I was disappointed on almost all fronts on this trip, save the floorshow of course.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

French Fry Diary 448: Cool Dog Cafe 2012

I went by my favorite hot dog place, the Cool Dog Café in Marlton, the other day, on the last night of the Festival of Lights. It was just me, The Bride, and her dad, and we were there for their seasonal specialty, the Hanukkah Dog.

Now special hot dogs at Cool Dog are nothing new. Ira and company usually come up with something new and spectacular every week or so, but this was something extra special, only available during the holiday. Last year they offered those terrific Hanukkah Sliders, if you remember. The Hanukkah Dog is a kosher hot dog (of course!) on a roll with sautéed onions and potato latkes - and that last bit is why you're reading about it here on French Fry Diary.

Also lately Cool Dog has been serving crinkle cut French fries as the base of several variations of specials. While we were there, I tried out a plain order. They are deep fried frozen crinkle cuts, but done perfectly. Pretty simple compared to the process done for Cool Dog's near perfect fresh cut fries, but still cooked with the same care. They were great.

The Hanukkah Dog however was another story. There was only one left. We made the ultimate sacrifice and ordered it to go for The Bride's mom who stayed home, while we ordered different choices from Cool Dog's amazing menu. Dinner was well worth it, and we made a great choice - Mom loved her hot dog, the final Haukkah Dog of the season.

And don't forget to get over to Cool Dog Cafe on Friday, 12-21-2012, for the Mayan End of the World Special - 20% off all hot dogs. What better last meal than hot dogs, right? And don't forget the fries!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

French Fry Diary 447: My Big Brother

Me and my big brother circa 1967.  I'm the good looking one.
I apparently have a reader who works with my older brother Warren. He is always asking, and thus prodding my bro to ask, why I never mention Warren in this blog. The truth is that Warren didn't have much to do with my French fry obsession growing up, and that's probably a good thing. A recent harassing phone call from my bro on this topic has prompted me to publically humiliate him on the blog. I guess you don't know what you don't want until you get it, eh?

Warren's a good guy, and the best big brother I could ever hope for. He gave me one of his kidneys, one of the reasons I can still eat French fries, hell, he's one of the reasons I am still walking around breathing. Over and above that, I love the guy, hey, he's my brother. And I do talk about him frequently on my other blogs. Regarding my comic book review work, he's the main reason I still love The Flash and Justice League so much, and over at my pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell, I just recently mentioned his "On the Radio" 8-track in my Donna Summer obit more than a few months ago.

One memory of my brother and French fries comes from the time when he had just started driving and had purchased his own car. I was just a stupid punk kid at the time, no future as a foodie blogger in my mind at all. Heck, the concept of a foodie blogger didn't even exist yet. Anyway, with a car comes freedom, and with freedom comes the ability to go wherever you want whenever you want.

Bottom line, Warren could go to McDonald's any time he wanted. And he rarely forgot his little brother when he would bring home a snack. He would always share his fries with me, or more accurately, give them to me when he was done with them. Hey, I never said he was a saint. I still remember that. Like I said, he's a good guy. Maybe when he's living at the old folks home, in a rocking chair, with an afghan on his lap, I'll let him have the rest of my fries.

Just kidding, Warren, they're my fries. Lol.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #75

Today's Somebody Else's Fries come from the brother-in-law, visiting Florida for a wedding. He took this shot of his meal at Hub Stacey's in downtown Pensacola. Mmmm... looks good…

Friday, December 14, 2012

French Fry Diary 446: Have It Burger King's Way

Rant warning. It seems there's a reason the slogan "Have it your way." is no longer part of Burger King's advertising reportoire and corporate mission. It simply no longer applies. Burger King used to get this kind of thing right - no matter how you wanted your food, you got it right, and you got it quick. No longer.

I used to love Burger King. There was a time when the only bad thing I could say about them was that they had Pepsi instead of Coke, but that was a long long time ago. Recently when they changed their fries for the worse, I thought that not coming back to BK was no big deal, I wouldn't miss it much at all.

Sometimes in a pinch, of when you just want something different, you go back to old habits. In my case, I still like their chicken sandwiches, and on a Sunday night, where else am I going to go?

Regular readers of this blog and folks who know me, know that I am a catastrophically picky eater. I usually like my burgers and sandwiches plain. In simple language that I always have to use when ordering from fast food places, that's 'nothing on it, plain, just the burger and the bun.' Or chicken, should that be the case. And of course, at McDonalds, you always have to stress 'no cheese.' They never get that right there.

As I said, Burger King used to, now they don't care.  No, strike that, most Burger Kings are pretty good.  The one in Marlton is amazing.  However one particular store locally really doesn't care. The Burger King on Route 70 in Cherry Hill, yeah, Restaurant #9865, I'm talking about you. I've had numerous bad experiences there.

Once I ordered a plain chicken sandwich there and after I re-explained what plain meant, I was told "That's nasty." Manager told me that was the clerk's opinion. No apology, no credit, no excuses. Multiple times there I've been told they were out of onion rings, fries, shakes, even sodas. But the last time I was there, when again they were out of onion rings, I was told something interesting about their Original Chicken Sandwich.

"We don't make them no more." Mind you, it's on the menu board behind his head. When I pointed that out, I was told the menu was wrong. As I was picking up dinner for the family and still wanted something for myself, I went with the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, again plain, stressing it because I was sure I was dealing with someone who didn't care. The first receipt didn't say 'plain,' so made sure it went through again.

Now please understand, I am trying desperately not to be an a-hole, being as polite as possible, because I know the thin line between a special order and someone spitting (or worse) in my food. I did not want the latter so I was all smiles and unicorns. In that regard, I did not check the sandwich before leaving. I guess I should have, apparently making sure my order is correct is my responsibility. Dummy me, I thought that was their job.

When I got home of course the sandwich wasn't plain. Despite the receipt saying it was, and the clerk saying it was, it wasn't. I called them, asked for a manager. She was less than friendly. Although I was unsure who I talked to was a manager as she asked, "What do you want me to do about it? You can come back, but we ain't got no more chicken."

There's a point when you just give up, ya know? The BK in Marlton proper usually gets orders right if I get another hankering for their food, I suppose. But I'm never going back to 9865. And I would advise everyone else to steer clear as well. I'm not alone in my assessment of the location either.

Have it your way is dead.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baked Seasoned Steak Fries

This recipe comes from Six Sisters' Stuff via the Just-Potatoes Yahoo! Group. Enjoy.

Baked Seasoned Steak Fries

Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 4 large, russet potatoes peeled and cut into thin *wedges, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons paprika, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder and onion powder. Add potato wedges to olive oil mixture and toss until evenly coated. Cover a baking sheet in foil and spread coated potato wedges onto it. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

* Note from Richard Lee Holbert of Just-Potatoes: I detest thin fries so I cut mine thicker.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Weird Flavors of Lay's Potato Chips

Friend and fellow writer Mieke Zamora-MacKay hipped me to these, twenty-five of Lay's weirdest (at least to us here in the States) flavors of potato chips.

Here's the link right here.

Some of the flavors are intriguing, like Mint, Mango, and Blueberry. Some are pretty much no-brainers like Bacon, Ketchup, Wasabi, and Curry. I know I would love a decent bacon or curry flavored potato chip. While others are just… insane to my tender palate. Squid, seaweed, and salmon? Not for me.

Thanks, Mieke! And don't forget, everyone, check out the blog and Twitter of this terrific writer. She also has a great story in the new anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. You can order the book here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #73

For the last three years, this is the fourth in a row, I have been attempting to make a special Hanukkah dinner for The Bride during the holiday season, usually on one of the traditional eight nights. Previously, on the latke front at least, I have only succeeded in making mush and/or crusty nightmares.

Last night, I made these. Not the best, they could have been browned a bit more and crispier, but at least these were edible. The Bride said they weren't bad. Next year, I will try for perfect.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #72

From last night's second night of Chanukkah, at my in-laws. McCain provided my mom-in-law with the potato pancakes for latkes, but the presentation is all hers. A nice evening with The Bride and her parents. Happy Chanukkah to everyone out there who celebrates!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Daym Drops Goes to Shake Shack

Since I haven't had a chance to get over to the fairly new Shake Shack in Philly yet, I figured I'd give you the next best thing. Here's my brother from another mother, Daym Drops, and his review of Shake Shack. Enjoy.

I think he likes the fries. They are solid gold UFC fighters and busted him all up in his mouth. Yeah, I think he liked 'em.

Don't forget to subscribe to his YouTube channel and Like his Facebook page. The man rocks.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

French Fry Diary 445: Coney Island

On a recent road trip with The Bride, we stopped at Coney Island in Pottsville, PA. It was just one of those places that just call to you from the road. You know when you cruise through an unfamiliar small town, that this is the place you must stop and have lunch. Yeah, it's like that.

There was a giant sign both by the road and on the building itself proclaiming Coney Island outside but inside it was just all cozy little hometown diner. Just a few tables, a counter, and a TV up in the corner, and on the other side some more tables - maybe they were expanding. We sat in the cozy side. They also sold lots of local beers, and lottery tickets at another counter just a few feet away from us. Wow, I loved it.

We ordered at the counter and sat down, our food came out almost immediately. I got a great but simple hot dog, good snap and flavor. The Bride also got a dog and some deep-fried cheesy veggie things. The latter was the most expensive thing we got, and I don't think it cost more than two bucks.

You know I also got French fries, right? The fries were big thick natural regular cuts, battered in seasoning, and deep-fried. They were a little greasy, but with a good crunch to them. No complaints, an almost perfect fry - crisp shell, hot and soft and potato-ey inside. We both cleaned our plates like champs. Yeah, that good.

The best part? We got a pretty full meal, good portions, and it was crazy inexpensive. This place was an all ways winner. If you ever get out to Pottsville in the Poconos, definitely stop at The Coney Island. Recommended.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

French Fry Diary 444: Martin's Bar-B-Q Waffle Potato Chips

I picked these up at the Sheetz we visited the other day. I had never seen this brand before, and I'm a sucker for barbecue potato chips so I tried Martin's Bar-B-Q Waffle Potato Chips.

Martin's is actually fairly local to where we were out in the wilds of Pennsylvania. It's a small family business that's been making snacks, mostly chips, since the 1940s.

The chips themselves have smaller ridges than most chips of this type. They have a pleasant sweet and smoky flavor, with just the right amount of burn.

These were very good chips. I wish we had gotten more than just one small bag.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

French Fry Diary 443: Sheetz

Sheetz is kinda like a gas station/convenience store type place similar to Wawa. I have seen them around (never in Jersey) on excursions before, but had never stopped. On a recent road trip The Bride and I hit one near Gettysburg PA for a quick breakfast. I, of course, got, what else, a hash brown.

The hash brown was one of those square jobs, just like Wawa, but the chunks of potato were bigger, just like McDonald's used to have. It was so hot some of it stuck to the inside of the wrapper. Very hot, crispy, and satisfying, a welcome breakfast treat - greasy but good.

Sheetz at the time, just a couple weeks ago, it should noted, two weeks after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, had its pumps closed, and still had no gas. Not a lot of folks were happy about it while we were there.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Random Tater Pic of the Day #71

From various places on the net, a potato shaped like a bear. Ooooh... such an adorable and edible bear. Wonder what he tastes like fried? ;-)