Wednesday, January 30, 2013

French Fry Diary 460: Two Amish Farm Markets

My friend Marni is always on the lookout for interesting subjects for the French Fry Diary. Recently she procured two items, from two different Amish Farmers Markets in South Jersey. First, from Bridgeton, she got homemade BBQ potato chips, then from Vineland, onion ring snacks.

The BBQ potato chips, which looked to be more crushed pieces than actual chips, were from Esh's Bulk Food & Candy at The Greater Bridgeton Amish Farm Market, and cost roughly $3.50 a pound. That's much less expensive than regular chips, but of course, in smaller pieces.

Before even trying these chips, I have to admit, one of the ingredients kinda turned me off a bit. The label listed "Selected potatoes, shortening (lard) and salt." Oookay. Lard is never appetizing, but I had to wonder - where was the BBQ seasoning? Or was it just salt?

There is some sort of seasoning, but it was definitely a weak sister to most BBQ seasonings, and not listed on the ingredients. That of course, sadly, wasn't the taste that bugged me about these rather bland chips. I couldn't seem to place it but I didn't really want to eat many if these. They made me a little queasy. If I'm being completely honest, I didn't like these at all. Sorry, Marni.

The onion rings were more accurately onion flavored snacks and came from CK Nut & Candy LLC at the Landis Marketplace in Vineland. Their ingredient list seemed a bit more familiar and straight forward. That was a relief.

For onion snacks they were a bit more orange than most I've seen. That color was misleading as they weren't as spicy as I suspected. But it should be mentioned they also weren't as oniony either. They were quite good, if a bit bland. I liked these, complete opposite of the chips, clear keepers.

Thanks again, Marni!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #86

Don't even ask, I don't even get it.

The caption to the image says: "I swear, Batman, If you ate my fries… Mini-Batman’s Adventure Time Adventures - Part Three Batman, why did you eat my fries?"

Seriously, I don't get "Adventure Time," if you can explain it to me, a fan of both Batman and French fries, it would be appreciated. Thanks!

Monday, January 28, 2013

French Fry Diary 459: Steamables

While looking for the regular Simply Potatoes I usually get for Christmas breakfast I saw these. Also from Crystal Farms Simply Potatoes, here comes Steamables - this particular variety is Rustic Italian Seasoned Russet Wedges. The best part? They steam right in the bag in your microwave.

I was all over this. A quick and easy side is always welcome. But steamed in the microwave, obviously crispy is out of the question, so these would be like baked potatoes. I could live with that. I popped them in the nuke.

While in the nuke I was a bit worried as the bag was plumped up like a balloon about to burst, more extreme than I had ever seen in a cook-in-a-bag food before. Like I said I was a bit concerned, however the aroma coming from the nuke was wonderful. Lotsa garlic.

The inside of the microwave was wet when they were done, and the bag was wrinkled and wet. When coming out of the bag, they clumped into the plate in an unappetizing lump. This didn't look good and it didn't bode well.

I added some salt and some butter to taste. The seasonings are a good Italian mix, the garlic however was overpowering. Over and above that, these are good as baked potatoes. Soft and hot perfection as a baked potato should be, with a pleasant aftertaste.

These Steamables don't look great, but they taste good, and with a bit of work on presentation, can make a great side for your meal. I think I would definitely try these again.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

French Fry Diary 458: Freaky Eaters II

Yeah, I know, after last time, I should just avoid this TLC show like the plague. This is the show that finds folks who are addicted to one particular food, and then they display them like freaks and try to force Health Nazi therapy on them.

I've hated this program every time I've watched, but they drew me in again with another episode about French fries. In this case it's Eric, and as the highly original episode title states, he's "Addicted to French Fries," and Doctors Dow and Virgin are back to browbeat the poor young man into changing his ways.

Amber, the young woman in the first episode had a genetic condition, and like the Clockwork Orange mad scientists they are, Dow and Virgin tried to change her. What was odd was that Amber's daughter, who did not have the condition, they didn't give a crap about. Her daughter was why Amber was on the show.

540 pounds of fries... 
Here, Eric was already being harangued by a nagging wife and mother. I was sure Dow and Virgin would just add to it. Now here's the kicker, Eric is Eric Willmann, of The Daily Fry, which is linked here on the sidebar to the left. Yeah, it's true, Eric is my brother from another mother, a fellow French fry blogger. I was shocked that Dow and Virgin were after one of us. We are an endangered species after all.

The two Doctors' first plan of attack is to show Eric what's going in his body, first a vat of transfat (not pretty), and then 540 pounds of French fries. I had to wonder what happens after this vulgar display. Do they throw the fries out? What about the people who don't have enough to eat, and these two are throwing out 540 pounds of fries! They called it a 'box of death,' so I guess the homeless starve tonight...

Dow and Virgin
Next they gave poor Eric blood tests, with results indicating high cholesterol and potential heart disease. Not funny, and very serious. That's how determined they were to break this active skateboarder who liked writing about French fries. In the end, they did break him. He ate pizza and they skateboarded, I'm sure for the producers, that was a great end to the show.

Eric Willmann of The Daily Fry
However, anyone that clicks the link for The Daily Fry knows what the real loss is. They killed a fellow blogger. Nothing since August of 2011. Eric is doing well. He's not as picky an eater as he used to be. I would assume he's healthier, but he's not writing about the favorite fried food any more.

At least not yet, but here's Eric himself answering my question about it in the comments section of his blog. I asked: "…why did you stop updating your blog here? Was it because you aren’t eating fries that often any more?"

And here's Eric's reply a few days later: "I have only been eating fries once a week. But I should start updating again here soon. keep posted".

There you go. Time will tell…

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #85

For today's Somebody Else's Fries we have these terrific Steak Frites from Parc Brasserie on Rittenhouse Square over in Philadelphia. Sadly, I have forgotten who sent this one to me. Anyone want to take credit?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

French Fry Diary 457: Herr's Onion Rings

Every once in a while I need a break from French fries, potato chips, and even onion rings, so I try something different - onion ring flavored snacks. I've done a few of these, finding the 7-Eleven Select brand the best of the bunch. Recently I picked up a package of the Herr's variety at my local Wawa - Herr's Onion Rings.

Like most onion flavored snacks, these aren't really onion rings at all but corn meal covered in onion powder. Some have a bit more kick, but the Herr's rings are -just- that, some salt, and a whole lotta multisyllable chemicals.

The onion flavored corn meal rings aren't bad, but they aren't that great either. They are a little grainy, and could not only use more of a kick, they could use more flavor as well. As a rule, I am usually pretty pleased with Herr's products, but this is an exception.

Herr's Onion Rings are all right in a pinch, or an impulse buy, but if I want an onion flavored snack, I'm going to 7-Eleven.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #84

Today's Somebody Else's Fries belong to my man Terry. A recent dinner was comprised of fish and steak fries with a generous portion of ketchup. Looks good, man!

Monday, January 21, 2013

French Fry Diary 456: Little Louie's BBQ

A family member took a bad fall, so they was rushed to Cooper Hospital in Camden. I went up Haddon Avenue past the Pop Shop, as this was the most direct route to the hospital, I past a restaurant I had never seen before. Once the emergency was over, and everything had settled down, I had more time to investigate this new find. So something good did come of it.

Little Louie's BBQ is up the road a bit from the Pop Shop, just outside the bustling heart of Collingswood. It had its own parking lot so no outlandish parking fees, plus number one, and I had heard the ribs were very good. That put it high on the list for the mother-in-law, my favorite rib connoisseur. So The Bride, her mom, and I made plans for dinner at Little Louie's.

We went in on a Saturday night, didn't need reservations, and I was quite surprised to see that it wasn't crowded. Folks from out of the South Jersey area might not know, but Collingswood is a hot bed of trendy popular restaurants. If it's a restaurant in Collingswood on a Saturday night - it should be packed. And honestly after our meal, I have to say again - it should have been packed. Hope this review can get the word out.

The place has a stark but warm atmosphere, with old western movie posters on the walls, and a great view of Haddon Avenue. Like at Famous Dave's, they had a roll of paper towels at the table as opposed to napkins. Also at the table they had mild and hot barbeque sauces. In my opinion they needed one in between those two extremes.

I got the foot long hot dog, on a toasted long roll. The dog was just the way I like them, very crunchy, very juicy and very good. It was big, not just long, but thick. Well done as if done on a grill, as was the roll, it was a big meal. As sides I got fries (of course) and baked beans, although I got coleslaw instead. No harm, no foul, I guess.

The fries were awesome. These are hand cut, as in individually hand cut, natural cut fries. These were unevenly cut, some thick, some thin, like you would make at home if slicing them up yourself. They were soft and hot on the inside, and crisp on the outside - serious, nearly perfect fries. I couldn't get enough. They come in a larger portion, which will be what I order next time we come here.

All in all this was a wonderful dinner with The Bride and her mom. Terrific big servings on everything, although I could have definitely had more fries. Like I said, these were fantastic fries. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 18, 2013

French Fry Diary 455: Smashburger 2013

Here it is, the report from the annual trip to Smashburger on New Year's Day. I had anticipated this year getting together a whole expedition to go from folks at the NYE party the night before, but it didn't work out. Hangovers do that. And the couple we had wanted to come with us passed because of vegan issues.

I countered with the argument that Smashburger had a wide variety of vegan and/or vegetarian offerings, including a veggie burger and several flash-fried veggies as sides. I was told that just going to Smashburger, and giving them their business, would be like saying what they do is okay, and for them - it's not.

I understand completely. No harm, no foul. We're cool. But it did get me thinking. I suppose there are a lot of folks who feel that way, and it made me wonder. Are the fast food burger outlets just wasting their time by making vegan/vegetarian offerings available, when those folks won't be coming in any way? I would love to hear the thoughts of folks out there in the foodie blogosphere.

Now, on to the regularly scheduled annual Smashburger visit. Unlike the last two years we had been here to the Riverside Square Mall location, the place was packed, and hopping for New Year's Day lunch. After placing our order and sitting down, The Bride and I busied ourselves on our iPhones playing the BurgerSmasher game. You can test your skills here making burgers the Smashburger way.

Our shakes came to the table first. I got a big thick chocolate shake, as thick as McDonald's used to have, and Sonic still does. The Bride thought her Oreo shake was very good. They come in a glass, with more in the mixing cup so you know they did it right. In hindsight, this was the best part of the meal right there.

After the last two trips here, I elected to skip the Smashfries this time, in favor of the delicious Haystack Onions. These thinly sliced and deep-fried onions are a bit greasy, but very good. I ordered my Smashburger plain, as usual, but piled some of those onions on top of the patty. Both the burger and the onions were awesome. The burgers are always good.

Of course, the burger and onions only brought to mind the lunch of the previous day, and I have to say, Smashburger paled in comparison to Little Shanty in nearby Warren NJ. Now I hope to get there sooner, but I think next year we'll have a new tradition, lunch at Little Shanty both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Sorry, Smashburger.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #83

Today's Somebody Else's Fries are courtesy of my friend Andrea on the FourSquare, these breakfast potatoes are from Lucky's Coffee Shop in Delaware. Rumor has it they also have some spectacular fries as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mary Ann Peels Potatoes

Dawn Wells, better known as Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," shows us an easy way to peel potatoes, courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #82

This one comes from my buddy Ray, a fellow comics fan. This is page 14 of Wolverine #5.1, where our hero has been, ahem, incapacitated by two cannibalistic baddies who are going to try to cook and eat Logan...


...on the other hand, whether you're cooking Boy Scouts or mutant superheroes, when you heat up the deep fryer, it does smell like French fries...

Mmmm... French fries...

Friday, January 11, 2013

French Fries Are Good for You!

According to this great article from La Stampa, French fries are good for you!

Great News From Mediterranean Diet Experts: French Fries Are Good For You!

NAPLES - Great news for all connoisseurs of French fries - that is, practically everyone: if it’s done correctly, frying is not bad for your health.

Researchers at the Federico II University of Naples and from the nearby "Dolce & Salato" professional cooking school, have conducted a study that shows that frying isn’t bad, if certain measures are followed.

“Frying is bad for us? Absolutely not!” declares Professor Vincenzo Fogliano, who oversaw the study with Italian chef Giuseppe Daddio, who runs the cooking school. “If it’s fried in the correct way, a potato chip or a montanara (Neapolitan fried pizza) can be an excellent nutritional product.”

The study was conducted in two phases: During the first, the capacity of absorption of the oil by different foods was measured during the frying, where it was found that zucchini and eggplant absorbed 30% of the oil, whereas potatoes or pizzas only absorbed 5% -- the same amount as found in a bowl of spaghetti with oil and garlic.

“A fundamental rule,” explains Fogliano, “is that starch plays an important part in sealing the food being fried, and reducing the oil absorption. The starch in potatoes with large grains and rich in amylopectin is particularly effective. Attention must be paid to frozen, pre-fried products or to becoming accustomed to finishing off foods by frying them, when they have already been pre-fried. In these cases, the quantity of oil absorbed increases significantly.”

In the second phase, the experiments carried out in the kitchen proved the theory: to avoid the absorption of the frying oil in foods, products should not be pre-fried, frozen or re-fried. By avoiding these procedures, in fact, fries and pizzas would only absorb small amounts of oil.

“I have to say that the evidence, in fact, demonstrates the theories. Molecular gastronomy is a fascinating world that allows us to not only know more about the primary materials, but to deepen our knowlegde of cooking methods and chemical reactions, in the pot, on the plate and in our bodies," adds Daddio.

Got a craving for fries now? Well, you have the green light along with the recipe to eat without guilt.

Special thanks go to my very cool Twitter friend Alesia Matson for hipping me to this, and you can read the original article here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

French Fry Diary 454: Fries Seasoning

I found these on Amazon, believe it or not. Gourmet Fries Seasoning from Chef's Fun Foods come in four varieties - Cheesy Cheddar, Garlic Parmesan, Salt & Garlic Pepper, and Flame Grilled BBQ. Or at least those are the flavors I got. There are also Wild Buffalo, Sour Cream & Onion, Salt & Vinegar, and Ketchup - all eight terrific flavoring to add to the favorite fried food.

I got mine about six months ago, have used them quite a bit, and these thirteen ounce jars are still not only mostly full, but also very fresh. All have no fat and no MSG, and contain at least five or less calories per serving. They do require frequent shaking though as the contents tend to clump.

The labels suggest their use for potatoes, veggies, burgers, chicken, or pasta, and urged the consumer to 'be creative!' And I have been creative. A sucker for BBQ, I put that one on almost everything, well, everything except pasta, and garlic bread for which the Garlic flavors are great. I have found the Cheddar particularly good on popcorn. And of course, they are all quite good on fries. Recommended.

And just in case you've ever wanted to make tornado fries at home, Chef's Fun Foods also sells all your supplies, except for the potatoes, for that too!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

French Fry Diary 453: Little Shanty

I was actually invited to Little Shanty by the owner Jonathan Lidz via the Facebook, and he promised to reimburse gas money if I didn't like the fries. If there's anything I like more than a challenge, it's a man who's confident in his fries. Or in this case, they're his Grandma's fries.

The Bride and I normally spend New Year's Eve with friends in North Jersey. The last few years it's become a New Year's Day tradition to hit Smashburger and then take a look at the always-closed American Bandstand Grill on the way home. I figured since it already was sort of a FFD road trip anyway, why not stop in to Little Shanty on the way up? Thanks to various social media and a GPS, it was a done deal.

We finally found it on New Year's Eve afternoon, in a strip mall in Warren NJ, a small but cozy place. And right there on the sign, there it was, "Grandma's Fries." Yep, I couldn't wait. There's a simple but very varied menu available, with vegan and gluten free options as well. I went for my usual, a burger and fries, and a side of onion rings. We ordered and took a seat where we could see our food being cooked in the kitchen, and before long the friendly waitress brought it out to us.

After trying the fries, rings, and taking a bite of the burger, The Bride and I both said to each other, "We're not getting our gas money." The food was just not that good, the meal was fantastic.

The onion rings, properly named Angus & Patty's Almost Famous Onion Rings, are truly among the best, if not the best o-rings I've had, period. Thin and thick at once, very crispy, I think these sweet onions were beer battered, but they didn't taste like it, a good thing because I don't usually like that. These are the best.

Grandma's Fries were thinner than usual natural cut shoestrings with fried onions mixed in - a great combination. The fries were hand cut, pan-fried, crispy on the outside and soft and hot on the inside. I loved the addition of the onions, a simple thing, but the just the right zing for the fries. These perfectly crispy fries were great for sandwiching on the burger, which was big and juicy, the best I've had in a while. It was cooked to order and served on a brioche bun. I loved this entire meal, they even had Coca-Cola products, bonus.

The Bride would have liked her burger a bit more well done, but hey, that's her. And even still, she thought it was excellent. She also thought the fries a little salty, but again, there was nothing left on the tray at the end of the meal if you know what I mean. If I had any complaints, it would be I hadn't tried the fry dipping sauces, or the homemade chips, or the hot dogs, or the shakes. They also have Funnel Cake Fries, as well as Deep-Fried Oreos and Milky Ways. Oh well, I know we'll be back. Little Shanty is too good to stay away for long.

I loved Little Shanty. It gets my highest recommendation. I have found a new favorite restaurant. Check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and their own website. I just wish they weren't so far away. Hey, Jonathan, any thoughts on opening a Little Shanty down in South Jersey?

Monday, January 07, 2013

French Fry Diary 452: Ponzio's Diner, Cherry Hill NJ

Ponzio's Diner-Bakery-Bar has been a landmark in Cherry Hill, in one form or another, for decades, located at the Ellisburg Circle, and now the convoluted intersection that used to be the Ellisburg Circle. A family business since 1964 when the owners of Ponzio's Brooklawn purchased this location, and it went from being the Ellisburg Diner to Ponzio's Cherry Hill. There have been numerous renovations since then, most notably the latest in 2005.

The Bride recently visited here and I talked about the fries she brought home. Now here's the in-restaurant review, as we had chosen the new Ponzio's as our meeting place for our annual holiday get-together with friends.

Back in the 1980s when I was in college I had been here a few times. What I remember most is that it was very dark, and the bar was small and dark as well. It might have just been that decade that was dark. On this day, it was very bright. There was a diner section that looked very diner-y, a bar where I remembered it, but bigger and brighter.

The rest of Ponzio's was quarantined off into different rooms named after local Cherry Hill neighborhoods. It reminded me a lot of Mastoris actually in that way. After a bit of a wait, even though we called ahead for a large group of eight, we ended up in the Barclay Room. Continuing the comparison to Mastoris was the selection of cheese breads we were served before the meal. They were not as good however.

As far as my dinner goes, I went traditional. Regular readers know what I ordered - a plain burger and fries. This of course seemed to confuse our waitress. I wanted the Johnny & Feef's Famous Bay Fries that The Bride had brought home a few months back. They only come in a giant-sized portion separate from the meal. Hoping not to confuse her any more I just ordered onion rings as my side, and got the Bay Fries too.

The burger was hot and okay, but had a bit of an aftertaste that didn't make me feel so good. The onion rings were heavily battered, very crispy, and big and thick. They were very tasty, only Panko could have possibly made them better. From the offerings on others' plates, I could see that Ponzio's regular fries were regular cuts. No complaints about them from our table.

There were also Eggplant Fries and Green Bean Fries on the menu, but I wasn't feeling that adventurous that night. I did not see the rumored Asparagus Fries that I had been told about here on the menu however. Maybe they are a myth, or on a secret menu, a la In-N-Out Burger.

The Bay Fries were quite a disappointment in restaurant sadly. They were hot (in places) and spicy, but a bit limp. My friend and fellow Disney Cruiser Dom sat across from me and sampled these fries. His response was to ask if they were supposed to be cold. I didn't get what he meant until I myself popped a cold fry into my mouth. This was not good. The ramekin of cheese near Dom had cheese so stiff and cold he couldn't even push a fry into it. As a whole, the fries got worse as they got even colder.

All in all, it was a great dinner with much missed friends. Conversation was fun, if a bit overloaded with Doctor Who and the question of whether an ├ęclair is a donut or not (I still say it's not), but great company. We really should see each other more often than once a year.

As far as the food and service at Ponzio's goes however, we probably won't be going back. I think we've decided on the tried and true Medport for next year's holiday gathering. I already can't wait.

Friday, January 04, 2013

But Doesn't Everyone Know They're Belgian?

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Thanks to Marni for sending this one to me. Props, girl.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #80

Here are the hash browns I had at the International House of Pancakes (it does sound more official and important when you spell it out), IHoP for the less sophisticated, on Christmas morning with my family. As opposed to previous trips, they were pretty good this time. The family too. ;-)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #79

Here's one from my friend Joe. His son Ben found an axe-shaped French fry at Wendy's recently. Now all we need is an onion ring shield, some polyhedron chicken nuggets, and an ogre burger, then we could play D&D...