Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #94

Benihana is not usually the place you think of when you think of French fries, but they do have potato product. Check out these sweet potatoes from a recent visit.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

French Fry Diary 478: Wegmans Market Café

I had been meeting with a local writers group (buy their book!) for a while upstairs at Wegmans gi-normous grocery store in Cherry Hill before I realized that the upstairs was actually the seating area for the buffet restaurant below it, the Wegmans Market Cafe. What can I say, I'm a bit slow. It took me even longer to notice that they had the favorite fried food. Okay, let's just say it, I'm pretty dumb. Or we can be polite and say I'm just unobservant. Nah, let's stick with dumb.

Not only does the Wegmans Market Café have the favorite fried food, they have an entire potato bar, called "Spud-U-Like." Not just fries are available here to pile onto a heat preserving closable dish to take home (or upstairs), but also baked potatoes with a variety of stuff to go on and with them. There's cheese and broccoli among other goodies.

The Market Café specializes in a thing called $6 meals where you can get an entrée with two sides to take home for later. Besides those standard choices, you can also get stuff from the many other bars in the buffet area, including Spud-U-Like. The variety is endless really, and not just American fare, there's also Asian, Kosher, etc.

The baked potatoes are very hot and tasty and good if you eat them right away, or reheat them when you get home. As with anything that comes from under a heat lamp, it's really only good if it's hot and fresh. The fries are standard regular cuts with similar limits, though coming out a little worse for wear after a while under the lights. I'm sure they would be fine reheated in the oven at home.

There you go, fries at Wegmans, in the grocery store. You never know where those pesky fries will show up next…

Monday, March 25, 2013

French Fry Diary 477: More Pringles Holiday Flavors

We have talked about the Cinnamon & Sugar Potato Crisps from Pringles before. Basically they were just regular Pringles chips with a dusting of cinnamon sugar. I kinda expected the Pumpkin Pie Spice chips to be a similar gig.

As usual, in the cases of strange chip flavors, I made The Bride try one first. Her reaction was "Meh." It was just a chip with pumpkin pie spice dusted onto it. The aroma from the can was spot on, much like a scented candle, but after trying one myself, she had it right. They smell great, but I didn't care all that much for these, and as catastrophically picky an eater as I am, I like pumpkin pie.

The final flavor in the holiday trio that my big sister Bobbie got for me is rather specific - White Chocolate Peppermint. These didn't smell so great. Again, The Bride played guinea pig. Her assessment was that these were two tastes that didn't belong together, and related the experience to taking a bite of chocolate mint, then a Pringles crisp, then repeat.

I felt there were more in line with a bubble gum or buttered popcorn Jelly Belly, or faux beef made from tofu, or more appropriately, Lay's Chicken & Waffles Potato Chips - the flavors and textures just do not go well together. It feels wrong. That said however, I found the White Chocolate Peppermint much tastier and preferable to the Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Maybe Pringles will bring these out again next holiday season, or perhaps some new concoctions. Thanks, Bobbie, for getting these for me!

Friday, March 22, 2013

French Fry Diary 476: Nature's Way Microwavable Russet

There are more than a few of these do it yourself baked potatoes out there recently. Probably the one that most folks think of is the Bakeables from Simply Spuds. This is the same concept but by Nature's Way, a company that inexplicably seems to have no internet presence.

This plastic wrapped potato just goes right in the microwave as is. Don't even take off the wrapper. It does whistle a bit as it cooks, but don't be alarmed, the sparse directions indicate that's normal. It will be hot when you take it out, so watch out. It makes getting the hot potato out of the plastic quite the trick without burning yourself.

However, once you do get the wrapper off, get the potato on a plate, and start with the fork mashing, it's terrific. Good deal, Nature's Way.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

French Fry Diary 475: McCain Purely Potatoes

I did not have a good first experience with these here. I had assumed that McCain Purely Potatoes would be similar to Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices, but nope, not quite. Well, you know what happens when you assume... you make an ass out of 'u' and 'me.'

McCain makes French fries, so they should know what they're doing when it comes to potatoes, right? Yeah, there's that assume thing again. They do pretty good. That said, I will choose Ore-Ida over McCain almost every time. Perhaps I should wait for Ore-Ida to come out with a product like this.

Purely Potatoes is simply that, peeled and sliced premium russet potatoes like it says on the bag. The bag, besides being usable as a microwave package to cook, also says no prep is required, and the potatoes can be used for au gratin, mashed, or pan-fried, or even deep-fried. All true, but with provisos.

First things first, do not freeze them, at least not if you want to eat them. I made this mistake. Sooo not a good idea. Freezer burn is the luckiest you will get, inedible is the most likely result. If you buy Purely Potatoes, use them that day. And microwave steam the potatoes in the bag first, no matter what you're going to use them for. If you mash them, prep them for baking, or simply move them to the pan or the deep fryer next, they will be hot and ready.

I was really disappointed the first time I tried these. Awful, inedible, oooh, I was sick. Do. Not. Freeze. Them. Maybe I'll give them another shot, but not today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The 21 Jump Street French Fry Song

I hated the movie version of 21 Jump Street, but it did have one redeeming quality, a quick song about the favorite fried food. Enjoy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

French Fry Diary 474: Honey BBQ Smart Fries

I've had these Smart Fries before, and while an actually fairly healthy snack, they were pretty bland. That was the Classic Sea Salt variety I tried, and I theorized that the Honey BBQ or the Vinegar Splash might be better because they'd actually have flavor.

Now granted, there's not much discernible flavor to the Honey BBQ, but they do have a bit of a kick, and enough taste to make this truly a potato chip-like you-can't-eat-just-one situation. These are great snacks, and recently started being carried by Wawa. They also come in Vintage Cheddar, Honey Mustard & Onion, and Jalapeño Trio.

Friday, March 15, 2013

French Fry Diary 473: Bobby's Potato-less Ireland

This Food Network special starring chef Bobby Flay takes a look at both the traditional and the new wave of Irish cuisine. Predictably, Bobby puts the poo-poo on traditional Irish fare. In other words, meat and potatoes are bad.

Darina Allen, one of the most celebrated chefs in Ireland, head and founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, is one of the forerunners of the new food movement in Ireland. Early in the program, she makes Bobby pick potatoes (for his first time) on the farm that provides food to the school.

The whole farm to table concept is the core of the school. Eventually the potatoes Bobby picked were boiled in salt water and served as is with butter. What no fries, I mean chips? This is Ireland, right?

Next Bobby takes his daughter to the English Market in Cork where they look at blood pudding, smoked salmon, oysters, and artisanal bread. Yep, just about everything you could imagine - except potatoes! Could it be that the new food movement in Ireland is solely because they've run out of potatoes?

His food tour continues with pork from Cork, and a tour of a vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Paradiso, and the farm that supplies it. Guess what? No potatoes there either. They did batter and deep fry flowers (squash blossoms), of all things, but not the one thing you would think the Irish would deep fry.

Moving on to Dublin, with the help of Irish chef and food star Clodagh McKenna, Bobby explores some cafes and pubs trying out 'traditional' Irish foods like porridge, soda bread, sponge cake, and ice cream.

Finally in the last ten minutes of the hour long show, almost as an afterthought, Bobby stopped at a place called Leo Burdock Fish & Chips, because "you just can't leave Dublin without having some fish and chips." Leo's is apparently, based on the signage, Dublin's oldest chipper. I was surprised he didn't go to Cookes, but then again if the original Irish restaurant is slouching as bad as its WDW counterpart, that's a good thing.

For a mere 8.95, Bobby gets a huge cod and a healthy portion of chips. He goes on to say what a big part of Irish cuisine fish and chips are. If that's true, Bobby, why only a fraction of the show about them, eh? Well, if it's any consolation, beer only got a few more seconds airtime than fish and chips.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


It's that time of year again, here's a recipe from by Christine Gallary:

Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake that contains a mixture of mashed and grated potatoes, resulting in a unique texture that’s part pancake, part hash brown. While suitable on an Irish breakfast or supper table, boxty pairs well with so many cuisines. For example, try topping it with smoked salmon and crème fraîche for a fun twist on blini. Game plan: If you only have salted butter in your fridge, it’s fine to substitute it for the unsalted butter called for here.

INGREDIENTS: 2 pounds (3 to 4 large) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, 3/4 cup whole milk, 1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt, plus more for seasoning the potatoes before cooking, 1 large egg, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


Heat the oven to 200°F. Chop half of the potatoes into large dice, place in a medium saucepan, salt generously, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the potatoes uncovered until fork tender, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate the remaining potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and place in a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl; set aside.

When the boiled potatoes are ready, drain them, return them to the pot, add 1/4 cup of the milk, and mash until the potatoes are smooth.

With a plastic spatula, press the grated potatoes against the sides and bottom of the strainer to remove any liquid. Add the grated potatoes to the mashed potatoes (no need to stir though).

Place the egg, remaining 1/2 cup milk, flour, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and whisk until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the potatoes and stir until evenly incorporated.

Heat a large nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Test to see if the pan is hot enough by sprinkling a couple of drops of cold water in it: If the water bounces and sputters, the pan is ready to use; if it evaporates instantly, the pan is too hot.

Once the pan is ready, add enough butter to lightly coat the bottom when melted. Drop 3 dollops (about 1/4 cup each) of the batter into the pan and spread each to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until the pancake bottoms are golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Place on a baking sheet and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining butter and batter. Serve warm.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

French Fry Diary 472: Lay's Chicken & Waffles Potato Chips

I still haven't been able to find the Cheesy Garlic Bread Potato Chips. Oh well. Onward and upward. Unlike yesterday's Sriracha chips, the Chicken & Waffles flavored chips at least seem a little more appetizing.

While not something I have ever had, as a catastrophically picky eater, it is worth mentioning I haven't had them together, but I do like both chicken and waffles. And this wouldn't be the first time I've reviewed chicken flavored potato chips either.

Chicken and waffles is a regional and cultural phenomenon that comes in two varieties. The soul food type is fried chicken and waffles drowned in butter and syrup. The Pennsylvania Dutch prefer stewed chicken on a waffle with gravy poured over it. Looking the ingredients, I would say that Lay's chips have more soul. No real chicken though.

When I opened the bag a thick sweet aroma wafted over my nose... molasses? Maple syrup maybe? Color me intrigued. I do like how they smell. It's almost hypnotic, like Cinnabon. Like the Sriracha chips, these were the thin regular chips so typical of Lay's.

The taste. The taste is truly something unreal and unexpected on a potato chip. There is maple syrup, and butter, and waffles, and yes, even chicken. It's all there. Eating the chips I felt like Violet Beauregarde chewing her final piece of gum in the classic Willy Wonka movie. All those flavors are in there. Hopefully I won't be turning into a giant chicken with waffles…

These weren't bad at all, and I definitely ate more of these than I did of the Sriracha chips, but after a while the heavy sweetness got to me. If this flavor wins, it is definitely a once in a blue moon snack. Very heavy.

Now, as soon as I find the Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips, I'll be back with a review. Until then, does anyone know where to find them in the South Jersey area?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

French Fry Diary 471: Lay's Sriracha Potato Chips

We're in the midst of an historic contest from the Frito-Lay folks. They took suggestions, millions of them, for potential new potato chip flavors.

I even tried my hand at it, suggesting Poutine flavored chips to not only cash in on the Canadian market but also appease those folks down here in the US who can't get it of haven't tried it yet. I suppose they either already have that flavor, or they just figured it was too gross. ;-)

The powers that be narrowed the field down to three finalists: Sriracha, Cheesy Garlic Bread, and Chicken & Waffles. Before even tasting, my personal preference would be Cheesy Garlic Bread, that's just a no-brainer. I've even had over twenty folks online tell me they are the better chips.

However, it has been impossible for me to find these things in South Jersey. I'm still looking, and would appreciate any help from my FFD friends out there. Where are the Cheesy Garlic Bread chips?

In the meantime, I did manage to find the other two. First up, Sriracha. For those not in the know, myself included, until I looked it up, Sriracha is a (very) hot sauce made from chili peppers, frequently used with seafood, and named after Si Racha, a city on the coast of Thailand. This soooo doesn't sound like me. I'm afraid of this potato chip.

Upon opening the bag, a spicy not unpleasant aroma hit my nose. Their appearance, other than typical thin regular Lay's potato chips, was that of a simple barbecue chip, perhaps with slightly darker seasoning than usual.

The first chip was good, so was the second, tasting like a spicier than usual BBQ chip... then the afterburn hit. It is a serious heat but it only lasts a few seconds. I was surprised. That was it? Not that I want my mouth burned out, mind you, but I was expecting a bit more fiery punch, you know? These are really not bad at all.

Tomorrow: Chicken & Waffles Potato Chips. And don't forget to vote for Cheesy Garlic Bread Potato Chips, and let me know where you found them!

Monday, March 11, 2013

French Fry Diary 470: Mike's Steaks, Comcast Center

Recently The Bride forgot her phone when she went to work, so being the thoughtful and loving husband I am, I took the trek into the city to give it to her. I couldn't let her go for a whole day without Words with Friends, Draw Something or Pharoah Slots, could I? The Bride works near the Comcast Center, the building that looks like a giant flashdrive in the middle of Philadelphia, so as thanks, she took me to lunch at its food court below the lobby.

I have been on a cheesesteak kick recently so I knew what I wanted, and made a beeline for Mike's Steaks. Despite being smack dab in the middle of a food court, this is a real authentic Philly cheesesteak place. The tons of red neon I could have done without but they had a friendly staff, quick service, good system of ordering and pick-up - and of course great cheesesteaks.

I'm an idiot however. After years and years of ordering my hot sandwiches plain, I got flummoxed ordering. I asked for a plain steak, with onions, and Cheez Whiz. The guy just stared at me, waited a moment, leaned in, and smiled, "That's a cheesesteak, champ." Love it. Every station - order, pay, rolls, steaks, fries - all worked like an efficient machine.

The cheesesteak, as I said, was great. But hey, you know I got fries too, right? The French fries at Mike's were deep-fried crinkle cuts, crisp tasty, and not at all greasy. What a treat, and terrific with the sandwich. I had a great lunch experience, and also got to spend some time with The Bride during the day. If you're ever at Comcast Center in Philly, check out Mike's Steaks.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Gibble's No More

Another potato chip company bites the dust, joining the ranks of Wonder Bread and Yodels on the list of foods we wish were still around. Here's the official story.

So, "the president of Martin's is married to the daughter of Gibble's founders." That's going to make Thanksgiving and other family get togethers very very interesting.

Maybe I will be able to snag some Gibble's to review before they disappear completely. Thanks to my buddy Ray for verifying what I think we all have been suspecting for a month or more. Thanks, Martin's Famous, now we know what you're famous for.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

RIP Stompin' Tom Connors

Here's another one from Stompin' Tom Connors:

Once again, from friend Robin Renee at the French Fry Diary Facebook page.

Tom passed away last night. Hockey fan, potato friend, and one hell of a musician, Rest in Peace, Tom.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #91

...Um, do you want fries with that?

Special thanks to my friend Maureen Soar for bringing this one to my attention on the Facebook.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

French Fry Diary 469: Redstone American Grill

The Redstone American Grill is right in town. It's really a wonder why it's taken me so long to review this place. They've been here a long time. The Bride's family used to come here all the time, and the flatbreads were the specialty and the reason to come. For some reason, once I started actively reviewing places for French Fry Diary, we stopped going mysteriously. I don't now why.

I recently came with my friend Dave for lunch. I got my regular, a plain burger. The burger was gigantic and near perfect. I'm hungry again now, just thinking about it. I also got fries of course. They were different from the last time I was here a few years back. They still had the same natural cut shoestrings, but this time they were in a tin box. The fries were very crispy, deep-fried, and in a good portion size, packed into that tin box pretty well.

It's a box, but not quite a box, more of a frame really. It makes it hard to get to the last of the fries, despite the wax paper they are wrapped in. You will eventually have to dump the whole thing onto your plate anyway. It does however keep the fries separate from the other food notably, preventing what I have started to call pickle fries - fries drenched in pickle juice. So the tin frame serves a good purpose. The fries are pretty much the same as previous visits, only the presentation has changed.

Dave got a pulled pork sandwich that came with thin grizzled onions that he seemed pretty happy with. That said, I wished I had known I could have gotten grizzled onions as well. Maybe next time. All in all Redstone is recommended. A good lunch with a good friend.

Monday, March 04, 2013

French Fry Diary 468: And So It's Come to This...

In the last couple months, The Bride got me a bag of rare potato chips from Anchor Food Finds, my big sister Bobbie found some holiday themed flavors of Pringles, my friend Marni bought me some snacks from Amish Farmers Markets, and I myself have been trying to obtain the three Save Your Fave potato chip flavors from Lay's. That's a lot of odd chips.

The Bride called tonight on her way home, and said she was stopping at Wawa. Did I want anything?

I told her I wanted potato chips, just a regular bag of regular potato chips. We both had a pretty good long laugh.

And so, it's come to this... I've got potato chip fatigue…

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #90

Here's another addition of Somebody Else's Fries with my buddy Terry. This was his homemade birthday dinner. No fries, but holy crap, look at the size of that baked potato. And there's bacon in there too! It must have been a special birthday. Happy Belated, man!

Friday, March 01, 2013

French Fry Diary 467: The Mystery of Trisha Yearwood's Home-Style French Fries

It seems like everyone is getting a show on Food Network or the Cooking Channel except me. Here's something from "Trisha's Southern Kitchen." That's right, that Trisha Yearwood. Shouldn't she be singing while somebody else cooks for her?

Nevertheless a recent episode, "Family Fish Fry," supposedly featured her Home-Style French fries as a must-have side dish. Apparently though, it wasn't all that must-have for the Food Network because they included everything in the episode online except the fries.

Trisha makes a cobbler, cole slaw, hush puppies, catfish, gabs with family, plays horseshoes, has a sing-along, and yes, even makes French fries. Or does she?

Home-Style French Fries are listed in the Food Network description for the episode here. It's even in the Comcast description, which is why I DVRed the show in the first place.

Where did the French fries go?

Man, if Food Network gave me my own show, I would always know where my fries were.