Friday, May 31, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #104

This one comes to my attention from the Facebook via my friend and great writer Becca Butcher. It was posted by another amazing writer, John Everson, and yeah baby, it is jalapeno poutine. It's French fries, with gravy, cheese curds, and roasted jalapenos.

Who would do that to fries? Those wacky Canadians, of course. The pic comes from the Design District Urban Tavern in Calgary. Wow.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

French Fry Diary 497: Herr's Bacon Cheddar Cheese Curls

I was very conflicted over writing about this one. Herr's Bacon Cheddar flavored Cheese Curls. I saw them and bought them immediately, I had to try them. The question was, having zero potato content, did it really fit the website?

Granted, I have made allowances for onion rings, the adoptive stepbrother of French fries in the world of fast food, and through that onion snacks, so these are that out of the realm. Cheddar and bacon go great with potato products, and heck, Herr's makes darn good potato chips... so, why not?

Herr's makes pretty good cheese curls to begin with, and these are extra cheesy, but they also have a smokey bacon-ish flavor. No real bacon however. And the taste is closer to what you get with the various kinds of bacon salt, than actual bacon. That said, these are pretty good, and I would get them again.

Real French fries tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

French Fry Diary 496: Pringles Memphis BBQ

Okay, show of hands, who thinks, like me, that Pringles comes out with a new potato chip flavor every week just to see if we notice?

I just got through the arduous task of trying some of their 'interesting' holiday flavors - Cinnamon & Sugar, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and White Chocolate Peppermint, and now I find this... the far more enticing Memphis BBQ flavor.

When it comes to potato snacks (as opposed to, say, ribs or brisket), Memphis BBQ indicates a much hotter heat than most BBQ flavors. As I opened the tennis ball can, I hoped they weren't that hot.

They smelled really good. These potato crisps have a pleasant barbecue taste with just enough bite and heat without being overbearing. I liked these a lot. Recommended.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

French Fry Diary 495: AMC Marlton 8

Over on my pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell, I've talked about the new AMC Marlton 8 movie theater and the cool revamp they've done. Besides the wonderful new seating, the food is different too. Much like the hated AMC Loews in Cherry Hill, they have added French fries to their menu.

Along with chicken tenders, hot dogs, mozzarella sticks, pizza and chicken sliders, they now have curly fries. Notably they also have self-serve Icee machines, and two amazing Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, as well as the usual theater fare like popcorn and candy, plus some frozen treats too.

Very similar, as I said, to Loews, these are very crunchy (as in overdone for the most part) natural cut curly fries. The expensive for its size order we got seemed to be more pieces, scraps, and leftovers rather than a new order with big curls and spirals. Unlike Loews, they were hot at least. I was impressed with the big Autofry machine just feet from the counter so you can watch the magic - although honestly there's not much to see.

All in all, not bad but not good either. This may have been a bad night. Everything else about this theater screams quality and customer service, so I'm willing to think this may have been a fluke. That said, Autofry-ed curly fries can only be so good.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Anthony Bourdain's Favorite Fries

Ever wonder what a first class chef and world traveler like Anthony Bourdain considers really good French fries?

Here's a link to the recipe, by Chef Carlos Llaguno of Brasserie Les Halles, for Anthony Bourdain favorite fries. Check it out here.

Brasserie Les Halles, with two locations in New York City, is world renowned for their French fries. I guess I'll have to save up and get there someday...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

French Fry Diary 494: Starbucks Potato Chips

When I first started writing this blog there were certain things I expected, and certain things I did not expect. One such thing I would never expect is to be reviewing potato chips from Starbucks. A coffee chain making potato chips? Sounds absurd, doesn't it? But it's true.

Folks who regularly read this blog know I'm not a coffee drinker, yet I do visit Starbucks quite often. It's a writer's conceit. Starbucks is the stereotypical place where writers write, where they meet, and, for some, where they go to be seen writing. Yeah, we writers are a sick breed.

Anyway, when I saw these new potato chips at the Starbucks where I attend a weekly writers group, I couldn't help but pick up a bag - especially when I saw they were my favorite chip flavor. Barbecue, specifically Smoky Sweet Barbecue, in a kettle variety.

Here's the thing though. Starbucks doesn't seem to want to acknowledge, at least online, that they would ever do such a thing as make or sell potato chips. There's no record of them online, or at least on their website. A lot of other folks, who are not Starbucks, are talking about and taking pictures of them however. Apparently the branding was/is known as Darling Spuds in the UK, and they come in quite a few varieties. However that name is nowhere to be found on my bag.

When I opened the bag, they had a good aroma. Unlike a lot of kettle chips I have tried recently, these chips were pretty big, and twisted well for dipping. The touch of sweet compliments the heavier smoky barbecue seasoning. Not bad. Starbucks should confess, they're nothing to be ashamed of.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

French Fry Diary 493: Cool Dog Cafe Onion Rings

After seeing onion rings and crisps featured as part of various special hot dogs and sliders at Cool Dog Café, I was pleased to see on my most recent visit to my favorite dog place, that the onion rings had officially been added to the ever-growing and changing menu. What a pleasant surprise.

We of course ordered them to see if they were as good as the other excellent fries products Cool Dog has. So along with the always-delicious hot dogs, and an order of fresh cut fries to split between The Bride, her mom, and myself, we also got an order of the onion rings.

Like everything Ira and Shawn do at the Cool Dog Cafe, they take the everyday, in this case beer battered onion rings, and they turn it into something special. These big thin golden brown rings are a great complement to any entree at Cool Dog (like the Texas Ranger, the Carolina Crusader, the Homewrecker, or make your own dog), sweet and crispy, and unlike most onion rings, not greasy at all.

Highly recommended. My only complaint? That we didn't get more. Get over to Cool Dog and try the onion rings, that's an order. And don't forget to follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook so you can see what new specials they have.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

French Fry Diary 492: Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

Flashing back to a few months ago when my friend Ken came into town for a few days, here is yet another Ken entry. As I've mentioned before, not many of my friends are non-health-conscious enough to go on FFD excursions with me, so these trips are usually rare or done solo. Ken, while on vacation, is unofficially also off diet, but don't tell his wife that, wink wink.

We had one lazy day where we both slept in and then worked for most of the afternoon, he telecommuting and me writing at my desk. Around three Ken decided he wanted breakfast. Breakfast at three in the afternoon. If that's not a screaming definition of 'on vacation,' I don't know what is. We went off in search of breakfast.

I had an errand to run up in the Moorestown area so we were in the neighborhood and decided on Perkins. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery is IHoP's biggest competitor in the we-do-mostly-breakfast-but-we-really-want-to-be-Fridays-or-Applebees business, and I had never been there before, so it seemed like a worthwhile place to go. I knew they had to have potato products of some kind.

We were served very quickly, mostly because it didn't really appear to be anyone else in the restaurant. It should be noted that the service was also very courteous and friendly, as well as very welcome and refreshing compared to how Ken and I had been treated earlier in his trip.

Everything on the menu looks good, everything. It looks delicious, water watering, and stomach growlingly tasty. But it's like a rearview mirror, some things look a bit different than they really are. The onion rings for instance, are very different from the only onion ring-like item on the menu. What I wanted was the crunchy little Onion Tanglers they put on their burgers. What I got was big old greasy beer battered onion rings, I was not happy.

I did not try the fries, which were regular natural cuts. They also had standard shredded hash browns, but I opted for the breakfast potatoes instead, another decision based on the pictures in the menu. They looked glistening and hot, but what I got was big chunks of potato with a very crunchy outer skin, almost like batter fries. They came in a large portion, most of which I took home. For the record they also have standard shredded hash browns as a breakfast option.

Lesson learned, know the menu, and know the difference between the picture in the menu and what really comes to the table. Also, either bring a big appetite, or a big doggy bag, because the portions are huge. We'll be back again, maybe this time more prepared.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Baked Tempura Potato Slices

This one comes from the Facebook, from my friend and fellow writer Jerry Whitworth. These are Baked Tempura Potato Slices.

Here's the goods, from Jerry himself, "Peel and slice some potatoes. Mix flour and water to make a batter. Spray some nonfat cooking spray onto a baking sheet (oven pre-heated to 450°). Dip the slices into the batter to a light coating and lay out the slices on the sheet like you would with cookies. Bake for twenty minutes. Easy peesy. Serve with soy sauce for dipping."

Mmmm... I can't wait to try these myself…

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

French Fry Diary 491: T.G.I. Fridays Onion Rings Snacks

I am always leery of onion flavored snacks. They are usually pretty bad and unflavorful. The good ones, like the ones from 7-Eleven, are few and far beyond.

These T.G.I. Fridays Onion Rings Snacks are pretty average, and had a few things going against them from the start. I found them at Dollar Tree. No offense to Dollar Tree, but let's face it, food from dollar stores is, by reputation, shady and suspect. Yes, I checked the expiration date. They were very hard to open, as if they were from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's - maybe that's why they were at Dollar Tree, faulty packaging.

The snacks themselves thick half-dollar sized crunchy facsimiles of onion rings. If you squint your eyes you can imagine they're little donuts. They don't taste like them though. They are pretty good with just a hint of onion flavoring. Compared to most onion snacks, these actually do have onion in them.

And surprisingly, as a Fridays product, these actually aren't too bad for you. The serving size to calories ratio is pretty good, and there's no sugar, cholesterol, or transfats. I liked these, not bad for a dollar store find.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

French Fry Diary 490: The Chips of West Virginia

Usually it's my friend Marni who finds the odd and out of the way potato chips for me to write about on this blog. This time, she put her boyfriend/partner/common law husband, Bob, to work for me. He was hiking in West Virginia and picked up two different bags of WV-based barbecue flavored potato chips. Surprisingly both of these regional brands I had tried before, but not these flavors.

First up were the Smokehouse BBQ potato chips from Miss Vickie's. Believe it or not, I had encountered this brand before, pretty far from West Virginia at the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney, Orlando FL. Granted, it was a different kind of barbecue potato chip at the time, but still.

The Smokehouse chips are kettle cooked and claim to be all natural. They have the weird funky shapes that mark kettle cooking yet are quite small. While built for dipping, they might indeed be too small to do so.

And although the smokey flavor is hyped on the back of the bag, the sweetness of the seasoning is overpoweringly delightful from the brown sugar and molasses in the ingredients. These chips rock, I liked them quite a lot.

Next up were the barbeque potato chips from WV's Mister Bee. A bag of the sour cream & onion were included in the Anchor O'Reilly's Food Finds bag o' rare chips that The Bride got me for Christmas. They were not my cup of tea. I hope these might be more to my liking...

But alas, that hope would be for naught. These chips, just like the other Mister Bee's, are overseasoned and grainy, and the barbeque flavor is unpleasant and overpowering. I coukd only eat a couple of them. They had so much seasoning, at least a handful of the dusting was at the bottom of the bag. These did not make me happy.

Happily I don't think they cost Bob much, or at I hope they didn't. Either way, thanks, Marni and Bob!

Friday, May 03, 2013

French Fry Diary 489: The Onion Chips

There were some similar potato chips in the bag o' rare chips The Bride got me for Christmas from Anchor Food Finds. In this case, there were three bags of much the same theme - onions.

Deep River Sweet Maui Onion - this would be my second bag of Deep River chips from the bag o' rare chips. These were really not as good as the first bag. No great aroma, no great flavor. All in all, a disappointment.

Grippo's Sweet Bermuda Onion - this was by far the biggest bag of chips in the whole bag o' chips at three and a half ounces. It also had the tightest expiration date, so I probably should have opened it first. No worries, they were still good. However as a regular "Hoarders" viewer, I do feel the need to point out that expiration dates are NOT just a guideline.

Grippo's is a company that's been around for almost a century. They started off making cones for ice cream, moved on to pretzels, then chips, and now make a lot of stuff, including dips, seasonings, and even BBQ sauce. They have an intriguing variety of chip flavors including Hot Dill Pickle and Cheddar Cheese with Jalapeño.

The chips themselves are heavily seasoned, and not flatteringly so. The chips look like you might have to shake it off, there's so much. This is not a happy onion flavor but it's there, and lingers for a while. And saddest of all, it kinda masks the potato flavor of the chip as well. Another disappointment as I really was looking forward to trying these.

Mister Bee Sour Cream & Onion - Mister Bee is a regional family run company recently purchased by the West Virginia Potato Chip Company. Careful inspection of this blog will reveal a complete lack of reviews or even mentions of the popular potato chip flavor sour cream and onion. Easy answer: I don't like them.

That's why I wanted to hand this bag off to The Bride, not in an ungrateful way, but because she likes that flavor. However, The Bride not being around at the moment of writing this entry, I bit the bullet, er, um, chip.

There was a good(?) aroma of sour cream and onion when I opened the bag. The chips however had the same grainy and overseasoned texture as the other Mister Bee's chips I have encountered. Ick. Not a good flavor, and not a good chip either, in my opinion.

Sadly, this was not a good batch of chips this time.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

French Fry Diary 488: NJ DIS Meet Weekend

This past weekend The Bride and I attended the NJ DIS Meet Weekend. More details on that can be found here, but for the purposes of this blog, we're going to concentrate on the favorite fried food.

On Saturday, the events came with a lunch. The meal consisted of Caesar salad, bread, steamed mixed vegetables, baked ziti, something that might or might not have been chicken francese, and roasted red potatoes. Come on, you knew I'd get there somehow.

The potatoes were pretty good for catered hot plate potatoes. Nowhere near as good as the crunchy sizzling ones I had the night before at Applebee's. but that's beside the point, and I'll get to them in a later entry. I did notice that the kids meals with chicken tenders had crinkle cuts French fries. That's just ageism at its worst.

The conversation quickly turned toward regional differences. It started with a discussion of Tastykake, as the winner of the Krimpet eating contest was at our table. The non-Philly folks had surprisingly never heard of them.

Talk moved on to the wonders of Wawa, another local phenomenon, and then amazingly how some had never heard of Herr's potato chips. I was stunned. Herr's is the number one chip around, most space on the shelves, etc. I had forgotten how truly regional they were. They did know Utz however. Interesting.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

French Fry Diary 487: Arby's House Made Chips

As part of their promotion for their King's Hawaiian roast beef sandwich, along with their Triple Berry Shake, Arby's has also introduced House Made Chips. The ads claim they are made fresh daily with Arby's sauce seasoning.

A new fried potato product at Arby's? Guess where I'm going for lunch. When I first got to the restaurant, the counterperson was helping a handicapped lady to her seat, and getting her food and drink for her. What FourSquare says about the West Berlin Arby's having "the nicest fast food staff ever" is right on target. Serious props to Sabrina who took my order and the lady's before me.

For only $1.79, these kettle style potato chips come in a very large portion, and in a wax paper bag like old fashioned chips back in the day, nice touch. As far as 'made fresh daily,' I suspect they're made in batches early in the day and kept under heat lamps. That's not a bad thing though, chips don't have to be fryer hot. Although if that's what you like, plan an early lunch.

At first glance it appeared a few of them were burnt, but that's not the case at all. These have just the right texture for homemade chips, crispy yet meaty at once, like well done fried potatoes. The Arby's sauce seasoning they are tossed in provides a delicious and unique, not quite barbeque flavor. Good stuff.

These are so good, I had almost eaten the whole order without even thinking about it. Truly the mark of a good potato chip - you can't eat just one. Thumbs up. Way to go, Arby's.

Thanks to my friend Bryan who hipped me to these new chips via the Facebook, and to Sabrina who has changed my mind about how I feel about Arby's.