Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #126

These are 'Potato Bakers' that I picked up at the Dollar General, for, wait for it, a dollar. These little microwave safe plastic plates are just to put your potato on while you bake it in the microwave. They can do double duty as the serving dish for said potato just as easily. Handy and cheap.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

French Fry Diary 549: Tayto Smoky Bacon Crisps

Here's one that comes not from my usual exotic chip getting source, Marni, but from her significant other, Bob. Tayto is a snack company from across the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Ireland, specifically a castle in the Ulster countryside. Check out their website, they have dozens of intriguing flavors.

The flavor I have today is Smoky Bacon. The smoky aroma jumped out as I opened the bag. The flavor of the crisps (their word for chips) was interesting. It made me immediately wonder if Irish bacon was different from American bacon.

The bacon flavor is very strong and overpowering, not that that is a bad thing. It makes you savor the flavor of each crisp, and makes you eat them slower, so as to enjoy them. These are a treasure. I would love to try some of Tayto's other varieties now. Thanks, Bob!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #125

These are Bavarian Fries. Officially called currywurst mit pommes, I got this pic from my old Vidcast partner Allison over on the Facebook. They come from a restaurant called Sebastian's Schnitzelhaus in Wrightstown NJ. I guess I'll have to get down there and try them out.

Friday, December 13, 2013

French Fry Diary 548: Return to Little Shanty Fries

This one is from a while ago, but still relevant as Little Shanty Fries always rocks. The Bride and I don't get to North Jersey as much as we'd like despite having friends up there. Our trip to the NJ DIS Weekend Meet offered up a little bit more time in the area than we usually have. And it's not just friends who are the draw, one of my absolute favorite restaurants is in Warren, New Jersey.

I loved Little Shanty Fries the first and only time I was there, on New Year's Eve 2012. I have to admit that before that visit I wasn't expecting much, but Jonathan Lidz' terrific little restaurant blew me away with some of the best food, and best fries around. I have been counting the days until I could return.

We arrived in Warren early and had lots of time to kill before they opened. The anticipation was killing me, taking a nap, browsing a flea market, perusing the Little Shanty menu online, and mostly, trying to forget the pretty lousy breakfast The Bride and I endured at the Time to Eat Diner earlier that morning.

Once again, like last time, when we arrived, there was no Jonathan. We keep missing each other. He's the wizard behind Little Shanty Fries, and we've chatted a few times back and forth on the Facebook, but I'd like to meet the guy in person to shake his hand and tell him how much I like his food. Maybe next time.

For our meal, I got the onion rings and French fries again, because really, who knows when we'll be in Warren again, and I loved them so much the first time. The gluten free onion rings were just as great this time, if not better honestly. They were crispier. I can't say enough how really good these rings are. The fries, natural cut shoestrings mixed with grilled (or deep-fried?) onions were just as good as the first trip, but it seemed like they had less onions this time, which took away a bit, in anticipation at least. Still it was a terrific meal.

The Bride tried the sliders, which she liked, and even though they may have confused the order a little bit, we were both very satisfied. And we both got the milkshakes, a welcome refreshing blast on an unseasonably hot Spring day. And now I'm back to counting the days until the next trip to North Jersey. Hey Jonathan, open one down here in the South Jersey area!

You can find Little Shanty at their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

French Fry Diary 547: Time to Eat Diner, Bridgewater NJ

This fairly famous diner was chosen as the last day breakfast site for the NJ DIS Weekend Meet. Time to Eat is a landmark in the North Jersey area, and it's a very Greek diner as everyone working there I encountered had thick accents. It was packed as per usual for a Sunday morning as most such diners are. I don't think either the DIS folks or the diner folks had any idea how many of us there would be. We arrived late, so the seating was dicey.

I got my diner usuals for breakfast, home fries and bacon. The home fries were shredded potatoes that seriously needed to be cooked a little bit more. I should have done what the bro-in-law sometimes does and ask them to just deep-fry them for extra-crispness. There were random onions, peppers, and maybe scallions mixed in, but far too few to be on purpose, maybe they just slipped in through sloppy cooking. These home fries also got cold very quickly, or maybe they were just cold to begin with.

This was a big order by the way. Again, there is something to be said about portion size at most diners. A side order is only a small order if it's actually a side to a meal, but a side order without an entrée will be huge. They will not skimp on the potatoes, and you will get a full-sized plateful of them. Don't try to test this with bacon however, you will be sorely disappointed.

While the food was not great, diners are about getting together with friends, not food for the most part. Or maybe that's just me waxing philosophical and making an excuse for the really crappy food. It is always nice to meet new folks, and make new friends. The company and the conversation were pretty good, most of it about, you guessed it, Disney.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

French Fry Diary 546: Red Robin Seasoned Steak Fries

I have a soft spot in my heart for Red Robin. It is, after all, the home of the Bottomless Steak Fries. So when I saw that they had frozen fries available to make at home, I quickly snagged a bag of these frozen fries. The bad news, of course, is that they are not bottomless.

With Arby's, Checkers, and Burger King all competing in the frozen fry game, why not Red Robin? They do make good fries. Their natural cut seasoned steak fries are awesome, and in the restaurant, always good for at least one refill, if not two. The package itself promises Red Robin's signature blend of seasoning salt, as well as quickie recipes for two different dipping sauces.

They are only directions for baking, so that's how I did them. I have to admit being a bit surprised at the high temp (425 degrees) and longer than usual time (30 minutes), but I always gotta follow the instructions for a first time cooking. And I also had a little concern over the amount of seasoning on the fries, it seemed like a lot. As they cooked, the whole kitchen was filled with the aroma.

To be sure, next time I will make adjustments to the time and temp. There were more than a few crispy critters, still edible, and mostly small pieces, but still more crispy than I like - and I like crispy. They were overcooked, but steak fries being thick and 'meaty,' it's hard to ruin them that way.

All that said, these were pretty good steak fries, but very spicy, spicier than I remember them being at the Red Robin restaurant. I would definitely get these again, adjust the directions, have a cold refreshing drink nearby, and enjoy... until I hit bottom, of course.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

French Fry Diary 545: 7-Eleven Hot Dog Potato Chips

Since I have known about them, I have been searching for Herr's Hot Dog Potato Chips, but after two summers I'm not sure I will ever find them (however if anyone has seen them in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area and wants to let me know where, I'm all ears).

That said, The Bride found these 7-Select Big Bite Hot Dog Flavored Potato Chips at the 7-Eleven near her office and picked them up for me. Big Bite, now there's a phrase that brings back memories. Having lived in a Wawa-centric area for the last couple decades, I had forgotten how important 7-Eleven was in my youth.

The Big Bite is the special name for the 7-Eleven hot dog, a late night snack on many a night back in the day. Big Bites could be good and fresh, or sometimes it could be a guessing game exactly how long said hot dog had been rolling under those heat lamps. That flavor however in a potato chip however is a whole 'nother thing.

I had to laugh at the picture on the bag, showing the chips next to a hot dog, declaring it a 'serving suggestion.' Nothing like a double shot of hot dogs, eh? Once the bag was opened, the aroma is interesting. Not surprisingly hot dog-like, but there is also a barbecue vibe going on here. No surprise there either as the ingredients show onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika.

The chips are thicker than usual ripple cuts. The Bride tried them first, saying they tasted just like a hot dog with mustard. That turned me off a bit as I'm not a mustard guy, but I tried them anyway. Yeah, she was right, she pretty much nailed it on taste, and in her assertion that I would not like them.

On the plus side, they are cholesterol free and have zero transfats. I can see the appeal of these, but honestly, they're just not my bag of chips. Heh, see what I did there?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Random Tater Pic of the Day #123

Here's this year's Hanukkah attempt to make homemade latkes for The Bride. It didn't hold together, making it basically just breakfast potatoes. Maybe next year...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

French Fry Diary 544: Donkey's Place, Medford

Rob from The Treehouse in Audubon NJ, where the South Jersey Writers' Group hold their Blogfests, open mikes, and other events, recommended this place to me, and it has become my favorite new place. I'm talking about Donkey's Place in Medford.

The original Donkey's is on Haddon Avenue in Camden, in unfortunately not the best of areas. Started by former Olympic boxer Leon Lucas, whose punches were said to have the force of a donkey's kick, thus the nickname. Second and third generations of the family have since opened a suburban Donkey's in Medford where we visited. Joe, the owner, treated The Bride and I like royalty, and he gave her a rose because that's what they do on Sundays. Notably, we did not get special treatment, everyone got the very best customer service while we were there.

Donkey's II is a cozy little place, in one of the major crossroads in the woods of Medford. Sunday football was on flat screen in the corner, our table had a console Donkey Kong machine next to it, and we loved the simple menu with only a handful of items. Joe noted that the Camden location had an even simpler menu. There was a fridge with Mexican Coke, Sprite, and Fanta.

Regular readers know I have a weakness for Mexican Coke which has sugar instead of fructose, and is like tasting the 1970s. Mexican Sprite is incredible. Drinking it for the first time since I discovered the imported sugar Coke, was like having a Sprite for the first time in decades. I don't know what that crap I've been drinking called Sprite is, but it ain't real Sprite. They also had Slush Puppies, sort of a Slurpee, that The Bride was excited about, a piece of her childhood from the old Cherry Hill skating rink.

The cheesesteaks themselves are incredible, and unlike any other cheesesteak I, or probably you, have ever had. Served on a large poppy seed Kaiser roll, real pieces and chunks of steak, onions and provolone, this is a fantastic and different steak sandwich. I loved it. Rather than chopped beef, this is sliced, and there are so many onions, and also a wonderful au jus that makes the sandwich perfect. Be sure to specify cheez whiz if you want it. I loved the provolone, but like The Bride, I'm a whiz guy. I really loved this sandwich, and as I couldn't finish it there, I took it home, and it nuked perfectly.

Now the part you're reading this for, the French fries. These are standard regular cut frozen fries, deep fried, with a crisp seasoned coating. That would be the 'secret' Donkey Seasoning, also available at the table as well, good stuff, I taste some Old Bay, maybe paprika, maybe other seasoned salts, but very tasty. Crisp outside and soft and hot inside - everything a good fry should have, very good.

I gotta give Rob at The Treehouse thanks for hipping me to this place, and Joe at Donkey's in Medford. I have found my new favorite cheesesteak place. Awesome, and recommended. Get over to Donkey's and try the cheesesteaks, terrific food, and terrific customer service.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013