Thursday, March 27, 2014

French Fry Diary 570: Herr's Baked Ripple Cut Potato Crisps

I like Herr's products a lot, but I don't think I've actually tried any of their baked chips. Oh, excuse me, crisps. It's notable that the words are very precise. Made from dried potatoes, vaguely hexagonal in shape, and baked, these are potato crisps, much like Pringles or Munchos.

And they have that same taste as well. Not to say that these crisps couldn't be better with some seasoning, barbecue maybe, but that's not really the selling points on these. Dipping, baby. The ripple cut makes these crisps perfect for dipping.

Of course that perfection only lasts as long as you have big full chips. The small pieces at the bottom of the bag are useless. This is a good dipping chip, not snacking chip. For the health folks, this is a good choice - no saturated fat, no transfats, no cholesterol, and gluten-free. Good stuff for the dippers and the health folks, and a good chip.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

French Fry Diary 569: Weber's Famous Drive-In

Weber's Famous Drive-In is an old fashioned drive-in restaurant chain, much like A&W, or Mel's in American Graffiti or Arnold's in "Happy Days." This particular Weber's is probably the most famous in our area, it's the one on Route 38 in Pennsauken NJ.

Why is it famous? Because it's got Mark the Shark out front by the highway entrance with a microphone and full costume. I think overweight Elvis Presley impersonator Mark McMichael has been there for years, waving to cars, holding a mike to his face, and singing (or pretending to sing). It might be a real mike, or it might be a Mr. Microphone, but he was quiet the day we were there, but still doing his thing by the road.

The Bride and I remember Mark the Shark from karaoke at the Diamond Diner back in the 1990s. He was famous then as now for his trademark Pete Townsend-like windmills. The Diamond at the Cherry Hill Racetrack Circle is long gone, now replaced by a Walgreens, and the Circle now an intersection. Mark the Shark keeps on rocking. His appearance at Weber's is a sign that the season is open, and summer is here. Mark continues to entertain at Weber's all day Sundays while the drive-in is open.

One particular good memory I have of this Weber's is getting out of the hospital at the beginning of summer, after being bed bound and tortured by bad hospital television for weeks. The TV was punctuated by commercials for Weber's, which had just opened for the season. On the way home from the hospital, The Bride, my good buddy Q and I stopped there for dinner. I was so glad to have real food, as opposed to hospital food… and especially a thick chocolate shake. Even Elvis was there that day too. Good times.

The day of this visit, Mark was rocking, and we pulled in a turned on our lights, the signal to place our order. Our waitress skated out to take it, and when it arrived, the tray was balanced on the car window - told ya it was old school, but it was/is cool. There were a lot of folks coming in for just take out - something to consider for next time. The Bride got a pizza burger, I got a hot dog, we each got fries and a drink. Orange melted cheese for her fries, and another big frosty mug of chocolate shake for me. Warning ahead of time, this is a cash only business, don't come with just cards.

The French fries were deep-fried shoestrings. They were not great, but not all that greasy either, as one might expect. Actually once you start eating them, they become quite addictive, kinda like that old potato chip adage - you have just one. And they are great for dipping in the shake as well. These fries are not a bad deal at all, a good bargain for two and a half bucks.

Monday, March 24, 2014

French Fry Diary 568: Steak 38

My friend and GAR! Podcast partner Ray and I had been talking about going to Steak 38 for quite some time but somehow plans have never worked out. If you know Ray, you know why. His work and play schedule is a maze of madness that would make even minotaurs crumble from the pressure. Anyway, with a coupon that expired that night, Ray finally made time to go to Steak 38. Yeah, coupon. Priorities, baby.

The coupon was a godsend as Steak 38 is a classy restaurant, classy equaling expensive. Classy as in I might get The Look when I ask The Question. You know what The Question is, right? "Do you have French fries?" Well, they'd better, even though they're not on the online menu. After all, they are a steakhouse, classy or not.

I was worried when I realized I had to make reservations earlier in the day just to go to this place. Burger King it was not. Steak 38 is run by two life long friends who met while waiter-ing at Chubby's in Collingswood and whose fathers worked together at the legendary Latin Casino. These two know restaurants, and are very serious when it comes to Steak 38.

However, classy aside, it is near a reputed bad area. Once inside the restaurant however you would never know. Inside is very, very nice, and the service was professional and attentive. Like on the Disney Cruise, we had two people waiting on us, and serving our every need.

Our orders were brought to us on a cart. I got the chopped sirloin, which was huge and covered with onions. It was perfectly cooked. Perfect. It came with lightly frizzled onions, very tasty, and a twice-baked potato. They were both very good. I would have liked more frizzled onions and less of the sautéed kind, but still both were terrific.

No one blinked or flinched when I asked for French fries, test passed, no Look after The Question. The fries came as a side and were regular natural cuts. A little bigger than regular regular cuts, they were very good while hot, and still good while warm. All in all this was a great meal for potato products and side orders.

The crowning achievement for the meal was dessert, which Ray insisted on, and I'm glad he did. He ordered the Bananas Foster for two, which made it kinda seem like a date. And I think the folks at Steak 38 already assumed we were a couple. He ain't The Bride, but Ray's still a good date, heh. The cool part is that our waitress made the dessert at our table. Awesomeness. Food on fire is always a plus, and it was delicious.

All things considered, this was a pleasant dinner well worth the price. I would definitely come to Steak 38 again, highly recommended.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Random Tater Pic of the Day #139

They've had this for a couple seasons now, but Chickie & Pete's has their fingers on the pulse of technology for the favorite fried food. Here's their amazing cup holder for their terrific white cheese that goes so well with their amazing Crab Fries.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grindhouse Killer Burgers

Back in September, one of my favorite bloggers and writers, Liz Henry, a recent transplant from Philly to Atlanta, visited Grindhouse Killer Burgers and got these crinkle cut fries.

Liz says: "They have just a hint of Old Bay and, by far, the best fries we've had since we got here. Unlike Philly, not everywhere offers fries. Pizza places are, generally, pizza only and maybe salads. It's kinda killing me. Heh. The burger is the 'Yankee.'"

Wow. Who's up for an Atlanta roadtrip?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Random Tater Pic of the Day #138

"Glee" just celebrated its one hundredth episode last night, so today's random pic is from earlier this season when characters were texting each other about the virtues of the favorite fried food...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

French Fry Diary 567: North Fork Potato Chips

These chips came once again from Marni's significant other, Bob. From Martin Sidor Farms in Long Island Farms, come these kettle cooked potato chips. The bag brags that they're made from Long Island potatoes. Now I'm far from an expert, but I have never heard Long Island being a big potato chip, or even potato, place. There is also a big deal made of them being cooked with NuSun sunflower oil. Live and learn, I suppose.

Speaking of the bag, it was near impossible to open. I eventually resorted to a pair of scissors. This made chip bags at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's seem like child's play. Once I had it open, I was not thrilled with what I saw.

Not only wasn't the aroma all that great, but the chips looked overdone and slightly burnt for the most part. They were kinda thin for kettle cooked chips, and didn't taste very good either. I was reminded of the stale chips at the bottom of a week old bag of Wise regular. Not very good at all.

Thank you, Bob, keep 'em coming, but these were duds. I'm starting to distrust foil bags that aren't Herr's, and I'm really going to be wary of Long Island potatoes now.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Random Tater Pics of the Day #136 and #137

These Somebody Else's Fries are from friend, co-pilot, and wingman Q when he last visited Lobster Shanty in Selbyville, Delaware.

According to Q, a cheeseburger and fries are literally all he can order at a seafood restaurant. And I thought I was a picky eater! Thanks, Quentin!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Random Tater Pic of the Day #135

From today's T.G.I. Fridays lunch with the brother-in-law, the Jack Daniels burger with a side of fries, natural cuts, with salt and pepper, in a clever paper sleeve. Points for presentation, the fries were okay, and the burger was awesome. Thanks for lunch, Bruce!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Fat Tomato Grill

Today's "Somebody Else's Fries" comes from my big sister Bobbie. This past week she and her husband Bruce visited the Fat Tomato Grill in Berlin NJ. Here were her thoughts:

Everything is made to order. The shoestring natural cut fries were crisp, hot and they had a smoky flavor that reminded us of the potato chips we had as kids. (Wise). The fries come tossed with balsamic vinegar but I ordered them dry. They were perfect. 

The burger was also very good. The restaurant is located on a strip mall but you would never know that from the cozy welcoming interior. Looking forward to a second trip.

I guess I'll have to give this place a try.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

French Fry Diary 566: Church's Chicken

Church's Chicken is the fourth largest chicken fast food chain after KFC, Chick-fil-A, and former partner Popeyes. They are currently often co-franchised with White Castle, which is what their fries most resemble. Most folks only know two things about Church's, and neither is very nice. One, that they are mostly located in lower class minority areas - not true, and two, that the Ku Klux Klan owns them and they are slowly poisoning minorities - also not true, Snopes even says so.

The Church's I visited was quite small, had a tiny eating area, and so I went through the drive-thru. There seemed to be much contention over my order, as if they didn't hear it, record it, or cook it. With only two customers inside eating, two employees working the store, and no one in the drive-thru but me, I had a good fifteen to twenty minute wait for just fries and a soda.

I ordered the large fry, not realizing how big large actually was. The large fry order is a whole box of them, making the previously thought $2.79 price actually a pretty fair bargain. The French fries themselves, as I said above, are much the same as at White Castle. These are standard crinkle cuts, deep fried, and quite probably had spent some time under a heat lamp for a while. The fries were a bit too crispy/crunchy for my tastes, but that might be because of their time in heat lamp prison. Because of that, reheating them at home later was just not possible either in the oven or microwave.

Also notable is the side menu at Church's that includes fried okra and mashed potatoes. Maybe next time. As I wrote this review in the car (because I went through the drive-thru), I have to mention that Church's mobile phone website is nigh impossible to navigate. Many details had to be filled in at home later. Someone needs to call IT.

This was not a great visit, perhaps a second chance is in order, but not for a while.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

French Fry Diary 565: BOPS

BOPS. It stands for Baked Organic Potato Snacks. Clever, huh? Well, it's catchy at least. They're made by Good Boy Organics, and much like Pringles, they make the distinction of calling the product crisps rather than chips. They are available in Sea Salt, BBQ, Sour Cream & Onion, and Aged Cheddar. Folks who know me know which flavor I picked up.

The BBQ BOPS are organic, gluten free, natural, all that good stuff, including having '65% less fat than regular potato chips.' That last bit of vaguery bugs me. As an ingredient reader, I know how tricky such claims can be. Sometimes 'regular potato chips' are healthier than the lite or low salt versions of the same brand! Nothing against BOPS, but that claim makes me suspect. Which 'regular potato chips' are they referencing?

The BOPS are universally formed and shaped much like the aforementioned Pringles but thicker with a ripple cut. Excellent for dipping, their flavor is on the smoky side of barbecue, with the hot/cold factor making them perfect to go with ice cream. I would definitely get these again, good stuff.

Monday, March 10, 2014

French Fry Diary 564: 365 Organic Sea Salt Potato Chips

Another last minute impulse buy from Whole Foods, 365 is their store brand snack size potato chips, and comes in a number of varieties, in this case Organic Sea Salt.

The ingredients indicate organic potatoes, sea salt, and a few possibilities of what oil used. According to the bag, these chips are vegan, USDA organic, transfat free, sugar free, but not a low calorie food. Just saying.

These are good solid flat chips, not greasy at all, just could use a little bit more seasoning is all. Maybe I'll try the Sea Salt and Black Pepper flavor next time. Despite it being "not a low calorie food," I think this would be a reasonable choice for looking for a healthier chip, good stuff.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Thursday, March 06, 2014

French Fry Diary 563: Roller Coaster Potato Rings

Another selection from the Christmas gift of chips I got from friends and frequent FFD contributors Dom and Cindy, these Jack 'n Jill Roller Coaster Potato Rings are a 'cheddar cheese flavored potato snack.' I've had Jack 'n Jill chips before, not bad, but never like this.

Looking at the bag, the first thing that struck me was more than a little disturbing. There was a sticky label over the ingredients. One has to wonder. Was there a typo? Did they try to slip something by and got caught? I guess I'll never know.

The rings themselves are flat half-inch bands in complete circles, a little smaller than a dime in diameter. The potato part comes in the Munchos and Pringles realm as they're made from potato starch and dehydrated potatoes. I have to be honest, when I opened the bag, the smell was not pleasant.

I made The Bride try one first, not because I dislike her, but because she's big on cheese, especially cheddar. She put one in her mouth, made a decidedly unhappy face, and said simply, "No." Uh oh. I tried one. They have a taste like a thick potato chip that's gone stale, and then with a weak cheddar aftertaste.

These are not good. At least they didn't taste as bad as they smelled, but still they didn't smell good either. Thanks, Dom and Cindy, but not recommended.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

French Fry Diary 562: Rustler Steakhouse

From 1968 to about 1985, Gino's had an upscale restaurant partner called the Rustler Steakhouse. It's a thing of the past now, but where they had a Gino's, somewhere pretty close by there'd be a Rustler Steakhouse. That was the case in the 1970s during my childhood, the local Gino's by the Lindenwold Speedline had a Rustler about a hundred feet away.

I remember going, twice. I confess, I didn't really grow up in a normal family. We hardly ever went out to eat, ever. When I was eight or nine, I spent a few weeks of the summer with my cousins, and got a taste of a semi-non-dysfunctional home. One night they went out to dinner at the Rustler Steakhouse, and they took me with.

Rustler was very similar to other steakhouse restaurants of the day like Bonanza, Sizzler, Ponderosa, and even the fondly remembered York. Classier than a fast food place, it was run cafeteria style, you ordered your entree then picked up your side items and then your steak was brought out to your table.

I don't recall what kind of fries they had, but I know they had killer baked potatoes. I especially remember the chocolate pudding for dessert. Anyway, once I was home, I must have raved about the Rustler Steakhouse so much that my parents took me. I remember my dad hating it so much we never went back.

When Marriott bought Gino's in the 1980s, they didn't do the same for Rustler, and they slowly faded away. Anyone else out there remember the Rustler?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

French Fry Diary 561: Kettle Brand Maple Bacon Potato Chips

Kettle Brand has a handful of unique flavors, and even some wacky ones (Nut Butters, anyone?), but when I saw these on the shelf at Whole Foods, I just had to try them. Maple Bacon? Sign me up.

And despite the decadent flavor of these chips, as always Kettle Brand potato chips have no MSG, no preservatives, no transfats, no GMO, are all natural and gluten free. Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the bacony goodness.

When I first opened the bag (with a scissors, they are from Whole Foods after all), the aroma that I got was close to Kettle Brand's own Backyard Barbeque flavor. I was kinda expecting something similar to Lay's Chicken and Waffles from last year's Do Us a Flavor contest, but it wasn't there.

Like all Kettle Brand chips these kettle cooked potato chips are twisty and perfect for dipping. The taste is decidedly very smoky, but not much bacon or maple flavor to it. If anything, it's more of a weak barbecue flavor if anything. The Bride agreed when she snagged one expecting bacon.

Don't get me wrong. These are really good potato chips. The you-can't-just-eat-one chip psychosis was in full effect as I ate more than a few. These are darned good, not really Maple Bacon, but darned good. Recommended.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Random Tater Pic of the Day #133

This one completely perplexed me. Nathan's was the only counter in the entire food court that had a tip cup. Yes, a tip cup. I couldn't figure out for the life of me what they were doing at Nathan's that was different from anyone else in the food court, let alone any other counter service restaurant of this type. And they certainly weren't very friendly or helpful either - so why tip them?