Thursday, August 28, 2014

French Fry Diary 614: Walkers Ranch Raccoon

Over in the UK, Lay's Potato Chips are known as Walkers Crisps, and they have the Do Us A Flavor contest there too. Several folks, including a recent episode of The Nosh Show (it's also the episode where they try the US DUAF competitors), have brought one of those flavors to my attention.

It's called Ranch Raccoon. Yeah. Let that sink in for a moment all you who thought Cappuccino and Chicken & Waffles were a bit much. Ranch. Raccoon.

Here's how the fine folks at Walkers describe this flavor: "A delicious combination of gamey meat flavour, with accents of sour cream and a garlic kick. They compliment one another beautifully."

The flavor came from the mind of one Robert Gibson, who initially rejected ideas like 'Doughnut Burger,' and decided that if Cajun Squirrel (apparently a real flavor) worked, why not Ranch Raccoon? Wow. I have no words.

Ranch Raccoon is up against some pretty stiff competition in this year's Walkers Do Us A Flavor, including Pulled Pork in a Sticky BBQ Sauce, Chip Shop Chicken Curry, Hot Dog with Tomato Ketchup, Sizzling Steak Fajita, and Cheesy Beans on Toast.

Well, if there's one thing I can say for the Brits, it's at least they had some fun with the contest. And I think it's also worth mentioning that Pickled Onion, Roast Chicken, and Prawn Cocktail are all regular flavors for Walkers Crisps. Would you try any of these flavors?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

French Fry Diary 613: Birthday Goodies

I have a pretty important landmark birthday coming up later this week, and I wanted to talk about freebies, specifically birthday freebies from fast food and chain restaurants. For the sake of the blog here, I'm on an awful lot of email lists for these restaurants so of course I'm on their birthday list as well. I should add that there's a substantial lack of the favorite fried food for free.

Denny's is the granddaddy of these bad boys with their free Grand Slam breakfast on your birthday. You get two eggs, two pancakes, two sausage links, two slices of bacon - but no breakfast potatoes or hash browns. Sad. IHoP goes one better with a free breakfast that might just include hash browns.

Friendly's will give you a three scoop sundae, Dairy Queen does a Blizzard, Chili's a brownie sundae, and Cold Stone Creamery, Baskin-Robbins, Rita's Water Ice, and Ben and Jerry's all have ice cream in a cone or cup. Also in the cold club are Smashburger and Zinburger with milkshakes, and P.F. Chang and Outback both get you free dessert.

Sonic, Charlie Brown's, Red Lobster, Famous Dave's, Moe's Southwest Grill, Qdoba, and Fuddruckers play it safe and mysterious by saying you're just get a free gift. Maybe it's a watch? Hmmm… all I wanted was fries… Don Pablo's goes right for the wallet with the lazy birthday tact of a gift card.

Red Robin rules with not just a free burger, but also a side of those bottomless fries. Houlihan's gets you a free entrée, Johnny Rockets a free burger, and my friends at Cool Dog Café are good for a free hot dog. Hmmm… I'm thinking Cool Dog for lunch maybe and then Red Robin for dinner…

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

French Fry Diary 612: One Potato Two Potato Sweet Onion Potato Chips

One of my favorite local grocery stores, Gennuardi's, closed recently. While they are much missed, in their place a new place opened - Rastelli Market Fresh. This grocery store is kinda like Whole Foods meets Shop-Rite plus beer and wine. Nice selection, I like it, and the best part is that they have Charles Chips. They also have One Potato Two Potato chips too.

I've reviewed a One Potato Two Potato selection before, the Hawaiian BBQ. This time I picked out the Sweet Onion Kettle Potato Chips. These chips are cooked in small batches in expeller-pressed sunflower oil, with no gluten, no MSG, no GMO, no artificial flavors, and no preservatives. What do they have? The ingredients include potatoes, sugar, salt, and garlic and onion powders. The bag also has fun tater trivia too.

When I opened the bag there was a pleasant sweet Vidalia onion aroma inside. It reminded me a bit of the sugary onion ring snacks I sometimes get, and as mentioned above, they do have sugar. They are indeed sweet and oniony, and yummy. As a bonus, they are also in those cool crunchy twisted shapes that come from kettle cooking, so they are great for dipping.

These are good chips, recommended, another thumbs up for One Potato Two Potato.

Friday, August 22, 2014

French Fry Diary 611: b. good

The South Jersey area has been invaded in the last few years by upscale gourmet burger restaurants like Elevation Burger, Smashburger, Zinburger, and coming soon, Burger Fi. The trend continues with b. good, just opened in the Promenade in Marlton. At first glance it looks like a quick service burger place, but it's much more than that, and costlier.

You order, get your drink and have a seat. The pricing is a bit misleading if you're used to menus and meal deals at fast food restaurants. There are signs that say you can add drink and fries for $5.99, but the deal isn't $5.99, for an additional $5.99 you can get a drink and fries. Add that to the pricy burger and it adds up - this is not a typical quick service burger place though, the service is quick, and the burgers are really good.

The drinks are intriguing. No Coke or Pepsi here. They have cane cola, skinny cane cola, Italian lemon, and Pennsylvania red birch beer (yum), to name just a few. I know I'm a Coca-Cola guy, but I enjoyed trying the different soda flavors, much more than the Lay's potato chip flavors I've had to try of late at least. The cane cola is awesome.

The burger was very good. The meat was local, as is everything at b. good, dry-aged, and house-ground, and it's a loose ground, which makes for a juicy chewy burger. On a softer bun, this would've been an amazing burger, but as is, it was only great. And by great, I mean better than the burgers at most other places.

The natural cut fries, also local, were very good. They were excellent hot, a little soft but still managed to have the right amount of crisp too. There's a subtle seasoning that give them a little kick, nice. I think I got the tail end of a batch as they were many small pieces and stubs. It happens. I saw some awesome sized regular cut fries on the plates of others. I also got a few sweet potato fries with mine, which was a nice surprise. All in all the fries were very good. On a later visit the fires were even better. I guess they just needed to get their groove.

The French fries bags have a lot to say. "These fries are special. They're hand-cut and oven-finished." I like that. Additionally they have the calorie and fat counts of McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King as compared to b. good's. There's also another slogan, "Food made by people not factories." Nice. I really liked b. good a lot, and can't wait to go back, and bring friends and family. Recommended.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

French Fry Diary 610: Peddler's Pantry Potato Chips

I was surprised to see these new Peddler's Pantry Potato Chips at my local Wawa, but also equally surprised to find they were locally produced by Wawa itself. I had no idea, no wonder I couldn't find a website on the interwebs.

All four varieties claim to be extra crunchy and kettle cooked. The flavors of these ninety-nine cent (Facebook gave that price, mine were thirty cents more each) two-ounce snack bags are Original with Sea Salt, Hickory Smoked Barbecue, the more exotic Smoke Dried Chipotle, and the intriguingly named Asian Fusion. At least half of them are sort of out of the box. I got one of each.

Now I love Wawa, but my expectations were low. Most store brands just don't hold up and usually quite inferior, but once again Wawa surprises. These chips are extra thick, with a substantial crunch, and the kettle cook twists and bubbling make them excellent for dipping. And the originals are the first chip in quite some time that claimed to have sea salt, but actually tasted like it.

The Hickory Smoked Barbecue are more smokey than sweet and have a bit of a burn to them, nowhere near the burn on the Smoke Dried Chipotle. These two were not favorites. The mystery flavor, Asian Fusion, doesn't really list anything more exotic than garlic, onion, and citrus. It's the garlic that jumps out and these are more or less garlic BBQ chips.

Of these four new artisan potato chips flavors from Wawa, I have to say the Sea Salt Originals are the best, and the ones I'll get again. Any way you slice it, these were a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

French Fry Diary 609: McDonald's Shakin' Flavor Fries

I finally got a chance to go over to the local McDonald's and try their new Shakin' Flavor Fries. The first thing I noticed was that there was no difference in price for a regular size fries and a regular size Shakin' Flavor version. That's a definite plus.

Shaker fries are a big deal in Asia and the South Pacific, usually with exotic flavors like seaweed. The flavors available at American McDonald's are Garlic Parmesan, Zesty Ranch and Spicy Buffalo. Guess which one I chose? I went with the buffalo as it was the closest to barbecue. I wish they had just a regular barbecue, or a cheddar like Burger King had when they did their Shake 'Em Up Fries.

The special shaking bag comes with directions that are fairly simple, and trust me, when you've done it once, you won't need to consult the directions again. It's easy. Put some fries in the bag, put some seasoning in, close the bag, shake it up, baby, and you're done, easy-peasy.

The shaking process gives the fries a pretty thorough coating. The Spicy Buffalo has a solid bite to it. I wasn't expecting that kind of heat based on how pedestrian Mickey D's nugget dipping sauces are, for instance. There's more burn to this than actual buffalo flavor. The fries of course are just as good as always.

As I mentioned above I wish there were more than just the three flavor seasonings available, but let's see if they last first. The trend these days with fast food is to only offer the good stuff on a temporary basis.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Random Tater Pic of the Day #159

A vintage Jersey diner and a blast from the past - Ponzio's Diner in Brooklawn NJ from back in the day. I was only there once, back in the eighties, and I got, what else?, the favorite fried food.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Funeral Potatoes

This recipe comes from Oh Sweet Basil, by way of MasterCook, by way of the just-potatoes Yahoo! Group.

Prep Time: 20 minutes, Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes, Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, 1 Medium yellow onion, chopped, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon Knorr Homestyle Chicken Stock, 1 3/4 Cup Hot Water, 1 Cup milk, 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce, 1 Dash Hot Sauce, 1 1/2 Teaspoon salt, 1/2 Teaspoon pepper, 2 cups shredded, Tillamook Extra sharp cheddar cheese, 26-ounce bag frozen shredded hash browns, 1/2 cup light sour cream, and for the Topping: 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted, 2 1/2 Cups, slightly crushed Corn Flakes.

Instructions: In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

Quickly whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute in order to cook out the flour taste. Combine the chicken stock and hot water and stir until the stock has melted out evenly. Add it to the milk in a liquid measure and slowly whisk into the butter and onion mixture. Add the salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add the sour cream. Then stir in the cheese until smooth. Mix in the frozen hash browns, lifting and folding the mixture until well combined.

In a medium bowl, toss the lightly crushed cornflakes with the butter until evenly combined. Scoop out the potato mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish and top with the buttered cornflakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 min and then serve!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

French Fry Diary 608: The Competing Dogs at Cool Dog Café

While of course I'm rooting for The Bride's entry, Larry's South Philly Retro Dog to win Cool Dog Café's 3rd Annual Create-A-Dog Contest, it should be noted that there are some entries that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

Being voted on through this weekend are the Frenzy Fries Dog, which features crinkle cut French fries, hot sauce, cheese sauce, blue cheese dressing, and celery salt - and it's up against the Breakfast Dog which has pepper jelly, scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns.

Later in the month, the Snack Attack Dog with cheese sauce, crushed Cheetos, pretzels, and potato chips, faces off with the Stuffed Tater Dog with tater tots, sour cream, chives, and bacon. Wow, some interesting combinations there.

I'm still biased for Larry's South Philly Retro Dog, don't forget to come in and vote when it's time at the end of August!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

French Fry Diary 607: No More Satisfries

This has not been a good week for the favorite fried food. First I'm losing one of my favorite restaurants, Little Shanty, and now Burger King has announced they are discontinuing their Satisfries.

The Satisfries were a lower calorie alternative to the normally crappy and constantly changing regular fries at Burger King. These crinkle cuts were awesome when hot and even reheated, and quite frankly, a reason to actually go to Burger King rather than someplace else. After less than a year on the menu, BK has decided to pull the plug on these great fries because sales were apparently less than 'satisfrying.'

This coincides with Burger King's reintroduction of their Chicken Fries. BK claims they are back by popular demand and further says, "Get yours before they're gone!" perhaps implying that nothing on the BK menu is safe or permanent.

Chicken fries, meh, I'd rather have Satisfries. At least Burger King is consistent in their bad calls.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

French Fry Diary 606: Farewell to Little Shanty

There's nothing more heartbreaking for a foodie like me than when a favorite restaurant closes. It's even worse when it's someplace that you can't get to on a regular basis to support them if they're not doing well, because hell, you would be in there every day if you could. Such is the case with Little Shanty in Warren NJ.

I love this place. I've only been there three times, and I love this place. You want the best onion rings and some awesome fries? Here they are. Great burgers, shakes, desserts, and terrific service? It's all here. And sadly they will be closing this weekend.

We played hide and seek missing each other the first two times I had been to Little Shanty, but the third time was a charm and I finally met the owner, Jonathan Lidz. He's a great friendly guy, full of enthusiasm and has his heart in the right place - and knows his fries (a big plus as far as this blog is concerned), but he just couldn't make it work at that location. Jonathan has hopes to re-open at a new location. Let's hope it's closer than an hour and a half away.

If you want to stop by in the next few days and experience great food and service, please do while you can. Little Shanty cannot be beat. Please check out the website, the Facebook page, and the Twitter for re-opening news, and look back on my reviews of Little Shanty here, here and here. Thank you, Jonathan, and hoping for the best for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Daym Drops on Lay's Do Us A Flavor

Here's what Daym Drops had to say about the Lay's Do Us A Flavor Potato Chips this year.

Obviously, on this, we differ in opinion. Daym Drops is still cool in my book, even if he likes some of these flavors.

Monday, August 11, 2014

French Fry Diary 605: Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Potato Chips

This has not been a good contest so far for Lay's Do Us A Flavor. The Cappuccino made me sick. The Wasabi Ginger was almost inedible, and while not bad, it would be sad if I had to vote for the Mango Salsa. That leaves only one more contender - the Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese Flavored Potato Chips. Some might say this flavor is the safest bet, and the cop out, I guess we'll find out.

I had been making The Bride try the chips first this year, and even though mac and cheese is her favorite magic food, which she loves as much as I love French fries, this year's Do Us A Flavor contest had her shell shocked, and afraid to try these. See what you did, Lay's? After some coaxing (well, not much really) she tried one, and was disappointed. She tasted no cheese, only bacon, which was her fear in this chip in particular.

Now, bacon is bacon, and there's nothing wrong with a bacon potato chip, but when you put 'em in a yellow bag, and the descriptive words 'cheddar' and 'cheese' outnumber the word bacon, maybe they should taste a little cheesy, ya know? Bacon is good, but so is cheese. The Bride was disappointed. When I tried them, yeah, there was a bit of a cheese flavor, but wow, the smoky bacon flavor was just overpowering.

These chips aren't bad but they really aren't as advertised. I have been very disappointed in the selection of flavors this year. If I vote, and it's a big if, I'll go for the Mango Salsa. Maybe Lay's should've gone with my entry of Poutine, or the special GAR! Podcast flavor - Feet

Friday, August 08, 2014

French Fry Diary 604: Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips

Well, we're up to the third contender in Lay's 2014 Do Us A Flavor contest, and so far, no winners, hell, nothing I would vote for yet. Today I'm looking at Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Flavored Potato Chips. It's intriguing that Lay's decided to make these Wavy, which is usually designed for dipping - because this flavor would actually make a good dip. Nice irony. Ironic or not, I just hope these taste better than the Cappuccino or the Wasabi Ginger chips.

The aroma I got when I opened the bag was interesting to say the least. Not unpleasant, but I couldn't really place it. I was expecting something a bit, oh I don't know, more citrusy. Having learned from the last two, I let The Bride try them first. She didn't spit them out or go pale, but her face said volumes. She didn't think they were as bad as the other two, and found the mango flavor disconcerting, "a potato chip shouldn't taste like that."

Again The Bride was on mark. These chips might not have smelled all that citrusy but man, did they taste like mango, and it's a fairly good taste. She compared it to Violet Beauregarde's final piece of gum in Willy Wonka. I think more in terms of Jelly Belly flavors like Buttered Popcorn or Toasted Marshmallow, where the taste feels wrong in this format. It's not bad really. This is the first bag that I've eaten more than a few chips from in this year's contest.

"Not as bad as the other two" is not a ringing endorsement, Lay's. I certainly hope the last flavor is something amazing because so far it's been nothing but disappointment.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

French Fry Diary 603: Lay's Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Potato Chips

After yesterday's Do Us A Flavor taste test of *gasp* Lay's Cappuccino Flavored potato chips I needed something to get rid of that awful aftertaste. I thought Lay's Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Flavored Potato Chips might be a nice refresher. After all, if my friend and fellow writer Uriah Young digs them, how bad can they be, right?

Wasabi is not an unknown component in enjoyable potato accompaniments. Oh Yoko! in Cherry Hill rocks the wasabi fries, so this could be very good. It's notable that these are one of two of the four flavors that come in an extra special variation - in this case, kettle cooked. I'm not sure why that is in this case, as opposed to the other three flavors.

The image on the front of the bag had me a bit worried as the Cappuccino chips showed exactly what was going on taste wise. I had to wonder if these chips would taste like sushi. I hope not. A glance at the ingredients betrayed no fish, raw or otherwise, but did indicate a couple different kinds of wasabi seasonings, horseradish, and mystery spices. This could be good or bad.

I learned my lesson with the Cappuccino chips, I let The Bride try one first. One bite and she threw out the rest of the chip. Her words were "I like wasabi and I like ginger, but that just doesn't work." I got kinda a sour cream cream vibe with my first taste, and then a slow burn aftertaste that did not go away quickly at all. These weren't bad, and the kettle cook gave them a good crunch at least.

I think the problem is that unlike last year when I definitely would have not only have given Chicken & Waffles and Cheesy Garlic Bread second chances, I would have finished the whole bag - this year that ain't happening so far.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

French Fry Diary 602: Lay's Cappuccino Flavored Potato Chips

Having found all four flavors of this year's Lay's Do Us A Flavor contest fairly easily (after some initial panic), and all in one place (my friendly neighborhood Wawa), was a relief after last year's hunt and search. I decided to take on what some folks think are worst of the bunch first - the Cappuccino Flavored chips.

These chips are by far the most feared of the flavors this year. I'm not a coffee person, so I'm not expecting to like these at all. I don't even like coffee ice cream. Of course the word on the package 'flavored' is kinda key. As with many exotic potato chip flavors, this isn't actually what it says it is, but merely 'flavored' to taste that way.

The other thing on my mind is that I have heard others who have tried these say they are sweet. That's the last thing I would have thought. Sure enough, a look at the ingredients reveals not only cappuccino seasoning and coffee flavor, but also cinnamon (which I sometimes have an allergic reaction to), brown sugar, and even butter.

The aroma that rushed out when I opened the bag was that of coffee and cinnamon, enough cinnamon to activate my allergy to it. My eyes watered and I could feel myself breaking out. The smell is thick and strong. I was almost afraid to try one of the chips. Their weird dirty brown coloring didn't say appetizing. 

The Bride tried one first, and for the record, she's not a coffee person either. She did not like them, and described them as like having coffee with cinnamon in it, that someone happened to drop a potato chip into. That did not fill me with confidence. Still, looking at the front of the bag, it's truth in advertising at least.

As I inhaled more and more from the bag as I took pictures, I began to think that not only would I not be able to try even one, but that I might even get sick. But there's a reason I do these reviews. I do it so you won't have to. Thank me later. The Bride pretty much had it nailed with her description, that and an unpleasant cinnamon aftertaste. These Cappuccino Flavored Potato Chips are definitely not getting my vote. Thumbs down.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

French Fry Diary 601: The Little Potato Company

The Little Potato Company packages little white, red, blue, purple and other types of potatoes at some of the better groceries around. They're awesome baked, and maybe rolled in onion soup mix. I like the company a lot.

I saw these at Shop-Rite a couple weeks back and knew I had to pick it up, both for dinner and to write about. From The Little Potato Company, these were microwave ready fresh creamer potatoes, tint red and white potatoes in a nuke box. Five minutes later, throw on the 'savory herb' seasoning and you have a serving of hot potatoes. Like many products of this type, I had to see it to believe it.

During the cook time in the nuke there was much steam sizzling sound and a few times cooking pops. Toward the end of the quick cook, a baked potato aroma could indeed be smelled. It should noted though that the clear plastic cover was pretty hard to remove, even after I cut it, it remained difficult to remove. I had to add some spray butter to make the seasoning adhere.

These are quite good actually, and I might add that the 'savory herb' seasoning has tiny bits of bacon in it. These microwave packs also come in Zesty Italian and Garlic Parsley varieties. I found these were best cut in half, spray-buttered then nuked for another minute. Your mileage may vary, but either way, these are really good.

Monday, August 04, 2014

French Fry Diary 600: Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen is one of the few big chains I haven't yet reviewed here at French Fry Diary, mainly because they have been so hard to find. The just ice cream versions of Dairy Queen are everywhere, but it's been darn hard to find one that serves hot food, a Brazier. There are a couple down in the southern South Jersey area, but you have to navigate the traffic hell that is Route 42 and the Black Horse Pike to get there, not an easy task.

Decades ago, when I was just a wee one, back in the late 1960s, early 1970s, there was a Dairy Queen walking distance from where I live now in Cherry Hill. There's a strip mall there now. At that Dairy Queen I remember, a picky eater even then, raising a fuss because I didn't want those things on my hamburger bun. After trying them however, and until even today, I like sesame seed buns better than regular seedless buns. Oddly, they don't seem to have sesame seeds on most of their burgers at Dairy Queen now.

After braving the traffic hell one day and actually finding the Dairy Queen, I got down to the business of reviewing them. The burger was good, and nothing beats real ice cream as a dessert compared to other fast food places that have dessert as an afterthought. Dairy Queen does ice cream, and it shows. Best fast food dessert, hands down and thumbs up. Sundaes are awesome, as are the shakes, and if your taste turns toward smoothies, DQ also owns Orange Julius and you can get that here as well.

Now on to the main event, I got two small orders of French fries and onion rings each, and they came in small cardboard boxes reminiscent of White Castle containers. The French fries were thick shoestrings with a slight batter covering for extra crisp, soft and very hot inside, a little greasy but not enough to be worrisome. These fries are substantial, excellent for shake dipping. These fries are good, but wow, they pale in comparison to the onion rings.

Dairy Queen onion rings are heavenly, medium sized slices of onion, with bread crumb batter just enough to make them crispy. With a hot succulent delicious whole onion inside, they have a lightly baked quality, and that's even though I know they're deep-fried. They don't taste deep-fried. Seriously, these are superior onion rings, too good for a fast food chain. Highly recommended.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Vote for Larry's South Philly Retro Dog!

Remember a little while ago when I told you about the 3rd Annual Create-A-Dog Contest at Cool Dog Café?

Well, The Bride entered the contest with a special hot dog in honor of her late father - Larry's South Philly Retro Dog, and made it to the finals!

She designed this special hot dog to be reminiscent of the legendary classic hot dogs at Levis Hot Dogs that used be in South Philadelphia, a favorite of her father's.

So get on over to the Cool Dog Café and get Larry's South Philly Retro Dog, try the others too, but vote for the Larry Dog, and don't forget the fries!