Monday, November 23, 2015

French Fry Diary 686: Potatoes Three Ways

From the late October 2015 Disney Magic cruise talked about on this episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast, this dinner pic is from Carioca's, where I had potatoes three ways.

First, there was the Jack Cheese Twice Baked Potato, then the Roasted Root Vegetables that included carrots, turnips, celery, and sweet potatoes julienne cut into French fry strips, and finally topped off by the steak fries side dish that our servers Brendon and Andrene made sure I had every night. And the Ribeye was good too.


Friday, November 20, 2015

French Fry Diary 685: Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

When the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer arrived at my door for November, I perused it as usual, always looking for something new and interesting, or much more rare, something I usually purchase there that's on sale. What a Thanksgiving surprise when I saw Turkey & Stuffing Kettle Potato Chips right there in the front page - touted as Thanksgiving dinner in a chip. I knew what I was getting next trip to Trader Joe's.

So after getting the Trader Joe's usuals, and being sorely disappointed they were already out of Advent calendars in mid-November, I got these unique chips home. The Flyer promised something out of science fiction, like a meal in a pill, but honestly their description sounded more like Violet's gum in Willy Wonka, right down to the gravy. This description made me a little scared to try it. No one wants to be juiced like a giant cranberry, ya know?

Much like this year's Do Us A Flavor contest entries, the ingredients include a mysterious item called 'turkey & stuffing seasoning,' but at least Trader Joe's tells us what's in that in parentheses after that. Some chemicals and fancy words, but more satisfying than just the word 'seasoning.'

Upon opening the bag (after cutting off the top, it was from Trader Joe's after all), a pleasant aroma hit me, potato chips, maybe some garlic, good stuff. As with the aforementioned contest entrants, I had The Bride try one first. She thought they were okay, getting the turkey flavor right away, with the stuffing coming cumulatively after a few more chips. No gravy running down her throat though.

I experienced much the same in this thick and crunchy kettle cooked chip. Not bad at all, these chips definitely fall into the category of other meat chips I've tried and reviewed. They're pretty good, but with that weird Jelly Belly vibe of this-shouldn't-taste-like-this. I also think, and this may be a weird reverse engineering idea, but I think they might be really good crushed up and used in stuffing. They are definitely worth a try once a year for Thanksgiving, and no Oompa Loompas in sight. Yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

French Fry Diary 684: Steak Fries on the Disney Magic

I have mentioned our waitstaff from our two Disney Cruises this season before. Brendon and Andrene are the best.

At our first dinner at Animator's Palate I ordered French fries of course, and got the terrific steak fries one usually gets on board toward the beginning of the cruise. I mentioned how much I enjoyed them, but my brother-in-law went the extra mile, saying that if I got fries with every meal I'd always be happy.

This triggered what I like to call the Creme Brûlée effect. On a previous cruise, friends Dom and Cindy had raved about the Creme Brûlée dessert and their waitstaff made sure they always had it, even when they came back on a later cruise.

Because of the bro, we had steak fries every night of the cruise and when we returned two weeks later for the TCM Classic Cruise. Yeah, they are that good, and I was in French fry heaven, whether I liked it or not. Who am I kidding? I loved it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

French Fry Diary 683: Wendy's Baconator Fries

Recently on the way home I had the munchies and on a whim I pulled into the Wendy's drive-thru. As long as I was there, despite not really liking their fries any more, I decided to get an order of Wendy's Baconator Fries, if for no other reason than to write about them. Yes, I'm doing it so you won't have to.

Wendy's Baconator Fries are named after the burger of the same name, and is a regular order of Wendy's crappy new natural cut sea salt fries, with cheese sauce, shredded cheese, and bits of applewood smoked bacon. As expected, these were the same crappy fries, half-covered in yummy cheddar cheese, and bacon. The bacon was the biggest surprise - thankfully not burnt or crunchy, but good perfectly done bacon.

If I'm being honest, this was a nice snack, really good hot, and not so much (except for the bacon) as they got colder. I still can't help wishing for Wendy's to bring their old fries back. That would have made them perfect.

Monday, November 16, 2015

French Fry Diary 682: An Open Letter

I love you folks. You send me pictures, comments, and sometimes your own experiences at places I have reviewed, and I love it. But sometimes I get feedback on the French Fry Diary site that is mean, personal, or just downright insulting. Sometimes it's from folks who work for places I have reviewed negatively. I get that.

Sometimes it's from folks who I have termed 'health Nazis' who think fast food and junk food are among other such evils (and sometimes worse than) as alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. That's fine. I like French fries, so I'm going to write about them. My point is - you don't have to read about them.

I have often wondered why people who hate what I do would insist on reading my blog. I don't get that. If you think fast food is poison, why would you take the time to stop and read (and comment!) on a blog dedicated to the celebration of fast food??

I don't like broccoli, so I don't order broccoli in restaurants, and I certainly do not read about broccoli online. Why the hell would I be reading about broccoli? Seriously, if you're a reader, and you hate what I'm saying, why are you here? I would really like to know. Please, explain it to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

French Fry Diary 681: Funyuns Steakhouse Onion

I love the Bloomin' Onion from the Outback. I love the wannabe versions at other chains. So when I saw this new Funyuns flavor on the shelf at Wawa, I had to try them.

There's a big picture of the Bloomin' Onion on the bag, and while they can't actually call it that, you know that's what it is. The back of the package promises the zesty flavor of a steakhouse onion blossom and dip. Hmmm… dip? I'm not crazy about the dip. Maybe this was a mistake. Oh well, I guess there's only one way to find out...

Opening the bag, they kind of smell like the dip, but the immediate taste is definitely Funyon, with maybe a little bit of a smokey spicier kick, nice. The dip - a sour cream vibe, verified by the ingredients list - does come in as a cumulative aftertaste though, but not enough to discount these babies. I like them.

I would probably prefer the regular Funyuns over these, and definitely would rather have have a real Bloomin' Onion, but these Funyuns Steakhouse Onion Flavored Rings were really good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

French Fry Diary 680: Mayfair Boardwalk Grill

The last time we visited the Silverball Museum, we had the favorite fried food there, and it was really pretty good, but as we were leaving we passed a simple shack on the boardwalk, and I knew that was where we should have eaten instead. When we went back to Silverball for The Bride's birthday celebration, I fixed that oversight.

We arrived on the Asbury Park boardwalk early in the afternoon, and as I hadn't had breakfast yet, I figured a snack was in order. Yeah, hot dogs for breakfast, and me being me, I had to get fries too. I was given a number like at the butcher shop and asked to wait. This alone meant to me that I was lucky being the only one there at the moment, and that the lines could get very busy indeed.

The Mayfair Boardwalk Grill is an Asbury Park tradition, family owned and operated for over fifty years. As I waited and chilled on the park bench there on the boardwalk with bicyclists and kite-fliers and seagulls and dog walkers going by with the beach right there - I felt like I was in the middle of the opening credits sequence of "Three's Company."

The wait was short, and well worth it. The awesome foot long hot dog, cooked to splitting crispy perfection on a flattop grill was snuggled into a regular-sized roll. Sooo good. And it was accompanied by frozen regular cuts that were deep-fried. They looked burnt, really burnt, but that was just a look, these fries were perfectly crisp, and soft, fluffy and hot inside. This was a delicious meal, so simple, and highly recommended.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Farewell Cool Dog Cafe

I woke up this morning, some 1200 miles from home, but still with the connection to Facebook, to some very sad news.

The Cool Dog Café in Cherry Hill NJ has closed their doors.

Here was the message on their Facebook page:


"We are sad to inform all of you that today, Oct. 31, was the last day for Cool dog Café. As with many things, time can change people’s outlooks and desires. So it is with Cool Dog. Partners Shawn and Ira will be moving on to pursue their individual dreams. Shawn is now working with the Stephen Starr restaurants in Philly and enjoying his new culinary experience very much. Ira is working on a new venture in the area and will let you know when something is definite.

"We want to thank you for your loyalty, friendship and support over the past 5 years. A restaurant couldn’t ask for a better group of people as their customers and we’ll miss you. But we’ll be in touch. Meanwhile, have a wonderful holiday season and again, from all of us at Cool Dog Café… THANK YOU."

This came as a shock to me as it did to many folks. Not only was Cool Dog an awesome place for hot dogs, French fries, burgers, and fun - it was a place for family. And truth is that Ira and his wife in the front, Shawn in the back, and the entire staff - they were friends, and family too. Coming to Cool Dog was like coming home, like being welcomed by family.

They certainly treated us like family, through good times and bad, this was a restaurant that made everyone welcome. Every time we had friends from out of town, they always wanted to go to the Cool Dog Cafe. And I know many folks upset they won't be able to have one last dog at their favorite place.

That said, best of luck to Ira and Shawn in the future, looking forward to the next big thing from each of you. We will miss you, Cool Dog!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #225

Always a highlight of the Disney Cruise, the breakfast potatoes, made with red potatoes, red and green peppers, and onions. Awesome, always the best.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #224

As a ten-time cruiser on the Disney Cruise Line, I know when and where to get the 'good fries' on board. To this end I have learned where and when to order fries with dinner. Animator's Palate, first night, you are sure to get hot awesome steak fries like these.

Notably on the Disney Magic in mid-October 2015, this was the best Animator's Palate show and meal I'd had in some time. Thumbs up, and props to our servers Brendon from South Africa and Andrene from Jamaica. Great fries, great everything!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

French Fry Diary 679: Hamburgers in Sausalito

Guest post by my big sister, Bobbie, one of the coolest ladies I know.

So on our recent trip to San Francisco we were on a tour that stopped in Sausalito. We were hungry and had about forty minutes before the ferry would take us across the Bay and back to Fisherman's Wharf. We saw a restaurant across from the ferry called Hamburgers and decided to give it a try.

The restaurant was about ten feet wide and thirty feet long. There were no tables everything was to go. As you entered there was a round iron grill going in round like a turntable and the chef was putting burgers (and chicken) on the grill as it spun. We ordered our burgers and of course fries. Then went outside until our number was called.

The burgers were juicy and spiced and the best I've had in a long time. But the fries were fantastic. They were crinkle cut, deep fried and then tossed in a bowl with salt and spice. The outside crispiness reminded me of those Potato Sticks that come in a can, but inside was soft potato goodness. I thought of my poor brother who was missing this wonderful treat and snapped pictures of the meal and restaurant.

And if you are a vegetarian their second restaurant in Sausalito is called Veggie Burger.

Thank you, Bobbie, you rock!

Monday, October 12, 2015

French Fry Diary 678: Smashburger 2015

I must confess I have not been impressed with Smashburger the last few times I'd been there, and although several have opened in my area recently, I have not really checked them out.

As our usual Sunday night take out dinner has been disrupted by Casa Carollo's becoming the much inferior Marlton 73, so we're taking suggestions and shopping around. Smashburger just opened up within throwing distance right around the corner, so it was in the running. Since we could order online and pick it up, we gave it a shot.

What a surprise! First the order was perfect and on time. We'd always eaten in so I've never seen their packaging. The fries and haystack onions came in cup-like holders that actually stand up on a flat surface, something most fry containers can't do, so props for that. Now the shake and burger were terrific, and I of course sandwiched the onions and fries. Mmmm... good stuff.

Now I have to mention the Smashfries were different. Rather than the usual frozen shoestrings, these were natural cuts smaller than shoestrings but not quite as thin as matchsticks. Quite good. Recommended, will definitely be going back more. Looks like I got my wish.

Friday, October 09, 2015

French Fry Diary 677: Carolina Blue Smokehouse and Taproom

Way off the beaten path, or at least my beaten path, is the Carolina Blue Smokehouse and Taproom, all the way in Pitman NJ. I went there for a surprise birthday party for good friend, author, and current president of the South Jersey Writers' Group, Amy Holiday, so it was worth it.

Despite the outside appearance of the restaurant as a barbeque place, the food's appearance has more of a very simple Californian cuisine vibe. I got my usual, a cute little burger that was delicious, moist, and incredibly filling. I felt so stuffed after this little morsel. As a side, and also as an appetizer for the whole table, were house cut chips. Very much like the crispy thin slices in an order of fried breakfast potatoes, these were chips with just the right crisp, very good. The appetizer came with melted blue cheese crumbles that everyone loved.

While I didn't have (I know, blasphemy) the regular fries, I did get a chance to try the sweet potato fries, stylized on their menu as "SWEET! Potato Fries," dusted with a cinnamon sugar and served with vanilla cheesecake dip. These were to die for, even cold. These quite possibly some of the best sweet potato fries I've had, and I'm really not all that fond of them.

All in all, it was a great night out with friends, good friends and good discussion, and Amy was surprised, so it was all good. Thumbs up for the Carolina Blue Smokehouse and Taproom.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

French Fry Diary 676: Cool Dog Cafe 2015

Friends came in for lunch from out of town, and looking for a great local place to eat, we of course thought of the Cool Dog Café, a favorite of friends and family. We hadn't been there in a while, but checking their website, I saw that one of the specials was the Cheese Fries Burger, I had to try it. I was happy to see they were doing a brisk business. Ira and the folks there are always nice, and customer service is the best.

The Bride got the Stuffed Tater Dog, with tater tots, bacon, sour cream, and scallions, which she really enjoyed, and why not, it had tater tots! Believe it or not, the dog had a real stuffed baked potato vibe. And we of course split an order of Cool Dog's famous fresh cut fries.

I got the burger of the week, which was the aforementioned Cheese Fries Burger. I have always loved Cool Dog's hand-formed Angus beef burgers, so this one with shoestring fries, bacon, and cheese sauce sounded good. I wasn't really in the mood for cheese so I got it sans cheese. Special orders are never a problem.

The burger had a nice thick roll, and the burger was great as always. The art of sandwiching is one I've talked about here before, and these guys do it right, and how can you go wrong with adding bacon?

The shoestrings were nice but I think I would have rather had yummy regular Cool Dog fries, and as a matter of fact, on my next visit to Cool Dog I did just that, sandwiched with those, awesome. Try it, you'll love it. As always, a great time at the Cool Dog Café, thumbs up.

Monday, October 05, 2015

French Fry Diary 675: The Pop Shop, Medford NJ

Divorce is a terrible thing, truly it's a tragedy, but sometimes, just sometimes, something good can come out of it. For the foodies of South Jersey, divorce in the family of one of my favorite restaurants - The Pop Shop - has resulted in two Pop Shops. This was my first visit to the new one in Medford. The building used to be an old bank, but the Pop Shop has really revamped it, but there's still a giant safe in the middle of the restaurant. Kinda cool, kinda kitschy, I like it.

The Bride and a friend visiting from out of town, Lisa, decided to go there for dinner on a recent weeknight. I was excited, as it had been almost four years since I had dinner or lunch there. Usually when we go to the Pop Shop, the agenda is breakfast, not that I mind breakfast (it's really great there, and served all day), but I prefer their lunch/dinner.

I like the new venue in Medford, an older two-story building that seems very open and welcoming. There's even an elevator and ramp for handicapped folks. I also liked the new Pop Shop shirts the employees were wearing that said either "fries with that shake?" or "got 08055?" Guess which one I liked best?

As I hadn't had it in a while, and it's what I wanted, I got the burger and fries. I was surprised by the small differences when my order arrived. I'm not sure if they're because of the time lapsed since last I visited or the different venue, but it was different. First off, the burger was big, juicy, and perfect, but not on a sesame seed bun as expected. No worries, it still rocked, and thankfully it made up for the fries.

More changes came with the fries. Rather than natural cut regular cuts, these Pop Fries were natural cut shoestrings. Ordinarily I would say that's a level up, as natural cut shoestrings are a rarity and hold a crisp very well, but that was not the case here at all. These fries were a little underdone and soggy, not good. Our friend Lisa had ordered the Parmesan Garlic Fries, simple and quite tasty, but they were done and crispy, nearly perfect. Based on the fries I saw on nearby tables, mine were sadly the exception - the other fries looked awesome.

For dessert (as always, with so much food, it's rare we order dessert at the Pop Shop) The Bride and I went decadent and split a Shakin' Bacon - a breakfast milkshake in a Mason jar with vanilla ice cream, pancake syrup, and crispy bacon. Pretty tasty, but it was a little weird having bits of bacon come up through the straw - still very good.

The power mysteriously flickered off and on a few times, but all in all it was a fun night out with friends. I look forward to visiting again to verify my faith in the Pop Fries. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #223

Hey, it's the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, as a Mr. Potato Head, complete with fez and sonic screwdriver. Yeah, it's Doctor Who, for those not versed in the mythos, you can find out more here, and follow my reviews of the newest series on Biff Bam Pop! right here. And don't forget to have some fries while you watch and read...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

French Fry Diary 674: Hungry Jack Hashbrowns

I saw these on a recent trip to the grocery store, and just had to pick them up, if for no other reason than to write about them. Packaged in a small paper milk carton, these Hungry Jack Original Hashbrown Potatoes, Diner Style, promised to be ready in minutes if you just add water.

These gluten free hash browns have the appearance of shredded potatoes, but when you shake the carton, it sounds like hard rice or like you're about to throw Yahtzee. A cross between shreds and long hard rice is kinda what it looks like as well. The directions instruct to fill the carton with hot water, let sit, then pour into a frying pan and cook. Sounds like magic to me.

I have to say it appears the magic worked. I wouldn't have believed it, but it did. I never would have guessed these were made from dried potatoes if I didn't know better. These were as good if not better than the shredded breakfast potatoes one could get at a diner.

You can season as you please once the potatoes are in the frying pan, and add onions, cheese, peppers, or bacon if you want, they will be awesome. Thumbs up.

Monday, September 28, 2015

French Fry Diary 673: Jessica's Do Us A Flavor 2015 Taste Testing

Guest Post by Jessica Walsh

Although the Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest was established in 2013 (as far as I could tell), I had never participated in taste-testing or voting. Instead, I lived vicariously through Glenn and his reviews, taking his word for it. The man knows his spuds. After a winner was declared, I knew better than to complain if I disagreed since I hadn’t utilized my voting power.

This year, after reading Glenn’s lackluster review of what I assumed would be my favorite flavor, New York Reuben, I decided to get off the bench, get in the game, put my taste buds to the test and exercise my right to vote.

Like all red-blooded Americans, I have an opinion and I figured with thirty years of potato chip-eating experience, I am more than qualified to weigh in. Some gals like chocolate and sweets; this gal once considered giving her guinea pig’s salt lick a taste. I am a self-proclaimed potato chip connoisseur.

To make things more fun, however, I called on my gang of guys to help me out with the taste-testing. My husband, Mike, our friends, Rudy and Jay, and myself have 130 years of cumulative chip-eating experience. We know chips.

Some stats:

Jessica’s favorite chips: Herr’s ruffled sour cream and onion & Herr’s Boardwalk Salt & Vinegar Kettle Cooked.

Rudy’s favorite chip: Herr’s Boardwalk Salt & Vinegar Kettle Cooked (this is why we’re such good friends).

Mike’s favorite chip: Herr’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno. (For the record, this is the only potato chip I have ever encountered that I prefer NOT to eat. I don’t believe it’s Mike’s favorite based on flavor, but on the fact that it is the only snack he can bring into the house and know it will still be there when he wants some.)

Jay’s favorite chips: Jay is an Utz guy. He goes for Grandma Utz Plain Kettle Cooked or Utz’s Kettle Cooked Smokin’ Sweet.

We are kettle-cooked people. Nothing beats that crunch. Poor Lay’s. Not one of us has a favorite among their extensive selection. Let’s see if these flavors win us over…

“Okay, gents, let’s begin!”

We started with the Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries. I read the ingredients, and what Angie Fu had to say about her flavor. I was pleased with the appearance, which greatly resembled my beloved sour cream & onion. Upon taste though, I felt they were lacking that earthy, mushroom-y flavor that truffles are known for. Rudy commented that they tasted like a spice cabinet, and that he wanted ketchup to dip them in. Angie Fu, we ain’t fuled by your finalist that fell flat.

With fungus on my mind (not literally), I told the story of the mushroom that was sad he couldn’t stay at the party. “I’m a fun-gi! I promise I won’t take up mush-room.” Rudy said the chips were at least better than my jokes.

“I don’t know,” Jay began thoughtfully. “They say wavy, but they just laid there.” Yeah, it was time to move on.

Next we tried the New York Reuben. Having all grown up near New York, we have all had MANY Reubens in our lives. The Reuben is to North Jersey what the cheesesteak is to South Jersey. Glenn never had one so he cannot be trusted on things such as this. After all, he doesn’t write for The Amazing Sandwich Diary.

I don’t know how the chemists do it, but we absolutely all agreed that these chips taste EXACTLY like a Reuben. For me, the most prominent flavor was the rye bread. I got the caraway (all the best rye breads are seeded), the tang of the Thousand Island dressing, the cheese… I only wished they were a little saltier.

The dreaded four-chips-in-one tower bite
“I wish I had a pickle to go with these,” Rudy commented. “Oh, even better would be dill pickle potato chips mixed with these chips! Or a Reuben with a side of fries,” he added as he plucked a truffle chip and a Reuben chip from the tray and popped them in his month at the same time. I promptly followed suit. Nope, not good.

Jeff Solensky, the finalist who chose this flavor, grew up in Long Island so he has credibility. But even though the Reuben chips taste exactly like they should, they’re not my favorite. If the contest was based on accuracy to title alone, they’d be the clear winner. But I don’t want my chip to taste that much like something else because it just confuses me. I rather just eat a Reuben. Sorry, Jeff.

Next up was the Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro. I already established that we all love kettle cooked chips. These were nice and crunchy. Too bad they were also DISGUSTING! First of all, they look dirty. They’re dark and the seasoning looks like cigarette ash and dust. I was hesitant even putting it in my mouth. “That is not good,” I said after one bite.

If James Wagner is happy with the chip he came up with, then I think it is fair to say that they serve crappy gyros in Texas, a place not at all known for its Greek cuisine.

Jay actually threw his chip out, rather than finish it. Hey Lays, I betcha we CAN eat just one. Sorry James, there’s no way you’re winning the big bucks.

Little did we know we were saving the best for last. First, let me state that I have never in my life eaten Southern Biscuits & Gravy. It is my understanding that above the Mason-Dixon Line we have something called cream chipped beef served over white bread or some sort of bread that’s not a biscuit because we have bagels here. Both look unappetizing. Bread drowning in a white gelatinous goop of butter, flour, some sort of dairy product and meat drippings? Gross.

So imagine my surprise when I loved these chips! I immediately got a breakfast sausage flavor and I love breakfast sausage. I also got a hint of butter. This was such an obvious winner for me and so far beyond the others in terms of flavor. I would actually buy these chips again!

Hailey Green, I hope you win $1,000,000! I am going to spend the remainder of the voting period supporting you. When you win, please reimburse me for the Vote for Hailey pins and lawn signs I just ordered from Café Press.

I’m still not ordering that goopy mess at a diner, though.

I must sadly report that although Southern Biscuits & Gravy was my favorite flavor, it was not unanimous. Rudy adamantly and stubbornly voted for pretzel rods and salt & vinegar chips, adding that truffle would be in dead last and the remaining three were tied for third.

Jay and Mike, brothers by different mothers, chose the Reuben first, followed by the biscuits and gravy, then the truffle fries, and then the dirty disgusting gyro chips. James Wagner, GO HOME.

Lastly, we stacked all four together and put the towers in our mouths. It was pretty bad.

“It’s like a Reuben with gyro meat and a side of fries coated in sausage gravy!”

I do not recommend eating all four at once. However, I do recommend you VOTE! Remember, if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem and if those Greektown Gyro Garbage chips show up on my grocery store shelves, we WILL have a problem.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #221

Today's pic comes from the World Potato Conference in Beijing. Bet these spuds could make some awesome fries, eh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

French Fry Diary 672: Marlton 73 Pizzeria & Bar

For our usual Sunday take-out dinner, The Bride and I decided on Casa Carollo's because we enjoy their food and especially the portion sizes. We got a bit of a surprise when we called, and especially when delivery was made.

Casa Carollo's was no longer Casa Carollo's as they had new owners, a new menu, and new food. The new name is the Marlton 73 Pizzeria & Bar, featuring a new streamlined menu with steak and seafood eliminated. The place has always been pretty good to us, so we were willing to give the new version a chance.

The new food extends of course to the favorite fried food. Whereas lately we had been getting steak fries more often than the batter fries I talked about here, these batter-covered fries, much crunchier and less appetizing than usual, came with my steak sandwich.

The steak sandwich, it barely qualifies as a plain cheesesteak, because of the construction, was very different. The roll was different, with the ends cut off, and with considerably less meat. It was still very good, but nowhere near as good as it used to be. The Bride reported a similar difference in her chicken parm.

It's only one experience, and they're just starting up, but I have to say there's a marked difference. We may have to find a new Sunday night take out place.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

French Fry Diary 671: Ott's 2013

Two summers past the Pineland Players performed "Into the Woods" and of course I went to see The Bride in it along with a couple of our friends. As the Medford P.J. Whelihan's was uncooperative with their reservations, we went to the Medford Ott's instead. I have been there before, not under the best of conditions, and the customer service was lacking, but I'm always willing to give places a second chance.

I ordered the Old Bay fries, which were store bought frozen crinkle cuts deep-fried and tossed in Old Bay seasoning. The fries were very good, better than they had a right to be honestly. They came with a white cheese sauce that tried very hard to be the stuff from Chickie & Pete's, but failed in my book. The fries had just enough seasoning to be good, like baby bear's bed, not too much and not too little. The Bride liked them so much, she finished them.

I had also asked for a side of the honey teriyaki sauce I liked last time, but it did not come. The wings that that sauce usually comes with did however. Customer service had not improved on this occasion. But in our waitress' defense, she had other things to worry about on this particular Saturday night, like patrons falling off barstools onto the floor near us. Quite a party night.

There was a band that night as well, called B.S. and The Truth. At first I hated them because they did a double shot of Van Morrison followed by Lynyrd Skynyrd - I thought I was in Hell. Really though, as the set went on, they were really good, doing some excellent and surprising covers not usually in the repertoire of a band like that. I was impressed. By the band, but not necessarily by Ott's.

Update: It should be noted that this review was written back in 2013, and I've since been to Ott's numerous times since when the food and the customer service were superior. This is a major reason why I do give some restaurants second chances. Some places like Ott's have bad nights, and now, it's one of my favorite places. Every other time I've gotten the Old Bay fries since, they have been awesome. They also have great potato skins, and I'm not a potato skins guy, so there you go.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #218

These onion rings from Ott's in Medford had a subtle beer batter seasoning, not bad... and the customer service has been top notch every time we've been in since that first encounter, so thumbs up to Ott's.

Friday, September 04, 2015

French Fry Diary 670: The Curse of the McWhopper

You may have heard the recent hubbub over Burger King wanting to unite with McDonald's to make the McWhopper - a hybrid product consisting of the top of the Big Mac and the bottom of the Whopper - available at one location in honor of Peace Day on September 21st. Famously, McDonald's passive/aggressively turned Burger King down.

Here's the thing though. Anyone who's paying attention knows what the real deal is and where the real passive/aggression lies. Look at the proposed McWhopper, folks, seriously, just look at it. The bottom, the BK half, has a bigger and better looking burger. The sandwich is not a cylinder, but a pyramid. This is merely an exercise is Burger King quietly demonstrating that the Whopper is bigger than the Big Mac. Sneaky sneaky, BK.

And although I'm not a condiment guy, preferring my burgers plain, I would rather have a BK patty over Mickey D's. That said, a lot of folks have noted they would love to try the mythical McWhopper. The folks at Serious Eats have even made their own and offer the recipe here.

One thing is for sure, if they ever do offer the McWhopper, or if you make one yourself, get McDonald's fries to eat with it - it's one of the few things that Mickey D's always does right. BK, not so much.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Random Tater Pic of the Day #217

It's harvest time, so friend and FFD contributor Robin Renee's garden, and she sent me this terrific pic of her newly dug potatoes. Awesome. Thank you, Robin!

Monday, August 31, 2015

French Fry Diary 689: Red Robin Birthday

This weekend I turned (choke, gasp) fifty-one years old, and The Bride put together a birthday celebration for me, a dinner at the legendary original home of the bottomless steak fries, Red Robin.

I have to admit being a bit gun shy of having a gathering, especially a large gathering, at a restaurant after putting together an event at a restaurant for the South Jersey Writers a couple weeks ago that resulted in several tables not together and one single check, and let me assure you, writers are not good at math. In contrast, the management and wait staff at the Cherry Hill Red Robin were extremely helpful, and got everything right - huge props!

So many friends, fellow writers, and even some family showed up. Apparently I'm more loved than I think, but more likely I suspect folks were there for the fries. Kidding. The meal started with, as it always does at Red Robin, with the tower of onion rings. Much like the Bloomin' Onion at Outback, how can you not get it?

I ordered my usual, a plain burger, which was fantastic, and a side of the bottomless steak fries. My big sister loved the fact that she could customize her meal online before arriving at the restaurant, so she was ready. The Bride got the garlic herbed fries which were also awesome, and a friend got a poutine fries concoction, seen below.

At one point, I had finished my fries, and was left with a lonely metal ring…

…but that was quickly remedied, Red Robin is after all the home of bottomless steak fries.

I had a terrific birthday, made extra special by friends and family, and the staff of Red Robin. Thanks to all!

Friday, August 28, 2015

French Fry Diary 688: Oscar's Alehouse

On a recent trip to Maryland to chill with the in-laws and see my nephew blow everyone else off the stage in "Mary Poppins," the bro-in-law took us to a very cool place called Oscar's Alehouse in Eldersburg.

According to the bro-in-law, this nice restaurant/low key sports bar is the best place in the area for craft beer, which was not exactly in my wheelhouse, but when he recommended the burgers and onion rings, I was on board. Our server and the staff were very friendly, and not just because the bro is a regular, because I watched as everyone is the restaurant got the same treatment. If I was a resident to the area, I think I might be a regular too, just based on that.

I ordered the Naked Burger (code for plain with nothing on it, my usual preference), with the recommended onion rings, while The Bride got fries with her meal so my bases were covered. I should add that despite my ordering my usual pub fare, Oscar's actually has a pretty varied selection on their menu, including specialty pizzas, salads, and entrees, most highly recommended. This is not your average pub, their menu takes it up a notch.

The burger was perfect and juicy, possibly the best I've had in quite a while. The French fries were golden brown natural cuts, soft and hot on the inside with just the right amount of crunch on the outside - very good, but the onion rings were the kicker. First, they used purple onions, tossed in a batter of just flour, salt, and pepper, and deep-fried. Simple, but great, I loved them. The smooth spicy batter was crunchy and awesome. Best onion rings I've had in some time.

Thanks to the brother-in-law for an excellent recommendation, and I can't wait to visit again so I can return to Oscar's. This was a terrific meal and a great time, two thumbs up.