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!