Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy Hanukkah

Every year I try my hand at potato latkes to help The Bride celebrate Hanukkah, and this was this year's from-scratch baked (rather than fried) attempt.  I filled the kitchen with smoke, but she declared them 'okay.'  I'll try harder next year.  Happy Hanukkah from French Fry Diary!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Random Tater Pic of the Day #256

Pringles around the holidays is always known for their out-there flavors, but sometimes they go a bit far, falling into odd-texture weird taste realm of Jelly Belly.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. Here's a pic of friend and sometime-contributor to French Fry Diary, expressing her concern for Pringles Sugar Cookie Potato Crisps.

Yeah, I think Pixie speaks for all of us. If we want sugar cookies, we'll have sugar cookies, and if we want potato chips, we'll have potato chips, or crisps, as Pringles calls 'em.

Stick to chips/crisps, Pringles.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

French Fry Diary 726: Palo

One of my favorite treats when on board the Disney Cruise Line is going to one of the fancy restaurants. The first time I was stone cold against it because of the dress code, and I am not one to dress up. I hate it. But I did it for The Bride, because I love her so much. Once I had gone to Palo, the fancy Italian restaurant at the top of all four Disney ships, I was sold. The food is luscious and wonderful, a foodie's dream, even one with a catastrophically picky palate. The staff will adapt for you, and make you what you want. The Bride put that to the test on the most recent visit to Palo on the Disney Fantasy during the latest TCM Classic Cruise. But first, the normal stuff.

Another tradition I have when on board the Disney Cruises is I always try something new. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I do not. For instance, arugula, ick, no really, serious ick. This time, at Palo, I tried something suitable for discussion on this blog, something I'm ashamed to admit I have never ever tried before - gnocchi.

This was potato gnocchi (that might seem like a no-brainer, but they do make gnocchi from other stuff), in tomato sauce, with cherry tomatoes grown on the side of a volcano. Even if I didn't like it, it still sounds cool. It was delicious, and I can't wait to try it again, although I suspect it might not live up to that of Palo.

When it came to the main course, I got the beef tenderloin, but asked that they leave off the spinach. Spinach is even higher on my hate list than new contender arugula. The waitress asked if I would like anything else in place of the spinach. The Bride spoke up jokingly, "French fries." After the waitress made a face, trying hard not to break her friendly smile in this fancy-schmancy restaurant, The Bride added, "It's his usual go-to," which was not untrue. Still I was embarrassed, but hoped there would be no spinach.

When my entrée arrived, also placed on the table was a big plate of beautiful, and out of place, natural cut French fries. I was shocked, as was The Bride, and the waitress only said that it was her job to make us happy. The beef was wonderful, and the fries were even better because they were special. And it was hilarious to watch several members of the wait staff come by just to see what kind of idiot had ordered French fries at Palo.

Dinner was fantastic, as always. They even brought us a plate with dessert to help us celebrate our move to Florida. I can't talk about Palo without mentioning the soufflé to die for. If you go, you must not miss it. And of course, this proves an old axiom about Disney customer service - if you want something, just ask, they will do their best to accommodate, no matter what it is. Just ask.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

French Fry Diary 725: Lay's Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

We've talked about chocolate covered potato chips before. Usually it's a special or gourmet thing. Here a major potato chip company, Lay's, has them, of course in limited edition just for the holiday season.

Now I got the Wavy Milk Chocolate, but they are also available in Dark Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate with Almond Bits. These are decisively decadent, but it is worth mentioning that the Dark have less calories. That said, they're not too bad. Just don't eat a few bags in a sitting, even though they're just fifteen chips per bag.

The chips are thin, but not completely covered with chocolate so you get a good portioning of both the salty and the sweet. These are really good, they almost melt in your mouth, and they just might be a bit addictive. Yeah, that's a recommendation. Good thing they're only around for a limited time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Random Tater Pic of the Day #255

A peek inside Doctor Strange's kitchen with Spider-Man and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D….

If you'd like to see my reviews of the television series "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." at Biff Bam Pop!, click here, and if you'd like to read my review of the Doctor Strange movie, click here. The above comic panel comes from the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic book, reviewed here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

French Fry Diary 724: Lay's Passport to Flavor

Last week we got to hear what friend, FFD contributor, and guest blogger Bryan F. Irrera thought of Lay's Passport to Flavor potato chips, now here's my take.

In recent years, Lay's has made a name for exotic flavors in potato chips with their Do Us A Flavor contests both in the United States and Canada, as well as overseas. Now they've brought four new flavors to the US each with a specific international flair as part of their Passport to Flavor contest. I was lucky enough to find all four at Walgreens this past weekend, and here's what we thought.

Chinese Szechuan Chicken - While I've never actually had Szechuan chicken (I lean toward sweet and sour or General Tso myself), I understand it's got that hot and spicy vibe going on with just a touch of sweetness. The ingredients include actual Szechuan pepper and promise "the tongue tingling sensation of mala," and no, I have no idea what mala is.

Opening the bag revealed potato chips with seasonings of various colors. As always, The Bride tried them first. I'm no fool. She thought they tasted like what they were supposed to taste like, and that they were very spicy. I would definitely go with the latter, but unlike other 'meat' chips I couldn't detect any chicken. These weren't bad, unlike some of the other flavors, I had more than one. Have a beverage nearby because there will be a hot aftertaste.

Greek Tzatziki - I have encountered Tzatziki once before in chip form when I reviewed the Do Us A Flavor flavor Greektown Gyro, and I was not a fan. Tzatziki has that yogurt and cucumber vibe that just doesn't appeal to me, so I was hesitant to try these.

The smell at first when opening the bag was a bit off-putting, almost as if something had gone bad. These wavy chips did not taste as bad as I thought they would, but I definitely wouldn't try them again. The Bride thought they were okay, and again that they tasted like what they were supposed to taste like, noting the cucumber and yogurt.

Brazilian Picanha - This one is another meat chip, this one manifesting the flavor of Brazilian steakhouses, steak and chimichurri sauce. One I like and one I don't. I wonder how these will go. Picanha, by the way, is the finest cut of Brazilian steak, skewer-grilled with salt to lock in the flavor.

They smelled pretty good when I opened the bag, and these chips were big and had green seasoning on them. I'm not a big fan of chimichurri sauce but I assume that's what that was. The Bride thought they were just all right, rather unenthused by these chips. I got the steak right away, and kinda liked these a bit. I could get used to these.

Indian Tikka Masala - Despite what many folks might think, this catastrophically picky eater does occasionally try exotic foods, among them, I've enjoyed chicken tikka masala at Indian restaurants in the past. I have actually been looking forward to trying this one, and as fate would have it, so had The Bride, so we saved this one for last.

Upon opening the bag, a spicy aroma filled our nostrils. The Bride declared these kettle cooked chips the best of the lot after trying one and taking more for later. That said, she mentioned that they still weren't as good as the Do Us A Flavors from previous years. I thought they weren't bad, definitely tasting like what they were supposed to. I agree with The Bride, these were the best of the bunch.

What did you folks think?

Monday, November 07, 2016

Free Fries for Election Day

Even though I have moved a thousand miles away, I still miss, and love, The Pop Shop. One of the places I will be sure to visit when I come back to New Jersey will be The Pop Shop.

For Election Day, for all you folks in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, The Pop Shop is doing something special. Show them your "I Voted" sticker on Election Day, and you'll get a free Deluxe Pop Fries with any purchase of $6.00 or more. Awesome!

So get out there and vote, then stop by The Pop Shop for some of the best fries in the area!

Friday, November 04, 2016

French Fry Diary 723: Presidential Fries

This has been one of the most controversial and brutal Presidential elections in memory, and even though I try not to be political, I couldn't help but make a few observations.

We know where Hillary Clinton stands on French fries from her last bid for the Presidency. She's cool with them, puts ketchup on them, and eats with the people.

Donald Trump may be another story. According to this account the Donald likes McDonald's, but also likes ordering fries at his own fancy restaurants. However, this one time, it didn't go so well. Read about it here.

None of the third party candidates, not Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, Rocky De La Fuente, Darrell Castle, Gloria Estela La Riva, or Joe Exotic, have any particular French fry preference.

Current US President Barrack Obama however is a big Five Guys fan, which makes him okay in my book, and the First Lady has been quoted as saying, “I do love a good burger and fries. French fries are my favorite food in the whole world. If I could, I'd eat them at every meal - but I can't..."

Hmmm… can we give them another term? They seem like sensible folks, at least when it comes to fries...

No matter how you feel about the candidates, or your fries, please don't forget to vote!

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Spam Fries

I've talked about Spam fries before, but here we have an actual recipe, from Eat the Trend.

I'm still not sure about this one, but here you go...

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

French Fry Diary 722: Club House Diner

I don't go to the Club House Diner often, unfortunately when I have gone, it's after a funeral, as there's a nearby cemetery. The Bride however frequents it quite often with her gaming friends. When they wanted to throw us a going away party, it was at the Club House Diner in Bensalem PA.

Part of moving from the old place and moving to a new place is purging things that are no longer needed. I had a lot of gaming stuff I was getting rid of. I had previously given a ton of gaming books to this particular group of friends, and this night brought my HeroClix collection to get rid of, um, I mean, give away as party favors. So as the fight for plastic crack began, I ordered.

I had wanted onion rings, and while they were pretty big, they also looked dry and heat lamped so I passed on them. I also passed on the fries, which were heat lamped natural cuts. Instead I ordered some French toast and some breakfast potatoes. On the latter, I should have thought better of it.

I got cold breakfast potatoes, smashed on the griddle and folded like an omelet. They were quite cold by the time I got them, and they did not reheat well at all. Despite the bad food, this was a good time, we will miss our friends, and lots of toys got new homes. Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Bryan F. Irrera on Lay's Passport to Flavor

Here's a guest blog on Lay's Passport to Flavor potato chips from occasional FFD contributor Bryan F. Irrera, take it away, Bryan, and thank you!

I finally got a chance to try all four Passport to Flavor chips (I hadn't seen all of them at once until now).

I think the least exciting one was the Brazilian Picanha. There's a little beefy flavor, but very light. Not much spice or seasonings. Not much of anything, really.

(Sidebar: of the "do me a flavors" in past years, I liked NONE of the 2013s, (the Garlic Bread ones were lackluster, Sriracha WAY too spicy and I didn't even want to try the Chicken/Waffles 'cause that's just wrong as an actual food, never mind simulated on a chip). In 2014, I LOVED the Mango Salsa ones, liked the Wasabi ones (that won), was mildly indifferent to the Bacon/Mac and Cheese and found the Cappuccino ones interesting but not worth buying again (I didn't see myself buying "dessert" potato chips, necessarily). Last year, I LOVED the Southern Biscuit ones, tolerated the Truffle ones (they were just weird sour cream and onion to me) and HATED the other two (the feta on the Gyro one turned me off and I hate Reubens in their true form... the chips made me nearly vomit.).

I thought that the Tzatziki ones were a VAST improvement on the Gyro ones from last year. No more lamb/feta flavoring (or lettuce/tomato). Just pure cucumber and yogurt (which gives us a milder dill pickle chip. There is light dill in this in addition to the plain (non-pickle) cucumber flavor. Nice and gentle without being bland like the Brazilian ones.

The Szechuan Chicken ones are definitely spicy, but not overpoweringly so. These aren't like Sriracha chips or most "SPICY" chips that sacrifice flavor just to burn your mouth. While I did have a tingling sensation, I didn't feel I had to run to get a glass of water immediately. These weren't "fire" chips. There's a nice sweetness from the peppers in addition to the heat.

My favorite of this batch is the Tikka Masala ones. A nice (mild) masala. Not overly spicy, but seasoned nicely. Again, a nice sweetness was present here. Full-bodied. Really captured the dish it was emulating and could be a great permanent (even if semi-rotating) addition to the line-up, since it has a different Ethnic flavor profile than most snacks.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Random Tater Pic of the Day #253

This pumpkin is one of those atop the roof of Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, carved to look like, what else, French fries... mmmm... fries...

Monday, October 10, 2016

French Fry Diary 721: Foodies, Parx Casino 2016

I had kinda promised I'd never come back to Foodies again, but trapped at Parx Casino in Bensalem PA, with Chickie's & Pete's closed due to a sporting event, and the promise of Foodies being completely redone, I gave it a second chance.

Now there's an Earl of Sandwich and Bambu Noodle House there, and of course, Foodies. Looking at the menus for the other two places and then the average selection at Foodies - I had to wonder why it was called that. Foodies is apparently not for foodies.

The fries were heat lamped natural cuts, but at least they didn't have any foreign debris as they did last time. They tasted like they had been under a heat lamp for quite some time, even though all food made to order as promised on a sign by the ordering station. I really wish I had gotten chips.

The more these fries cooled off, the less appetizing they became. I ended up tossing more than half of them out. This was not much better than my last foray into Foodies. Maybe I should have tried the onion rings, but then again, I thought that might have been pushing my luck… Not recommended.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Fry Hard

Here's an awesome and simple recipe from Tasting Table for how to make rustic potatoes. Check it out right here. Mmmm... fries...

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Random Tater Pic of the Day #252

Some of you may or may not know, but The Bride and I are in the process of moving, or may have finished by the time this get posted. The thing about moving is you find things you had either forgotten about... or in this case, you have no idea what they are.

Written in handwriting neither mine nor The Bride's is this note, perhaps one of the saddest I've ever seen...

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

French Fry Diary 720: Wise Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

I had recently reviewed Wise potato chips, noting the decline of Herr's with the rise in quality of Wise. As Herr's seems to be pushing their kettle chips hard, based on how packed Wawas are with them lately, I wanted to give Wise's opposite number a look and taste.

Wise seems to concentrate on the small batch aspect of kettle cooking on their packaging, something that as with fries, with chips, is very important. Sadly, like many of the Wise chip varieties, these were hard to find. I finally wrangled a bag of the Original. They keep the ingredients simple: potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt. Additionally these chips are gluten free, with no MSG or preservatives, and zero transfats.

When I opened the bag, I got that great Wise potato chip smell I've come to expect, but looking inside, I was kinda disappointed. These were quite small chips, many just over an inch in diameter, not at all the size or shape shown in the art on the package. To Wise's credit it is noted that the illustration is "enlarged to show detail."

The potato chips are quite crunchy, as well as thick and twisted the way kettle chips should be. These are fine for munching, but not nearly big enough for dipping. I would be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed, but still I would get these again.

Friday, September 16, 2016

French Fry Diary 719: Hampton Inn, Lakeland FL

One of the great things (or not so great things, depending on your outlook) is the complimentary breakfast providing at some chain hotels. Sometimes it's just some old breakfast cereal and coffee, sometimes an actual working kitchen and kitchen staff, but mostly it's somewhere in between. In between is what we had at the Lakeland Hampton Inn in Lakeland FL while we were house hunting recently.

Oh sure, there was cereal, and a variety of bready things with toasters available, but the real star was the waffle making station, for which there was a long line. Hidden away in a corner of the kitchen area though was a covered hot plate with omelets and breakfast potatoes. I was happy.

The breakfast potatoes were redskin chunks with peppers and onions mixed in. They were quite hot with a spicy and buttery taste, made just right, a little crisp but with a soft but firm center. I got two servings they were so good. I feel like I found the pot of gold under the rainbow. Great breakfast to start a full day of house hunting, hopefully I'll find a house as good as these potatoes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

French Fry Diary 718: Waffle House

On our most recent trip to Florida house hunting we had to stop for breakfast, and rather than something easy and predictable like McDonald's or Chick-fil-a, we opted for somewhere we'd (or I'd) never been before, and a staple of our new chosen place to live - Waffle House.

My expectation was something franchise-y in line with maybe Denny's or IHoP, but that's not what Waffle House is like at all. It was really more diner-ish than anything else, and filled to the brim with southern charm and hospitality. I loved it.

The menu showed an interesting take on hashbrowns (how they spelled 'em on the menu), disc-shaped, almost as if by cookie cutter or burger maker, but that's not what we got however, and honestly, while I was intrigued by the menu pics, I was not disappointed in what was served.

These were shredded potatoes, well cooked, but still moist and soft within. I got them plain, while The Bride got them with melted cheese. I have to admit they did need something, I at least salted mine. It's a good thing they have a variety of hashbrowns toppings like sautéed onions, chunked ham, diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, mushrooms, chili, and gravy. Or in the vernacular - smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped, or country.

I also got ham, but before I could order, I had to ask - what is the difference between city ham and country ham? Our waitress Stacy, full of wonderful truck stop charm, broke it down for us. City ham is sweet and country ham is salty. I got the city ham, which was awesome, and washed it all down with some Mister Pibb, mmmm…

The Bride also got a waffle, because really, you can't go to Waffle House and not get a waffle. And I loved ordering with Stacy, it was a great negotiation as what could work as a special or a meal deal. "Just tell me what you want, hone, we'll make it work." I loved it. We will definitely be going back to Waffle House.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Random Tater Pic of the Day #251

As I mentioned when I covered the SJWG surprise party at The Vault, friend and fellow writer Vince Sparks got me a very thoughtful and special gift - a French Fry Pen, to 'make my writing sizzle.' I love it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

French Fry Diary 717: Manny's Original Chophouse

This is my new favorite restaurant. No ifs, ands, or buts, Manny's Original Chophouse is it. Recommended by our realtor Rusty on our first house hunting foray into Lakeland Florida, I fell in love quickly. We had been looking for a place comparable to The Pub (that's what we were in the mood for), but soon realized how much better Manny's was than The Pub. Welcome to Florida.

There's 'call ahead,' and we did, but we were seated right away on our first visit (as with our second and third as well). The waitress wrote her name in crayon, along with her manager's name, on the paper tablecloth on top of the real tablecloth so we wouldn't forget it if we needed it.

First came the bread. Fresh baked hamburger rolls are what they looked like with buttered tops and they were hot and wonderful. We could have eaten them like that and been happy, but they came with ramekins of both regular butter and sugar cinnamon butter. Adding the butters made these better than any sticky bun I have ever had, wow, melt in my mouth wonderful.

And the appetizers did not end there, then came the onion rings. We got the half-order, which was enormous. I can't imagine what the full order is like. These were super-thick sweet onions, lightly breaded with crushed fine Panko, a heavenly onion ring. Truly, these were the best onion rings I have ever had, ever. And on all three visits, the bread and the rings were superior every time. Consistent perfection. Even before the entrees came, we were full, and Manny's was our new favorite restaurant.

I got the grilled chicken smothered in Manny's BBQ sauce on rice, with hot natural cut fries. The fries were okay, and delicious in the sauce, but the second and third times I opted for the baked potato, which was huge and mouthwatering with butter. I found my potato target there, as well as the amazing onion rings. The Bride has tried the steak pieces and the fajitas and the garlic smashed potatoes. On future visits I can't wait to try the steaks and the teriyaki chicken.

Manny's family is from Greece, and they have several restaurants in the central Florida area. We've tried two of them and look forward to eating at the rest. I cannot recommend this place enough. For friends and family, when you come visit us in our new home, we'll be taking you to Manny's so you can see, and taste, for yourselves. This place is that good.

Monday, August 29, 2016

French Fry Diary 716: The French Fry Dipping Sauce Poll Results

A long time ago, before I got sick in December, I started a poll here on the blog about what your favorite dipping sauce for your French fries was. In truth, I did it twice. The first time I was chastised for leaving certain dipping options off the list, so I revamped it, but I did keep count of the votes from the first poll and have added them in to the final tally. So now, the answer to the question - What is your favorite dipping sauce for your French Fries?

Overwhelmingly, the biggest vote-getter, with almost half the votes, was ketchup. So, now that we got the unimaginative folks out of the way, we can concentrate on the more interesting choices. But before we do that, let's eliminate those that nobody picked - sour cream and marinara. Both were made as suggestions to add to the second poll, but neither volunteer agreed that they liked them, so there you go.

Oddities that only a few folks voted for in the "other" option included specifics like T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniels BBQ sauce and Roy Rogers BBQ sauce, both favorites of mine, as well as bourbon mayo or remoulade. I also like the peach bourbon sauce at Red Lobster, which got a vote as well. It seems that no matter how you slice it (or stir it), alcohol is popular in dipping sauces. Taking up the single vote end of the spectrum were also mustard, wasabi, tartar sauce, sriracha, butter, Arby's 'horsey' sauce, and just plain ol' hot sauce.

The next highest vote-getters were aioli and steak sauce, followed by ranch, another of my faves, sweet and sour, and the combined vote for peanut butter and peanut sauce. Next highest performers with 10% each of the vote are two more of my favorites - ice cream and teriyaki sauce. Then come honey, a frequently mentioned Asian treat, and curry, which I have every time I visit the British Chip Shop. Then came mayo and honey mustard, yuck.

The big guns, besides traditional ketchup of course, were cheese - The Bride's favorite, which comes in many varieties (perhaps fodder for a future poll), and my favorite, milkshake. The latter has recently come out of the closet as a strong contender for dipping. Second place went to UK fave vinegar and my personal favorite (tied with shake), barbeque sauce, and I would go along with those who specifically mentioned Jack Daniels and bourbon varieties.

So, do you agree? Did I miss your favorite and you'd like to get a late vote in? Feel free to comment below, I'd love to hear what you're dipping your fries in!