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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

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!