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Jenise

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America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jenise » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:41 pm

The other day, when I turned down fries with something shortly after watching Rick Steves watch the real deal being made in Brussels, I got to thinking how many places on this planet understand the beauty of a real fried potato--kettle cooked at two different temperatures to ensure a crisp and crunchy baton of potato wherein the last potato in the bag is just as much that as the first one was, where America does not. Sure, those of us who have travelled get it, but those who don't think McDonalds' fries are pretty good and often can't tell the difference between fries made from fresh vs. frozen potato. Worse, they might prefer the frozen!

When better, SO much better is possible, why is America satisfied with so much less?
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Rahsaan » Tue Dec 04, 2012 6:02 pm

Two responses come to my mind.

1) Most people in all countries are satisfied with less, because most people in all countries don't invest too much energy in maximizing the excellence of each meal.

2) I'm not so sure the difference is America vs. Elsewhere. For national-level comparisons it might be Belgium vs. Elsewhere and then the rest depends on local shops/sub-cultures.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Ian Sutton » Tue Dec 04, 2012 7:27 pm

What Rahsaan said, plus the massive scale of advertising and control that the big corporate companies have in the US. In Italy they get much less traction (and indeed the big food companies are thus forced to raise their game). To put that another (somewhat challenging) way, the problem may be a lack of genuine competition.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Karen/NoCA » Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:21 pm

America is in a hurry...we all want (some of us anyway) want it faster and the faster the better. Personally, I love home made fries. The thick wedges, coated in a little olive oil and baked in the oven on high heat until the outside is golden and crisp while the interior remains buttery and soft.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Hoke » Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:59 pm

We have plenty of good fries here in Portland.

One of the favorite food carts in town is Potato Champion, which essentially does nothing but "Belgian Fries" with all sorts of sauces.

St. Jack's (French Bistro) makes superb pommes frites, good enough it's worth going there just for cocktails and frites...but we always end up not being able to resist all the other good stuff.

Allium Bistro, in one of the 'burbs, does killer fries in the Parisian style, served up in specially designed stainless steel holders that take the paper cone wraps.

Vitaly Paley's new place...well, his next to newest place now...features a basket of "real" fries with a special sauce that is awesome to behold.

Oh, the list goes on and on...

And don't get me started on garlic fries :D
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Robin Garr » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:11 am

Hoke wrote:We have plenty of good fries here in Portland.

Ditto Louisville, although I think it is probably not a coincidence that the places with the good ones almost invariably call them frites.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jon Peterson » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:19 am

Jenise wrote:Sure, those of us who have traveled get it, but those who don't think McDonald's fries are pretty good and often can't tell the difference between fries made from fresh vs. frozen potato.


That's the difference, Jenise and I have to agree with you. I can recall French fries in Belgium from a street vendor when I was 11 years old as clearly as Parker can remember his last wine; they were pretty fantastic. There is no reason why we can't have the same here, yet we put up with what we're told is "Award Winning" fries which are, by design, available within a few minutes drive from every house coast to coast, it seems. That's one reason we have a contest in our family to see who's stayed out of a McDonald's the longest. It's not hard to stay out: for me, haven't been in one for well over five years. (Needless to say, this isn't limited to McDonald's but they're an easy target here.)
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Bill Spohn » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:29 am

You can't get good fries out of a plastic bag of frozen fries, but they are cheap and that's all most restaurants care about

Best fries I've had/made involve duck fat....mmmmmmm!!!!!
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jon Peterson » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:37 am

Bill Spohn wrote:Best fries I've had/made involve duck fat....mmmmmmm!!!!!


YES! First time I had these was at Family Meal in Frederick, MD - the diner opened this past summer by Chef Voltaggio. They really are wonderful.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jenise » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:35 pm

Jon Peterson wrote:
Jenise wrote:Sure, those of us who have traveled get it, but those who don't think McDonald's fries are pretty good and often can't tell the difference between fries made from fresh vs. frozen potato.


That's the difference, Jenise and I have to agree with you. I can recall French fries in Belgium from a street vendor when I was 11 years old as clearly as Parker can remember his last wine; they were pretty fantastic. There is no reason why we can't have the same here, yet we put up with what we're told is "Award Winning" fries which are, by design, available within a few minutes drive from every house coast to coast, it seems. That's one reason we have a contest in our family to see who's stayed out of a McDonald's the longest. It's not hard to stay out: for me, haven't been in one for well over five years. (Needless to say, this isn't limited to McDonald's but they're an easy target here.)


Those street vendors are exactly what I'm talking about. Food trucks like the one Hoke speaks of would be the perfect way to take fries--frites!!!--to the people, and I can see people lined up down the street to get them too, they're THAT good when they're right. You'd think something like that would take off in America, wouldn't you?
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Karen/NoCA » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:16 pm

Those street vendors are exactly what I'm talking about. Food trucks like the one Hoke speaks of would be the perfect way to take fries--frites!!!--to the people, and I can see people lined up down the street to get them too, they're THAT good when they're right. You'd think something like that would take off in America, wouldn't you?


Of course they would. However, in Redding, street vendors were against City code for a long time, I think that has changed because we are starting to get food trucks here. The City went after a guy named Willie because he was selling hot dogs for a small stand on the corner somewhere. Restaurants complained that he was stealing business away from them and he was not paying rent like they had to. Crazy, he had a huge following. He is still around here selling his dogs. I never did try them.There are two taco trucks and a burger truck that I know of. I wonder if those fall under a different category than a street vendor? I actually don't see any actual street vendors....and I am thinking of a cart type thing on a sidewalk.
I suspect this type of thing might be against City code in other cities, as well.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jenise » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:50 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:
Those street vendors are exactly what I'm talking about. Food trucks like the one Hoke speaks of would be the perfect way to take fries--frites!!!--to the people, and I can see people lined up down the street to get them too, they're THAT good when they're right. You'd think something like that would take off in America, wouldn't you?


Of course they would. However, in Redding, street vendors were against City code for a long time, I think that has changed because we are starting to get food trucks here. The City went after a guy named Willie because he was selling hot dogs for a small stand on the corner somewhere. Restaurants complained that he was stealing business away from them and he was not paying rent like they had to. Crazy, he had a huge following. He is still around here selling his dogs. I never did try them.There are two taco trucks and a burger truck that I know of. I wonder if those fall under a different category than a street vendor? I actually don't see any actual street vendors....and I am thinking of a cart type thing on a sidewalk.
I suspect this type of thing might be against City code in other cities, as well.


The kind of two-stage french fry cooker we're talking about is more elaborate than a street cart could handle. In Belgium and Holland, the places I associate with the kind of french fry I'm talking about, they're not sold from carts so much as something you'd call a 'stand'. Of course, anyone with a brick and mortar establishment can do this too, but the typical fry vendor only makes and sells fries which are sold over a counter or out a window (usually with a myriad of sauce options of which the most popular two are mayo and gravy) often wrapped in newspaper--street food. There has to be room to peel and cut the potatoes as well as room for the fryer with a rack/holding area for the potatoes that have already been through stage one and are now ready for stage two. That's why a food truck would be so darned ideal.

Britain also has "chip shops", which of course also sell fish.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Lou Kessler » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:01 pm

I am happy with the French Fries we get in 90%+ of our eating establishments in this country. I confess to being selfish because if there were good fries to be had everywhere I would eat them constantly and I'm always trying to keep my weight in check. :( Seriously, good fries can be addictive. :twisted:
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Barb Downunder » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:20 pm

And then there is the perfect chip, Heston's Thrice cooked chips, wonderful.

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/14607 ... oked_chips
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Mike Filigenzi » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:36 am

Man, after reading this I can only think that I am a bit of a fry slut. If they're hot enough and crispy enough, I'll like them. There's something about that combo of grease, potatoes, and salt that is immensely delicious. Can't remember how many times I've thought, "If I die young, it will be the fries that got me".

Of course, the Belgian version is in a league apart from the rest, but even McDonald's fries are good within about five minutes of getting them (once they get at all cold, they're kinda nasty). For me, fries are kind of like pizza, in the sense that they have to be pretty bad to be really bad. Of course, soggy, limp fries are an affront against humanity which require confrontations with management and the most enthusiastic excoriations on Yelp.

We get a pretty good variety of french fries here, and there are a number of places that do very good, twice-cooked versions.
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Jeff Grossman/NYC

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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:04 am

OK, now let's get real: When we say "french fries" do we mean potato wedges, steak fries, wavy-cut batons, shoestrings, or something else altogether?
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Mike Filigenzi » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:06 am

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:OK, now let's get real: When we say "french fries" do we mean potato wedges, steak fries, wavy-cut batons, shoestrings, or something else altogether?


Good point! I tend to consider just about any sliced-up, fried-up, salted-up potato to be a "french fry". That may be too loose a definition.

Garlic fries don't count, though.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:15 am

Oh, and I forgot about Tater Tots!

(A great sprinkle for fries is fennel pollen. And truffle salt. And smoked paprika. And a squeeze of lemon. I can see the Euro thing for mayo but my inner child prefers ketchup.)
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jeff B » Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:33 am

I must say that McDonalds fries, when fresh and warm, are my #1 favorite.

(ducking from all the fire that's about to be thrown my way)... :D

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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:58 am

Oh, and I forgot about waffle-cut fries! A place near me makes a good version of those.
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Carl Eppig » Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:04 pm

I don't know what to call them, but we've been cutting potatoes into very thick long pieces, tossing them with OO and seasonings; and baking in 400F degree oven for 45 minutes, turning halfway. Mmmm good!
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Lou Kessler » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:09 pm

Jeff B wrote:I must say that McDonalds fries, when fresh and warm, are my #1 favorite.

(ducking from all the fire that's about to be thrown my way)... :D

Jeff

Your favorite? my God man has civilization so passed you by in the hinterlands. I truly feel sorry that you have been so deprived. :(
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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Jeff B » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:04 pm

Lou Kessler wrote:
Jeff B wrote:I must say that McDonalds fries, when fresh and warm, are my #1 favorite.

(ducking from all the fire that's about to be thrown my way)... :D

Jeff

Your favorite? my God man has civilization so passed you by in the hinterlands. I truly feel sorry that you have been so deprived. :(


Yeah, I'm in real miserable shape over here...

Chomping away on a handful of fries as my arteries clog...:)

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Re: America and French Fries--why don't we get it?

by Mike Filigenzi » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:13 am

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Oh, and I forgot about waffle-cut fries! A place near me makes a good version of those.


On the surface, these would seem to be an abomination, but they can be pretty darn good.
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