It’s Fry Day! \o/
This national holiday holds a very special place in my heart. Right next to the clogged arteries caused by this very food 😉 I absolutely love French fries, can’t get enough of them. You know how some people, when they go on a diet, have their “cheat” food that they just can’t go without for the rest of their lives? Some people it’s ice cream, others it’s bacon, etc. Mine is French fries. I can go vegetarian and while I’d miss meat, I could live without it. But I cannot live without French fries! Even when I was trying to diet (Ever since starting this blog though I’ve long since given up on eating right…) I would allow myself French fries, but only my favorites, and only once every two weeks. I would go up to the Upper West Side for a cone of my favorite Belgian style fries from Maoz Vegetarian, accented with a mix of their garlic aioli and ketchup (the real way to eat your fries!) Coupled with their falafel pitas, my favorite guilty pleasure, and it was my own version of a Happy Meal. I didn’t feel like I was missing French fries too often because I knew I would get it every two weeks, and they would be great tasting fries, not crappy ones from another fast food chain I will refrain from naming (but lies only two storefronts down from Maoz).
Today, I beseech you: friends don’t let friends eat crappy French fries on National French Fries Day!
Although we call them French fries, America’s favorite way of eating potatoes didn’t come from France. They were invented in Belgium sometime in the 18th century, when fishermen would deep fry potatoes as sustenance in the winter months. They became popular in all circles of Western culinary fashion; even Thomas Jefferson ordered potatoes fried “in the French manner” at the White House. For the most part, only Americans call French fries “French”: England and other British municipalities call them “chips,” and they tend to be shaped more like the thick steak wedges than the thin shoestring variety. In French speaking countries (especially Belgium, where they know better!) the term is “pommes frites,” which translated just means fried potatoes. They’re so popular in Belgium that there are fast food restaurants dedicated solely to selling fries, served to you in a paper cone and offered with an array of sauces, including a mayonnaise-ketchup combination that’s the most popular. I didn’t see a “friterie” while I visited Belgium, but in the Netherlands, a bordering nation, a friterie served us well, popping up right at the time and place we needed it–Amsterdam, late at night, during a severe attack of the munchies!
Yep, Belgium takes its “pommes frites” obsession seriously, and so does the United States. We’ve made French fries into a fast food staple, but at the same time, degraded their quality. The fries you can get at a fast food chain may be the most popular in the U.S., but they’re pre-fried, frozen, and show very little resemblance to gourmet French fries in upstanding restaurants around the world. So don’t reach for the golden arches or that creepy guy in a royal outfit to satisfy your French fry craving today: try some fries that will realy make your mouth happy!
Love him or hate him, Bobby Flay has become a hugely popular and influential celebrity chef, especially here in New York, the center of the Food Network universe. So if he says some restaurant has the best French fries he’s ever eaten, people listen. And they listen even more when he says it twice! Flay has recommended the fries at Balthazar in SoHo on both “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and his own show, “Boy Meets Grill.” These must be some special fries then! First soaked in water to reduce the starch, the shoestring-thick fries are then deep fried twice right when you order them, so they’ll be fresh and hot at your table. No sad, limp fries under a heat lamp here! They serve them with a lemon aioli, whose crisp taste mimicks the crispiness, yet fattiness, of the outside of their fries. A Michelin starred restaurant, Balthazar does not come cheap, especially for dinner; but you may want to treat yourself here to an order of Steak Frites (because nothing goes better with French fries than a damn good steak!), just to see what Flay’s fuss is all about.
80 Spring St (between Crosby St & Broadway)
“Its fries — best enjoyed at the bar with a drink — are potato and oil harmonized. Served like thin pencils lined up in a cup, they are as crunchy as chips on the outside, amply potatoey but not dry. A lemon mayonnaise on the side is dangerously good. So good, in fact, that as I covered a fry like a sock with the mayonnaise and ate it, I forgot about the fries.”–The New York Times
“The whole reason I had any desire to go to Balthazar to begin with were the french fries. They were mentioned on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and I was immediately intrigued. They soak the cut potatoes in water to get rid of the starch and then blanch them in oil. When you place your order, they fry them again so they come out fresh and hot. It’s a two part deep frying process that leaves the fries silky on the inside while crispy on the outside.”–For The Love Of Food
“Cut, peeled, blanched, and twice fried (as just about every great fry is) to a gorgeous burnished golden brown, Balthazar French fries are proof positive that where there’s a will to make great fresh French fries, there’s a way. Bless you, Balthazar co-chefs Lee Hansen and Riad Nasr, for keeping the fresh French fry faith.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“A week later I am still drooling over my French Fries. I think these french fries were the most memorable item from the restaurant granted I did not have one of the egg dishes! There was something intoxicating about the french fries.”–Christine B.
“But I mustered up my courage, carefully selected a french fry from the delicate fry structure, and nibbled away. The fry was moist yet not soggy; saturated with just enough cooking oil to melt in your mouth, but not entirely grease your fingers. The fries were served with a homemade mayo dipping sauce, which I dipped my second fry into. OH. MY. GOODNESS. The sauce completely capitulated the flavor of the fry to another level. The mayo was tangy, cutting the richness of the fry, and coated my mouth in pure euphoria with each bite. I continued to dip fry after fry into the delicious mayo, luring me with its shiny sheen and creamy goodness.”–Chang L.
Personally, I had almost a religious experience back in Amsterdam (for more reasons than one, lol!). Nowadays, American-style French fries are great and all, and I’ll never turn down a good dish, much less Balthazar’s, but my favorite style of fries are Belgian. The big, thick wedges of potato, double-fried with no batter; juicy on the inside with just enough crisp on the outside, served to me hot, yum. While the United States may be huge fans of deep fried potatoes, we don’t have many “friteries” where French fries are the only thing on the menu. But Pommes Frites is starting to change all that. Taking their name from the French term for our favorite way to fry potatoes, this establishment sells one thing: Belgian style French fries. And spending all of their time on one product means they’ve got the experience and effort to make them fantastic. They’re twice-fried to seal in that juicy goodness inside, and made of crisp, golden perfection. While Balthazar may make a mean lemon aioli, Pommes Frites doesn’t rely on one great dipping sauce to pull you in: they have over twenty to choose from! You can pull a Super-Size Me and go to Pommes Frites every day for a month and almost never try the same sauce twice, from wasabi mayonnaise to curry ketchup and “war sauce” (made up of peanut satay sauce and raw onion). But going every day may not the the best thing for your health, especially in beach season 😛 So, my suggestion is just go today, and try whatever dips tickle your fancy!
123 2nd Ave (between 7th St & St Marks Pl)
“The fries are done Belgian style: fried once for cooking and fried a second time to give them that perfect golden luster. Their cut is irregular, which is perfect for the “crunchy hogs” (you know who you are), but makes the other fries a little inconsistent. But let’s be real, this place isn’t about the fries, it’s about the sauces. There are dozens of crazy and crazy-delicious sauces. A few examples: black-truffle mayo, peppercorn-Parmesan sauce and a gingery peanut satay with mayo called War Sauce. The fries rock, and the sauces blow the top off.”–The Huffington Post
“This Belgian fry shop does one thing only and they do it the best. Stop into Pommes Frites for an order of fries (a regular, enough for two, will set you back $4.50, a double $7.75) and choose from more than 25 sauces on the side. Ketchup, yellow mustard, frites sauce and a few other dips are free of charge, but that’s not why you’ll wait in line at this East Village fry haven. For a dollar a sauce, try some fan favorites like Sweet Mango Chutney Mayo, Rosemary Garlic Mayo and their latest, Organic Black Truffle Mayo. Not that you couldn’t eat them plain: Pommes Frites makes their fries just crispy enough on the outside, but soft and delicious on the inside.”–New York Daily News
“If a shop serves only fries, they better be damn good fries. Proving that specialization is the way to go, Pommes Frites sells exactly what it advertises: delicious, thick-cut Belgian fries served in paper cones. Fries emerge from their hot oil bath crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and sporting some serious potato flavor.”–Serious Eats
“Pommes Frites prides themselves on their specialty fries, perfecting their recipe and sustaining the business on solely the sale of their one item, done right. Though the frites are a wonderful indulgence on their own, why not venture over to the exotic flavor pairs of their widely acclaimed fry sauces, like Sweet Mango Chutney Mayo or the Irish Curry?”–CBS New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“They are quite soft on the inside, even if crispy on the surface. If shoestring fries are your thing, you might not be entirely pleased with Pommes Frites. But then again, you might walk away converted. Especially if you like the dipping sauces, that range from Mango Chutney Mayo to melted Blue Cheese.”–Srini V.
“This place was amazing. I loved every tiny bit of my cone of happiness (to the very last salty crumb), all the sauces with it and the many, many samples of the other sauces. I even liked the mix of Mango Chutney with roasted garlic. It all just worked. After talking with the fry guys, they offered me a sample of their new recipe sauce which he aptly named “OMG.” No joke, it probably is the more accurately named sauce since those are the only words that could describe the mix of flavors. It’s not on the menu but it damn well should be.”–Christine G.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!