Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The local chain’s standard

Barney’s Skinny Fries

When Barney's moved in years ago, I guessed I'd be eating there pretty much weekly (I first started going to their Piedmont Ave location).

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To begin reviewing their FFs (they offer several), I started with the "skinny fries."

We got a $2.50 single serving. The fries are McD like in style and appearance, served in a cheery red striped brown paper bag.

It’s a big serving. Quite a satisfying bulk for the American overeater.

First impression: limp; not a crisp batch. A pale, bleached-Twinkie-on-a-dusty-Tijuana-afternoon yellow. They cooled quickly; two-thirds through the bag they seemed like thawed frozen french fries.

These aren’t fries to savor one at a time (most are too small). I stuff several in my mouth at once. Hoping for what: flavor? texture? crunch? potato-ey smooshiness?

They’re low-interest FFs. Singularly or collectively, they aren’t worth paying attention to. Maybe they’d be appropriate for watching a game on TV, where, eyes glued to the screen, you use only peripheral vision to reach into a bag of wriggly FF worms and crush them in your teeth before sending them down your throat with a cleansing swill from a 32-ounce superdrinkie sports bottle.

Maybe I’d like them better if I were more depressed, due to their non-challenging nature and large serving size. G’s observation: “No salt?”

Overall impression: indifferent

Sunday, May 31, 2009


What color is the perfect french fry? Is it a pale yellow, the tawny tan of a pubic hair plucked from a sun-drenched strawberry-blond? Or is it Hostess Twinkie gold? A saffron orange, the gloaming of a tropical sunset, an al dente burnt orange twilight off Lahina?

One subjective view: “Susie says the lighter the better.” It all has to do with sugar.

Taking a more scientific approach, the American Journal of Potato Research published an article in 1974 describing the tools, tubers, and methodology needed for an objective measure of french fry color.

Finally, trust the government to get involved (but only on the frozen side). The “USDA Frozen French Fry Standard” can be ordered for $124.50 or the “USDA french fry color card” for $85.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The journey begins

I’ve come to seek perfection — the best french fry in the gourmet ghetto.

It’s a trip/travel log; a journey of discovery. I admit I don’t know what makes the best french fry; the criteria isn’t established. But I’m confident I’ll learn.

Despite my bravado, and like many round-the-world travel stories, I’m venturing off with the na├»ve expectation the story ends when I find myself back where I started (after years of torment and deprivation, the prodigal returns home). As applicable here, I already know the best french fry, I only have to discover who makes it along Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, roughly between University Avenue and Rose Street.

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What’s the complication? For FFotGG, a french fry is almost any potato product that hits oil. And I want to decide which one FF in the GG is the best. (For contrast, another view: "Fries come in enough variations that it's possible to have more than one favorite.")

I’m open to what makes the best french fry, and I'm going to consider the wide selection of potato-meet-oil offered in the holy center of California cuisine. For example, here’s a “balsamic onion gratin” from Gregoire I had last year. That’s not your McDaddy’s french fry, and yet it’s included in my journey. Still, the focus here is on french fries simple; plain potato plus hot grease.

But I draw the line. For an example nearer the horror end of the fried spud spectrum, here’s a video of a modern Frankenfry that won’t be covered (at least not until there’s a GG outlet, god forbid); I don’t know if potatoes are enough like oranges to permit the comparison, but my experience with orange juice says you can’t take the water out and reinstate it later and expect it to taste fresh squeezed; thus I have my suspicions about reconstituted potato.