by amvandenhurk | Life, Lifestyle, Restaurant Review
Obsession with Fries
Potato products are their own food group in my mind. They are the perfect food and can be prepared in many yummy ways. I like my potatoes and I love my fries. I grew up with chip shops in Ireland and McDonald’s fries in the US though now my go-to fast food fries are Five Guys. Malt vinegar or ketchup. Perfection.
But then I visited my friend Lieve in Beliguim in the early 1990s where frankly everything tastes good in Beliguim, the world of Belgian fries was opened to me. Belgians use peanut oil and double fry their fries or as they say in Belgium and The Netherlands, “frites.” The extra enough is worth it. And the toppings one could put on the fries. It just wasn’t vinegar, ketchup, or mayo, but different sauces like the tomato-based Andalouse, the spicy like Sriracha Pili-pili, the tangy BBQ-like Brasil sauce, the combination of mayonnaise with Tunisian chili, some spice, tomatoes, and bell peppers that makes Samourai sauce and finally, Pitta-pitta is aioli sauce with hints of dill. All are super. For me, it takes the fries from being a side to a full meal.
Friskie Fries Newport
Friskie Fries Newport takes the American fry into the same diva level as Belgian Frites. Friskie Fries is a meal, not just a snack. You have to be a champion fry eater to finish your container. By the way, I have, but then didn’t eat my dinner I was still so full.
I can’t say no to fries. And I can’t say no to fries with toppings. Friskie Fries is a RI-based food group. They started out with a food truck where they had great success allowing them to open a place in Providence. The Friskie Fries Group has 5-6 places. Newport is the most recent place and I am glad to have them here now. I know Rhode Island is a small state, but driving 30-45 mins for fries was a bit much for my husband so I just stalked Friskie Fries to open in Newport. They did. They are located at 404 Thames Street in Newport. A perfect location for them.
Friskie Fries Newport has toppings and sauces. They have 11 topped fries or know as dressed fries:
#1 Friskie Fries – Signature beef chili and cheese
#2 Cluck-U – Crispy chicken/buffalo sauce/blue cheese dressing & crumbles.
#3 Lil’ Piggie – Pulled pork/wasabi cucumber slaw/BBQ drizzle
#4 Disco Dottie – Poutine Handmade Vermont cheddar curd/Brown gravy
#5 Rhode Kill – NY System Weiner Bits/ Meat sauce/onion/mustard/celery salt
#6 The Alley Cat – Fresh Garlic/Olive oil, Parmesan
#7 Miss Potato Head – Sour cream/Smoked bacon/Fresh chives/Sharp cheddar
#8 Fowl Play – Crispy chicken/Mozzarella/Parmesan/Red sauce
#9 Cat’l Call – Philly Cheese Steak seasoned shaved steak/Cheddar
#10 Cinn-Fully Sweet – Cinnamon-sugar/Whipped cream
#11 S’Morsome – Melted chocolate/Mini marshmallows/Graham cracker crumbs
They also have sauces: mayo, honey mustard, horseradish, blue cheese, BBQ, sweet chili, sriracha, boom boom, buffalo, Hidden Valley ranch, and cheese.
It is fry nirvana. Is your mouth watering? Mine is. The old fashioned oyster container which today we associate Chinese food is perfect to carry fries with all their toppings. These all are a meal to themselves or sharable for two people; however, I have fry greed and eat my own.
So if you are in the mood for a fries with amazing toppings and flavors in a fun place then Friskie Fries Newport or any other of there shops throughout Rhode Island. Skip McDonald’s, Friskie Fries is all about fries. That’s their jam.
by amvandenhurk | Lifestyle, Travel
Boiled Peanuts are an NC specialty.
Unless you are from eastern North Carolina then you most likely have never heard of boiled peanuts. They are a well-kept secret. It is a very seasonal and local specialty. You know it is that time of year when stands pop up all over the backroads of eastern North Carolina. The peanuts are sold out of pickup trucks. Some are well-oiled operations with tents and boilers while others are just a pickup truck with plastic bags of the warm peanuts. There are no worries about them getting cold since they are sold out quickly. People just know. And they just crave them regardless of age, gender, race, or economic status. It is a comfort food.
Now, most folks from eastern North Carolina are skeptical about anyone not from there liking it. They will raise an eyebrow at you if you are lacking the correct accent. That said, they will gladly share and talk to you about boiled peanuts. Though they are pretty sure you are not going to like it. It is nice to prove them wrong.
What are Boiled Peanuts?
All boiled peanuts are not created equal. Having lived in Tarboro, North Carolina, I have only eaten what I would call eastern-style. All the locals will firmly tell you that if it is from anywhere else it is just plain wrong and that those folks are not doing it correctly. Tarboro is in Edgecombe County just off I-95. It is a rural community where peanuts, cotton, and tobacco are the main cash crops. In fact, much of the peanuts you eat at baseball games come from eastern North Carolina and southern Virgina.
Not to embarrass anyone so I will just get it out of the way. Peanuts come from the ground like potatoes and other root vegetables. They are not from bushes. Honestly, unless I lived in Tarboro, I never would have known where peanuts came from. And yes I am educated and have traveled the world. Just never crossed my mind.
What makes boiled peanuts special in eastern North Carolina is the peanuts are new green peanuts. Other regions in the United States South dry the peanuts then boil them. Apparently, it changes the texture and taste. And as the Edgecombe County folks say it is not as good as their way. (Word of advice, never challenge someone from North Carolina about pork BBQ and boiled peanuts because you are going to lose. They are passionate and proud about their food culture.)
Everyone has their own way of preparing them like most comfort foods. They are simple to make: green peanuts in the shell, water, and salt. That is it. The secret is the ratio of water to salt. And that takes practice.
There are two ways of enjoying the peanuts. You just put one in your mouth then crack the shell and sucking out the peanut and juice. Or my preferred way, crack the peanut out with your nails. Eat it like you would an oyster with the slurping and all. You have to have the salty juices. I was unable to keep myself neat with salted peanut juices running down my arm… and ok my chin. It was not a dignified affair. After a bunch my fingers became wrinkly. Well worth it. Best not to eat in public until you have the form down or like me you will look a sight.
Go Ahead and Try Them
I am not going to fib to you, but it is an acquired taste and I rather like it. It only took me seven years of living in Tarboro in Edgecombe County to try them. I was always too late and would miss the small window they are available. It is worth giving it a taste. So if you are traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina then stop and buy a bag for some local flavor.
It is worth giving it a taste. So if you are traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina then stop and buy a bag for some local flavor.
by amvandenhurk | Lifestyle, Small Town Life, Travel
Brake for Farmers Markets
I know I do whenever I get a chance. I spent the morning wandering through a farmers market on the Northern Neck of Virginia. In our move up the East Coast, I am enjoying the regional food culture of wherever we are staying. The Northern Neck is rich with farmers markets and produce stands dotting the countryside. The markets here tend to rotate among towns very weekend. It is not just fresh produce, but locally-made cheeses, bread, and meats that are sold.
I cannot help myself; I always have been that way. I have to stop and check out these markets and stands out. Growing up, my family had a huge garden on the side of the house on Greenlake Drive in Middletown, NJ. During the summertime, what we didn’t grow, we would go to produce stands along side of the road. Everywhere I have lived there was a summer farmers market. Lexington, Kentucky had the best one to date. It was huge and the products offered was of an amazing variety. They were very progressive by taking credit cards and accepting food stamps. The market made it easier for you shop fresh and wholesome regardless of your economic status. The last town I lived in, Tarboro, North Carolina, just formed a farmers market with the leadership of local business owners and town government. Every market day it is getting bigger as more vendors and visitors come. Having access to fresh, affordable produce is important to the health of the community.
There is something special about picking out fresh off the vine tomatoes while talking to the farmer about the weather. The farmers are very passionate about what they produce and are very proud of it. And you should too be passionate about what you eat. The produce you purchase is in season and fresh. Most of it came from a couple miles away and often you can see the actual farm where it was grown.
Visiting a farmers market forces me to think about food and meals. You never know what kinds of produce will be offered that day. It depends on what is ripe and ready. Today I came across butter beans, tiny tomatoes, green tomatoes, sweet pepper, and big sandwich slicers. That sets my thought process as to what I can make with these fresh ingredients. Lots. I plan on making a tiny tomato butter bean salad where I will add some asparagus and a vinegarette. With the green tomatoes, I will make fried green tomatoes. The sweet pepper and some of the tiny tomatoes will go in tonight’s hummus roasted veg tart.
This summer and fall, think local for your produce. It will open your mind and taste buds to new flavors.