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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

El Pinto in Albuquerque NM

On a recent road trip, the Grunion demanded that we stop in Albuquerque on accounta he wanted to see if he could find Jessie from Breaking Bad.  We were tired anyway so we agreed.

We are in ABQ a few times a decade, and we ALWAYS stop at El Pinto when we're there.  It's an amazing tex-mex restaurant, and they have fries so they're fair game for a review.  It's located on a big chunk of land North of downtown.  It probably seemed like it was "way out there" some years ago, but ABQ has grown and now it seems like it's just in a suburb.

Over the years, it looks like it was built onto several times so it has that cool multiple dining room themes thing going on.  This is the bar.

This is what I call the flamingo dining room cause it's got tons of vegetation and a fireplace.

It even has a Titanic-like ceiling light.

This is a different dining area that I call "where the losers get seated".

Fries are $3.29 which is kinda steep. But the place is fairly fancy and you gotta figure they're mostly only there for kids and super old people anyway so the price is most likely designed to discourage ordering.

This is the order.  Decent amount for this type a place at this price.

Slightly battered (most likely frozen) but an overall good experience.

GRUNION:  Yo, these fries aren't Texan or Mexican at all!

GRUNION:  In fact, these are most likely descended from the original Belgian chips.

GRUNION: Pretty good, though.

If you are ever in ABQ, you should definitely stop by El Pinto.
They also have these red pepper rubbed ribs that are insane.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Red Robin VOODOO Fries

I've discussed Red Robin in the past.  Their fries are decent when combined with the fatty-fatty campfire sauce and are still "bottomless".  But there's something new brewing around the chain restaurant landscape-specialty fries.  Red Robin's stab at them is Voodoo Fries.

Whoa!  They've replaced the servers with table computers already?  This isn't even a higher minimum wage state!

Let's see....ah yes...bring me the ghost peppery goodness.

Red Robin still actually has servers.  They bring you drinks and food after you order it on the table computer.  Good thing too, cause you can't eat Red Robin fries without the added fatness of the super yummy campfire sauce (which is probably mayonnaise mixed with cayenne pepper, liquid smoke, bacon fat, and giggly snowflake kisses).  I realized on this trip that I've never bothered to try any of the other sauces.

This was delivered.  I love that it comes with A GIANT TUB OF RANCH DRESSING.  MERICA!

There'a a lot going on here.  Bacon, green stuff, batter-fried jalapeno slices, cheese "sauce".

They're quite good.  And plenty (even at 7 bucks).

Of course I ordered the bottomless fries and a giant cauldron of fatty campfire sauce to go with the voodoo fries.  Just as a quality check of course.

My (recently healthy-eating) buddy Jack was disgusted.  He ordered something called "hummus". Looked like cat puke to me.

Voodoo Fries at Red Robin are a definite do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to Make French Fries with Chef Matt Boring

HOWDY! I'm back from my sabbatical to resume your fry education, dear readers.  Over the last few months I have tried many places, and the national trend seems to be for "natural" style fries.  This was probably precipitated by the newer uber-burger chains (Five Guys, Shake Shack, etc.) making a big deal out of showing off real potatoes in their lobbies.

Hey, I'm all for fresh cut fries if they're cooked correctly, but the sad fact is that they usually aren't. And my buddy Chef Matt Boring is about to educate you why.  This is Chef Matt.  When it comes to the science of fries, he is my go-to guy.  I'm not gonna list his CV, but you should google him.

A while back we got together and he showed me how you make fries.  Specifically, he made his special truffle-Parmesan fries.  YUM.

A day or so before he was ready to cook, he cut the fries and soaked them in water overnight.  Then he drained the excess starchy water that had accumulated.  Next he dried and then dumped the fries into a fryer with oil at 325 degrees.  This is called "blanching"and it's a super-important part of the process.  During the blanching, oil gets into the fries and builds a layer of starch cells around the outside of the fry.  This outer layer protects the fry as it is fried again at a higher temperature so they cook through.  After a few minutes of blanching, he rested them for a few minutes, and then fried them in oil that's around 400 degrees.

Then he bounced the fries around in a bowl with some salt, truffle oil, and some green stuff and voila!


Here's the thing: most restaurants (and certainly burger chains) don't have the space, the time, or the craps to give to have two different fryers going.  That's why the "natural" fries at most of these places are horribly inconsistent in texture, crispness, done-ness, and taste.  I have always maintained that whether they are frozen to begin with or fresh they have to be properly prepared.

So the next time you're at a restaurant that has fresh cut fries ask your server if the kitchen double cooks them.  My guess is the answer will be no.