Monday, June 22, 2009

French Fry Blogs

Although there aren't man sites on the internet which chronicle chip trucks, there are a few devoted to the art of the french fry (e.g. The French Fry Blog or I Heart French Fries!) Great french fries can be made at restaurants other than chip trucks. But for me, the chip truck experience is about more than just the fries. It's about the roadside ambiance, the anticipation as the fresh cut fries cook, the opportunity to spray malt vinegar out of a spray bottle. Maybe it's a bit like being the kind of person who will go to the movie theatre to see anything, just because they enjoy the act of going to the theatre. Although the fries are certainly central, for me, there's more to chip trucks.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brown Eyed Susan's

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a family with young kids on a long road trip must be in want of a chip truck"

When: June 18th, 5:50pm

Where: Bailieboro, ON off Hwy. 28 between Peterborough & Port Hope (Map)
Exterior: Brown Eyed Susan's is a well-establish venue, with a permanent building and a big awning. There are separate orders to order and pick up your food, and all the staff are wearing 'Brown Eyed Susan's' t-shirts. There are three picnic tables covered in plastic table cloths and garbage and recycling on site. An old stove has been turned into a planter with yellow flowers growing out. The chip truck is located at an Econo gas station (gas price = 99.9cents/litre)

Chicken nuggets, hot dogs, fries, drinks (including 2% and chocolate milk). There's also a kid's menu!

Condiments: Ketchup, 2 kinds of vinegar in spray bottles, salt

The Chips: I ordered a small fries and a diet Coke ($4.00). The fries came in a container inside a paper bag. They were very good: not too crispy, not too salty, medium cut. The inside was soft and tasted almost sweet. They were a perfect temperature when I got them - just on the hot side of warm.

Major Discovery: A major problem at chip trucks is the even distribution of condiments throughout the whole serving. My preferred technique for solving this issue is to make two trips to the condiment stand, but of course this is not always possible, so I am always looking for new techniques. At this stand, I saw a guy shaking salt through the fries on the top and then evenly distributing the salt tapping the sides of the bag. This is a technique I am VERY familiar with for popcorn seasoning at the movies, but I had never thought about it for french fries. This will only work for certain kinds of containers, but it seems like a useful strategy.

Does anyone else have any great techniques for condiment distribution?

Quintessential Chip Truck Moment: While I was there, a family with three kids under the age of 8 pulled up. One kid was crying, one kid was tattling on the crying kid and the third kids was complaining that the tables were dirty. The mother was ordering hot dogs & fries as the father was dealing with the crying. She gave me a look like "what can you do?" As soon as the fries arrived, there was satisfied silence among the children and a look of momentary relaxation on the face of the parents.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fish Clams Fries

When: June 14th, 5:11pm (ADT)

Where: Near Cleveland Beach, Nova Scotia (Map) We saw this chip truck driving to Lunenburg, and almost stopped on the way there, but decided our stomachs were full from Mabel's. We stopped in on the way back from Lunenburg to Halifax.

Companions: Jill & DamienExterior: This is a pretty big operation, which I imagine gets pretty busy during the summer, as it is across the highway from a gorgeous beach. The chip truck itself is a trailer attached to a permanent hut. There are 12+ picnic tables, many shaded by patio umbrellas or even plastic 'garages'. There are kid sized chairs and tables, and the whole area is fenced in. Recycling and garbage are available on site. The view of the ocean is spectacular; buying fries here could just be an excuse to stop and watch the waves.
Menu: Clams, chips, poutine, burgers, fish, onion rings, freezies, seafood platter.
Also for sale: ice, picnic tables, aprons and dog scarves. They were also offering $20 gift certificates.

Condiments: Ketchup, 2 kinds of vinegar in spray bottles, mustard, relish

The Chips:
We ordered a small poutine for $5.00. It came in the same biodegradable container as Mabel's, although the serving size was smaller. The plain french fries were not bad. They were quite crispy and soft on the inside, although they were not very hot and not at all salty. The poutine was....not good. I'll preface these comments by saying that I don't think that poutine is the focus in this area (obviously fish & chips is what they do really well), but it was nevertheless on the menu. The cheese was shredded as opposed to curds and relatively tasteless. The gravy was bland, runny, warm brown water. Overall, Damien (a native of Ottawa and therefore a poutine connoisseur) proclaimed it was "slightly better than he could make at home" and you should "come for the view but leave to get poutine somewhere else."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mabel's Gift & Farm Market Homemade Fish & Chips

When: June 13th, 2:28pm (ADT)

Where: Near Shad Bay, Nova Scotia (Map) We came upon this chip truck driving from Halifax to Lunenburg, near Peggy's Cove.
Companions: Jill & Damien

Exterior: This chip truck is outside a store called Mabel's Gift & Farm Market. A trailer with the menu painted on the side is advertised with a banner-type sign. There is one large picnic table with an umbrella, but you have to be careful getting there, as there's a chasm-like hole between the chip truck and the picnic table.
Menu: Haddock, fries, homemade sausage, onion rings, poutine, pop.

Condiments: Ketchup, regular vinegar in the kind of container that holds maple syrup in fancy hotels, mystery yellow sauce. Although there was a large ketchup container, it was almost empty, and neither Jill nor I were able to get ketchup out without spraying it all over ourselves.
The Chips: We bought a small fries and three drinks for $7.50. The fries were served in a biodegradable paper 'boat' with full plastic forks (although a disapproving look from the owner limited us to 2 forks for our 3-person party). The serving overflowed the container to the point of spillage. The fries were medium-cut and nicely crispy, not too greasy and not too salty. The fries are definitely worth a stop, although overall the truck lost points for the dangerous hole and the messy ketchup situation.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dutch Boy Fries

When: June 6th, 12:30pm

Where: Princess St. Kingston, beside S&R (Map)

Companions: Jane & Taylor

Exterior: Dutch Boy Fries is a yellow-green and orange truck with an awning over the service window. An ad for the company that presumably did the painting helpfully hangs in the front window of the truck (1000 Islands Painting Inc.). There is a (faux?) stained glass window taking up half the service window. The condiments, napkins & forks are located on shelves on the side of the truck. When we arrived there were 10 people in line, including 3 soldiers. There isn't any seating, but there are lots of benches along Princess St., and you're not too far from the waterfront. There also isn't any garbage/recycling close to the chip truck itself.

Menu: Very basic: fries, hot dogs, sausages, poutine, drinks, period.

Condiments: Ketchup, two kinds of vinegar in squeeze bottles, French fry seasoning + hot dog condiments. In a nice touch, we were offered disposable ramekins to hold ketchup with our order.

The Chips: We bought a small fries, a large fries, two hot dogs and three drinks for $15.00. The fries were served in paper bags with cardboard holders inside. The wait in line was fairly long, but once we got up to the window, the service was quick. The fries themselves were fantastic: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, nicely salted, not too greasy and not too hot. They were medium thick cut and the portions were generous. Both with and without malt vinegar was delicious, and (not to put too fine a point on it), the ketchup containers allowed us to cleanly enjoy ketchup to the end. The hot dogs did not gain such high reviews, as they were boiled and without much flavour, but the fries themselves were definitely top-notch.

The Lyon's Den Spud Hut

When: June 5th, 5:43pm

Where: Just off Hwy 7. at Marmora and Lakes (Map)

Exterior: A permanent trailer with a porch and five picnic tables. The trailer is painted with pictures of food and lions and sports an electric 'open' sign. The porch has three flags (British, American and 'Welcome'). The chip truck itself is located at an Econo gas station (91.9 cents/litre). The gas station parking lot also had a small flea market running, with several tables of knickknacks. When I arrived there was a middle-aged couple eating dinner at one of the picnic tables, and two dads, each picking up food to take to their families. Over the course of my visit, a woman came and ordered milkshakes.

Menu: Fries, poutine, burgers, fish, ice cream, milkshakes and an assortment of teas ('no caffeine free' options according to the sign).

Condiments: Ketchup, salt (coarse and regular), vinegar in spray bottles (malt and regular), pepper (chili and regular).

The Chips: I got a small fries and a Diet Coke ($4.00). It took about 15 minutes for my order, and the fries definitely tasted fresh-cut. They were overflowing from the rectangular cardboard container, and came with a small red plastic fork neatly folded into a napkin. The fries themselves were hot, oily and a bit chewy. They were light brown in colour and medium-sized cut. They weren't very salty, so I added coarse salt on my second trip to the condiment bar. The container was a good shape for storing ketchup down the side so as to enjoy the condiment throughout the full serving of fries. They left my hands greasy desipte the red plastic fork, so I was glad for the napkin!