Archive for October 2012

The Fried Potato and Other Ramblings   Leave a comment

Flat chips. WHY? You know, the ones they call ‘steak’ chips? When and where were these ever served with steak? These are my biggest chip fear. You can tell a lot about a place by it’s toilets and chips. It just reminds me of bad restaurants that have wet peas soaking the chips. Urrggghhh. They are just lazy, unimaginative and tasteless.

I accept that chips, like eggs, are a very personal thing. However there really are some no nos in my book.

Of course the new(ish) thing is twice or thrice cooked chips. The Taverners in Godshill do these in an excellent manner! Pretty filling though and never really necessary to order as a side, but so hard to turn down when the opportunity arises. They have a place on pretty much any dish except, probably, fish in my view. I remember when they first ‘came out’ and they would be presented on a plate usually 3 down and 3 crossed on top. The first time I had these was in The Swan in West Malling, now a Michelin Star. If you were really lucky you might get a third layer. It was nice to see the humble potato get a revamp. A very important staple for us Westerners.

Chip shop chips are a tricky one. Obviously only for fish and chips, but they are pretty standard and any diversion from said recipe of slightly wilted, fire hot potatoes is a no no and please a little bit of batter accidently dropped in the bag. Served in paper with salt and vinegar. There can be no alterations, but would you accept them on a plate in a restaurant? Probably not.

It does pain me that restaurants are unable to name potatoes cooked in oil correctly or truthfully. Chips are chips and fries are fries. I enquired recently about the size of a restaurant’s fries to be told by the waiter “well, they’re chips really“. So why not call them chips? I would have been utterly disappointed if I had ordered them without asking. Fries are French fries. Frites. Thin, crispy, salty and naughty. Don’t mess.

On a recent trip to Cheltenham to a very nice brasserie, which was mainly French with a bit of pasta thrown in, the club sandwich came with matchstick chips and the steak came with frites. I had the club and, yes, the matchstick chips were frites (imagine my delight). They were the only chips on the menu and you couldn’t even order a side dish, so my betting is their matchstick chips and fries were exactly the same thing??!!

Americans are good at fries – Freedom Fries, of course. I wonder why they don’t call them Freedom Frites – it has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? In and Out burger, a fast food ‘restaurant’ in L.A cut their own spuds! Unpeeled too. And they’re ‘ansome. There are some good places for good fries on the Island – Phileas Foggs and Barefoot on the Beach. Proper fries.

Funnily enough and I have never questioned her on it, my mum when I was a kid used to have a deep fat fryer, which pretty much, every night cooked chips, until I was probably about 10 years old. Except, these chips were cubed. I don’t know why. Obviously more labour goes into cubes than sticks? Note to self – ask mum about chips. They were very nice though. How I stayed a slim girl I’ll never know.

Now for the Sautée. They need skins. Sliced, halved, I don’t care, but they need skins to capture my heart. Sautée potatoes with duck breast. Or is it duck breast with sautée potatoes? With sautée you then move onto potato hash. That’s one big kettle of lovely fish. My goodness, the hash variations you can make. Some to be seen on our breakfast menus. Black pudding hash, ranch potato hash. I’m working on some more, but Mr OSGH takes quite some convincing for new specials!! But let’s face it sautée potatoes are chips for healthy people who can’t face the guilt.

And the wedge? Come on everyone likes a wedgey! Sour cream dip? I like mine with IOW Garlic Farm garlic mayo. With a pizza? We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure now and again. Now I know it’s a chain pub, but the Crab Inn in Shanklin do excellent wedges – deep fried baking potato, a whole one I would guess. Scrummy. And because they’re probably an American creation it doesn’t matter what you do with them or what you have them with Americans don’t care if you bastardize their food.

The food anomaly within my siblings is my brother. Now my brother is not a lover of food. What does this have to do with chips? Christmas day – 55 year old man (yes, he is substantially older than I) – has chips with his turkey! I conceded to cater for this one year, but I refuse to do it again! Maybe the chip shop will be open next time? He is also an eater of those flat horrible ones. Are we really related?

There are some things that shouldn’t be served with fried potatoes and although it seems popular to some Brits, it’s as frowned upon in Italy as using a spoon for your pasta. Lasagne and chips. Why? Lasagne, chips and peas. Why?

Unfortunately it seems to be a mainstay on Shanklin sea front that everything comes with chips in the majority of establishments. One of our guests recently almost ate in one, but someone queuing in front of them to order asked if they could have peas instead of salad with their lasagne, this was bad enough, but the server then said “I’ll ask, but you’ll probably get the salad as well”‘!! I just have images of plates and plates lined up in the kitchen already prepared with salad on the side. Our guests went back to the village for food. And in fairness to said eating place if someone’s going to order Italian food in an English restaurant they’ve only got themselves to blame!

My new bugbear is kids meals. Yes, we love potatoes, but why do kids meals all come with chips all the time? Come on, use your imagination.

It’s amazing how we take the lowly potato for granted. They are a wonderful thing and should be raised shoulder high. I’m a big fan whether it’s mashed, boiled, fried, baked or roasted. It has to be said though, that there are other alternatives. I have more alternatives in my cupboards than I do potatoes. One day Shanklin will be ready for them… one day.

It should be noted that these are just my opinions and if you take them too seriously you need a certain amount of help.

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