Over the Labour Day weekend my family spent a wonderful few days at my uncle’s cottage in Minden Hills in Ontario. But this post is not about enjoying a cottage or Labour Day weekend. This post is about French Fries.
What does a visit to a cottage in the countryside have to do with French Fries, you wonder? Everything, I say. You see, I love French Fries. I don’t just love any variety. They have to come from good potatoes and must be cooked with care. Let me explain.
If I had my way, a well-balanced meal would be French Fries and ice cream, my two loves. My ice cream post will come another day, as today is all about the fried potato.
People around the world love to fry and eat potatoes. I believe both the Belgians and the French claim to have invented this delicacy, which has roots all the way back to the 17th century. Fries, frites, chips, whatever you want to call them, I am not the only person to love this fried goodness.
The best way, in my opinion, to eat French Fries, is from a truck or stand that lives on the side of a road or highway. Chip wagon. Shack. Fry stand. Whatever you want to call it, this is where to find the best eats. I am not a fan of the places that make a variety of foods and claim to have great fries but, in reality, have bags of pre-cut potatoes in a vast freezer in the back. I don’t care how much oil you use to fry them up, those are not French Fries.
My first favourite fry shack on the side of the road belonged to “Fry Guy.” To this day, I don’t know his name, but wow did he make them well. He built a small shed beside a gas station on the way up to our family’s country house, and it was hard for us to pass that place without stopping for a snack. Fry Guy was a retired history teacher who had a knack for making great fries and great conversation. His shack wasn’t so clean and he was eventually shut down. Maybe it was the dirt that made his food taste so good?
Fry Guy was replaced by Fry Girls, and up the road we also discovered Fry People. And I have tried so many more, most of whom were not honoured by a special name from me.
So, what makes a roadside French Fry just so tasty and enticing to the palette? First of all, as I mentioned above, it has to start with a good potato. Then the potato must be hand cut, with the skin left on. It has to be fried in very hot oil, to make it soft in the inside and crispy on the outside. A bit of salt to finish it off is key.
I believe all good fry stands follow this basic formula, and of course they all make it theirs in their own way. For example, in Quebec, I enjoy frites, which are much thinner and stringier. I find them, for the most part, much greasier, but that’s okay. Also, in Quebec, frites are typically served in a paper bag. My favourite frites stand is on highway 329, deep in the Laurentians, between the towns of Ste Agathe and Saint Donat. Yum. Yes, I enjoyed my fill a couple of weeks ago while we visited the area.
I found a fry stand this past weekend on the way to my uncle’s cottage that I simply adored. The Queen of Fries Chip Truck is located in the village of Norland, and I give them permission to include the word “Queen” in their name. The potatoes they use are local, they are hand cut, with skin on, and their oil was super-hot to produce a perfectly cooked fry. We devoured the family size.
No matter how many French Fries I eat I can never get my fill. Which is why I am on a quest to find the best French Fries. Maybe I need to go on a road trip across Canada, or North America, or do I have to jump over to Europe? I could travel for days, weeks or maybe even months, testing out the best there is from Vancouver Island to Eastern Newfoundland, from Northern Ontario down into Texas. Or maybe a hop over to the back roads in England, over the Channel and through French and Belgian villages?
Tell me where your favourite French Fries, frites or chips place is, no matter where you live. I hope to visit them all. Post me a note on Facebook, leave a comment here, or Tweet me @AliciaRichler. This is going to be fun!