Fry Oh My
There’s a lot of talent in a potato, and the French fry tends to hog much of the spotlight. While fries usually share the stage with a browned hunk of protein, here they’re presented front and center, Westchester’s best, in all their golden, creamy, crisply addictive glory. All are from russet (Idaho) spuds, and most are prepared in venerable double-cooked European tradition: oil-blanched to pale golden, cooled, then, before serving, fried again to crunchy/creamy textural perfection and crowned with good salt. The candidates had to be from fresh, not pre-cut frozen, potatoes (disqualifying my beloved Nathan’s); be hand-cut on premises, not pre-packed in preservative solution; and be trans-fat-free. All these passed brilliantly.
221 Main St, White Plains (914) 467-5710; bltsteak.com
If you didn’t know you could substitute BLT’s other fries for their Parmesan variety, I’m here to tell you that you can—and should. The restaurant’s batons, garlic fries, and Old Bay-spiced offerings all are adequate, but those Parmesan fries are intoxicating. Dusted with sea salt and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, they’re powder kegs of flavor, benign in their butcher-paper cones, explosive in the mouth.
Encore Bistro Francais
22 Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont (914) 833-1661; encore-bistro.com
“Do you know anyone who doesn’t like French fries?” asked David Masliah, rhetorically. No, I don’t, not when they’re this creamy inside, their crisp exteriors sparked with kosher salt. “Sea salt is too delicate to use; the oil breaks it down,” he explains. “Kosher salt keeps its crystal.” His frites, traditionally double-fried, come in a paper cone as a side, or share a plate with moules or steak at lunch and dinner.
1 High St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 693-4130; harvest2000.com
“Mom, I love your job,” sighed my 10-year-old, licking sea salt from his fingers. My boys had tagged along to my tasting, and chef Bob Galuzzi had indulged us with a quartet of zesty dipping sauces for his baton-cut fries, which he fries twice before that climactic sea-salt toss. My boys were partial to the sour cream-and-chive sauce, and I, the product of a Lipton Onion Soup dip-laden childhood, had to concur. Galuzzi prefers the chile-paste-jolted aoli, but with these fries, you just can’t lose. “Our palates crave fat and salt and crunch,” Galuzzi says. “It’s a primal desire, and it all happens to be wrapped around a potato.”
94 N Broadway, Tarrytown (914) 631-6606
Salt-deprived fries notwithstanding, (see “Pet Peeve” at bottom of page) this pub’s wedges have luscious velvet interiors with deep, earthy skin-on exteriors.
Le Jardin du Roi
95 King St, Chappaqua (914) 238-1368; lejardinchappaqua.com
“The most important thing is to take care of the oil,” says Jardin’s co-owner Joe Quartararo. And boy, does he. The crunch of his baton-cut frites is completely devoid of any oily residue. “The first fry releases the potatoes’ water,” he explains, referencing the double-fry method. “So every day, we fry day-old bread in the oil to absorb that water.” Still, like this article’s other restaurateurs, he changes the oil about every two days. The resulting frites are accompanied by, if requested, a trio of dipping sauces including house-made mayonnaise, Europe’s condiment of choice.
Le Provençal Bistro
436 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck (914) 777-2324; provencalbistro.com
“Sometimes people insist our frites be kept on the table through dessert,” says owner Derrick Dikkers, and I can understand the compulsion. Heaped in a pyramid, the matchsticks—pommes allumettes—are hot, crisp, and golden, and stayed that way for quite a while. Dikkers attributes that to the right potatoes. In late autumn, he explains, Idaho-harvested russets are watery. “They don’t crisp up,” he says, “they stay soggy.” So for a few months he switches to russets from drier, more southern climes. His ultra-thin variety gets one quick, single fry. “The simpler you keep it,” he states, “the better.”
McArthur’s American Grill
14 Washington Ave, Pleasantville
This pub offers five types of fries—all salt-free except for the Cajun-spiced variety. Presented either as shoestrings or waffle-cuts, they’re rubbed with salted spice prior to frying and have a mild but zesty finish. The other winner—not technically a fry—is the hand-cut ridged potato chip, an aspiring Ruffle’s alter ego showered with parsley, salt, and pepper and served warm.
Vox Bar & Restaurant
721 Titicus Rd, North Salem (914) 669-5450; voxnorthsalem.com
Diamonds are forever, and so, it seems, are the fries at Vox. In all the times I’ve eaten there, through five years and three chefs, their excellence remains unchanged. Maybe it’s the extra step of blanching the matchsticks in water first, before the double-fry process. “It makes for a softer interior,” says current chef Eric Ulbrich, and man, are these interiors soft against the exteriors’ kosher-salt-showered snap. Devour them on the plate with a burger, or order them as a paper-cone-wrapped side with mussels, steak, duck—hell, just order them.
X2O Xaviars on the Hudson
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers (914) 965-1111;
“I’m Irish; I love potatoes,” says Chef Peter Kelly. Yeah, but no peasant ever had potatoes like these. His tempura fries get a dusting of zesty Asian seven-spice blend and two Japanese dipping sauces. His pommes soufflés—classic triple-fried pillow-shaped shells—are showered with custom-ordered rosemary sea salt. His thick batons, soaked overnight in water to reduce starch, sing with kosher salt and a tomato/mustard-seed dip.
Even his standard shoestrings are sprink-led with truffle oil, Parmesan, and Breton sea salt. And then there are the spud-impersonating chickpea fries, flecked with fennel seeds and kosher salt, with their tangy tamarind dip. “I like to tweak fries and make them more fun,” says Kelly. Chef, this isn’t fun. It’s an orgy.
Pet Peeve First, a rant: Not salting fries was a kitchen decision I encountered more than once on this assignment,
to which my indignant reaction was: no salt, no good. You might as well not put the vinaigrette on the salad, the brûlée on the crème. People, if you can’t have salt, you probably shouldn’t be ordering fries, and the kitchen shouldn’t make the rest of us suffer. Showering them with caustic table salt when served is barely remedial. Okay, venting over.
Food writer Diane Weintraub Pohl has a renewed appreciation for the French fry, though she still prefers her potatoes mashed, particularly with garlic and cream.