I have an obsession with french fries – good ones that is.
As with any food, I have barometers for assessing the quality of this ubiquitous but usually underwhelming rendition of the lowly spud. Of course, they must be home-made not frozen, cut from the right potatoes, blanched and then fried just before serving and cooked in good quality oil.
Ultimate fries are served at Bistro 990 on Bay at Wellesley in downtown Toronto, at the fish and chip shop located in the Camden Town underground station in North London, U.K., and at some Swiss Chalet locations – yes, it’s true. (Note: Swiss Chalet also has excellent coffee – go figure.) Oh, and the round, thin and crispy, disc-shaped fries at Amadeu’s in Kensington Market are superb.
It was in search of good fries in Kingston, Ont., while Ross and I were en route to the Jazz Festival in Montreal last month, that I made a discovery. Using my foolproof sleuthing method – grilling folks who work in restaurants about their product – I asked the manager at the Keg in downtown Kingston if their fries were frozen. (I was also having a craving for steak that night, an urge that often comes upon me.) As usual, this method proved extremely fruitful. Walking us outside the beef emporium where he works, this helpful young man pointed at a pub across the street, a place he heartily endorsed and where, he noted, many restaurant staff eat after work. I had heard enough. Minutes later, we were seated in white plastic bucket chairs on the crowded patio at The Pilot House being served by a charming waitress called Kristi.
Yes, the fries were indeed home-made and the battered haddock they accompanied was good. Recommendation: Order the half-portion – it’s plenty. Returning the next day for lunch, I ordered meatloaf – excellent. Ross’s cheeseburger pie was good. The garden salad, made with sliced radishes, celery and tomatoes tossed with lettuce was, like all the food here, prepared with care. The dressing I chose, wasabi buttermilk , was delicious.
But the piece de resistance at The Pilot House was pie. Kristi informed me, when quizzed about is origins, that raspberry and blackberry were both baked in-house “by a woman who comes in each morning.” Well, the raspberry pie, with its side-kick of vanilla ice cream, was probably the best I’ve eaten: solid fresh raspberries, barely sweetened if at all and encased in a perfectly flaky, yummy crust made, we were told and not to my surprise, with lard. I’m contemplating a trip to Kingston for another slice but am likely too late for fresh-picked raspberries by now. Still, there’s apple pie to try in late summer!