At Jamonera, one of three Center City Philly restaurants owned by the talented chef/entrepreneur duo Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, I ordered the Papa Frita to nibble along with my sassy grapefruit-spritzed Alhambra cocktail.
Jamonera’s potato chunks were crispy skinned, fluffy inside. Sprinkled with coarse salt and drizzled with a bracing, wood-smoked garlic aioli, they delivered a rapid-fire volley of flavors and textures. The shiny house-made sherry vinegar hot sauce made the fab fries taste even better. (The photo is from metro.us, a Philly blog with great restaurant recommendations.)
Later in the tapas parade we ordered eggplant fries, also known as Berenjenas (below). We dipped the crisp batons, miraculously creamy within, into a spunky smoked salmorejo sauce (tomatoes, bread, olive oil and garlic), then captured the little shreds of zamorano cheese (similar to Manchego) and squiggles of truffled honey, and decided that it’s been way too long since our last visit to Spain. (Photo from PhillyNoodle.)
Now I’m in San Francisco and my track record keeps getting better. On Thursday night I stumbled upon Polenta Fries with Parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano at Sociale, a charming neighborhood spot tucked into a cozy alleyway corner in Presidio Heights. (Unfortunately, I was so busy scarfing the fries and the voluptuous Wild Mushroom Pot Pie and the snappy Spinach Linguini with Clams that I neglected to take a photo of the fries.)
The polenta wands appeared fat and crusty, but, in fact, were so light and wispy they could have practically flown into my mouth on their own. With each bite I cracked through the microscopic fried shell and into a cloud of hot, buttery polenta. A flurry of shaved parmesan and chopped parsley completed the picture.
Twenty-four hours later we were oohing and aahing over the Spiced Fries with Aioli (above) at Prospect in the SoMa district. After all the eggplant/polenta/sherry-hot-sauce exotica, these were your ordinary, all-American French fries…but with a twist. Like the acclaimed fries at Prospect’s “sister” restaurant, Boulevard (there’s an overlap of owners and consulting chefs), these are said to be cooked in rice bran oil, which has a lighter, “cleaner” flavor profile that lets the taste of potato shine. The chunky sticks are pillowy inside, crusty outside, and liberally doused with a "barbecue" spice blend that's lip-smackingly good. (Photo from SeriousEats.)
Four great French fries, and not a burger in sight. No supporting actor roles for these impressive fries. They all get center stage on their respective menus.