Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pommes Frites Part 2: Belgium

I'd like to clarify from yesterday.  JustFoster mentioned that IC was InTerCity which makes the inner city joke a lot less funny.  But he also suggested they are like "interstate highways" and run all over Europe.  This is true and not true.  They do run all over Europe, but within the individual countries.  Most countries have their own IC that connects their major and minor cities to each other.  There is usually a separate line that leaves the country, though in the case of Belgium we are connected to Luxembourg and Holland (what is called Benelux, I learned that from JustFoster too).

On to the Frites.  I've got two trips to write about, the first is a local and the second was in Bruges.  I found out one of the more popular and classic Frites Stands in Brussels wasn't too far, within walking distance actually.  It was down near the EU quarters to take advantage of all the lunch based folk.  The weather was nice and I was in the mood to try communicating with people who didn't speak any English.  The place to do that is Maison Antoine.  They've got frites and a TON of snacks and sandwiches.  Frites run around 2.00 euro for a bag and sauces range from .40 to .60
 euros.  I was told to try the house tartar sauce, which was very nice.  I read that one way to tell a good frites stand is if they ask you if you want salt.  What would have helped is if they told me what that sentence was in French... so I don't know if they asked me about salt.  I know they weren't salty and found some salt packets in my bag, so I'll guess it was up to me.  To be honest, the pommes frites needed no salt and the tartar had just enough acid to cut through the heaviness of the potato.
It is a little unfair to call them heavy, but the tartar sauce did levy something so I'll stick with the gut reaction of heavy.  Antoine's frites (as are most belgian frites) were double fried to give a fluffy interior and a crisp shell exterior.  They're also relatively thick cut, at the Frites Museum in Bruges they actually had a measurement scale to determine the frite classification.  Someone in the late 80's liked Bucky Fuller so much they used the magical hexagon shape to make a frite.  Apparently they absorbed significantly less oil but no one cared for them.  I'm gonna go for a little shocker here for a second, bear (does anyone know if its bear or bare) with me.  Think about Belgian Frites like the best and most fresh McDonalds fries you've ever gotten.  These are probably the ones you remember from when you were a kid and they just aren't as good anymore.  They had a crispy tasty shell with a potato powder snow interior.  I actually haven't received frites that were too hot either, which I credit to the toss method.  Post oil bath, the frites glide through the air out of a bowl for no other reason than to rid the excess oil and cool them a bit.  They're served in a paper cone with a funny fork for stabbing.  
The second frites I got at the Frites Museum in Bruges, and they were good too but they salted them a little too much.  I got just plain mayo, and I was proven wrong about the no ketchup thing when it was the #3 sauce on the menu.  The saying must go to snobby Belgian Americans who need to show off their Belgian-ness... or Americans who just love mayo and want a reason to eat it (--> this guy).  I never knew that potatoes thrived in Ireland because they were the only crop not torched (cause they're underground duh) during tax raids in the 16th and 17th centuries. 
Oh well, like my continuing dedication to Beer and Waffles, I will boldly eat as many frites as I can find.  Also Mayonnaise, I like mayonnaise.  There wasn't anyone around to take a picture of me in there.  I actually wish I was lying, I'd love to be the Frite ready to commit cannibalism next to his out of scale children.  Also, why does the wife frite have a flower pinned to her head? hair?


  1. 1) They did the ole toss in the air here, I forgot to note that. (Or didn't realize that it was worth noting)

    2) I hate it when JustFoster ruins my jokes with facts. He does that too often.

    3) Why is that mom fry so scary? She looks like she is going to smash daddy fry and junior fry into one another. I hate violent starches.

  2. The Fries + Mayo thing is very popular in Canada, the foreign country on which I have achieved "expert" level. The Belgian Frites look like they're so delicious.

    Also, it's "bear," fyi.

    I don't know if you're still soliciting questions, but here goes: does Belgium have a government yet? Is there still political turmoil? Is this something you can see in the streets? Last I heard (maybe this was months ago) the French speaking and Dutch speaking folks couldn't get along, and the Belgian parliament couldn't agree on anything.

  3. You know what would be really good in this skilled frites environment...sweet pomme frites!

  4. Thanks for the shout out, but I learned everything I know from the great RS...I really need to eat more potatoes, it's 9am and I'm already thinking about going home tonight and throwing one in the oven, maybe even a sweet one too, although I bet they'd be hard to find in Benelux. I think there're more of a warm/tropical climate plant.

  5. If you rub the outside with olive oil and wrap it in aluminum foil the skin will get all crispy and nice. I'm pretty sure I can get sweet potatoes... I'll check when I do a rundown of standard produce.