Off The Menu: French fries, the stuff of fast food legend

They are part of the legend of fast food.

The “they” is the original formula for McDonald’s fries. Made from fresh Russet potatoes and fried in beef tallow, the fries served at McDonald’s restaurants in the 1960s and 1970s would have earned praise from late-20th-century culinary luminaries like James Beard and Julia Child.

Admittedly, today’s restaurant fries are not often memorable. Processed industrially, frozen and sometimes “coated” to give the product a better “life on the plate”, modern fries do not look anything like the “French fries” from which they originally came.

“French” fries actually originate from Belgium; during World War I, American soldiers fighting in Flanders developed a taste for local “French fries”. Even today, epicureans claim that Belgium produces the best “fries” in the world, in part thanks to the mixture of beef tallow and vegetable oil in which traditionalists continue to fry them.

The original formulation of McDonald’s fries was a complicated process that mimicked the way authentic “French fries” were made. Russet potatoes were store cut, held in cold water to rinse off the surface starch, then air dried before being fried in beef fat.

In the early 1990s, nutrition activists successfully pressured McDonald’s to abandon beef fat as a means of frying in favor of “healthier” vegetable oil. At around the same time, the line ended the labor-intensive on-site potato cutting and preparation process in favor of a custom-made alternative.

Freelance writer Luke Fater tells a full, albeit unofficial, story of McDonald’s fries in an article titled “My Hunt for the Original McDonald’s Fries Recipe.”

Fater’s article, which also describes his efforts to recreate McDonald’s fries as they were once made, can be viewed at

Valentine’s Day has always been an important day for the restaurant industry, and this year, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurants in the area are gearing up for the occasion with specials.

Villa Napoletana in East Longmeadow is promoting a Valentine’s Day menu for February 14 with a late afternoon and early evening dining experience.

A festive menu is planned with creative appetizers and selected wines available, and a ‘rose for every lady’ is promised.

Call (413) 732-9300 to reserve.

“Portability” – the extent to which a menu item is user-friendly to take out – is a buzzword in the test kitchens of chain restaurants these days.

It certainly describes what IHOP, based in Glendale, Calif., The creperie chain that has rebranded itself as a family restaurant destination, was striving to create a new line of six burritos.

Playing on IHOP’s core business, four of the six burritos focus on breakfast.

The “classic” is a rolled tortilla stuffed with bacon or sausage, grated cheese and hash browns. Diced ham and sausage title in the “Country Breakfast,” which also includes peppers and onions, cheese and hash browns.

The heat of the chili plays a role in the “Spicy Poblano Fajita” burrito at IHOP, while a “Southwest Chicken” variation includes grilled chicken and avocado.

Egg-free versions of the chicken and beef burritos complete the new product launch; these variations are designed as lunch and dinner options.

The six burritos can also be ordered as ‘bowls’.

There are IHOP restaurants in the Springfield area at Five Town Plaza and on Riverdale Street in West Springfield.

As the new Congress works on economic stimulus in the coming weeks, Westfield’s Shortstop Bar & Grill has put in place its own stimulus package.

The restaurant, which is located at 99 Springfield Road, has a “Buy One, Get One” offer Sunday through Thursday evenings, 4 pm to 8 pm. Customers who buy dinner at the regular price get a second course (of equal or lesser value) for free. Qualifying selections range from Chicken Parmesan and prawn scampi with beef tenderloin tips and half a rack of ribs.

Homemade desserts are also a specialty at Shortstop; an OREO crème brûlée was introduced as a recent dessert.

The Bar & Grill shortstop answers (413) 642-6370.

Dunkin Locations now offer a Southwest Veggie Power Breakfast Sandwich. Made with a black bean patty developed by MorningStar Farms, the sandwich also includes a layer of egg white omelet, cheddar cheese and multigrain bread.

The Power Sandwich will be available until February.

A new “Dunkin ‘Midnight” roast has been added to the chain’s coffee lists. Dunkin’s darkest roast is so fair it’s described as having a full-bodied flavor with hints of cocoa.

“Dunkin ‘Midnight” will be a permanent addition to the channel’s menu.

Struggling with historically low occupancy rates, the hospitality industry is getting creative, promoting empty rooms as “private dining rooms”. Those looking to have a dinner party away from home book a hotel room and are served using an enhanced room service model. The result is a socially distanced dining experience for customers and an income opportunity for the property.

D. Hotel Suites & Spa in Holyoke, the accommodation partner of the Delaney House-Log Cabin Group, is using a variation of this strategy to deliver dinner and sleep getaways over the coming Valentine’s Day weekend.

The rooms will be equipped with elegantly set tables for two, and a special four-course “Private Dinner” menu will be served. The meal will consist of a trio of starters and a surf and turf main course of filet mignon and charred salmon, as well as a salad, sides and dessert. This special night is available on February 12, 13 and 14.

The D. Hotel Suites & Spa also offers a Good Night and a Good Start package which includes an overnight stay on Saturday evening February 13 and a brunch for two the next morning at the nearby Delaney House.

Either package can be booked by calling the D. Hotel Suites and Spa at (413) 533-2100.

Set aside by a menu restructuring last spring, potato bites are making a comeback on the Taco Bell menu in early March.

Seasoned potato pieces will again be available as a replacement for meat or beans. Their return also means that two other favorites from the Taco Bell menu can be retired: the Spicy Potato Soft Taco which includes bites with cheese, lettuce and chipotle cream, and Fiesta cheese potatoes, that combine bites with hot nachos. cheese.

All three articles are designed to improve Taco Bell’s credentials as a vegetarian destination.

Those looking for a ‘different’ weekend breakfast need only look to the Crest Room in West Springfield for some inventive ways to start the day. Providing on-site food, take-out and curbside pickup, the Crest Room offers weekly breakfast specials to complement their weekend morning menu.

Options in the breakfast rotation include a cheeseburger omelet, s’mores French toast (with its mini marshmallow and chocolate syrup finish), “Benny’s Eggs” and a selection of breakfast flatbreads.

Breakfast is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For lunch and dinner, the Crest Room prepares and serves smoker barbecue specialties as well as a menu of appetizers and favorite sandwiches.

The restaurant’s internet address is; he answers at (413) 739-7700.

Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown has created what he calls “Mezze Market,” a take-out option that includes everything from reheatable dishes to good dry and chilled sauces.

Available Thursday through Sunday, the market has choices such as whole roast chickens, homemade spicy Italian sausages, and beef and pork meatballs, as well as dinners like oyster and squash stew, pork and beef bolognese and hanging steak.

The Mezze Bistro + Bar is also open for on-site meals on Friday and Saturday evenings; a chef’s tasting menu is available.

Mezze’s phone number is (413) 458-0123; their web address is

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in the Hospitality and Culinary Arts program at Holyoke Community College and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be contacted online at [email protected]

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