French Fry Amazingness in Amsterdam

Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam, NetherlandsThere’s something about the simplicity of really well-prepared fries that’s kind of irresistible.  I mean, ultimately they’re just potato sticks, but that crispy/creamy contrast can’t be beat.

And the fries from Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam are some of the best that I’ve had in a long while.  They’ve got that crispy/creamy thing going on in spades.  They’re lousy with it.

As you might imagine from the name, Vleminckx Sausmeesters is just as much about the sauces as it is about the fries; their most famous topping is called Oorlog Mix, which consists of mayonnaise, satay sauce, and diced onions.

Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The mayo and the satay sauce is a pretty amazing combination, but the onions just kind of got in the way for me — but then I don’t like raw onions, so I probably should have seen that one coming.

I keep trying to understand the appeal of uncooked onion, and it keeps being pungent and gross.  Still, the fact that I enjoyed this as much as I did despite their foul presence tells you how good it was.

Also (and I didn’t get a picture of this, sadly) there was a group of pigeons that were just hanging out around the shop, and it very quickly became clear why: people would occasionally drop a fry, and within seconds of one hitting the ground they were on it.  For a few frantic seconds there’s an angry scrum of fluttering wings and mad pecking, and then the fry is gone and they wait for the next one.

Eating Fish and Chips in London (because of course)

Poppies Fish and Chips in London, EnglandI’ve had some pretty great fish and chips back home.  Plus, it’s a pretty simple dish, so how much better could it be over here?

It turns out: substantially better.

Fish and chips from Poppies in London, England

I went to a fairly well-regarded place called Poppies, and had what is almost certainly the best fish and chips of my life.  The fish itself was tender, flaky, and perfectly cooked, but what really stood out was the crispy batter.

Most fish and chips joints back home feature an overly-thick crunchy shell that steals the spotlight from what should be the main attraction: the fish.  It’s basically fried batter that happens to have some fish inside of it.

Fish and chips from Poppies in London, England

Here, on the other hand, the batter is crispy enough to provide a nice contrast to the soft fish, but thin and delicate enough that it absolutely never steals the show.

The chunky fries (sorry, chips) were perfect too: crisp exterior, creamy interior.  Good times.

Eating Steak Frites in Paris

Le Relais de L'EntrecoteLe Relais de l’Entrecote is so admirably single-minded about its dedication to steak frites that there’s literally no menu.  The only questions from the waitress are what you want to drink, and how you want your steak cooked.  That’s it.  If you want to eat something other than steak frites?  Get the hell out.

The meal starts with a salad dressed with a very simple (but very delicious) vinaigrette.  Again, this isn’t a choice: you just get it, whether you want it or not.


Given that there’s only one thing on the menu, the rest of the food comes pretty quickly.  I requested my steak rare, and it came cooked to an absolutely perfect rare.  It’s topped with a herby, mustardy sauce, and served with a generous pile of perfectly golden fries.

I’m not normally a sauce on steak kind of guy — I feel like steak tastes pretty great on its own, plus if you’re not getting it well done (and please don’t get it well done), the added moisture is completely unnecessary.  But rules are meant to be broken, and when the sauce is this good?  Yeah man, pour it on.  More, please.

Steak frites

The sauce works perfectly with the fries, too, and then when you’re done, you can mop up what’s left with a piece of French bread.  It’s so good.

When you finish all that food, they come around and give you a few more slices of steak, another pile of fries, and more of that delicious sauce.  I was pretty full at this point, so I kinda wanted to say no, but do I have the willpower to say no to delicious steak and fries, no matter how full I am?

No; the answer is a resounding no.

At 26 Euros (about 40 bucks Canadian), even with the second helping, it’s hard to call this place a bargain.  But sometimes you’ve just gotta say “screw it” and spend the money, especially when it’s this good.

McDonald’s Around the World: France Edition

McDonald's ParisDespite having maybe the best food of anywhere I’ve visited so far, McDonald’s France has a surprisingly boring menu.  It’s pretty much just the classics (and yes, the Quarter Pounder really is called the Royale with Cheese, so it’s got that going for it at least).

They do, however, serve something called Le P’tit Hot Dog, which is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a standard hot dog — maybe slightly smokier than usual — that’s topped with ketchup, mustard, and crispy fried onions.  It’s extremely average.

Hot dog from McDonald's Paris

I ordered a side of “Deluxe Potatoes,” which are just potato wedges.  Like the hot dog, they’re pretty standard.  If you’ve ever had wedges from the supermarket or from a cafeteria, then you know exactly what to expect.

Deluxe Potatoes from McDonald's Paris

And that’s about it.  Even the dessert menu was just the usual stuff.

Also: there’s something vaguely off-putting about being told “bon appetit!” when being handed a tray of McDonald’s food.

McDonald’s Around the World: Austria Edition

McDonald's AustriaI had some flat-out awful meals at McDonald’s in Spain and Italy — meals that were so bad, they made me look at my life and think “am I doing this right?”  Well, here comes the land of Arnold Schwarzenegger to hold out a hand and let me know I’m doing just fine.  Because McDonald’s in Austria knows how to do it.

I had a few things: a McCountry sandwich, waffle fries, and a beer.

McDonald's Austria

Yeah, that’s right, McDonald’s serves beer here.

The McCountry sandwich was kind of like a McRib, only with red onions instead of regular onions, and curry sauce and mustard instead of BBQ sauce.  So… not at all like a McRib, actually.  But it’s made out of pork!

This was surprisingly decent.  The pork patty was dried out and nothing particularly special, but the combination of the sweet curry sauce and the mustard was satisfying.  I’m not a fan of raw onions, but even those were fine — the sauces were strong enough that they really only added crunch.

McCountry sandwich

The waffle fries were pretty good as well.  They were nice and crispy, and whatever they seasoned them with worked fairly well.  I ordered the “Hot Devil” dipping sauce to go with these, and oh man — that sauce is not kidding around.  There’s no way in hell a fast food joint back home would serve something even close to that spicy.  Legit hot.

The beer (!) was good too.  It was a pretty run-of-the-mill lager, but still… beer at McDonald’s!


The meal was such a pleasant surprise, I figured I may as well get a dessert.  I got the raspberry cream cheese pie, and first of all, it was fried, so it’s automatically amazing.  The day McDonald’s at home started baking instead of frying their pies was the day that joy died.  Fried is so much better, it’s ridiculous.  I mean, look at that crispy, crackly exterior!


The inside was pretty good, too — satisfyingly tart and not too sweet.  A solid ending to a surprisingly decent meal.


McDonald’s Around the World: Italy Edition

McDonald'sThere isn’t anything too interesting/unique at McDonald’s in Italy, though they do have something called “Le Ricche” fries, which is basically just a plate of fries with cheese sauce on them.  You can choose between regular cheddar, and hot cheese.  I went with the latter, though I have to admit that there’s something vaguely unappetizing about the phrase “hot cheese.”


Yeah, it turns out the whole thing was vaguely unappetizing.  Actually, no: not vaguely.

I should note that I’m not a snob about cheese sauce — I actually really like the neon orange sauce they serve at the movies.  But this stuff?  It was vile.  It didn’t help that it was cold and congealed; it was unpleasantly thick and gluey, with a salty, acrid flavour that I guess was supposed to be spiciness?  It tasted like they melted down a mostly empty bottle of cayenne pepper and then poured the plasticky goo over stale fries.  It was horrible.

Double nope

Since there wasn’t anything else particularly interesting on the menu, I went with the one of their burgers — the 1955 burger, which was clearly the better of the two in that it wasn’t completely awful.  It had bacon and caramelized onion and a bunch of other stuff, and it wasn’t too bad, but there was so much ketchup that I couldn’t taste anything else.

I’m not gonna lie: between Spain and this, my enthusiasm to try McDonald’s at every country I visit has been significantly dampened.  Get it together, McDonald’s, jeez.

Eyes on the Fries

So goodI have a thing about people lining up for food. If I see a line, I feel a very strong compulsion to stop whatever I’m doing and get in it. Because what do those people know that I don’t know? Following the mob isn’t always the wisest of choices, but seriously, what’s at the front of that line and how do I eat it?

So when I saw a line for a place that specializes in fries called Las Fritas when I was walking around in Barcelona, I was in that line almost instantly. I had never heard of this place, and French fries don’t exactly scream authentic Spanish food, but look at that line. It must be good!

(The line doesn’t look that long in the picture; it was actually quite a bit longer when I got there.  I just didn’t take a photo right away.)

There are times when the wisdom of the crowd fails me — this was not one of those times. These were spectacular fries.

So damn good

You can choose from a selection of sauces and toppings; in an attempt to keep things vaguely authentic, I went with salsa brava, which is a spicy tomato-based sauce that’s often found on top of fried potatoes in a dish called patatas bravas.  So this isn’t quite as inauthentic as you’d think (which is what I’ll keep telling myself to justify eating this about a billion more times before I leave Barcelona).

Though the fries were supposedly Belgian-style, they weren’t quite like any fry I’ve had before, Belgian or otherwise. Thickly cut and aggressively crispy, they were almost like a cross between a fry and a chip.  They were constantly dancing on the razor’s edge of being too crispy, but without ever crossing that line. It’s a perfect balance of crunchy exterior and fluffy interior.

As good as those fries were (and they were very, very good), it’s the brava sauce that really makes this something special.  It was slightly spicy, with just the right amount of vibrancy from the vinegar, a hint of smokiness, and a mild garlicky bite.

It was an absolutely perfect dipping sauce for fries. Where can I buy this sauce? Because I want to dip everything in it.  Everything.