Potato Appeal: French Fries in the Potato Heartland
Boise Fry Company
What food can you conjure by simply referring to its cooking method? Not bakes or sautés. Nope. Only fries.
Which leads us to the Boise Fry Company in Idaho, where fries are considered the entrée.
Before we really get into the BFC or Idaho, let’s get a fry controversy out of the way: The capitalization of FRENCH in FRENCH FRIES. Is it necessary or not? According to the Grammar Girl, it’s totally up to you. Fries do not stand on ceremony.
Alas, that’s not the end of the French controversy, and I’m not even going to tackle the Freedom Fry Debacle. The very idea of the French in the fry is up for debate.
According to the Boise Fry Company co-founder Blake Lingle in his book Fries!, deep frying potatoes very likely originated in Spain or Portugal, and then it moved on to Belgium where the standard method was perfected.
The world’s only fry museum, the Frietmuseum in Brugge, Belgium agrees. They take some issue with the whole France thing. Belgium continues to hold the title of friet capitol of the world, and you will find frieteries on every corner serving up cones of fries.
The BFC wisely sidesteps the France/Belgium controversy by using the descriptor “European cooking method.”
First, they hand cut the potatoes; then they blanch them, and; finally they flash fry them to order at high heat.
Unlike the European versions though, fries at the BFC are served unsalted. Then comes the ‘salt bar’ which has nine different kinds of salt. There are also a bunch of dipping sauces, including standard ketchup, garlic aioli and fry sauce.
There are approximately five different kinds of potatoes to choose from at the BFC, along with two kinds of sweet potatoes. (In a weird coincidence, they also deep fry Brussles sprouts — coincidence both because of the weird capitalization on a veggie, AND the France/Belgium thing.)
You may be wondering what’s up with Idaho and potatoes anyway? According to the Idaho Potato Board, Idaho is ideal for potato growing because of the warm days, cool nights and the light, volcanic soil.
They must be onto something because THIRTEEN BILLION POUNDS of potatoes are grown in Idaho every year. At 370,000 acres, Idaho has about twice the acreage of potato crops as their closest follower, Washington.
Most of them are grown conventionally, which is a highly chemical intensive process. But of those 13,000,000,000 pounds, at least 370,ooo pounds of them are grown organically, and using crop rotation and they land at the BFC.
Brad Walker, the co-owner and CEO of the BFC, said their potatoes are from M & M Heath Farms. Mike Heath, the M&M Heath farms owner, is one of Michael Pollen’s food stars in his book A Botany of Desire because it’s a large scale operation that does it right. It’s far more expensive to do it without chemicals, and it makes the potatoes pricier, but, as Mr. Walker said, “Cost is not our compass, we believe in the words, local, sustainable, renewable, we have since before they were “cool”.”
And it shows.
In addition to the local, organic potatoes, if you want something on the side of you fries, you might get a sustainably raised burger (on a potato bun) or an organic quinoa patty. They try to source all their foods as locally as possible and in the best of times manage an 80-mile radius.
The ‘house favorite’ fry at the BFC, Austin told me, is the Laura. It’s a yellow/red fleshed potato. It is really, really good. It tastes like it was ‘made with love’ as the website claims all their fries are. They are thick, and meaty, perfectly cooked ans not greasy.
Another culinary wonder at the Boise Fry Company is “The Bourgeoisie” which is a russet potato that’s flash fried in duck fat.
And in further sustainable practices, no fry is wasted. Instead, the leftovers are recycled into Po Balls, which apparently is kind of like a tater tot meets a hush puppy and very popular. Sigh. I say apparently because try as I might, in my five days in Boise I was never able to get my hands on an elusive Po Ball. I’m hoping someone else out there will have the experience and report back to me until my next trip to the Boise and the Boise Fry Company, which will be soon.