A long time ago in a country far, far away (across the Atlantic), the poor of a small village along Belgium’s River Meuse mainly ate small fish from the river, fried in oil. During winter the river would freeze, but the villagers still enjoyed their usual fried feast —just substitute fish with potatoes. Years later during World War I, American soldiers marching through Belgium were served the by-now established cuisine. In true American fashion, the soldiers loved this fried, fatty version of the common potato. However due to the common language of Belgium at that time being French, and Belgium’s proximity to France, the soldiers thought they were in France. Thus, the signature dish found popularity among the US as the “French Fry”.
Now some will argue that Thomas Jefferson actually introduced the “potato prepared in the French manner” around 1805 at a White House dinner after serving as the French ambassador from 1784 through 1789, or that poor Belgians wouldn’t have been able to afford the fat to fry potatoes, so they were most likely sauteed in a pan. There is definite dispute about the true origins of the french fry, but it’s a good story! And if some geographically-challenged Americans can effectively rob a small country of international culinary credit, then it’s not too far off for an intern of an architectural firm to claim that the best french fries are actually from the Midwest! So to that end, BLDD is proud to present:
Jackson’s Guide to Fries
The Gin Mill, Decatur, IL
Our first stop on this saturated-fat train though Flavortown is The Gin Mill, whose truffle fries provide a unique experience to the Decatur area (I got them as a side to the Farmer’s Daughter burger — the one with the duck egg on top — but that’s neither here nor there). When I first received my takeout order I thought I had been jipped; there were no bits of truffle or heavy seasonings to indicate I ordered anything from normal fries…
… Then I opened the lid.
The Gin Mill lightly tosses the fries in truffle oil, keeping them crisp but allowing you to be bombarded with an aroma that isn’t quite pungent but still begs you to experience it with multiple senses. Picture you’re back in middle school, walking behind the kid who just discovered body spray; it smells decent, and doesn’t quite
smack you in the face, but you are tasting it in the back of your throat. Got it? That’s these fries. We haven’t even had a bite ye
t, and that’s when the magic happens. The fries are of a medium firmness; thick enough to have a thin, crispy skin while still retaining a soft and starchy interior. The fries themselves are flavorful, enough that you don’t experience th
e taste of the truffle oil until the very end of your chew. Then, the oil lingers long enough that you aren’t immediately craving a second fry — the first still
has some parting words to say.
While these aren’t the greatest french fries I’ve ever had, they are definitely up there. They are also incredibly unique to a region that’s usual condiment options are ketchup or ranch, so I’m proud to put them on this short list.
… Where will Jackson go next?
… Can he construct a french fry Eiffel Tower BEFORE being asked to leave the establishment?
… Will his doctor recommend he try a salad?