Some local restaurants have opted to offer an alternative to everyday french fries.
Leslie Judice and her husband, Ray Simanson, owners of Tavern 27 at The Mystic Meadows in Laconia, set out to add something to their menu that had qualities like the french fry’s but was a little more interesting. They were also looking to bring in something that could be prepared in their fryalator, which is dedicated to gluten-free foods. Soon, chickpea fries were born.
Making chickpeas has become a 24-hour-long process at Tavern 27: after they are molded and shaped, they need to sit and cool overnight. The gluten-free fries are then flash fried to order and served tapas-style, nine fries stacked like a cross-thatch grid, Judice said. The fries are served with house-made chipotle ketchup and spicy mayonnaise.
“[Both sauces] have a little bit of a kick to them … the spiciness helps bring out the herbs in the chickpea fries and I think they’re a great complement to them,” Judice said, noting that the fries have emerged as one of the restaurant’s bestselling dishes. “People come in the door saying they were told to try these,” she said.
The fries are also vegan and high in protein, so they are a good option for many different diets, Judice added.
“They’re just something a little different; people are looking maybe for a healthier alternative or something a little more than just a regular bowl of fries,” she said. “Chickpea fries offer more protein and different flavor profile — you can get fries anywhere.”
While they are baked and not fried, the onion battered green beans at Portland Pie Company in Manchester are another alternative to french fries and such traditional appetizer items as nachos and chicken wings, said John Flebotte, Portland Pie Company general manager. The green beans are served in eight-ounce portions, with a side of southwest ranch sauce, which Flebotte said “has a little kick to it.”
“For the most part they add the dimension [to the menu] that other restaurants don’t have,” he said.
Kevin Cornish, of KC’s Rib Shack in Manchester, always loved deep-fried mushrooms but came to terms with the fact that small white button mushrooms do not fry well and are challenging to dip in sauces. His cooks struggled to prepare them consistently; their sizes varied as did their cooking times. At the same time, Cornish was looking to bring in portobello mushrooms for burgers and sandwiches to add more of an earthy mushroom flavor.
“Portobello mushroom fries kind of solved all of our problems,” Cornish said. “They became a more uniform piece that we could adjust the size of to vary the cooking times. It also allowed for us to offer a more flavorful mushroom.”
The portobello fries, which Cornish likened to big steak fries, have become one of his favorite menu items.
“Everybody that has them says ‘these are to die for’ … I’ve never had one person say they loved our standard fried mushrooms,” he said.
The portobello fries are served as an appetizer at KC’s; “two big softball-sized” mushrooms are used per order and are sliced into quarter-inch strips so that they resemble french fries.
The design of the mushroom fries is ideal for dipping, Cornish said, and he serves them with a side of KC’s house-made buttermilk ranch dressing.
“I experimented with sweet and sour or duck sauce with them at first, but people seem to want the ranch with it,” he said.
While he’s unsure whether his mushroom fries are a healthy alternative, they are likely a little better for you than “the evil starch potato,” Cornish said. “Nobody eats potatoes anymore, do they?”
Know of other alternatives to the classic potato french fries or sweet potato french fries? Let us know for inclusion in a future Weekly Dish at email@example.com.