July 31, 2012
Request from a reader: Trying to track down Belgian-style fries

Greg, a reader pining away for some especially good French fries, writes:

"Where in the Sacramento area can I buy good twice-cooked or double-fried French fries? These are sometimes called Belgian Fries or Flemish Fries. I can't find good examples anywhere in the area. I used to get them from A&W on Madison & Date sometime before they closed. Also, I may have got them unintentionally from the new Squeeze Inn in West Sac when they first opened. The line was out the door and I think they probably pre-cooked some fries in preparation for the large crowds. Then as the orders came in, they cooked the fries a second time to finish cooking them and presto - Belgian-style fries.

"If you would give me a few recommendations on where I might find good Belgian-style French fries in the Sacramento area, I'd really appreciate it."

Greg, you're in luck. There are at least two places in the Sacramento area that serve fantastic twice-fried French fries, AKA Belgian-style. Bistro Michel may have the best fries in town, complete with Belgian-style curried ketchup with a pinch of turmeric. The owners traveled extensively through Europe and their kitchen is faithful to the meticulous technique required to get properly cook these fries. Here's what I wrote about the "frites" when I reviewed the bistro in May of 2011:

"These are, hands down, the best fries in the city. What's surprising is that this unheralded bistro will go to such great lengths to make them: The potatoes are peeled, then soaked in saltwater, then sliced (punched, as they say in the business), soaked in more saltwater overnight, rinsed, blanched in oil at 250 degrees, taken out and laid on a mat, then fried in oil at 350 degrees until they are crisp outside and tender inside. In the moment before the fries leave the kitchen, truffle oil and sea salt are added."

And yet, the frites at Bistro La Petite France, as I recall, are very near the equal of Bistro Michel's. Chef Christophe Ehrhart uses a similar technique, blanching the fries at a relatively low temperature, then frying them at 375 degrees - slightly higher than Bistro Michel.

Both restaurants do an outstanding job with the Belgian-style fries you covet. Try them both, compare, and let us know your thoughts.

If readers have any other suggestions that might help Greg out, let us know.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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