Trend watchers everywhere take note: the potato is back — in a big way. Of course, in actuality, the ole spud never really went anywhere. But from French fry menus that let patrons select everything from the crispness factor and cut to (most importantly) the dipping sauce, to mashed potatoes that are stuffed with previously inconceivable concoctions, the potato is being celebrated and served up as never before.
“There are lots of cool trends,” says Chef John G. Reilly, chef/associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. “Of course, sweet potato fries came in a few years ago and many people are doing those. Now I’m also starting to see places do homemade potato chips. These are not paper thin, like the ones you buy in the supermarket; no, they’re chunky and full of flavor. I just had some really great ones at the B3 [Burger-Bar & Bistro in Kingston] the other night, along with an amazing burger.” Chef Reilly is also a fan of dipping his fries and is particularly impressed with the malt vinegar at Five Guys (which has several locations throughout the Valley). “I love that — the sweetness of the vinegar is perfect.”
Other fries around the region that seem to inspire rapt attention include the fresh-cut French fries with wasabi aïoli at Terrapin in Rhinebeck; the twice-cooked crispy fries at Brasserie 292 in Poughkeepsie (shown above); the shoestring fries with lemon zest and Gouda at Beacon’s Roundhouse at Beacon Falls; and the Greek fries — made with lemon, oregano, and feta — at Kavos in Poughkeepsie. What we haven’t heard of in our region yet are the legendary duck-fat fries that are sweeping the nation. It seems, for now at least, you still need to head south to Manhattan to indulge in this delicacy.
Chef Reilly also notes that the days of mashed potatoes being prepared simply with herbs and garlic are long gone. It seems that gremolata, the condiment composed of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley, is everywhere this year — and potatoes are not immune. Lots of people do cheddar mashed potatoes (we’ve long been fans of the ones at the Flatiron steakhouse in Red Hook); at the newly opened Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern in Saugerties (click here for more information), the chefs serve up horseradish mashed potatoes gremolata. “But people are piping all sorts of things into their mashed potatoes these days,” Chef Reilly says. “One trend I love is adding pulled pork or smoked pork, something with a lot of flavor. It’s delicious.” And caviar is no longer so cool at chic weddings — the in thing is a mashed potato bar. The potatoes themselves are often served in a festive martini-style glass; guests can then go to town with toppings ranging from the expected cheese, bacon, and sour cream to broccoli and olives. “People offer all sorts of toppings that you can fold inside,” says Chef Reilly. “It’s fun.”