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A home on the Island: The French Fry Challenge

When I was growing up, a friend of mine had jokingly asked: “If you could have only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

I answered in true Benjamin Buford Blue (aka Bubba) fashion, as he professed his love for shrimp and the myriad ways it can be cooked, served and enjoyed. My answer however, was potatoes — they can be mashed, baked, boiled, fried, steamed, chipped, wedged, or prepared 56 other ways according to Bon Appétit magazine.

Perhaps my appreciation for potatoes is ingrained in my Irish DNA, or our more-recent Long Island history as a robust potato farming community, where, by the 1940’s, up to 80% of all farming on Long Island was dedicated to potatoes.

Despite one’s genetic origin, I think most people can agree that fries are an extremely popular menu item, perfectly accompanying any burger (traditional, vegetarian or turkey), New York strip steak or pot of steamed mussels.

In fact, french fries can be found on every single dinner menu on the Island. Some restaurants use locally sourced produce, others refer to them as pommes frites, but all strive to serve a product that is crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and a perfect balance of oil, salt and seasoning.

This summer my husband, children and I have decided to initiate our own “French Fry Challenge.” We’ve committed to taste-testing the fries at each local restaurant, determined to find our favorite.

The judging is informal and subject to the various opinions within our family unit as well as any dining partners that we may be enjoying our meal with. It’s a fun way for us to experience the various golden, crispy and savory side dish available in settings from al fresco to takeout. Bonus points awarded for friendly service and satisfying portions.

Statistics indicate that the average American eats nearly 30 pounds of French fries per year, and 25% of all potatoes consumed in the U.S. are eaten as fries. Since so many of us are eating them anyhow, it only makes sense to dedicate some of that consumption to the local restaurants, so feel free to join us and enjoy your own summer French Fry Challenge. 

However, as a health-conscious individual, I’m recommending a mindful approach to solving the age old question: Where can one find the best fries on Shelter Island? Summer living is a balance between health, physical fitness and sharing a laugh over a good meal.

As we taste-test our way across the Island, remember to go for that walk, read that book and … eat those fries.