Frietjes

Frites and sauces

Friets and sauces

One often overlooked national dish of Belgium is friet, affectionately called “frietjes” (little friets). Off hand I can’t think of a dish from another culture that has an affectionate diminutive. They are traditionally served in a cone, and the sauce of choice in Belgium is mayonnaise.

You know them as “french fries”, the French call them “pomme frites” (from the French for potato, pomme de terre, but literally apple fries). They are properly double fried to give a crispy exterior, and friet houses (Friethuis/Frietkot/Frituur) are everywhere, from stand alone shops to window service street side.

frituur

A frituur in Belgium

Frieten Vending machine, cooks Frietjes on the spot

Frieten Vending machine, cooks Frietjes on the spot

It is surprisingly difficult to find proper friet in America. Even Belgian restaurants don’t always get it right, as I found the first few times Lieve and I visited “authentic” Belgian restaurants in attempts to familiarize me with the food. Fortunately, we found a real friet huis, through an odd accident. After a Thomas Dolby concert in the village, a friend of a friend suggested friet.

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A Belgian friet huis in Manhattan

Pommes Frites is unique in America. So unique that in a conversation about friet at the Jersey Shore, a stranger mentioned the shop as the only place she had found proper friet. So the other night, when we found ourselves at an event in SoHo with Tired Pony at an Apple store, We stopped for friet before the performance. There was something poetic about “Pommes Frites” and the employee minions at the Apple store being so fried they couldn’t mike the backup singers.

real choices

real choices

I recommend the wasabi mayo, Lieve had the dill lemon. The large size is more than adequate, the double is a feast of carbohydrates. This is a one man operation, the line often extending into the street. There is a very small seating area in the back, with holes in the tables to hold the cones. The cook is amazing, taking all the orders verbally, nothing is written down as he keeps several detailed orders in his head while preparing them.

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Emboldened by this mix of cultures, Belgian friet, eclectic NYC sauces, Oriental chef, I drove to the parking garage, cone in one hand, steering wheel in the other. The only thing I really like about Manhattan is the driving environment, it is the pinnacle of evolution. The weak links have been cleared from the playing field.

Despite my primal distaste for all things Apple, the “Meet the Musicians” program is a very nice project. An intimate question and answer portion followed by a short performance. This one will be released as a podcast eventually, I may update after the publication to comment on the editing. To give you an idea of the intimacy, Gary Lightbody held the door for Lieve when she entered.

Gary waiting for the previous speaker to finish

Gary waiting for the previous speaker to finish

The previous speaker was no lightweight, Robert Reich, discussing his new film. And yes, he really is that short in person. The band wasn’t as large as they were last we saw them, maybe due to the limited space, and after an hour sound check, in which I heard the roadie state specifically about the backup singers that “it’s easier to turn it down than to turn it up”, the backing vocals were still inaudible. Nonetheless it was a great Q&A session and a wonderful performance.

Peter Buck in a classically uninvolved pose

Peter Buck in a classically uninvolved pose

Michael Stipe was spotted backstage, as well as a throng of hangers on that showed up at the end, but the crowd was very earthy. Well, earthy for an Apple store in SoHo. The new album will be released next Tuesday, 1 October, and sounds just as nice as the first.

Update:

The pocast is available (free) here. In the audience views, that’s Lieve and I in the lower right corner, second row center stage.

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