If one day, someone asks me what the best French fries I have ever eaten were, I would probably be inclined to remember Benita's Frites, this railroad-sized French fry shop on the Santa Monica promenade. Benita's introduced me to the dipping sauces, to the notion that fries can go with more than ketchup. Mustard, mayonnaise, blue cheese, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing... They served the fries in paper cones set in silver "cone-holders," for lack of a better word. It was there that I first developed the philosophy that I could live off of French fries. Benita's Frites moved to Universal Studios, then one day they closed, and since then I have been on a hunt for perfect French fries.
Last weekend, in Portland, Maine, I found them, at Duck Fat. One of the many gourmet restaurants in Portland, the new haven for gourmet restaurants in the Northeast (Hugos, opened up a sandwich shop right next door).
At Duck Fat, they fry their French fries in Duck Fat, and they named the shop accordingly. Not only did they recreate the youthful memory I had of my favorite fries, they matured it and all but blew it out of the water. Also, they make their own soda: strawberry and anise, and ginger brew. AND, their milkshakes are insane. Don't ask me why I had soda and a milkshake, but it seemed appropriate at the time. And then came the fries. I've ventured into a wide array of sauces, and am always hesitant to go back to ketchup, but Duck Fat's famous truffle ketchup was tempting.
My friends and I devoured the fries, as the silver bowl of sauce screamed up at us: "I know what's wrong with ketchup, and I've just fixed it for you." It was too late to take a picture.
43 Middle Street
by Ann Nichols