By Marcus Samuelsson
When I had my perfect French fry, I had no idea it would be such a closely scrutinized snack years later. I had to close my eyes for the full sensation, the salty crunch, the soft steamy starch inside and the perfectly matched dipping sauce (not ketchup). It was in a town square in Bruges (or Brugge), ten years ago.
Bruges is a little lost-in-time city.Â I loved walking over the cobblestones to the town square.Â There were always a couple of food trucks and carts making fries, in fresh batches to be filled hot into paper cones while their customers selected their dipping sauces.
Through practice, entrepreneurial competence, and the pursuit of excellent mood-transforming texture and flavor, they seem to have found the method to make the perfect pommes frites (French for fried potatoes.)
With this authority and expertise on one kind of sublime snack down pat, creativity comes in the form of dipping sauces and toppings. Not only can you choose to have the frites unsalted, you can choose from sauces like garlic aioli, mustard, curry ketchup and of course the standard Belgian dipping sauce - mayonnaise. Even people who hate mayo must try it with frites. It is one of those food combinations that seem to be matched in heaven.
Of course with their popularity, the Belgian way of making the spud superlative has travelled the world. A restaurant in Salt Lake City is called Belgian Frites and Waffles (more on those later) and a few places in New York City try to replicate the double-fried potato bites. But if anything, eating at these places only reminds me of my time in Bruges. You can transport food, but not the whole experience surrounding it.