February 1st, 2019 10:00 AM
Tater Tots and Champagne/photo: David Hammond
February is Potato Lover's Month, but there's also National Potato Chip Day (March 14), National French Fry Day (July 13), and National Potato Day (August 19). Clearly, Americans love potatoes.
One of my favorite forms of America's favorite tuber is the Tater Tot…and yes, Tater Tots have a day all their own; it's February 2! Woohoo!!
Last week, I was getting ready to go to the gym when I realized I just wanted to stay home and have Tater Tots and Champagne.
There is something about fried food and Champagne that works very well. The sparkling wine's acidity complements the richness of the fry, and its effervescence scrubs the tongue between bites.
Fried Chicken and Champagne is a fantastic combination – in fact, on February 2, Kendall College is having a Fried Chicken and Champagne Fest with some of Chicago's top chefs.
There's also an intriguing high-low dimension to pairing Champagne with deep-fried food – kind of like, as Tom Waits once sang, you're "drinking Chivas Regal in a four-dollar room."
For the same reasons that fried chicken works so well with Champagne, Tater Tots pair well with Champagne.
To dress up the Tots just a little, I gave them a splash of Urbani White Truffle Oil, which is some of the best. There's a lot of bad truffle oil out there. Much of the worst truffle oil (the kind usually served with standard "truffle fries") is olive oil blended with food lab-synthesized flavor – it tastes, as my dad once said, "like motor oil." Urbani is made with only white truffles, and the flavor is superb: earthy, slightly bitter sweet, unique.
I get grief from some food friends about preferring the Ore-Ida Tater Tots, but I've never had a chef-driven version of Tots that was as good as what Ore-Ida makes. Now, I'll admit that "good" may mean, in this context, what I grew up eating. Whatever. I dig the flavor of Ore-Ida's Golden Tater Tots.
"Tots," like "Kleenex" and "Popsicle," has become a generic term for a class of consumables. Burger King, for instance, sells "Cheesy Tots," and Sonic offers "Extreme Tots." Like the word "Nuggets," the word "Tots" is now used willy-nilly by anyone who wants to use it…even though it is a registered trademark.
The Tater Tot was born when the folks at Ore-Ida (which made and still makes other prepared potato products, like French fries) were experimenting with ways to use scraps of potato, which were regularly fed to cattle. The Ore-Ida food science geniuses added some flour, onions, garlic powder and celery seed to those scraps, e voila: the Tater Tot was born.
Funny thing, when Tater Tots were first offered to the public, they were cheap, and few people bought them; then Ore-Ida raised the price, and suddenly the perceived value of the product increased. People started eating Tater Tots and they haven't stopped.
For National Tater Tots Day – or anytime during Potato Lover's Month – pop some bubbly, fry up some Tots, and raise a cheer to one of America's favorite foods… made of cattle feed.
Plus they're gluten-free. And vegan.