Q. What’s your favorite way to describe an Idaho® potato on the menu or when we have our servers explain a giant baked Idaho® potato to our guests?
A. I have two examples that I have remembered years after first hearing about them, but first, let me digress a moment. When I had a restaurant we had a new dessert which was basically the equivalent of a chocolate fudge brownie with a liquid molten center that was scooped out into a ball and then rolled in fresh grated cocoanut and served on a pool of dark chocolate with a hint of orange liquour. The ball shape was also covered with freshly whipped cream. This was a lot of detail to try to describe to a guest. One of my part-time waiters, an aspiring actor while attending college too, described it as “angels dancing on your tongue”. Of course he won the waitstaff prize for selling the most in a month. People almost always ordered one for the table.
A few years ago a group of Commissioners and the field staff went into the Gibson’s restaurant in Downtown Chicago. It’s right across from the original Morton’s Steakhouse and yet it does more neighborhood business and also has a higher restaurant total volume. The waiter, taking a cue from the owners, knew that locals would only come back if they didn’t think they were being wasteful of the huge portions and so he often suggested sharing sides, appetizers or desserts. When the cart came out with the beautifully displayed cuts of meat and vegetable sides he started off describing a twice stuffed potato. “First, the chef takes a beautiful one pound Idaho® Russet Burbank potato and bakes it for nearly an hour until the outer skin is crispy. We then hollow it out, combine the mashed potato with sour cream and top with a slab of aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese (emphasizing each word slowly) and mix it up. The mashed potato mixture is put back into the baked potato to heat until the cheddar cheese melts. Fresh chives are added and then I bring it fresh from the oven to your table”. Try not ordering one… especially if he was turned down and said “how about if I divide it up for the four of you?”
Another example, which I have to credit to a blogger Bill Bence, who wrote about the restaurant chain Toffenneti’s of NYC and Chicago in the late forties, is this written description on the printed menu:
Giant baked Idaho® potatoes with butter and sour cream were a trademark of the place. They baked in the window. It wasn’t just a potato, but a “bulging beauty grown in the ashes of extinct volcanoes, scrubbed and washed, then baked in a whirlwind of tempestuous fire until the shell crackles with bitterness.” Several food historians credit him for being among the first to serve the over-sized baked potato as well as for making Idaho and potatoes synonymous.
Try this with something you want to promote next time.