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Smashed Spuds Favorites Among Chefs and Hash-Slingers Alike

January 30, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ At trendy Sonsie restaurant, they whip their potatoes with horseradish and top them with scallion threads. The Judson Grill in New York City smashes spuds with truffles.

And Grandma’s Oven in Weatherford, Okla., douses them with a ladle of homemade chicken noodle soup.

Mashed potatoes are making a comeback in upscale eateries, restaurateurs say. In other more humble restaurants, they’ve never left the menu.

``Everyone loves potatoes. They’re a great carrier for whatever flavor you want to give them,″ said Judson Grill executive chef John Villa. ``They’re neutral. They have a great texture to them.″

Villa, who serves them whipped, mashed or smashed with a fork, believes mashed potatoes are growing in popularity in posh restaurants like his.

As they become haute cuisine, they are taking on new dimensions.

The $50-a-person Park Bistro in New York makes a ``brandade″ of mashed potatoes, shredded codfish, olive oil and fresh herbs.

Sonsie has three types on the menu, including one with bacon and caramelized onion.

``Upscale, downscale, everybody has their own little version,″ said Sonsie sous chef Alan MacPherson.

At Grandma’s Oven, diners can order a soup-and-potato ``Haystack.″

``Lots of meat-and-potato people here,″ the restaurant’s Tia Leedy said.

Mashed potatoes have increased in popularity along with other ``comfort foods″ _ dishes your mother might have served you when you were sick in bed - according to Linda McCashion of the National Potato Promotion Board in Colorado.

At home, potatoes are immensely popular, with surveys showing 88 percent of Americans eat them at least once every two weeks, McCashion said. Forty-four percent dine out on them just as often, she said.

Mashed and baked potatoes are the most popular, but mashed generates the most passion. There’s the question of hot milk vs. cold milk, butter vs. oil, garlic vs. no garlic. And there’s the matter of consistency.

``They should be creamy,″ said John Maonis after polishing off a plate of meatloaf, mixed veggies and mashed potatoes at the Black Rose in downdown Boston.

``Lumpy!″ shouted several of his tablemates.

``Lumps are fine,″ Maonis conceded.