As we wind down into June and the dry Canberra cold creeps even further under our doors and ices up our windscreens, I've taken it upon myself to find the hottest, crispiest, creamiest and most memorable slice of deep-fried vegetable in Canberra.
Yes, I'm on the hunt for the ACT's best potato scallop. (I know, I know, it's kind of unbelievable how I always write the news that matters most for The Canberra Times.)
But it's not as dreamy as it sounds. Canberrans are fiercely loyal to their local/favourite takeaways and my search has aleady started some pretty narky fights between the north and south on Facebook.
Using social media, I've crowdsourced the city's top four scallops and I'm going to have to travel deep into suburbia as part of my important quest. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be biting into deep-fried potato at Charnwood Regal Charcoal Chicken, Hughes Takeaway and Snapper on the Lake underneath the yacht club.
But shouldn't every search for quality fried food start in the deep south? Mine does. At a little takeaway nestled in the corner of the Carleton Street shops in Kambah.
Little Theo's is owned by Canberra couple Anthony and Aimee Ferraro, who purchased the takeaway in early 2016. The couple met while working in Leichhardt in 2001 - he was a chef at an Italian restaurant, she worked behind the bar of the nearby Royal Hotel. They moved back to Canberra to Aimee's home suburb, Kambah, and when the takeaway she adored as a child came up for sale, they jumped.
The original Theo's opened at the Carleton Street shops in 1979 and quickly became known as the best takeaway in town.
Today, Little Theo's still has that classic late-70s marble-look counter but Anthony and Aimee brought some of cosmopolitan Sydney back with them by ripping up the old lino floor to make way for industrial concrete, and adding huge, coloured wooden light shades.
From the outset, they were determined to be the shop with the best scallops in Canberra. And according to Anthony, after more than two years, he's only just arrived at a point where he can say he has created the ultimate piece of scalloped potato.
"I am eternally chasing the scallop from my own childhood in Sydney," Anthony says.
"Dad had a coin jar in the bottom drawer in his bedroom - I'd dip my hand in and head down to the local milkbar for the most incredible scallops ever."
For my story, Anthony's willing to divulge a few of his secrets. For starters, he leaves the skin on the potato - "it adds texture, it adds feel, it gives it soul". The batter alone for his scallops has taken 18 months to perfect, and the scallops are often three-times cooked, to get the right colouring and thickness.
He and his nine staff clean the oil vats every single night - blonde oil is used to cook the potatoes - so the fried potato will never, ever taste fishy. More than 80kg of potato scallops are hand-made at Little Theo's every week, as well as 20kg of chicken schnitzel, crumbed calamari and home-made hamburger meat.
"When you bring a love of cooking into a takeaway, you can really turn that takeaway into something special," Anthony says.
"When you ask me, 'Isn't a takeaway the lowest common denominator for a chef?' I say no, it's what you make it, you have to love what you do and I love this.
"We're here to nourish people's souls, not only their body but their soul as well, and how do you do that?
"You bring them into your family. We wanted to create that feeling inside the shop where they walk in and they're part of our family."
Little Theo's scallop scorecard:
Skin crispiness: 7/10
Potato creaminess: 9/10
Batter to potato ratio: 9/10
Salt ratio: 10/10
Verdict: This is definitely the scallop of my childhood. The creaminess of the potato is unbelievable. It's like biting into a little piece of heaven. Little Theo's will be hard to beat!
Stay tuned for: Hughes Takeaway.