Special Webisode: The Italian-American Experience
Peter Reinhart

While we were filming at Tony's Pizza Napoletana we met Marti Casey, the editor-in-chief of Salute' Magazine, a publication dedicated to celebrating the Italian-American experience. Of course, there we were, in the heart of San Francisco's Little Italy section, North Beach, eating amazing pizza at Tony's, surrounded by quintessential Italian-American focaccerias, pork shops, bakeries, and classic spaghetti and meat ball trattorias, so what better place to discuss the immigrant experience. As you will see, we got off the subject a few times (don't miss Marti's description in the first part of the video, of her first business, making beef jerky, and the slogan they came up with to sell it), but we soon realized that the Italian-American experience was, in a sense, a metaphor and microcosm of the entire American immigrant experience. What used to be called a melting pot is now often called a salad bowl, but the common thread and essential commonality is that people came to this country, and still do, because it represents the single greatest symbol of opportunity in the history of the world. The immigrant experience is all about the possibility of reinvention of one self and freedom from any preconceived boxes that held individuals back in the past. Not everybody manages to leverage that opportunity into a successful life but the odds sure are greater here, even now during these turbulent times. North Beach, and its adjacent China Town, are perfect examples of that, so it was enjoyable spending time with Marti, sharing our own stories and viewing them through the lens of the Italian-American version.

One thing we've learned over and over again while out on our pizza quest is that when you're on a quest you meet some really interesting people and it reinforces an intuition that I think many of us have: no matter where you are from, when it comes right down to it, we are not all that different from each other.

 
The Marinara
Brad English

I think the Marinara Pizza may be many pizzaiolos favorite to make.  It is a pizza pie with no cheese and I think reflects the skill and passion of a pizza maker's ability to evoke deep flavors from such simple ingredients.  I remember asking Pizzeria Basta's Kelly Whitaker what his favorite pizza was to make and he said, without hesitation that it was the Marinara.  He said, "My favorite pizza goes back to the basic principle of being as simple as possible…the marinara." 

Marinara sauce is said to come from the term Mariner's sauce.  One of the folk legends about the history of this sauce says that it was invented after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to Europe and it quickly became the sauce of choice for those at sea because it was simple, easy to make, was flavorful and wouldn't spoil as fast as other sauces on their long journeys.  No matter where it came from, it is a simple sauce that is full of the robust flavors of quality tomatoes.

The traditional Marinara Pizza has tomatoes crushed, or blended, sliced fresh garlic, fresh oregano, extra virgin olive oil and maybe some sea salt to taste.  Some pizzerias may use basil instead, or in addition to the oregano.  This pizza not only allows the skill of the pizza maker to come through, but really showcases the quality of the individual ingredients. 

This is the perfect tomato based pizza for me to explore my skills, and experiment with these new Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes that I've been loving. 

The Marinara Pizza

Dough - Central Mills 00 flour (or your favorite Napoletana dough recipe)
Bianco DiNapoli Hand Crushed Organic Tomatoes (or your favorite brand)
Thinly sliced fresh garlic
Fresh oregano leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

 

This pizza is all about balance.  Since there is nothing on top of the tomatoes you have to layer enough sauce to ensure that the sauce doesn't dry up, or dry out in the oven.  I think the longer bake times in a home oven can make this more of a dance, than if it were done with a 90 second bake in a wood fired oven.  Top with the ingredients keeping balance in mind.  This pizza is all about the tomatoes.  The garlic, oregano and oil are there as accents.

Add your sauce - in this case simply hand crushed tomatoes.  I didn't add any sea salt to any of my pizzas using these tomatoes.  There was no need. There might be, however, if you use a different brand (especially since Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes are only available to a few pizzerias and not to the public--sorry!!)

Add the thin slices of garlic

I added a little olive oil prior to baking.


Into the oven!

When it comes out, add the oregano leaves and drizzle with a little more oil.


Cut, serve and Enjoy!

 

 
A swing through Eataly
Brad English

New York City is a world unto itself.  It's a relatively small island filled with a lot of everything from everywhere.  You can find almost anything you can imagine in this city.  What I find most interesting is that you can be here by yourself and not be lonely.  And, on the opposite side of the coin, you can be surrounded by literally thousands of people and be left alone.    

I have often imagined that when we start our official Pizza Quest tour here in NY we may never finish.  It would be like a black hole, or a Twilight Zone episode where Peter takes us into the city to one pizzeria after the other and we wake up one day to realize we're now stuck in a perpetual pizza quest - tasting our way through the city and surrounding boroughs.  If we ever got to the end of our journey there, we would probably have to start it all over. I have heard that the Golden Gate Bridge is never finished being painted.  It's so large, that when the crews make their way across the bridge painting it, and finally reach the other side and "finish" - they have to start the process over again at the beginning. 

There's even another, perhaps more sinister obstacle we would face on our trip through New York.  We may never get to that imaginary "End" of our search for that perfect pizza in the first place.  We will surely face this manipulative demon day in and day out.  We will run smack into a never ending supply of quest-worthy "detours" that would inevitably become quests on their own.  Trust me!  We went to Cayucos, CA and couldn't get out of there without numerous side trips, taco quests, cookie connections and that town only has about 137 people!

One day, we'll get to NYC with our quest crew.  I'll just have to inform my family and prepare them to move there with me.

So, what's the big deal here Brad?  Why all this talk of the BIG APPLE?  Are you beginning a quest there?  No, not yet.  But Eataly caused me to realize just how all consuming and compelling New York City can be.

EATALY.

Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe have put together a concept that may only be possible in this city.  I finally had a chance to drop in and wander around this new venture of theirs.  It's hard to believe.  It's decadent, but yet it's about simple things - quality ingredients, good food, and a celebration of gathering and eating.  When I visited it in the summer of 2011, and our economy was not looking it's shiny best.  In a way, it struck me as hard to balance reality and this over the top expression of a gourmet food market.  But this is NYC.  You have to realize just how many people are here.  That justifies a different reality that allows Eataly to exist.  Where you may be lucky enough to find a great butcher, fish monger, a fine cheese shop, or bakery in cities and towns everywhere, it's something special when they happen to all be in the same location.  This happens organically on occasion, as one good restaurant becomes successful, it draws another, and another and you begin to have a great neighborhood, village, farmers market, or gathering place.  We really do gather around food either in our cities and towns, or at our dinner tables or breakfast nooks. 

Eataly is that neighborhood where all these unique, quality artisan vendors come to sell their goods.  It is like what Anthony Strong, of Pizzeria Delfina, so proudly proclaimed in one of our early webisodes about his Castro neighborhood in San Francisco.  It had become known as "The Gastro" because of the gathering of so many dedicated food purveyors, restaurants, bakeries who had settled in and it become a place to go to eat, graze, shop, or just get together.  In a city like NYC there are certainly many great neighborhoods with all of these elements, but at Eataly, they have taken the concept and brought it into one place, under one roof.  The space feels like a remodeled old rail station, or warehouse.  It's clean, bright, and has high enough ceilings to make it feel open, but not too cavernous. I could even say I found it cozy at the same time.  The city is like that as well.  It's gigantic, but you find coziness in the smaller parts, the nooks and crannies - the neighborhoods.  Eataly's design also lends to a sense of discovery as you wander through the space, turning corners, and uncovering what else there is to find.  

I have one lament though.  As a visitor swinging through NY, you can't take advantage of a big part of the experience, which is access to so many amazing - quality ingredients to take home and cook with!  But, you can browse, sit, eat, taste, sample and drink within this great public gathering space.  I don't think you can even appreciate what Eataly is until you've had the chance to experience it all, eating in but also taking the food/ingredients to go.  It is a great place to visit, but perhaps a greater lifestyle type of place.  I read one review saying how someone was frustrated eating in what was essentially a public market.  This was exactly the aspect that I loved so much about it.  I was there alone, but I felt part of the shared experience. 

We all know it's one of life's gifts to sit in a quiet little restaurant with a candle on the table and enjoy the ambiance along with some great food.  There's definitely a time for that.  And, there's a time for Eataly -- a time to celebrate a gathering of ingredients, foods, artisans, and friends in a very open and sharing way.  You can't help but be excited in here.  I would love to rent an apartment in the city sometime just to be able to swing by here to pick up some of these amazing ingredients to take home and make a meal with.  In all likelihood, that may well result in a taste or two of some fine wine or other small plates along the way.

So, what did I eat in there?  Well, this is Pizza Quest, right?  So, I had to try the pizza, of course!  I really wanted to have some fish, but, well you know with the Pizza Quest thing, I didn't feel there was much of a choice.  I could have played off the whole fish taco thing, but I figured the best place for my Eataly journey to end that day would be the pizzeria "La Pizza".  But, as you can see from the photos of the fish store, that's a place I'll definitely be back to explore when I can do it justice.

I had the Messesse Pizza.  It had a nice fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, spicy salumi, and a little fresh basil to top it off.  Their pizza, as they advise you, is made very thin and is meant to be eaten with a fork from the middle outward to the crust - a traditional Napoletana style pizza. The pizza was balanced, bright and delicious.  The crust was very thin in the middle and had a nice chew to it out near the cornicione.  I was very happy!  I will be back. 

I live in California.  I realize that my Eataly Quest may take some time to complete.  And, I realize that it may be much like my dream of our Pizza Quest in NYC - a never ending journey - which is great because that is what life is all about and I think it's exactly what Mario and the gang were striving for.

 
Pizza Margherita ( A One Day Sourdough Crust Formula)
Teresa Greenway

I said in an earlier post that I would come up with a one day sourdough formula for a pizza crust. Well, I have one I think you’ll like.

I really enjoy the simplicity of Pizza Margherita. Wikipedia says: In 1889, during a visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Italy was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita.

Well, mine does have all of those colors so I guess you could say this is a Pizza Margherita.  I love basil, the smell and the flavor is just right on a pizza. I often cannot keep it for long and a trip to the market is an hour for me, so I sometimes will freeze it while it is still fresh. It doesn’t have the eye appeal that the fresh basil does, but at least I have it when I need it. This pizza is sans fresh tomato and fresh basil (I used the frozen basil), but it still tastes terrific! The toppings include a crust spread with olive oil, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.

Formula for One Day Sourdough Pizza Crust:

Early in the morning, in your dough folding trough or mixing bowl mix together:
•    12 oz/340g of vigorous sourdough starter at 100% hydration, which was fed the night before
•    9 oz/255g water
•    4 oz/113g evaporated milk
•    1.5 oz/42g oil (I like to use olive oil)
•    4 oz/113g white whole wheat flour
•    9 oz/255g bread flour

Mix all of the above ingredients together until you have a nice mass of dough. Then let the dough rest (autolyse) for 15 minutes. After autolyse is over, stir in:
•    .6 oz/17g salt  (stir in well before adding the rest of the flour)
•    10 oz/283g bread flour
•    (it can be fun to add a pinch of garlic powder or granulated garlic to the dough - ¼ teaspoon should be enough)

This will make 3 lbs 2 oz /1420g of dough at 65% hydration.

Knead all ingredients together for two or three minutes and then allow the dough to ferment in a covered container at room temperature for six hours. During the six hour ferment time, fold the dough four or five times to strengthen the gluten.

Peter has a good video on youtube.com on how to fold dough. Once the six hours is done, divide your dough into two pieces (weighing about 1.5 lbs each). Shape into rounds and spray with oil, cover and let set for 20 minutes.

Roll/stretch out your dough into a large pizza round, 14 – 16 inches and set the dough on top of a baking parchment paper to proof. Let the dough proof for 1.5 hours. Then top with your preferred toppings and slide pizza onto a very hot preheated baking stone at around 500 degrees for 10-15 minutes with 12 minutes being average.

The oven/stone is not as heated as hot as usual due to the milk in the dough which adds color and lightness to the dough but will make the dough burn a little easier as well. Make sure your stone is up about 1/3 of the distance of your oven from the bottom.

Enjoy!



 
Peter's Blog, November 8th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

First, I want to welcome our newest sponsor to Pizza Quest, our friends from Central Milling in Petaluma, California. This company is headed up by my longtime friend, Keith Giusto, one of the finest bakers in America and also one of our greatest millers--rarely does someone possess world class skills in both realms, and we're very proud to have Central Milling in our growing stable of Pizza Quest sponsors. You've read in this blog how we used Keith's (and his nephew Nicky's) latest flour blends to create the "Challenge Pizza Dough" in Denver, so I hope you'll click through to the Central Milling website and check them out -- this is a company dedicated to producing the absolutely finest flour in the country and, quite possibly, the world. It is my understanding that there will even be bread classes and demos at their Petaluma headquarters --you'll have to contact them for details (the website has a contact section)-- but you should also learn about the actual original Central Mills -- the mills themselves-- in Utah, where the magic really happens. Thanks for your support Keith and Nicky, and your whole team at Central Milling. Welcome onto the Pizza Quest bus….

Meanwhile, I've been ruminating all week about the two extraordinary pizza experiences I recently had in San Francisco at Una Pizza Napoletana and also at Tony's Pizza Napoletana. The reason I can't stop thinking about these places is because they are so totally different from each other yet each represents a level of excellence and artistry that is extremely rare in the pizza world (though the list of pizzerias operating at this level is growing by the day, to the benefit of all of us). These two places, though, are the yin and yang of artisan pizza. Tony's features eight different styles (see last week's Peter's Blog), all executed at at benchmark levels, while Una Pizza Napoletana makes one style, a unique iteration of classic Napoletana but with a wild yeast crust, created and crafted  by Anthony Mangieri in a small, almost zen-like fashion, on a small work station with a beautiful blue tiled oven at his back.

One can't help but be awed at both places, yet in very different ways and for different reasons.

Tony Gemignani's ambitions make it impossible for one person, Tony, to make all the pizzas himself so he is dependent on a team of personally trained cooks (he also runs a pizzaiolo certification school next to the restaurant) who must also make pasta, his legendary meatballs, and many other classic Italian-American menu items.  His restaurant is an emporium, a massive statement on a grand stage in the heart of San Francisco's most famous neighborhood, North Beach, across the street from the church where Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe, around the corner from City Lights Bookstore where Allen Ginsberg and the other beatnik poets dominated the literary landscape, and just blocks from Fisherman's Wharf.  In one of our early webisodes with Tony we went to the top of a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back on the city of San Francisco as if it were the Emerald City (which it is, as anyone who has ever lived or visited there knows). I asked him how it felt to be the newest star on the biggest stage and Tony, who is no stranger to acclaim and cheering crowds, seemed awed himself as he took in the immensity of his striving. It was a defining moment for each of us, I think. In future webisodes we'll get to explore a little more of the fire that burns in his belly, that drives the desire to climb to these heights. He is the George M. Cohan, the John Wayne, the Michael Jackson of the pizza world and we're delighted to be able to give you a glimpse of his artistry.

I'm hoping we'll be able to go back to San Francisco in the near future and explore in an equally deep manner the fire that burns in Anthony Mangieri's belly because, while Tony's is like a grand Broadway musical, a "Phantom of the Opera" playing to 2,000 people a night in a majestic theater, Anthony's place is like a small off-Broadway theater playing The Fantasticks to a 90 people a night (btw, "The Fantasticks" ran for about 30 years in that tiny theater -- not sure if Anthony will want to do it for so long, though).

What I'm trying to say is that I really want to get inside that monkish complexity I experienced at Una Pizza Napoletana; the oven itself was so clearly like, in a purely metaphorical way of course, a The Holy of Holies of the ancient Temple, a consuming, transformative fire that transmuted dough, cheese, and sauce into a new something, into a a one of a kind pizza. I'm just dying to know how much of that design was conscious and intentional and how much simply an intuitive stumbling into the mystic. That's what's on my list for my next trip to San Francisco because experiencing Tony's and Anthony's pizzerias on two consecutive nights reminded me that there are many paths to the Holy Grail; soulfulness can manifest in St. Peter's Cathedral and also in a desert monastery or in a lonely mountain top and, in the end, the only thing that actually matters is that it inspires us and touches us in the center of our being. Two paths, two distinctively personal quests, but one ultimate destination, sought after and celebrated night after night after night. As we've said before, the quest never ends....

 
Sssshhhhhhh....It's a Secret
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about New Orleans. The Crescent City has a huge Sicilian heritage yet it has never been known as a great pizza city. We will explore why at a later date because right now let’s think about something New Orleans is famous for and how it relates to pizza -- music.

Back in the early 1900’s there was a legendary jazz musician named Freddie Keppard. People who heard Freddie play claimed he was the best cornetist in history, yet today most people have never heard of him, and here’s why: Freddie Keppard was always afraid that some young musician would steal his secrets. He became so paranoid that he would play with his hands covered by a handkerchief so rivals wouldn’t see what he was doing. He went so far as to refuse to record his music fearing that it would reveal too much to his competitors. The result is that Freddie Keppard is now just a footnote in musical history, his talents reduced to nothing more than legend and speculation. On the other hand just about everyone knows of Louis Armstrong, another New Orleans jazz great who generously shared his talent with the world, mentoring scores of musicians, sharing his gifts and becoming one of the most beloved figures in musical history.

We have all heard tales of legendary pizza makers who seem to have some mystical ability. In the history of pizza there have been a small number of pizza alchemists who are able to take the most basic ingredients and turn them into something greater than the sum of its par -- a perfect pizza. Like all mythology, the implication is that these people possess some secret technique or ingredient, or perhaps a piece of equipment, some holy grail of knowledge shared by only a select few. The veil of secrecy goes back to pre-Roman days, when guilds and societies were formed to insure job security. In ancient Roman times bread baking was considered so crucial that if you were born in to a baking family you were required by law to continue that trade. My Dad once told me that 80 year old Italian bakers in New York in the 1930’s would jealously guard their recipe books from their co-workers fearing that some youngster would steal a secret and force them into retirement. I remember pizzaiolo’s removing the temperature knobs from ovens to hide their chosen baking temperature from “pizza spies”. To this day I know pizza makers who carefully shred the labels from tomato cans before discarding them. The folly of this is that most of these folks are baking at the same temperature, using the same tomatoes, and generally following the same procedures. At the very least they have more in common than they can imagine and they would realize that if they ever bothered to speak with one another.

Besides the fact that all of this secrecy has created a culture of distrust among professional pizza makers there is another problem. Every once in a while someone does come up with a true insight or improvement. My feeling is that if we don’t generously share knowledge something very important could be lost. Look at it this way: who has brought more lasting joy to the world, Freddie Keppard or Louis Armstrong?

 
Tony Makes a Traditional Italian Pizza
Peter Reinhart

Here's another in the extremely informative sessions we had with Tony Gemignani at his landmark restaurant, Tony's Pizza Napoletana in North Beach, San Francisco. In this websode, Tony shows us the difference between what he calls a "traditional Italian pizza" and the Napoletana/Neapolitan pizzas he made in previous segments. I think we might also more accurately think of this as "traditional Italian-American" pizza. This style is baked in a gas fired oven, not wood, at a lower temperature (550-600 degrees) for a longer time, with different flour and, in this case, with some finishing ingredients after it emerges from the oven. In many respects, this is the type of pizza closest to what home cooks can achieve, in a regular oven, perhaps on a baking stone. Even the time frame is about the same, about 7 to 8 minutes. The dough recipe in our Instructional section for Neo-Neapolitan dough (also found in "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza"), is closest to Tony's, but he uses a type of Italian flour (not Caputo or San Felice Double Zero) whereas our version uses American bread flour (some folks like to use half bread and half all purpose flour for a more tender mouth feel, but I like the toothsome quality of bread flour). Regardless, you'll get some great ideas and techniques by watching Tony put together a beautiful prosciutto/Parmesiano/arugula pizza right before our eyes. One tip, not shown on the video, is to toss the fresh arugula first in a little olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Mangia!!

 
Chris Bianco's Bianco Verde with a twist...
Brad English

As many of you saw in a recent Guest Column, my sister finally made the trip to Pizzeria Bianco last month (a trip, I have yet to make)!  If you read her story, you can see how she tortured me for years - teasing me about her trips to visit family in Phoenix and the possibility of going, and then after, baiting me with texts and emails; or her plans "got in the way" and she couldn't make it.  She thought she was soooooo - ooooh so funny.  She thought it was finally payback for the Big Brother thing!  But, as you read, who really suffered - missing all those opportunities to enjoy pizza at that level? 

So now I'm on my tomato quest, using Chris Bianco's new organic tomatoes - Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomatoes.  I am making pizzas that will allow me to really taste these tomatoes as I try them out for the first time here at home.  As I browsed Pizzeria Bianco's menu online, a pizza jumped off the page at me - the Biancoverde Pizza!  It has Fresh Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta, and Arugula.  That sounds delicious.  But, there are no tomatoes!  What to do?  Wait!  The bells went off. The sassy sister had the Biancoverde, but had added some tomato sauce to it.  I thought that would not only be a perfect pizza to try to make, but also

 
Peter's Blog, Nov. 1st
Peter Reinhart

I'm home, Halloween has passed (we got a record number of kids this year), and I've started a serious diet after last week's blow-out in San Francisco. I'll be back later today with more details on that, but wanted to let you know what else we have on tap for this week in addition to the recap of last week.

On Wed. we'll have a new recipe from Brad, who has been on fire recently with new variations of pizza using the Challenge Pizza Dough.

On Thursday we have yet another webisode featuring Tony Gemignani, whose restaurant was just named best pizzeria in America by USA Today.

And on Friday, well, I'm working on that...

More soon, so do check back.

Okay, I'm back so here's the rest of the story:

Continuing on with the San Francisco saga: I mentioned that a few of us went to Tony's Pizza Napoletana on Thursday night, just prior to discovering the USA Today article proclaiming it the best pizzeria in the USA. It's a good thing we went when we did as Tony called me the following evening and told me the lines were around the block!

As you will see in the photos, one of the pizzas that seems to be generating some buzz, among the eight styles featured on the menu (nine if you count his new gluten-free pizzas), is the Pizza Romana, baked at 700 degrees F. in an electric brick oven. It's long and wide (about 4 feet long and 18" wide, by my estimation), and a great "table pizza" for a large group, as our neighbors at the next table over were -- and they seemed exceedingly happy! You get to choose four toppings from four different ingredient sections, so it really is a  crowd pleaser. Our table didn't order one so I can't report on the crust but, judging from the pizzas we did order, I can't imagine it being anything but great.


Our group, on the other hand, got a few Napoletana-style pizzas (the Championship Margherita, naturally, though they were out of the San Felice dough balls but, as you can see in the webisodes, Caputo and San Felice are comparable so we were very happy). I also ordered a Spacca Napoli pizza from the Napoletana section of the menu, which is made with mozzarella di bufala and cherry tomatoes -- similar to the same version under a different name we had at Una Pizza Napoletana the previous night. The only difference was the crust (Una uses a wild yeast crust and I'm not sure what flour but it seems different from Tony's -- both are superb in their own way and the table was divided over whose version they preferred -- a nice dilemma to have).

But the surprise hit of the night was the Tony Two Times pizza, listed in the Classic American category. I'll return to this in a moment but first let me tell you about all the other categories: there's one called Detroit Style (square, butter toasted corners, takes 25 minutes so you know it's got to be loaded); Sicilian Style (you can see that in last week's webisode); California Style (lots of wild flavor combo's made in a wood-fired oven with Caputo flour -- kind of a Napoletana crust with creative toppings not found in traditional Naples pizzerias); Classic Italian (Tony calls one of them The Cal Italia and describes the crust as "medium" in thickness -- I wish I had tried one of these for comparison purposes but I totally missed it on the far right side of the menu); Coal Fired Style, based on the classic New Haven and Lombardi's/Totonno's NY pizzas, baked in a 1000 degree oven); and finally, St. Louis Style (thin crust, provel cheese -- I'm probably one of the few non St. Louis natives who actually loves this style, but not as much I love the Coal and wood-fired styles).

There are also lots of salads, stromboli, calzone, killer meat balls (Tony is rightfully very proud of these and we got two orders), sausage and peppers, burgers with burrata cheese and other creative burgers, Chciken Parmigiana with pasta -- I mean the menu is like Disney World --something for everyone and too many things to experience in just one or even four visits. So I will be back. I'm especially upset with myself for missing a chance to try the coal-fired clam and bacon pizza. I simply missed it in the nearly hidden bottom middle of the menu, until we had already stuffed ourselves silly. I will be sure to get that the next time I'm in SF.

Oh yes, the Tony Two Times is listed thus: "mozzarella, two times the garlic, and two times the sausage, two times the bell peppers."  Yes, this was a garlic and sausage blast and we all had to have a slice just in self defense! But what really pleased me was how good the crust was. This was, in my estimation, a NY Style pizza crust comparable to the one served at Apizza Scholls in Portland (one of my favorite pizzerias in the country). It was an unexpected surprise and pleased me greatly.

Let me say this: when you go, whether with a group or alone (and I suggest with a group so you can try lots of things), take your time before ordering because the menu is so extensive you will invariably miss something and experience buyers remorse. But it's brilliant on Tony's part because then you feel compelled to return again and again. Of course, this only works if you really believe he pulled it off -- that he can actually back his boast to have mastered all these various styles. Personally, I'm convinced and impressed, and kudos to his team of pizzaioli and also his front of the house staff who were all gracious and friendly, not just to us but to the entire packed house. I have never been a fan of people trying to do too much, but Tony is Mozartian in his prodigiousness. Tony's reminded me of the scene in Amadeus where the king accuses Wolfie of using too many notes and he replies, "No, there are just the right amount." Only a rare few can work on that kind of canvas.  And by way of contrast, Anthony Mangieri is Chopin-esque in his minimalism and tight focus at Una Pizza Napoletana -- I felt fortunate to have experienced them both in successive nights.

Before I sign off I want to mention that, in celebration of completing our successful photo shoot, we (my wife Susan, co-author Denene Wallace, and Denene's mom Dot) headed up to Santa Rosa on Saturday. Denene and I were guests on The Good Food Hour on KSRO radio (one of the longest running radio food shows in the country), with my old friend Steve Garner, where we made the first official announcement of title of our book: The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, with a publication date set for August, 2012. Before the show we stopped by the bakery to see what was there in its place and, low and behold, it was a gluten-free bakery called The Bliss Bakery. Couldn't have planned it better if I tried and I wish them the best of success.

After the radio show we gathered with friends and headed to Guy Fieri's new restaurant, Tex-Wasabi, in downtown Santa Rosa (only a few miles from where Susan and I used to live and where our bakery, Brother Juniper's was located -- it was kind of a homecoming of sorts). Guy is Santa Rosa's biggest star these days and his first restaurant, Johnny Garlic's, is still going strong, just a short hop from where our bakery was and where we first met Guy when he was just a newbie in the business -- who knew??.  The lunch at Tex-Wasabi was really fun--Guy has picked up some great tricks while on the diner and dive circuit and the best of them are on his very eclectic menu, including some innovative sushi and beautifully smoked meats. It was, like Tony's, an example of what a prodigy can do when he has enough money (or backers) to go for the big statement. I'd go back for the roasted chili peppers appetizer alone, but if I still lived in Santa Rosa I could see myself eating there a lot -- it's what I call fun food, and it's done well. Like Tony, he pulled it off. Way to go Guy!

Okay, enough -- my head is still spinning and jet lag is biting me in the butt, but this will give you a taste of how the quest just never seems to end -- and why should it? More soon….

 
Tony G. Makes us a Sicilian Pizza
Peter Reinhart

In this webisode, Tony Gemignani shows us his take on a classic Sicilian-style pizza, such as found at only a few places in New York City, Brooklyn, and other east coast cities, and now at Tony's Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco. This type of pizza, in which he first bakes the crust to set it and then tops it with sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and sausage for a final bake, is not unlike Genoa-style focaccia in thickness and crumb structure. As with all his pizzas, Tony has a special oven dedicated to baking only Sicilian pizzas in order to properly control the bottom and top heat. Wait till you see the beautiful underskirt of this pizza, shown very briefly towards the end of video. As always, a terrific educational and delicious moment, thanks to Tony G.

 

 
Peter's Blog, Oct. 26th, SF
Peter Reinhart

Wed. We're halfway through the photo shoot and have come with some great shots and lots of product to bring to Omnivore tonight at 6 PM. There's always something going into or coming out of the oven, eventually being styled by Karen Shinto into a composition that Leo can assess and light for the camera. The rest of us gather around and offer suggestions or ooohhs and aahhh's and then Leo pulls the trigger and a number of variations of the original shot show up a video monitor until we have some that everyone likes. We've been very happy, and the collaborative process seems to be working.

I'm writing this now on Thursday, the day after the Omnivore event and after an exciting evening of pizza at -- here it comes....Una Pizza Napoletana, the one-of-a-kind pizzeria helmed by the now legendary Anthony Mangiere. I'll come back to that in a bit but first, a quick recap of Omnivore. Omnivore Books is owned by Celia Sack, and has, in the few years since I've been dropping in, established itself as a serious destination cook book store (and also a sweet pet supply store in the adjoining location next door), despite the small space located way out in Noe Valley. Celia runs a fine author program too, bringing in many A-list writers as well lesser known niche writers like me. Last evening she was able to draw about 30 people, some who had traveled from as far as Monterey and the East Bay. Denene had a chance to tell them her story, of creating the gluten-free, sugar free recipes that the book is based upon, as a way to heal her body and reverse her type-2 diabetes. The crowd, which mainly came to hear about pizza, seemed really interested in the gluten free phenomenon and they all got a chance for a sneak-peek taste of some of the products that we brought from the photo shoot.

Afterwards, a few of us headed over to 11th and Howard St., a rough looking neighborhood with and lots of locked doors, and nearly walked right past Una Pizza Napoletana until we caught the reddish glow emanating from a blue mosaic tiled domed oven and then saw a dining room full of happy pizza freaks. Once inside, I saw Anthony Mangieri woking at a small, spare pizza table, his back to the oven, which he would then face, pivoting around with a loaded peel as he slid another pizza through the open door. Two minutes later a beautiful, puffily charred pizza emerged, landed on a plate, which was then quickly escorted by one of the servers to whoever ordered it. Anthony was so focused on filling the steady stream of tickets that he hardly noticed me clicking away on my Leica Lumix while we waited for a table to clear for our group of eight (it was about a 20 minute wait). We ordered 6 pizzas among us, as they were running low on dough balls and a few people came in after us, but we could easily have consumed a whole pizza per person. They were wonderful--both traditional in appearance and balance of ingredients but also distinct and uniquely unlike anyone else's Napoletana pizzas.

I loved the slight tang of his naturally fermented dough-- perfect in San Francisco, which made me wonder why more pizzerias didn't capitalize on the ambient, only-in-San Francisco sourdough cultures. The crust was light and tender, but full of the ciabatta-like structure that I crave in pizza. We were all happy campers, whether we ordered the Margherita, or two variations -- one with smoked mozzarella and arugula, and the other with sliced cherry tomatoes and garlic as well as fresh mozzarella. So I waited till the dough had run out and Anthony was able to decompress a bit from his lazer-like focus and introduced myself. I instantly liked him and his earnestness, and introduced him to Melissa (my editor from Ten Speed Press) and Leo, our photographer and asked him if he'd be willing to let us come back with the Pizza Quest crew someday. He said yes, so I decided not to push into interview mode but to allow him his well deserved after-performance wind-down. There's so much I want to talk with him about -- I think there's a lot going on below the surface that contributes to the depth of our collective experience. Leo and I discussed, as we left, how much it seemed like Anthony's make-up station was like an altar, and how he was like the high priest as he placed his pizzas into the consuming fire of the domed oven that looked like a miniature Byzantine church. It was like a laicized iteration of a sacred ritual, a sacramentalizing of an otherwise ordinary mundane event. In other words, a manifestation of everything I've been writing about for twenty years -- that every meal has the potential to be a Last Supper, a bringing together of heaven and earth -- or not. It all depends on the eyes of those doing the looking (or eating), and also those doing the cooking. I could go on and on about this but want to wait till I get back to have a real sit-down with Anthony and see how much of this is conscious on his part and how much just unintended grace. Should be a lively discussion. I'll be back one more time this week with a wrap up of our SF adventure. We now have only four more beauty shots to take on Friday, as well as the author shots (Denene and I are already planning our wardrobes!). Brad has promised to insert a few of the photos I'm sending him tonight (he's the only one on our team who knows how to load photos into the blogs--something I still have to learn), so keep checking back. More to come from San Francisco....

 
Tony Gemignani's Original Tomato Pie w/Cheese
Brad English

How do you celebrate, or explore a new ingredient you are looking to use?  If your ingredient is a can of Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomatoes you got your hands on, you don't need to look too much further than Tony Gemignani's Orginal Tomato Pie with Cheese.  I remembered this pizza and thought it would be the perfect platform for these tomatoes to shine.  I was on a tomato quest after all.  This pizza is simply a celebration of the tomato.  Tony's Pizzeria Napoletana even offers a limited number of pies per day be made with the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes for an additional charge.  It's worth it!

Tony has a couple versions of this pizza: The Original Tomato Pie, Original Tomato Pie with Cheese, and Jersey's Original Tomato Pie. The basic concept is Tomato - hand crushed tomatoes spread on the dough.  It is finished with a little pinched italian sausage, fresh oregano, olive oil and sea salt.  The Jersey version uses sliced mozzarella and adds some parmigiano as well.  They all deliver tomatoes to you on a platter, or pizza crust.  Delicious!

I mention this in some of my other recipes from this day, but it is worth repeating.  My son was eating one of the pizzas I had been making that day.  For all of the pizzas I was making, I was only using these tomatoes hand crushed - nothing added.  He sat at the table as I made this pizza and out of nowhere he said, "Dad.  Great sauce!"  He had no idea what I was doing.  The sauce stood out that much. That's impressive.

You can see that for this pizza, I used a lot of sauce.  I wanted the tomatoes to melt into the cheese base, but not loose their juicy tomatoey-ness after baking in my oven for 8-10 minutes.  It came out just right.  Because the tomatoes were hand crushed, they still had some thickness, which was nice to bite into as they held their moisture.  You sort of got explosions of tomato flavor in every bite.  The sauce in this pizza - the way you lay it out and top it - becomes the key note of the whole thing.  With a little mozzarella underneath, you still get that cheese fix, which I think helps set the tomatoes up for your enjoyment even more.  And, with a little spicy italian sausage you have the perfect accent for enjoying the tomato pie.

Tony Gemignani's Original Tomato Pie with Cheese:

Pizza Dough
*I was using a Central Mills Germania Flour Dough (any dough will work)
Grated Mozzarella
Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomatoes
Pinched Italian Sausage
Fresh Oregano
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Sprinkle a little mozzarella on the dough.
You don't want this pizza to be about the cheese.  It's there on the bottom layer for a reason.  It's performing a supporting role.

Add a good amount of your hand crushed tomatoes.
*Note:  I didn't add anything to the tomatoes, just some fingers and some squeezing.  You want enough tomatoes to make sure it stays moist after cooking for 8-10 minutes.

Pinched Italian Sausage
The pinching creates a thin piece of sausage that will fully cook in the oven.  Since I'm making this at home and my oven only hits 550 degrees, I saute my sausage first leaving it a little pink in the middle so it will finish in the oven.

I put a little oregano on prior to cooking the pizza and then more after - just so I could get a little cooked into the sauce and then some fresh leaves as a finishing accent after.

After snapping a few pictures, the pizza went into the oven.

Give it about 8-10 minutes and out she comes.

I drizzled a little olive oil and dropped a little more fresh oregano on top and got this one to the table, where the family was waiting in line (behind Owen, who had by now identified a new favorite sauce and was using his muscle to make sure he was first in line).  I didn't add any sea salt and found that it was perfect without it. 

This is a great pizza. Thanks Tony!


Enjoy

 

 
Peter's Blog, Oct. 25th, SF Dateline!
Peter Reinhart

Here I am in San Francisco, shooting the photos for the upcoming book on Gluten-Free baking. I took a few photos of our team, hard at work, baking, shooting and tweaking the book photos (the "beauty shots" as they're called), and matching the copy to the photos. We're having a ball! Last night we had dinner at one of my favorite SF attractions, The Ferry Terminal Market (more on that later) and we're planning to visit a pizzeria tomorrow or Thursday night, but I won't say which one until I have something to report. The shoot will take all week and then Susan will fly in and we'll be doing a quick swing through Sonoma County, our old stomping grounds, on Saturday before flying home. My co-author, Denene Wallace, is here with her mom, Dot, and they're doing most of the baking while I get to, well, blog and schmooze -- a great gig! Leo Gong, who did such a fabulous job with my last book, "Artisan Breads Everyday," is once again behind the lens. Our editor, Melissa Moore and art director, Katy Brown, are also here, and our food styllist Karen Shinto, along with Leo's wife, Harumi, and their adorable mini-dachshund Samantha, the team mascot (last time I was here, three years ago, Samantha was only about about 2 pounds and 10 inches long; now she's an enormous foot long, and a whopping 9 pounds -- and is fully grown. She runs the show and everyone adores her. Anyway, I'll keep adding to this blog as the week progresses but want to get something off to you today (Tuesday). I'll send photos to Brad and he'll add them in as they come--I'll let the photos do most of the telling this week and next week, when I'm home and have a chance to reflect on the experience, I'll post a more reflective piece. So, for now, here's the team, and I'll keep adding to this posting throughout the week, so keep checking back. Also, be on the lookout for a recipe on Wed., a new video on Thursday, and more photos as I get them.

SPECIAL ALERT! Last week I erroneously stated I'd be at Omnivore Books at 7 PM on Wednesday but it is actually at 6 PM. I hope this doesn't screw up anyone's plans and I do hope to see you at 6 PM at Omnivore!

Wed: I said I'd keep adding on to this blog posting but instead, I'm going to post a new one and date it Oct. 26th. It will post later today. That way, for those who have been keeping up, you don't have to re-read all the earlier postings, and it will serve more as a progression. More soon....

 
The Best Way to Improve Your Skills? Teach!
John Arena

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the student teacher relationship. For the past few weeks I have been training a friend who wants to open an authentic New York style pizzeria in Seoul.

James Yu is not your average pizza guy. A native of South Korea, he graduated from Auburn with a degree in Chemical Engineering and worked in the US for several years. Along the way James fell in love with crispy thin crust New York style pizza. Did I say James loves pizza? That’s not quite accurate. James is absolutely obsessed with pizza. James is so dedicated that after attending Tony Gemignani’s great pizza school in San Francisco he came back to the US to spend time with me in Las Vegas. He has attended Pizza Expo and thrown in Scott Wiener’s New York City pizza tour for good measure. I have had an opportunity to guide thousands of aspiring pizza makers over the years, but none have come close to matching his uncompromising, analytical approach to the subject. Perhaps because of his background, James always wants to know “why” and it is the answer to that unrelenting question that can lead to growth for both the student and the teacher.

The truth is after nearly 3 weeks of 16 hour days and literally hundreds of “whys” from James I think I emerged as a better pizza maker.

Use a California vine ripened tomato- “Why?”

Extend dough from the middle out towards the cornicione-“Why?”

62% Water in your dough formula- “Why?”

Never turn your gas oven off- “Why?”

Longer fermentation results in more flavor depth- “Why?”

On September 7th I celebrated my 44th year of making pizza. I may be slowing down but I still make a few hundred pies every day out of sheer joy in the process. But here is the thing: no matter how much you love something, over time repetition can become mechanical. You stop thinking about the “whys”. In many cases “old school” pizza makers learned by rote and could work their entire careers without knowing or considering why they did things the way that they did. That may be OK if you are happy with the result and have no desire to improve.

My guess is that if you follow this site you are the type of pizza maker that is never satisfied, no matter how great your pizza may be. Like James, you have a pizza ideal in your head and the quest toward mythological perfection may be just as important to you as the end result.

So, how do you keep everything fresh and continue to challenge yourself over years or even decades of pizza making? Teach. Whether you are a professional pizzaiolo or a dedicated amateur share what you know. No matter what your level of expertise is, there is someone out there who would like to be able to do what you do and can benefit from your experience.

Ultimately you will gain the satisfaction of sharing your passion and I guarantee you will also improve your own skills. James and I developed 16 different dough formulas using 4 different types of flour during his visit. He finally settled on one that he was happy with but every one was a success in that it gave me new insight into my own methods.

Certainly many of the techniques and recipes we worked on simply reinforced my existing beliefs, but in some cases I was surprised by the success of things that James wanted to try. If truth be told I have also found by objective research that a few of the widely accepted “truisms” of our craft don’t really create the result that we think (sorry fellow New Yorkers, All Trumps is not the only flour that can produce a crispy pizza) So… teach, share, pass it on. The result will be good for the student, the teacher and our craft.

 

 
Joseph's Provolone Pizza
Peter Reinhart

As a special welcome to The Fire Within, our newest sponsor, here is a video we shot last October at an oven owners conference hosted by Joseph Pergolizzi, the owner and founder of The Fire Within.  We shot a number of these instructional videos at the end of the conference with various attendees, asking each of the oven owners what kind of pizza they wanted to make, and Joseph chose this one and a couple of others, including a killer clam pizza. In this video, though, we not only get to make a simple yet beautiful pizza with pesto, two kinds of cheese (with a special tribute to Provolone, which both of us love), and local cherry tomatoes, but also talk about the oven rigs themselves.

Note that the crust is a little puffy in this version, almost like a round Sicilian or focaccia style dough, but you can always make the crust as thin or thick as you like when you do it. The dough was so delicious (recipe in the PQ Instructional archives), and the combo of fresh tomatoes, pesto, and cheeses are so perfect that, when the cameras stopped running, we devoured this little pie in about 30 seconds.

For more details on these oven rigs, click through to The Fire Within website on our home page. Joseph and I are already talking about doing another conference in Boulder next autumn and would love to have you there.

 
Cold Fermented Natural Levain Dough
Teresa Greenway

For those of you who like to bake with sourdough, I have a pizza crust that you will find intriguing.  It is handy to use dough which is already fermenting in your refrigerator, and to whip up a pizza for dinner.  Big Bear’s Bread (BBB) is such dough. It is a popular, long fermented type of sourdough bread and is a good choice for pizza dough. The formula for BBB is enough for two large loaves of bread or several large pizzas (about four pounds total).  The dough is made up and then ferments in the refrigerator for several days.  This past week I had a batch of it going and baked up a loaf of bread. It makes a really nice loaf of bread; the dough is higher hydration dough than standard bread and produces a moist open crumb. Since I only baked up one loaf, I had plenty of dough left and decided to make up a pizza for dinner to see how the dough performed for pizza.  It performed really well. The crust came out chewy with an open holey crumb. You can find the formula and technique for Big Bear’s Bread here: http://www.northwestsourdough.com/discover/?p=1870

To get the dough ready for pizza, take it out three to four hours before baking time. I had the dough made up into a round while it was under refrigeration. I took out the round and pulled it out somewhat flat so it could warm up to room temperature more easily. After an hour I pulled the dough out into a large round, about 16” in diameter ( I have a large pizza peel).

You can easily make two or even four smaller pizzas with this amount of dough (about two pounds of dough).  Once you finish pulling out the dough, the gluten is somewhat tightened so you need to place the dough onto a baking parchment paper or some foil at this time. If you wait to move your dough until later, it will relax and, being high hydration dough, it will be very hard to move.  Spray your dough with oil, cover with some plastic wrap and allow it to set for two to three more hours. It will not look very bubbly, but cold fermented dough is like that and will surprise you once it comes into contact with the intense heat of the baking stone.  When your dough is ready and your oven/baking stone are preheated for an hour as high as it will go (550F for my oven), spread on your sauce and toppings ( I used basil sauce, chicken, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese) and then using your pizza peel, transfer the pizza to the hot baking stone. Bake until done about 10 – 12 minutes.
For dough that is cold fermented, using a similar technique Peter Reinhart made famous with his Pain a la ‘Ancienne bread (Bread Baker’s Apprentice), the Co2 is absorbed into the cell structure of the dough and does not always show large bubbles in the dough while it is rising. However, once the dough is subjected to intense heat, the Co2 is liberated and forms many bubbles as it expands. So don’t be surprised if your dough, which can seem a bit inactive, looks great once it exits the oven. This long fermented dough probably isn’t practical for many folks, but for those that like to have fermenting natural levain dough setting around in their refrigerator anyway, it is a versatile way of using up the extra bread dough.  I would recommend adding an ounce of oil to the formula if you know you are going to use it for pizza dough.












 
Peter's Blog, October 18th
Peter Reinhart

I've been getting a lot of e-mails recently asking when I'll be back on the road doing what is called "travel teaching." It is something I love to do, teaching short classes at small cooking schools, and look forward to the next chance to do more classes on pizza and bread. I get requests to come to Mexico, Brazil, Panama, and even India, Korea, and China, though it's tricky for me to go too far from home for these classes, partly because of the costs, partly because it means extended time away from home, and partly because, well, as I get older it's not as easy to bounce back from crossing too many time zones. But I love traveling and experiencing new places so I would never rule out any possibility.

That said, I've cut way back in the past year for two reasons. One is that Pizza Quest has been an exciting new adventure and it has consumed a lot of time. Just managing the new postings each week has taken enormous time and energy for both me and Brad English, as well Jeff Michael, our more behind-the-scenes partner and co-producer. And, as you saw in our Big Reveal series, we're still filming and have many months of segments to share with you. The second reason is that I have been working on a new book on gluten-free, sugar-free baking, scheduled for release next summer. I'll write more about this later, especially the process of writing a book because I know that many of you may be also thinking of writing one. So, in a future Peter's Blog I'll dedicate some space to what it takes and how to start the process, and even on how to make a pitch to a publisher.

I mention this because I'll be in San Francisco all next week, with my co-author Denene Wallace, shooting the photos for the new book. For anyone in the area who would like to hear about it, we'll be at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley, San Francisco on Wednesday evening at 7 PM. The address is 3885a Cesar Chavez St. For details, call the store at (415) 282-4712. We plan to bring samples from the photo shoot so you can get a sneak peek. (Of course, I'll also be slipping away to go on a few pizza quests but I can't divulge where yet; since I was last in SF there seems to be at least half a dozen new, exciting places to check out).

The new book, after it comes out next year, will be the catalyst for my next round of travel teaching, so keep checking here for details. Anytime I do schedule an appearance somewhere, such as at The Asheville Bread Festival on March 24th, I'll post it here in the Peter's Blog section. But next year I'll be making the rounds and look forward to meeting many of you.

Final note: I want to welcome our newest sponsor, The Fire Within. We've been writing about Joseph Pergolizzi and showing instructional videos featuring his mobile wood fired oven rigs ever since we launched, so we're especially pleased to have him aboard as an official sponsor. There is a banner ad, rotating in with other sponsors, at the top of this page that provides you a click through to The Fire Within website. Even if you have no plans of buying a rig (and Joseph tells me he's working on some new designs and even rigs featuring other products besides wood fired ovens) do check out his website and enjoy the ride. We'll have more new sponsor news soon....

Coming up later this week: on Wednesday we'll be featuring a new sourdough pizza recipe from Teresa Greenway, our sourdough expert; an instructional video on Thursday (next week we get back to the Tony Gemignani webisode series); and Brad tells me he's working on a pizza contest for you and will soon have details.

 
Flying Pizza with Tony Gemignani
Peter Reinhart

You're going to love this one! Tony schools me on the art of dough tossing, both for function and for acrobatics.

As those who have made my recipes know, my doughs tend to be too wet and fragile for tossing so I always use flour on the back of my hands, with my thumbs on the edges, to rotate it around. Tony's dough, which is firmer and not sticky, was easy to toss around and, after a few minutes of lessons from the master I was not embarrassing myself too much (we had gathered a nice crowd round us, there in the middle of North Beach, SF, where Tony's Pizza Napoletana is located). This webisode should prove instructive for any of you who want to toss your dough the way the professionals do and, in these few simple instructions, Tony really does give us a lot information and technique. Enjoy the short tease at the end of Tony spinning dough for us--it is but a small sample of what he can do when he gets going. There are other videos of Tony on YouTube doing competitions and exhibitions and, for those who have never seen him or heard of him before now, you should know that for about ten years he was pretty much unbeatable and a many time world champion before then winning the world championship for his Margherita pizza. Sit back and enjoy--this one is pure fun!

 

 
Life After "The Big Reveal"
Peter Reinhart

On Saturday morning I awoke with a deep sense of satisfaction and appreciation. "The Big Reveal" had gone about as perfectly as possible, albeit with a few mini-dramas such as "Will the dough show up in time?" or "Will I be arrested for taking my glass of Birra Basta outside the Beer Garden and onto the sidewalk?" Of course, as I mentioned in my previous posting, everything just fell into place due to the diligent oversight provided by our producer, Brad English, and our terrific film crew, led by David Wilson, our Director of Photography and, of course, the folks at The Bruery and at Pizzeria Basta. As much beer as I'd consumed the night before, it really wasn't all that much, spread out over five hours; no hangovers, or "The Hangover" moments, to worry about (how did I get that tattoo or that signed photo of Mike Tyson--none of that). The pizza, from dough to topping, had been pitch perfect. It was a night to savor. So, what to do for an encore on Saturday?

My hosts, long time friends from my days in San Francisco, Fr. David and Elaine Lowell, who now pastor an Eastern Orthodox church in Denver, suggested we take a drive down to Colorado Springs, and so we did, to walk through The Garden of the Gods, a majestic park full of hiking trails, vertical rock climbs, and spectacular red sandstone boulders, including one of the most famous rocks in the country: "The Balanced Rock," which, true to its name, balances magically on a small base made of what looks like mud. Hey, I just realized that Colorado actually means "red," so I guess it all makes sense now.

The park, which did literally take my breath away (how much of that was the altitude and how much the beauty is hard to say), has an interesting history. Here's something I got off the www.destination360.com website about it:
…Many people automatically assume that the Native Americans named the Garden of the Gods. However, in this case, they are mistaken. In August of 1859, two surveyors started out from Denver City to begin a town site, which would soon be called Colorado City. As they explored the nearby locations, they came upon an intriguing area of sandstone formations. One of the men suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden" when the country grew up. His companion exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods". The rest, as they say, is history…

Aha--a beer garden! So it all comes full circle. But, really, the second surveyor got it right, it is a place fit for the Gods, and a place where, in my opinion, one can really sense the divine expressing Itself through nature. Beer garden indeed, though the irony was not considering all the adventures of the previous day! Check out the incredibleness by going to Google images and typing in Garden of the God (yes, I neglected to bring my camera- mea culpa!).

So, after a meditative walk, watching some pretty skilled technical climbers hanging on and in the crevices of the tall formations at various heights and angles, we decided to drive into town, Old Colorado Springs, for lunch at one of my favorite places, Pizzeria Rustica, where David Brackett has created a homage to his favorite Italian flavors discovered during his years as an Air Force fighter pilot. As with many of the artisan pizzerias we've covered here on Pizza Quest, Dave's dough formula is a proprietary blend of both soft Italian flour and North American high protein flour. He explained to us, as we enjoyed our salsicca and salumi pizzas (both made with carefully sourced meats), that he believes the altitude in his area necessitates the use of stronger protein flour to achieve the puff he desires. I can't say I totally understand the science behind that, as we did have some nicely puffed pizzas made with 100% Caputo Double Zero flour the day before at Marco's, but, really, for me that's not the point. What is the point, and I've experienced this at all the great places we've visited, so that it has almost become the defining quality of artisan pizzerias, is the joy the owners and pizzaiolos (and 'ola's) take in the choices they make. The sourcing is, for folks like Dave who don't actually make the pizzas (or Nancy Silverton and Craig Stoll, for example, who we've featured here before), where so much of the passion and artistry resides. Yes, it all gets completed by the pizzaiolo, but it all begins well before that dough with toppings ever hits the heat.  When I first met Dave four years ago, shortly after he opened Pizzeria Rustica, he had that same glint in his eye when he talked about the selection process, the producers he is relationship with, the reason why this olive or that cured ham is better than another brand -- it's the same fire in the belly we've been tracking all across the country. Well, don't get me started on all this but I will say that, before we left town, Dave walked us over to his latest restaurant, half a block away, called Tapateria, a Spanish tapas cafe filled to the brim with amazing meats, cheeses, olives, and seafood, all beautifully presented in small plate delights. Tapas restaurants are no longer the new trend, we see them popping up everywhere but, like pizza, there is tapas and there is tapas. As long as that gleeful light keeps glinting in Dave's eyes when he describes his choice of ingredients to those who come by, I'll be confident that his tapas, like his pizza, will be worth the trip. (Check them both out at www.pizzeria rustica.com and www.tapateria.com )

Let me wrap up this week's Blog entry, as well as my trip to Denver, with a final adventure I had on Saturday night with our friend (and Friday dough driver and savior), Joseph Pergolizzi. First, there were some desperate push-ups and sit-ups to try to work off the massive lunch we had Rustica, and some evening vespers prayers at Fr. David's parish, where I prayed for enough energy to get me through one more meal before I had to hop on an early plane the following morning. We met at 8:30, way beyond my usual dinner hour but I was buying time to empty out a bit, at the Vine St. Pub, in an area of Denver called Uptown (very different from Downtown, I would say). This brew pub is owned and operated by the Mountain Sun Brewery, also known as The Southern Sun Brewery -- I haven't figured it all out yet but after a few flights of their unique and creative beers, such as the Belgian Dip Chocolate Stout and their Quinn's Golden Ale and their Raspberry Wheat, I didn't really care what they called themselves as long as they kept doing what they're doing. Joseph and I split a big order of their famous spicy chicken wings and huge nachos plate loaded with chicken and cheese, and we talked for hours about a lot of things, including the growth of his mobile oven business, The Fire Within, and some of his new designs for other types of mobile food businesses. We talked about creating a line of Pizza Quest food products, new book ideas, the unlimited number of ways to use beer malt to create an infinite number of different kinds of pizza doughs, and about how to find balance in ones life between doing good things for the world and staying healthy -- not always an easy tightrope to walk. In other words, as we downed our Mountain Sun Brewery Illusion Dweller IPA, to wash down the last burning vestiges of those wonderful crispy wings, we did beer talk and dreamed big dreams. How much we'll actually do, how much we'll actually remember, who knows. But as one of the Vine St. Pub managers gave us a tour of the new brewery they are almost finished building behind the pub, having outgrown their Boulder location, we saw big dreams manifesting in front of us and were very impressed, and it made us less afraid to dream our own dreams. There is nothing more intoxicating than being in the presence of a big dream about to enter the world of manifestation. (Check them out at www.mountainsunpub.com)

The next day, Sunday, as I flew home, I thought about those dreams and realized how Pizza Quest, and the people we meet because of Pizza Quest like David Brackett and Joseph Pergolizzi, the folks at The Bruery and Mountain Sun Brewery, Kelly and Al at Pizzeria Basta, and even our own production team -- we're all dreaming dreams, big and small, and they're all gradually coming into focus, into manifestation. It was, for me, a new understanding of what a Rocky Mountain high really is.

 
The Big Reveal, Part Four (finale)
Peter Reinhart

Reminder Note: The blog text is by Peter and the photos and captions are Brad's. Enjoy!


Yes, the pizza and the beer were each, individually, everything we had hoped for; unique, delicious, memorable, and even the difficult logistics were falling into place. The mobile wood-fired oven just barely fit into the small space at the curb by the stage door of the Summit Beer Garden, a polka music band was playing in the background on the Beer Garden stage (well, depending on where you were standing, we may have been the background for the band to those who came to see and hear them but, to us, they were our back drop, a nice, atmospheric touch, whose enjoyable sounds you may hear when we show the videos); the dough balls, with their sweet, malty finish, showed up just in the nick of time; the beer was a one of a kinder, not just a variation of something familiar, but way beyond the realm of familiarity. Yet how would it taste with the pizza and how would the pizza taste with the beer? After all, this whole crazy challenge, dreamed up by Brad six months ago, was to see if a beer could be created specifically to match with a special, signature pizza and that meant, could a brewery, even The Bruery, craft a beer that would make the pizza taste even better, and would our pizza heighten the flavors of the beer?

From the first taste of the Birra Basta we all sensed that this was a beer meant for drinking along with food. The wort, brewed weeks ago, contained ingredients purposefully matched to the signature pizza, including flame grilled zucchini inspired by the squash blossoms nestled in the creamy, oozy burrata cheese, fennel seed to match the fennel pollen salt sprinkled on the topping ingredients, lemon peel to pair with Kelly's preserved lemons, and an array of hops and malts to stand up to the silver anchovies (these weren't salty anchovies, like those found in the little flat cans, but sweet, plump, sardine-like white anchovies marinated in a touch of vinegar). But, just because the ingredients matched on paper, mightn't they cancel each other out rather than magnify each other in the synergistic display we all desired? No one could predict until this very moment when, at last, all theory would meet the test of taste bud and olfactory reality.

The moment seemed pretty dramatic to me, but that might have been a result of the multiple flights of Birra Basta I'd already consumed. But here's how I experienced the flavors when I had them all together: they worked! What I mean, and I'll try to describe this without hyperbole or fake gastronomic melodrama, the beer really did change, and so did the pizza, when we had them together. The best way I can describe it is that they both took on a new degree of depth, as if the flavors of one filled in the blanks of the other and a wholly new level of completeness revealed itself. It really was the Big Reveal, though I see that only now, as I write these words.

Like most food professionals, I'm always in search for a "greater than the sum of its parts" experience when tasting foods paired with beverages or even with other foods. The blending and transforming of ingredients is at the heart of all cooking, which means that if you're going to combine ingredients the only reason to do so is to create something that surpasses what each ingredient individually brings to the dish -- otherwise, we might as well just eat each ingredient in its most ripe and perfect form by itself, the way that Alice Waters sometimes ends a meal at Chez Panisse with a simple peach or nectarine, picked at its peak of ripeness, knowing that it's already perfect and needs no further transforming. But, once we introduce the notion of cooking or baking, it's always about creating something that works in concert and goes beyond the ingredients, or at least showcases them in a way in which they could never be experienced as soloists. This is why, in my opinion, pizza really is the most perfect of all foods, because it signifies this very act of transformational art on an edible canvas.

So, as I quaffed and chewed I noticed that while the flavor palettes of both the beer and the pizza were similar and evoked each other, when taken together they kind of rounded out and took on another level of dimensionality. Neither product, the pizza nor the beer, was simple and one or even two dimensional -- each was totally satisfying in its own right and fully three dimensional. But taken together they seemed to unfold another layer (not a fourth dimension, which would take us into the realm of time or timelessness) but rather an umami, a richness, that neither completely possessed on its own. I'm writing this in recall, you must understand, trying to find words to describe a fleeting ephemeralness that existed within an evening flush with many pints of beer, in an oompah driven music hall, during the largest beer festival in the USA, surrounded by many lit up, happy people reaching in for a slice of a very special pizza and a tulip glass of a one of a kind farmhouse ale. All these flavor descriptors are working their way to the surface of my brain only after a week of reflection and remembrance, which means there may be a wee bit of impressionistic soft focus and romance involved. But I think not totally, because I remember having these very impressions in the actual moment of the tasting, but had no idea how I would express them when the time came to attach words to the impressions. So this is my best shot, and I hope I did the night justice. We set out to create and document a creative collaboration, a super session so to speak. Sometimes such sessions don't live up to the hype and sometimes something extraordinary happens. Was this the greatest pizza or the greatest beer ever created? That's not a question that could ever be answered and really shouldn't even be asked, as it wasn't our goal. But, did the effort to push ourselves into a new frontier, to challenge ourselves and our fellow artisans to go beyond our previous limits, bear any fruit? Time will tell, but the fact that I can actually ask the question, or that each of us present at The Big Reveal were driven deeper into our own self reflection, well, maybe that's what this was really about, maybe that's what, in the end, was revealed, and maybe it was, in fact, big.

Perhaps it will be easier to tell when we look at the videos in a few months with the benefit of time, space, and distance -- ah, the fourth dimension....

 
The Big Reveal, Part Three
Peter Reinhart

Note: Blog text by Peter Reinhart; Photos and captions by Brad English

Okay, so we were already full of great Denver pizza from both Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, and also Brava Pizzeria della Strada. Now it was our turn to make pizza, out on the sidewalk of 19th St., by the stage door of The Summit Beer Garden, a music hall that was hosting number of bands and events in the shadows of The Great American Beer Festival. As Brad English and our Director of Photography, David Wilson were running around figuring out how to shoot the event at this dark, noisy music hall, Kelly and Erika Whitaker, along with Alan Henkin and Kelly's young pizza protege named Ben, pulled up with their mobile wood-fired oven hooked to the back of their car (yes, another beauty from The Fire Within). Within minutes, the wood went in and the oven began its 90 minute fire-up. Joseph Pergolizzi, the owner of The Fire Within, offered to pick up and bring us the Challenge pizza dough, mixed and balled for us the previous day at The Whole Foods Bake House in Aurora (near the Denver airport). We wanted to bake the first couple of pizzas, the test pies, at around 5 PM, as the official party and "Big Reveal" was to begin at 6. But as 5 PM approached, I got a call from Joseph, who had gotten caught in a major construction jam near the bake house. By this time the day had already been so magical and full of unexpected delights that we all felt kind of protected and unworried (well, maybe not Brad since he is the producer of Pizza Quest which makes him the designated worrier, so I just told him the doughs were on their way).

Fortunately, the pressurized keg of Birra Basta was waiting in the VIP Lounge of The Summit Beer Garden. The Bruery folks had not yet arrived, but Brad "produced" us into tapping the keg and got the cameras rolling. Besides, we decided we couldn't wait for Patrick and just had to try it, so someone turned the key, released the pressure, and a few seconds later we each had a creamy mug of rich golden ale, cloudy with foam (normal for the first pull, soon to clarify as we watched it settle-out in the glass). I took a swig and, really, it was the most unusual beer I've ever tasted, but I wasn't sure if it was just me, a relatively unsophisticated drinker, or whether the others were equally stunned. Alan, who knows his stuff (he's the sommelier and beverage director at Pizzeria Basta), finally broke the ice and said, "This is amazing -- I love it!"

I said, "It tastes thick, almost like soup, like pea soup with a ham bone in it, but yet it's refreshing--my mind is sort of boggled by the complexity."  Usually, when I think of complexity in a beer I ascribe it to the hops and, to a lesser degree, to the malts, but this time there was only an undertone of hoppiness, very subtle, and the five malts (refer to my previous post last week about their names) were totally smooth and in support of some other flavor I've never experienced in a beer before. It was the fire roasted zucchini, I'm sure, with just a hint of lemon peel and fennel seed, and maybe a mist of cedar chips breathing through it. No, it was definitely the zucchini, for sure, a flavor I've never associated with beer (this was, of course, a biere de garde, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale, so why not some roasted zukes?), that, for me, evoked the split pea/ham bone image. No one else used that analogy so maybe it was just my own associations, but it made me feel quenched and fed at the same time -- this beer was a meal unto itself. The more I drank, the more I wanted. I couldn't wait to try it with our pizza.

Just then, Patrick Rue showed up and joined us, and we all tapped glasses in a toast and, pretty soon, the cameras were rolling again and we caught a lot of the ensuing conversation on tape, which you will eventually see. I think all of us (though maybe not Patrick, since he's tasted more types of beer than most people who ever lived) were still trying to find the right words, the language, to place this flavor within the context of our taste memories, but we all agreed that we loved it. So we went outside to the oven and, as if on cue, Joseph pulled up with the boxes of dough balls, having sweated bullets and dodged traffic to get it to us. Yes, the day was still magic.

The dough was made for us, to the specs of the same recipe that we used at The Bruery when we issued the original challenge three and a half months earlier, by Safa Hamze and his baking team at Whole Foods under the direction of head baker Andy Clark (a founding member of "Boulder's Secret Pizza Society" and an experienced appreciator of serious beer who was, regrettably, out of town at a Bread Baker's Guild of America Board meeting -- I know he would have totally flipped out at what was about to happen and, naturally, I'll never let him forget that he missed this night). The dough had a pleasant light caramel tone, maybe cafe au lais-ish, because it was infused with barley malt crystal (4% ratio to the flour; the recipe is in an earlier posting). The Germania flour from Central Milling, with its touch of pumpernickel, was the perfect choice, an American flour blend that performed like a cross between the Italian Double Zero flour we'd had earlier that day at Marco's, and the Colorado grown high-protein flour we'd had in the pizzas that morning at Brava Pizzeria della Strada. We were ready to roll.

Kelly started assembling the first pizza, the "hero" as it's called in photo sessions, the one for the camera, and for our first combined taste with the Birra Basta. The dough was then baked in the now 800 degree owood-fired oven, with freshly made, super creamy burrata cheese from the legendary Gioia Cheese Company in Los Angeles, and also with beautiful yellow squash blossoms, sliced chiffonnade style into slivers. Ninety seconds later, when it emerged from the oven, Kelly finished it off with a topping of baby arugula, sweet and tangy silver anchovies, lemon preserves (slow cooked in Kelly's sous vide water bath cooker), and a dusting of fennel pollen salt.  We brought the pizza to a table just inside the stage door of the Beer Garden because we were told the Denver police would arrest us if we drank our beers out on the sidewalk (probably a necessary law in beer-crazed Denver). There, Patrick, Alan, Kelly, me, and eventually our whole crew and growing entourage, with cameras rolling, put the birra and the pizza together for the first time.

I hate to do this to you, but I'll pick up the story tomorrow and do my best to describe how the flavors took on a whole new direction when they all came together....

 
The Big Reveal, Part Two
Peter Reinhart

In my last post I wrote of our visits to Brava Pizzeria Della Strada, and also to Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, both very near to where The Big Reveal took place. Even without the Big Reveal, though, the trip would have been successful because of these other two places. We were able to capture some great footage at both and will, eventually, be able to post it here as webisodes but, for now, I'll give a thumbnail sketch of how it went:

Dave Bravdica is another one of those guys -- we all seem to know such people now -- who left a successful professional career to pursue his true passion, feeding people. He became a caterer for a few years and then, having fallen under the magic spell of fire, became a pizzaiolo and also a wood-fired oven maestro. Somehow, he nailed down a primo spot on Denver's hip 16th St. Mall, parking his mobile oven on a terrace just above an underground cabaret. His pizzas are Napoletana inspired but tweaked with his own touches: Colorado grown and milled flour, locally sourced mushrooms, chili peppers, greens, and herbs. His meats are all cured or prepared within a few miles of the oven, exemplifying all the green values we've been learning to honor and love.

His own passion and ethic was fired in Italy, in much the same way Kelly Whitaker and, as we've all read, Mario Batali, found their culinary voices. The pizzas, he told us as we filmed away while tasting his Sonny Pizza (with Mondo Vecchia Sausage), his Fun Guy (yes, pun intended, laden with local shiitake mushrooms), and his Queen (of course, a Margherita), were just the beginning of his long range plans for the oven. For example, we got to taste his very popular porchetta sandwich on folded pizza dough, made with long, slow roasted tender as butter pork shoulder served with a couple of fun sauces. I'd like to go into more detail but we'll revisit all of this in a few months when we run the webisodes. Needless to say, by 11 AM, when Dave opened to the public, to whom he typically sells about 100 pizzas for lunch and then many more throughout the day, he had fed our whole crew and, so sated, we headed off to our next stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an eight block walk, which included a stop at the Summit Beer Garden to see if we could get an early start setting up for the Big Reveal (the place was locked up tight and someone said to come back around 3 PM), we soon found ourselves at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza at 21st and Larimer St. I'd heard about this place recently but wasn't prepared for how good it was, and how dedicated they were to authentic, VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) pizza. They actually have two ovens, one fired with coal and used to bake their wonderful lemoncello chicken wings as well as a quite decent gluten-free pizza (!!). The other oven is fired with local hard wood, and dedicated to the VPN pizzas, their pizzaiolos trained by the brilliant Roberto Caporuscio of New York City's Keste Pizzeria. I guess the locals have discovered Marco's because Marco Dym, the owner, has recently opened a second location in Englewood, Colorado, leaving the Larimer location in the capable hands of his daughter Samantha Monterosso, who served as our host when we pulled out the cameras and hung out with the pizza team. Again, we'll go deeper into this when we put up the videos, but I have to say, Marco's is the real deal and, along with some of the other Denver places that we didn't get to that are on my list, such as The Buenos Aires Pizzeria, which has an equally fanatical following, it looks like Denver is starting to make its case for becoming a great pizza city.

But this was all fun and delicious bonus material, a prelude to our real purpose for being in Denver. So, stuffed to the gills, we returned to The Summit Beer Garden, whose doors were now opened, bands starting to set up, and prepared to bake our own, original Challenge Pizzas and experience, for the first time, the Birra Basta created for us by The Bruery. How did that go? I'll focus on this in tomorrow's post….

 

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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