Quesadillas Ingles
Brad English


A little voice, in fact, a very persistent little voice is constantly calling out "Daddy, can you make me a quesadilla?"  Moments later the chorus continues and continues until I relent or take the dog on a walk.  This happens in the morning, after school, for dinner, or later in the night as a snack!  The result of these requests has meant that I spend a fair amount of time over my stove making up quesadillas for the kids (and others of us).  And, also the dog has gotten his fair share of walks. 

This is Pizza Quest, however, not Family Pet Quest - so let me focus on the mighty little quesadilla.  Sometimes, it can even be a mighty big quesadilla.  One of my favorite versions is a Breakfast Quesadilla, which is a cross between a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast pizza.  The dough, or tortilla is simply the delivery system.  Peter has often referred to pizza as dough with something on it, akin to a grilled cheese sandwich or any other product where dough serves as a host for a number of ingredients to make a tasty meal. The quesadilla, in my opinion, falls right in line with this concept.  It's a dough and its main basic ingredient is cheese.  Who is going to argue this isn't a pizza on some level?

Many great Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants take that to a whole other level, offering a quesadilla as a meal with chicken, or as a full breakfast, or whatever they have come up with to enhance the basic cheese between two tortillas concept. 

As I said, I have spent a good amount of time playing around with my versions here at home.  With my last name being English, these are now "officially" being called Quesadillas Ingles.  I never really thought about it much, it's just cheese and a couple of tortillas heated up on the stove top but, after being "forced" to make these things over and over and having a few incidents where I might have a lucky accident, I began stretching the concept beyond slapping some cheese between two tortillas.  One of the first "accidents" I recall was noticing when a little cheese spilled out from between the tortillas and fried into a perfect crispness on the side.  I love that crunch! 

Sorry for the digression, but, we have to take a short road trip up the coast.  If you live anywhere near Santa Barbara, CA, add a visit to La Superica Taqueria on Milpas Street to your list of must-do places.  You will always find a line out the door of this taqueria and you will see why after you go.  They have a side dish which is fried cheese with bits of bacon and onion.  It isn't fried crisp, but has a bit of that flavor from the onion and bacon, and the edges can get a little crisp and charred.  You take this small bowl of pure perfection and add it to your tacos, or even to just a warm corn tortilla.  It is the only place where I've come across this treat and, living in Southern California with a great Mexican restaurant always around the corner, that's pretty noteworthy.  I happened to be in the area this past weekend and took some photos that I'll share soon. 

Ok, so back to Quesadillas Ingles. One day, I thought of double decking the little corn tortillas to make them more substantial.  I think I was trying to just make them a little bigger so that I would have to make fewer of them.  I like to use corn tortillas for these and they're small and the kids are always calling out for more.  My daughter starts this pleading, usually, and then my son shows up and joins in.  Then I'm making these for two people and I'm inevitably cutting them up like small pizzas and stealing a wedge or two for myself before delivery.  Thus, the double-decker was born. 

You can add all sorts of ingredients besides cheese to make these more of a meal.  I've added sauteed onions, Mom's Pickled Jalapenos (see the Instructional archives for this recipe), chicken, and a mixture of cheeses.  You don't add much, these are more like street tacos than over-filled restaurant tacos.  A little goes a long way. 

I made two versions here in these photos.  The first is a basic double-decker with cheddar cheese.  The second has some leftover spicy Italian sausage that I had used in a pasta dish the night before.  I chopped up the sausage, which I fished out of some great tomato sauce, and sauteed it with onions.  I added some new, freshly chopped onions and sauteed those until soft.  I then added this mixture with each cheese layer and suddenly had a nice spicy sausage pizza, er, I mean a double-decked Quesadilla Ingles with Spicy Sausage and Sauteed Onions.

Quesadillas Ingles

Fresh Corn Tortillas
Cheese (Cheddar in this case, but don't stop there)
Cooking Spray, or Butter
Pan
Heat

Options:
Add anything you can think of. 
I have triple stacked these babies, but find a double stack holds up better and has the right balance of cheese and tortilla.  If you follow my technique you can get all three layers of tortillas  crispy, which is better than having a soft middle layer (in my humble opinion).

 

Suggested Instructions:

Set your dial to medium high; you may have to adjust.  This can be a smokey operation.  You want the heat to make things go quickly, to melt the cheese and give a little char on the tortilla, but it's a bit of a dance, so be prepared to make adjustments as you learn.

Hit the pan with a little non-stick cooking spray.  This works best to make sure the cheese doesn't stick. 

Lay down your first tortilla.

Put your first layer of cheese on the tortilla and cover with a second tortilla.  Let this go until you get the bottom tortilla crisp before flipping.  What I'm trying to do here is get that 1st tortilla crisp because it will become the middle tortilla when you flip it over.  It adds another layer of crunch in the middle.  Trust me, it's worth it.

Flip the tortilla over (after giving the top another spray so it won't stick when you flip it over).

Now add your second layer of cheese on the charred bottom, which is now your top.  Add other toppings, or fillings if using with each cheese layer. Place the 3rd tortilla on top of that and hit that with some more spray. Allow the bottom one enough time to crisp and char to your liking.  You can flip them and check, and then flip them back as many times as you need to.  The cheese will be melted quickly enough, so you are just looking for the texture/crispy finish on the tortilla. 

Flip it again onto the 3rd tortilla (the top) to finish. 

After the last flip, allow the tortilla to cook a bit. Then, pick it up and throw a couple pieces of shredded cheese on the pan and place the tortilla back down on the cheese.  Add cooking spray if you think you need it so it won't stick.  The cheese will fry/crisp quickly and stick to the tortilla.  Flip and repeat and you will have added a nice toasty crunchy cheese crust to your Quesadilla Ingles.

Take a slice!

Enjoy! Then walk the dog....

 

 
Peter's Blog, June 28th
Peter Reinhart

Last week I reported on our recent quest and pizza/beer challenge at The Bruery in Orange County (Placentia, to be more precise--their tap room is open to the public on weekends if you happen to be in the neighborhood!). I just want to add a few words this week on one aspect of our experience there, something I addressed on film during the taping but, since it won't run for awhile, I thought I'd write about it now while it's still fresh in my mind.

As we learned more about the art and craft of beer making during our tour of The Bruery facility, I kept thinking of the old saying that "beer is liquid bread." I've always taken that seriously because there are such obvious parallels, mainly, the proper fermentation of grain to evoke its full potential of flavor.  But what I realized perhaps for the first time, even though I've toured breweries before, is how much more difficult beer making is than bread baking, how much more complex it is, how many subtle choices the brewmeister has to make, gets to make, in manipulating the ingredients to create, hopefully, amazing flavors. We''re all flavorists, those of us who cook, and it's also a truism that the primary purpose of serious cooking, aside from delivering nutrition so that we can stay alive and thrive, is to deliver flavor. This is what culinarians pay all that money for when they go to expensive culinary schools--to learn how to deliver flavor. I've joked before about the reason pizza is the most popular food in the world is because it is the perfect flavor delivery system -- dough with something on it -- and I still believe that. But artisan beer making functions and delivers flavor on a whole other level, one that is dependent on

 
Peter's Blog, June 26th
Peter Reinhart

Yes, I'm late with this posting. I promised it by Thursday but, as so often happens, time got away from me and I couldn't get online from where I was. But here I am, to tell you only a bit about our latest quest. It may take a while before we get it all edited and posted, so this is just a little advanced notice to let you know what's coming. It all began a few months ago when Kelly Whitaker, of Pizzeria Basta, told us about a great micro-brewery whose beers they feature at Basta called The Bruery, in Orange County, Southern California. Turns out that our Pizza Quest producer and columnist, Brad English, lives not too far from there and, so, he checked it out and became friends with the creative beverage team there. One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we all found ourselves back at Pizzeria Basta, this time with The Bruery owner, Patrick Rue, who was there for a special beer and food pairing. I'll go into more detail on this part of the adventure when we post the webisodes, but the bottom line is that we filmed the food and, also, some great table talk in which, after Kelly, his beverage director Al, and Patrick explained to us their creative process of matching food with beer, we decided to challenge Patrick to match beer with pizza. That is, Kelly and I proposed that, instead of the usual approach of having a chef match the food to the beer, that instead, we create a unique, signature pizza, present it to the Bruery's brewers, and have them create a beer inspired by the pizza. Patrick accepted the challenge.

This was all back in early May.  So, to make a long story short,

 
Cass House "A Mulberry Pizza"
Peter Reinhart

Following our welcome and introduction to the Cass House, and a little local shopping and foraging, Chef Jensen and I finally got to that new oven of his and decided to create an improvisational pizza based on some of the ingredients we had gathered and that Jensen already had on hand. The result is this beautiful mulberry pizza with two different kinds of cheese (we made one side with each type to see which one we liked more -- the smoked blue cheese won out). My favorite take-away from this exercise was the wonderful balsamic glaze that we squiggled over the top -- a syrupy reduction of balsamic vinegar and port wine. This really tied everything together and reinforced a long held belief of mine that garnishes are the least understood and appreciated aspect of cooking. They are more than a complementary color or sprig of herb, as many people think, but must fulfill two vital functions -- eye appeal ("We eat first with our eyes"), and appropriate flavor functionality -- enhancing the other ingredients. This glaze was a home run on all counts.

If you want to see how this pizza already inspired Brad, check out his photo essay in the Instructional section (we'll also leave it on the home page for a few more weeks), where he created his own version using blackberries instead of mulberries ("You use what you can get," he told me) to great success.

We'll be making a smoked fish pizza and a few other treats in future segments but, for now, enjoy this beautiful mulberry pizza and let us know when you make your own version.

 
A Buonchristiani Pizza with Spicy Pork Sausage
Brad English

I was making a bunch of pizzas recently and taking lots of photos, so I went to the meat department where I shop to see if they happened to have any lamb sausage.  Yes, Jay Buonchristiani's Lamb Sausage with Fennel Pizza was that good and I wanted to make it again (see the Instructional Section for the original posting on this).  And, I had another bottle of his Syrah hanging around, so I thought, why not try it again.  But, the butcher didn't have any lamb sausage.  Since I was in a hurry, I thought I'd pick up some spicy pork sausage and give the pizza a try with that.  Jay's recipe calls for any type of lamb sausage - but not spicy because of the wine he was pairing it with.

I was having some friends over and, because of the spices, I decided to open a different wine to use to make this pizza, as well as to drink with them - a 2008 Dover Canyon Barbarian from the Central Coast.  We had recently taken a family trip to Cambria, CA with our friends, the Dunhams, and they were coming over for dinner.  Kevin and Kristin are good friends with the owner of Dover Canyon, Dan Panico.  We were lucky enough to be able to tag along for a barbecue at the winery on one of the nights while we were up there. 

What a great time!  A number of people I know who have houses in Cambria had told me to visit Dover Canyon and were jealous when I told them we were not only going wine tasting, but also going over for a barbecue.  I've had their wines on numerous occasions while sitting by the Dunham's pool snacking on cheeses and salted pork products.  You don't often get go to a private barbecue at a winery, and almost never as a family guest, kids and all.  So, I thought it was a good idea to follow up and make this pizza with one of the delicious wines we bought that weekend. 

Dan and his fiance' Glenda were gracious hosts at the winery.  When we showed up a little late, after getting out of LA traffic that Friday, we were immediately given glasses of wine and began to get acquainted.  The guys moved upstairs, above the tasting room for some pool, while the women did - something else.  Who knows?!  And, at the time, who cares!  They were busy, happy, and the kids were off running around outside, and we were drinking great wine with the winemaker and playing pool.  How do you beat that?

A little while later, we moved over to the house to start grilling.  The dinner consisted of some marinated lamb, mashed potatoes with root vegetables mixed in, grilled avocados stuffed with shrimp and mango salsa, a fresh farmers market salad, some great fresh bread, and lots of delicious wine.  We sat out on the covered back patio with a soft rain coming down and enjoyed a memorable candlelit meal. 

And we even came back the next day to do some "official" wine tasting.  

Dover Canyon is a small winery that sits on top of a beautiful rolling hilltop.  Dan and Glenda live in the older farm style house that overlooks it all.  If you ever visit the tasting room, you will surely be greeted by the big, gigantic, lovable "puppy" Saint Bernard named THUNDER!

 
Sprouted Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Peter Reinhart

I've been asked for this recipe many times even though only a few of you actually have the sprouted wheat flour but, in the hopes that you will soon acquire some, here's what to do with it when you get it: make a killer pizza dough.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, this flour is so remarkable that you don't need a preferment, nor oil, nor sweetener, nada -- just flour, water, salt, and yeast. Furthermore, you don't have to make it the day before, as I advise with regular pizza doughs, because the sprouted wheat has already created its own enzymatic changes before it even gets to the flour stage. However, it is okay to hold the dough in the fridge for up to three days if you prefer. You will get a little more acidity by doing so, which is a good thing. Either way, you will never taste another 100% whole grain dough like it, and if you don't tell folks that it's 100% whole wheat and then ask them what they think, they will probably guess that it has only a small amount of whole wheat in it. Yet you will know that, not only are they getting the benefits of 100% whole grain, but it is even more digestible than regular whole wheat and more of the nutritional benefits of the grain are available to the digestive system (the jury is still out as to how much of those benefits survive the baking process so I won't make any specific claims, but the digestibility factor is immediately apparent).

To get this flour, find the Peter's Blog dated June 7th and

 
The Cass House Inn Intro
Peter Reinhart

Our webisode series moves into new territory with our visit to Cayucos and the Cass House Inn. As Brad English writes in his "Road Trip" posting, located just below this one on our Home Page, this is one of those unexpected discoveries that helps illustrate the spirit of what our site is all about. Brad discovered The Cass House Inn during one of his own personal quest outings before we ever conceived of Pizza Quest (he's a helpless foodie, or as Calvin Trillin calls it, "A big hungry boy in search of a good meal"), and kept telling me about this cool place where they grow their own vegetables, built their own oven, and totally honor the agriculture and aquaculture of their region with some amazing food. So, when the opportunity to swing off the highway on our way to San Francisco opened up, we headed out to the coast (and, as you have seen, made a quick stop on the way at The Taco Temple in Morro Bay).

The town of Cayucos is very small, everything is within a few minutes walk of everything else, including the beach, and we fell in love with it immediately. We had great  fun visiting the local Brown Butter Cookie Company as well as Ruddell's Smoked Fish Shack. But we were especially enchanted by Grace and Jensen Lorenzen's Cass House Inn, where we found on display all the values and qualities that illustrate the mission of Pizza Quest: a celebration of artisans and artisanship.

This short opening segment gives you a glimpse of the bucolic loveliness of the town and a short introduction to Grace and Jensen, as well as a sneak peek at some of the pizzas we will make in later segments. Next week we'll be posting a longer segment in which Jensen and I bake our first pizza together in his newly built brick oven. In future segments we'll also visit Ruddell's to pick up some spectacular smoked fish, and of course, we'll keep baking pizzas -- we created some terrific, one of a kind pies during the short time we had together.

By the way, Jensen and Grace have a wonderful blog of their own and Jensen did a nice summary of our visit, along with some great photos of us all, at http://casshouse.typepad.com/cass_house_inn_restaurant/2009/09/pizza-quest.html   Check it out.

Lots more still to come from Cayucos. But, for now, enjoy this opening segment, our introduction to The Cass House Inn.

 
Cayucos, CA "The Road Trip Aspect"
Brad English

We are just launching a series of new webisode segments that take us on our journey from Los Angeles up to San Francisco.  On the road trip we made a stop along the Central Coast of California in two small coastal towns: Morro Bay and Cayucos, CA.

This series of webisode segments mark a special moment for me on my Pizza Quest.

Peter recently blogged, on Tuesday March 29th, about being back on the road, and it stirred something in me about what this Pizza Quest thing is really all about.  I realized, when reading Peter's blog, that what brought us all together was not only the love of pizza, but even more so was the fact that, when I read the introduction to Peter's book "American Pie, My Search for the Perfect Pizza," I thought to myself how lucky Peter was to travel to all of these places, meet these uniquely interesting people, and try all this incredible food!  If Peter's book was just a list of great pizza recipes, I'd be eating better pizzas at home, but Pizza Quest probably wouldn't have come to be.  What really engaged me was his journey and the adventure of the potential of discovery.  It was about the interesting people who believed passionately in what they did.  It was the different

 
Peter's Blog, June 14th
Peter Reinhart

 

Welcome back everyone.

I mentioned in the Coming Attractions about how much I enjoyed the recent Jon Stewart rant about NY pizza.  I found it at: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-1-2011/me-lover-s-pizza-with-crazy-broad" --  but you can also track it down via a Google search under Jon Stewart Pizza (one of these days I'll have to figure out out to put one of those click here buttons into these postings). Anyway, I'm sure most of you have already seen it and, aside from the many satirical levels on which it worked (let's face it, all comics will lament the day when they don't have either Sarah Palin or Donald Trump to use as foils -- it's as easy as shooting ducks on an Alaskan pond), I found Stewart's rant especially insightful as a social commentary on how important pizza really is to us. In some ways, he did a better, or at least funnier version, of what fuels Pizza Quest--the deep passion and connection many of us feel -- though clearly not The Donald -- to pizza.

 So, yes, it was really funny --in some ways brilliant, albeit a bit profane (but hey, it's about pizza, so we'll cut him some slack!)-- but more importantly, it reinforces what we've been saying here since Day One: there is something about pizza that touches us deeply, not just because it tastes good but because of what it represents.

So what does it represent?

Obviously, to Jon Stewart -- and not just to him but to so many of us, which is why his rant was so brilliant-- it is a trigger point, a symbol of cultural identity. In the instance of the rant,

 
Webisode: The Taco Temple
Peter Reinhart

Here it is, our first detour off the pizza trail to The Taco Temple in Morro Bay, California, the culinary altar of Chef Adam Pollard and his hard working team of, well, tacaiolos.  We stopped here mainly because Brad English, who is the producer and director of our webisodes (who, along with Jeff Michael dreamed up Pizza Quest in the first place), had been there before on one of his visits to the Central Coast. He couldn't stop thinking about how great those fish tacos were, which means this place fit right in with one of the major thrusts of Pizza Quest: food memories that rock our world. I've written many times that my definition of the difference between good pizza and great pizza can be defined by that one word, memorable. In other words, a place you just have to bring friends to, can't stop thinking about, and that becomes the benchmark example of a food that lands in your memory Hall of Fame. The Taco Temple was that kind of place for Brad and he felt duty bound to share his Hall of Fame experience with us, and we're so glad he did.

As we drove past it on our way to Cayucos and The Cass House Inn (which we'll show you in next week's webisode), Brad shouted, "There it is!!" I was half asleep and didn't know what he meant as I jolted awake, but the Pizza Quest van (we're still working on getting a real "bus," but this was on our maiden voyage and had, instead, a nicely outfitted production van) made a quick, squealing U-Turn and, before I knew it, we were parked in the lot of, as you will see, a funky, coastal taco shack.  "This is the place I've been telling you about," Brad said again. "You've got to try one of these babies!"

I went in first and introduced myself to Adam, told him about Pizza Quest and about Brad's exaltation of his restaurant, and asked him if we could film him. He laughed and said, "Really? You want to film me?  Sure, come on in."  And we did.

So, what you're about to see is a little of what we experienced there; a totally soul satisfying meal, the best sea scallop taco I've ever eaten or could imagine, along with a whole bunch of other house specialties, not all shown on this tape, including a huge wedge of carrot cake made by Adam's wife. He told us about the weekly farmer's market held right there in his parking lot, where he picks up most of his ingredients, and about his commitment to fresh and local foods. His sense of pride, along with his allegiance to the fresh and local vision he'd cultivated at The Temple, left a lasting impression on all of us, and helped us to formulate a deeper sense of what Pizza Quest was all about -- the Quest, not just the Pizza.

You'll see what I mean when you click the button, so kick back and join us at The Taco Temple....

 
The Cass House Mulberry Pizza
Brad English

Pizza Quest is about to take us on a journey up to the Central Coast of California.  We had the good fortune to stumble upon a small coastal town called Cayucos that has some real hidden gems worth the a special trip.  One of the focal points of our visit was to explore what pizza is and could be with the terrific chef and proprietor of The Cass House Inn - Chef Jensen Lorenzen.   We'll let you in on more of the details as we release the coming video segments where we explore Cayucos with Jensen and some of the other local food stars!

I was recently reviewing some of the footage and was compelled to try to make a version of the pizza I watched Jensen and Peter create before our eyes.  Jensen had assembled a host of local ingredients, one of which was fresh local mulberries. 

 
Peter's Blog, June 7th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I promised to tell you how to get your hands on some of that great flour from Central Milling, as well as the "Super Sprout" sprouted whole wheat flour from Lindley Mills. So first, here's the number for Keith and Nicky Giusto at Central Milling, in Petaluma, California: (707) 778-1073. Ask for Keith or Nicky and tell them you read it right here. Before you do, check out their website at www.centralmilling.com/  They have many types of organic flour but what you should be asking for, if you have a wood-fired oven, is the new Double Zero (-00-) "Normal."  You can also ask them about their Double Zero "Reinforced," which I think is more appropriate for a home oven. If you can talk them into selling some other types as well, go for it!

As for Lindley Mills, call them in Graham, NC at (336) 376-6190 and ask for Joe Lindley. You can tell him you read it here. OR, you can also order the flour via the King Arthur Baking Catalogue, which many of you probably already receive (if not, get on their mailing list--the catalogues are fun to read and they have all sorts of cool things for sale). It won't indicate "Super Sprout" or Lindley Mills but will be sold as Sprouted Wheat Flour. Wherever you get it, you'll have fun working with this flour. Next week I'll post some recipes for making pizza dough with all three of these flours (Normal, Reinforced, and Sprouted Whole Wheat).

I don't know the price of any of these, so you will have to work that out when you call them, but I have a feeling there are lots of great pizzas ahead for all of us. We'd love to post your photos and pizza ideas if you come up with anything fun and exciting. Just let us know.

One more note: we're starting a new webisode series on Thursday from california's Central Coast. We'll be spending most of the time (there are a number of segments coming up) at The Cass House Inn, but we're going to kick it off with a stop we made as we were headed there, at the wonderful Taco Temple in Morro Bay, CA (you saw a snippet of this on our very first webisode, still posted at the top of the Home Page). Now you'll get to see more of what got us all excited when we made the detour. Be sure to check it out on Thursday. Till then,

May Your Pizzas All Be Perfect!

Peter

 

 
A few thoughts on Family and Pizza
Brad English

Family, Food and Friends

Why is pizza such a popular food all across the world?  One reason may be that it is the perfect food to share. 

As I was recently writing and posting photos for my Mother's Day Pizza pictorial, I had to search back through some old photos from a trip I took with my family to Vancouver, BC. I remembered taking some pictures in the Creperie that I was referring to and thought they would be fun to add to the story.  I had started out writing what I thought was a recipe pictorial recap of my Mother's Day Surprise Pizzas.  My kids were all excited to make mommy breakfast for Mother's Day.  So, I pulled some dough from the freezer and set the alarm to get up early to get the dough out and start the oven.  It turns out the kids were less interested in the "making" of the breakfast than just being there to eat it.

Whenever I think of a breakfast pizza, I think back to this trip we took to Victoria, BC.  It's amazing how strong a smell or a taste memory is.  I have many that will trigger not only a memory, but a feeling.  The feeling can be so strong that it seems as if for a moment I have been literally transported through time and space.  I love this experience.  It is far more intense than a

 
Peter's Blog, May 31st
Peter Reinhart

Hi Again,

As the song goes, June is busting out all over. So many cool things happening everywhere that I wanted to mention a couple of them for those of you who, like me, enjoy discovering things at the front edge of the wave, before the rest of the world catches up.

Two that I'm tracking are the following: If you've followed some of the "Comments' we've received every now and then from Rob DiNapoli, of DiNapoli Tomatoes, he and Chris Bianco have teamed up for a signature line of organic canned tomatoes that will be available only to restaurants (sorry folks, not the general public, at least for now). I recently got to taste them in action

 
Above Tartine, Webisode 2
Peter Reinhart

This week marks the end of our visit to San Francisco's Gastro District, which is really just one block long, between Guerrero and Valencia on 18th St.  In previous segments we spent time at Pizzeria Delfina, Bi-Rite Market, Bi-Rite Creamery, and Tartine Bakery Cafe, and now we head upstairs from the bakery to the apartment of baker Eric Wolfinger, who makes us a wonderful pizza on Tartine's Country French dough in his home oven--yes, great pizza can come from a rinky dink oven as long as the dough is great--and this was definitely great dough! (And make note of his cool trick of adding the basil, tossed in a little olive oil, just for the final minute of baking--can't wait to try that!)

The most significant take-away for me during our two days of filming in The Gastro was how influential a few places, committed to quality, can have on a neighborhood and even on a city; how quality is like a magnet that draws more quality and pretty soon you have a vortex of quality that is so compelling that people of all types just want to be a part of it. This is the kind of energy that creates what I've identified as the difference between good and great, and I define greatness by one word: memorable. Every place we visited in this one block neighborhood was memorable. How do I know it's memorable? Because I can't wait to go back, to tell my friends about it, to bring people there, to see those passionate Gastro folks again; to get those unbelievable pork rinds at Bi-Rite Market, the pizzas but also the one of a kind side dishes at Pizzeria Delfina, the croissants and especially that Country French loaf at Tartine, the salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery -- I can't get that neighborhood out of my head!

As we continue questing in the coming weeks and months we will keep uncovering more such memorable people and places. Some of them are well known and some aren't (yet). But they all share the traits we witnessed at Pizzeria Mozza and LaBrea Bakery in LA, as well as at all the places in The Gastro: a fire in their bellies to do something extraordinary, to please people, to push the boundaries of flavor, and to support sustainable practices that do, in fact, create the best possible flavors imaginable.

Our next webisode series, which will begin in two weeks, takes us to the Central Coast of California, to the town of Cayucos where Jensen and Grace Lorenzen are doing in a small town, at the Cass House Inn, what Craig Stoll, Nancy Silverton, and the folks at Tartine are doing on larger stages in major cities. Will they have as much impact in their little village that the bigger names have had in San Francisco and Los Angeles? Time will tell, but I believe in the saying that we should think globally yet act locally, wherever we are planted. The rest takes care of itself, as you will see when you watch the upcoming webisodes.

But for now, enjoy with us our final pizza in Gastro, and join us again soon ("get back on the bus," as Russ Parsons put it at Mozza) as we head down the coast for a whole new set of adventures that continue to define, and redefine, the whole notion of memorableness. See you there….

 
Peter's Blog, May 24th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

 

This is a time for commencements, graduations, and the completion of cycles. On Saturday we celebrated the annual graduation of our students at Johnson & Wales University and I loved watching our 1,100 grads confirm their educational experience by marching up to proudly accept their diplomas, going through the formal, ritual ceremony that marks such a significant transition into adulthood. It was indeed a confirmation service, like a bar or bat mitzvah, a wedding, a ceremonial acknowledgment of a major transformation in one's life. I think of these ceremonies as the extrinsic out-playing of the intrinsic initiation already experienced by the recipient; the acknowledgment that a significant soul branding, a rite of passage, has occurred. The more you think about it the more amazing it seems -- these graduates, while still who they always were, are no longer the same people. But it all happens so fast, this recognition of transformation, that you don't fully appreciate it except over time, in reflection, almost as a dream.

I'm thinking about this because I see many such rites of passage around me at the moment and, even in my own life, am approaching one: the completion of a new book. I will write more about

 
Is There Really a Perfect Pizza?
Michael Hanson

Recently I returned from a “pizza quest” to Southern Italy and would like to share my thoughts on where and what I think is the perfect or best pizza. I have been making dough for over forty years and pizzas for over twenty; it was only after a spell working at London’s most famous pizzeria, Franco Manca, that I felt capable of making a real pizza. The owner, Guisseppe Mascoli, wanted to create the best pizza in London and, with the help of “pizza consultant” Marco Parente, he set about this task. I believe they achieved their goal; but now my goal was to see if I could find an even better pizza in Italy.

My obsessive quest took me to only two cities, Rome and Naples, and only a handful of pizzerias. I purposely excluded restaurants, even those serving pasta. I wanted the real deal and thought a pizza-only pizzeria would deliver the best pizzas. My survey was in no way accurate, impartial, rigorous, or independent, and my research consisted solely of reading some great posts on the Forno Bravo Forum.

I read of a pizzeria, near my Rome hotel, called Dar Poeta . At first sight the pizzas looked good. I obtained permission to check out the oven. It was old and very hot; the dough soft and very cold. In my experience, one of the crucial factors is the intense heat on a cold, barely fermented disc of hand formed dough, creating the puffed up chewy, crispy cornicione full of holes. In artisan bread baking the quest, or holy grail is, as was pointed out in the Tartine video on Pizza Quest, a dough with irregular holes (or, as the French would say, beaucoup de trop). This is a combination of many factors, primarily a low final dough temperature, long bulk proof, and a hot hearth. Which is, as we saw in the video, why the Tartine bread dough makes a great pizza dough!

But back to Dar Poeta pizzeria. I always choose the pizza with the least toppings, so I chose a simple olive, anchovie pie. It was very disappointing;

 
Tradition--Really?
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about Roger Bannister. No, Bannister is not the latest hot shot artisan pizza maker. For those of you too young to remember, Roger Bannister was a British track & field athlete who on May 6, 1954 became the first person to run a sub 4 minute mile. Roger, who was later knighted for his efforts, broke what was considered by the general public to be an unbreakable barrier. What is interesting is that, to serious athletes of the day, shattering the 4 minute obstacle was considered not impossible but inevitable. The fact is they were correct, and the current US High School record stands at a full 6 seconds faster than Sir Roger Bannister’s World Record achievement of just 57 years ago!

So what has this got to do with pizza? Well, last week I came across an article in a pizza trade publication about a certain well established pizza chain that proudly stated that their pizza has not

 
Kelly's Fontina Challenge Pizza
Brad English

Fontina, Prosciutto Cotto and Wild Arugula Pizza

While at Pizzeria Basta last fall, Peter challenged Kelly Whitaker to come up with a pizza featuring one of Bel Gioioso's wonderful cheeses.  Peter chose to have Kelly use their Fontina Cheese.  What Kelly came up with was a delicious Fontina with Prosciutto Cotto and Fresh, Wild Arugula Pizza.  As with anything Kelly makes, it turned out amazing.  You can see the video in our Instructional section - called "Fontina, Prosciutto Cotto and Arugula Pizza".

What I am trying to do here in my little part of the Pizza Quest world is to explore the notion in the area of artisanship and home chefsmanship (is that even a word? I like it!) that, "If I can do it, anyone can."  I was talking to Peter recently, and I said that I feel a little ridiculous daring to post my adventures alongside such accomplished people such as Peter, Kelly Whitaker, Nancy Silverton, Tony Geminiani and the many more great chefs and pizzaiolos to come.  But, I guess what I do represent is "the people."  *I can't just say "the people" without thinking of King Louis XVI in "History of the World:  Part I":

Count de Monet: “It is said that the people are revolting.”

King Louis XVI: “You said it. They stink on ice.”

 

I am just someone who enjoys cooking.  I found Peter Reinhart when I reached the point where I wanted to make a better pizza crust.  Now, not long after that, I hope I am sharing the home cook side of this quest, the part that is about bringing a piece of that passion home and sharing it on a smaller scale with friends and family.  What I am doing is not always perfect, but it is about the rewarding process of learning and sharing.  In a way, the journey, the quest, is just as fulfilling as the achievement of so called perfection. 

I may be taking advantage of my slot here on Pizza Quest, telling you all about my great pizzas and sharing a nice photo or two (okay, maybe quite a few more than than 1 or 2 photos).  When in reality these may look better than they taste.  You'll never know!  But, the amazing thing is that every time I try something, I learn something new.  For example, I made a couple of Mother's Day Pizzas this morning for my wife.  We fell in love with breakfast pizza while up in Vancouver, visiting Victoria one weekend, where a French chef made us crepes and an amazing egg-topped breakfast pizza.  This morning I made one with scrambled eggs, and one with a partially pre-fried egg to try to get it to cook enough in my home oven.  In the past, I've put a raw egg on the dough and it didn't quite cook enough.  But, this morning it went a little too far.  So, next time, I'll pre-cook it a little less, or maybe throw it on raw again.  Either way, it is the process of trying to find perfection that I'll most likely remember in the long run. 

Anyway, enough excuses from me and onward to my knock-off of Kelly's Fontina Pizza! 

It came out great!  Just look at my pictures! :)

How can you go wrong with such great ingredients! 

Kelly's Fontina Challenge "Fontina, Prosciutto Cotto and Arugula Pizza"

You saw in my previous post that I had made a fresh bruschetta topping.  Now you know why.  Kelly used the juice from the bruschetta as the sauce for the pizza.  I made this early so that it had time to blend together.  I'll repeat that recipe and follow with the rest of this pizza.

Bruschetta topping:
Chopped Tomatoes
Chopped Fresh Basil
A little Chopped fresh Garlic (*I slipped that in this one.)
Olive Oil
Salt/Pepper to taste

The Pizza:
I used Peter's Neo-Neopolitan dough for this one (see the Instructional section). 
Fresh Bruschetta topping (the juice, mainly)
Bel Gioioso Fontina Cheese
Bel Gioioso Fresh Mozzarella
Sauteed Mushrooms
Prosciutto
The Oven
Olive Oil for drizzling when it's done
Fresh Wild Arugula


Spread your dough out on your peel, or work surface. 
*Try not to take pictures and have the dough stick to the surface and then have to spend all kinds of time scraping under it to get some dry flour underneath.  Just a little "insiders tip!"  I'm a one man show here - running back and forth.  By the end of my making a pizza and taking my photos, my camera is covered in flour, sauce and olive oil.

Pour some of the bruschetta juice off onto the dough and spread around as a sauce.  That just looks good by itself. 

Add chunks of the Fontina and Mozzarella
Add a few sauteed mushrooms
Add the prociutto cut up, or torn into bite size pieces. 
*You could cut up the prosciutto, but I chose to tear it up, which
just felt right.  It depends on the final look/feel you are going
for.

Into the preheated oven with my Pizza Stones (crank your oven up as high as it will go).  Always preheat the oven for about an hour to get your stone to temperature.

Once done, drizzle a little olive oil over the pizza and top with the fresh wild arugula.

Cut.  Serve.  Enjoy!

This really was delicious....  I swear!  (My pictures don't lie!)

 

Enjoy the "little" Gallery below...

 
Tartine "Best Loaf" Webisode One
Peter Reinhart

 

The Best Loaf of Bread

Tartine Bakery and Cafe is located on the corner of 18th St. at 600 Guerrero St. and is, like every shop in San Francisoc's one block "Gastro District," a total gem. It is the creation of Chad Robertson (baker extraordinaire) and his wife Elizabeth Prueitt (pastry chef supreme). As you will see in this webisode, you just want to eat everything that the eye takes in. If I still lived in San Francisco -- and I once did live just blocks from where Tartine now is but, alas, it didn't exist till much later -- I would probably start everyday there with a pastry and a cappuccino and then return around 3 PM to grab one of the loaves you're about to see. Our tour guide in this segment is Eric Wolfinger, who was one of the bakers at Tartine at the time we shot this video but has since moved on to a number of other interesting projects, including photographer of Chad's new Tartine bread book. At the time, Eric lived upstairs from the bakery, so, in the next segment you will see us climbing the fire escape up to his apartment where he will make us a pizza on the same dough used to make the astounding French country loaves in this episode.

By the way, Chad was present when we shot this, working away in the background on his breads, and you will catch a quick glimpse of him shaping loaves on the work bench (he's the one with the beard). I've been following his career as a bread baker ever since, as a young man, he had a bakery in Marin County, near Point Reyes National Park--one of the first wood-fired bakers I knew of who was able to build up a viable commercial bakery. But when he and Elizabeth made the move to Guerrero St. and opened Tartine, they really took it to another level. Chad found a way to transition from a wood fired oven to a much larger, gas fired French deck oven without losing any quality, and is now able to make a lot more people happy. The Tartine empire is growing, as they have now opened a restaurant and bar around the corner on Valencia St. called Bar Tartine, and the hits just keep on coming.

What's significant about the success of Tartine is how Chad and Elizabeth, like many others of the past twenty five years or so (maybe we should call it the Alice Waters Generation, since she's the iconic personification of what so many others are now emulating), found a way to stay true to their artisan values and bring so much joy to others. We went to "The Gastro" specifically to film at Pizzeria Delfina, yet we were so captivated by what was going on right next door that we spent an extra day just to get some of Tartine on film for you. We'll continue this Tartine series next time, upstairs, baking a killer pizza in a small home oven, using Tartine's perfect bread dough.

 

 
Peter's Blog: May 10, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I'm headed on the road for an exciting new Pizza Quest adventure. I can't say where yet, but I do promise to report on it as soon as I get back. In the meantime, I want to share with you a blog posting from our friend Chef Jensen Lorenzen of The Cass House Inn in Cayucos, California. This was originally posted on his Cass House Inn blog site: http://casshouse.typepad.com/cass_house_inn_restaurant/2010/11/italy-slow-food.html

We'll be featuring some "delicious" webisodes from The Cass House Inn in a few weeks, but I thought the journal entry that Jensen put up on his own blog about the recent trip he and his wife Grace took to Italy for the annual Slow Food Terra Madre Festival, offers us a brilliant summary of all that Pizza Quest is about too, as we seek to celebrate not just pizza but artisans and artisanship of all types. So, with his permission, I'm going to publish this week and next, Jensen's post in 2 parts. Please visit The Cass House blog posting to view more extraordinary photos of his trip and other great blog entries.

So, here is Part One--enjoy!

Our Culinary Adventures in Italy, and Our Return Home

Before we went to Italy we decided it should be our goal to return with authentic recipes that we could recreate in our "Italian Dinner Series" at the restaurant.  During the first night of service I realized something interesting.  Between myself, our sous chef, garde manger, and chef di partie, we have behind us more than 25 years of experience with Italian food cookery. This was an amusing thought as we struggled to twist tajarin just right for one of our pasta offerings that night.  For what ever reason, we had all

 
"Upside Down" Margherita Pizza
Brad English

When I make pizza, it's always an event.  Baking in a home oven, I can't make an extra large pizza for the family, or friends and call it a day.  I'm limited by not having one of those large pizza ovens!  Frankly, I don't think I'd like to do that anyway.  Half of the fun in making pizza is trying a few different recipes, or letting the kids or guests build their own.


I usually make enough dough and toppings to have enough to ensure there will be left-overs.  I think this may be one of the main things I learned in college - cold, next-day pizza is an important part of life.  It's not as good as when you first have it fresh out of the oven, but it somehow isn't far behind. 

Another ritual that I have developed during my pizza making sessions is to come up with a few recipes and buy the ingredients for those, but leave a pizza or two to chance, or try something new and spontaneous.  I usually leave these pizzas till the end, to use up the ingredients, and to try different combinations.  This is how I came to play with Peter's Herbed Olive Oil and Cheese combination, creating a variety of great cheese breads, and "white" pizzas (no sauce). 

For this recent pizza session, I wanted to try to recreate one of Kelly Whitaker's pizzas that he created for us using Bel Gioioso's Fontina Cheese. 

 

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Vision Statement

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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