Peter's Blog
Shameless Plug
Peter Reinhart

Hi Folks,

This is mainly for our followers in the Charlotte area where, aside from the national scandal of our mayor resigning over corruption charges (how embarrassing for us all here in this most aspirational of cities, the worst news since the days of Jim and Tammy Fay Baker at the nearby PTL Club and "theme park" -- but don't get me start), tonight we offer a more positive opportunity: Pure Pizza is hosting a food truck rally at our new, still under construction, location in the part of town called Area 15 (between NODA and Plaza Midwood). It is located at 16th St, between N. Davidson and N. Caldwell Streets, and you are all invited. We'll have beverages and, who knows, maybe some pizza from our original location, and you can see where the new operation will be when we open it in a couple of months, plus, some great food truck food and music. It all happens from 5-8 PM tonight. I'll be there for the first hour if you want to swing by and say hello, or come when you can and get some great food and see how Area 15 is in the process of revitalizing and repurposing an old mill section of town into the next "hot spot" in this still most aspirational of cities, despite the bleak breaking news this very morning about the (now former) mayor -- we'll get over it and what better way than by celebrating with food, music, and, of course, pizza. Hope to see you there!

 
Sprouted Flour, the Next "Bread Revolution"
Peter Reinhart

I'm finally back from two exciting adventures and hope to start a new series of postings, reporting from the new frontier of sprouted grain. This is just a brief one, which I will follow over the next few weeks with photos and more details. As mentioned in my last Peter's Blog, I spent a week shooting the photos for my new book, The Bread Revolution. We did this at Central Milling in Petaluma, CA, where Nicky and Keith Giusto allowed us to use their bakeshop and facility to bake and to also set up an area to use as our photo "studio." Paige Greene, our photographer, and her team of prop stylists and assistants, handled that side, while I baked 100 feet away with my assistant bakers and food stylists, Karen Shinto and Jeffrey Larsen. It was fun and also exhausting but my editor Melissa Moore, and art director, Katy Brown, were really pleased with the results. I'll write more about the book and the photo shoot in upcoming posts.

 

When I got home I had a quick turnaround before heading to Atlanta for a two day workshop for the Bread Baker's Guild of America (BBGA) on these very same breads. It was the first hands-on class featuring these new breads and it went really well, as 12 Guild members from all over the country and Canada gathered at Alon's Bakery where Alon Balshon graciously allowed us to work in his bakeshop while still having to operate his very busy bakery cafe. I was beyond impressed with Alon's, which is way more than a bakery. It's more like a Dean & DeLuca on steroids, with a fabulous patisserie, chocolate shop, a large cheese and wine section, a coffee and espresso bar, prepared food and dining areas featuring soups, sandwiches, very impressive pizzas, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner -- and also great bread! The place was packed with customers all day. Like I said, it was impressive and I'm amazed that Alon was able to also host our workshop while still running such a seamless operation. His head bread baker, Abdul Ousman, assisted us and the two day workshop went very smoothly. I'll have more on this, also, in a future posting but I wanted to take this moment to thank Alon and Adbul for taking such good care of us. We produced a lot of sprouted breads, crackers, pizzas, and even pancakes (10 different products from the book) over the two days and sent everyone home with bags of these unique breads that everyone got to make.

So now I'm back home and immersed in the final editing stages of the book, which will take another 8 weeks of back and forth tweaks, caption writing, revisions, and fine tuning with my editor Melissa as we head to the finish line. I'll continue to post here, as I come up for air, to explain more about the sprouted grain revolution, so check back from time to time. It never gets boring around here, that's for sure.

More soon….

Peter

 
Coming Attractions
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

It's been a busy time for all of us here at Pizza Quest so I wanted to fill you in on what I've been up to and what will be coming in the next few months. I've been working on the final stages of my new book for Ten Speed Press, all about coming developments in the world of bread and flour, and will be soon shooting the photos with the Ten Speed creative team. The book is due for publication in October, but what I'd like to do in the coming blogs is to give you some sneak previews of what the book will cover -- not the recipes (I have to save them till publication), but the flour developments and fascinating stories and people that I've been discovering during my research.

What has this to do with pizza and Pizza Quest? By now, you should know how I feel: anything that affects dough automatically has implications in the pizza world (remember, for me pizza is 90% about the crust and only 10% about the toppings, though others might disagree). In the new book there will, of course, be some new pizza and focaccia dough recipes.

But that's enough of a teaser for now. I just wanted to share with you what's been happening and why I haven't been posting as often as I'd like. I want to thank Brad English for all the amazing posts he's done in the meantime, creating new pizzas and exploring wherever his own pizza muse has taken him. If I were a pizzeria operator I'd be writing down some of his ideas and using them. (Hey, wait, I am a pizzeria operator -- Brad, thanks for all the great ideas. Mind if I steal them?). I know he has a new post coming in a few days that will rock your socks, so check back soon. Also, I apologize to some of the guest columnists who sent me columns that I just haven't had a chance to edit and post. I promise to get back to those as soon as I put this book to bed.

I'll start my own blog reports after I return from the photo shoot at the end of February, and will share the highlights of that adventure, where I'll be making breads for the camera with some of the best bakers in America. I'll be in the SF Bay Area so you know I'll be checking out some of the new food developments there, such as Tony Gemignani's new pizzeria in Sonoma County, my old stomping grounds, and just a few miles down the road from my former bakery, Brother Juniper's.

More news soon, but be on the lookout for some fun posts in the coming days and weeks.

Ciao for now!

 
Happy New Year Everyone!
Peter Reinhart

Yes, another year has flown by, full of adventures, trials and tribulations, and, of course, great pizza! Brad and I will back with new postings throughout the coming year and plan to keep this journey alive (the quest never ends...). I have no photos to share with you today, as we approach the dropping of the big ball in a few hours, just a few year end thoughts and thanks.

First, a few shout outs: I've heard that our friend Tony Gemignani, whose terrific videos are alive and well in our Webisodes section, has expanded his pizza empire to include appearances on TV's Bar Rescue and opening a whole bunch of new pizzerias including in my old back yard, Sonoma County, where I will be checking it out in February when I'm back out there. If I still lived there I'd probably be hanging out regularly at the newest Tony's -- if any of you have been there yet (it's in a new casino in, I believe, Cotati or Rohnert Park), please comment below and let us know how it compares to the original in North Beach SF. Congrats to you, Tony -- keep them coming! (Many of you know that I enjoy analogies and I've often referred to Tony as the "Mozart of pizza" since he works at such a high level in so many styles, not to mention his acrobatic dough tossing awards and, now, TV. He was a star before I ever met him and his light keeps getting brighter. I can only assume that the next step for him will be his own TV show.

A special tip of the hat to our Johnson & Wales students here in Charlotte, a number of whom recently prepared all the food for our JWU 10th Anniversary event in Charlotte which was also, simultaneously, the University's 100 Birthday. The food was amazing, including some seriously

 
Peter's Blog, News Flash!
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

PizzaQuest follower John Daniels has been working on a really interesting baking platform, he actually calls it a Pizza Grate, that was designed to wick away any moisture from the underskirt of your crust via a series of strategically drilled holes in the plate.  He sent both Brad and me an early prototype and Brad is currently testing it out and will report on it in an upcoming posting. In the meantime, though, you can help John get this to the next stage and also see a terrific video that he made showing the Pizza Grate in action (by the way, it does a lot more than make pizzas, as you will see in the video). Here's the link to his just posted Kickstarter launch. Take a look -- this could be a game changer of a product. Consider giving him some support so you can say that you were there in the beginning:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/250320055/the-pizza-grate

Check back here soon for Brad's report -- I expect it will be excellent.

Till then, may your pizzas all be perfect!

Peter

 
Peter's Blog, A Visit with Michael Pollan
Peter Reinhart

A few weeks ago author Michael Pollan came to Charlotte to speak at a local university. Earlier that day I was fortunate to be able to appear with him for an hour on our local NPR radio program, Charlotte Talks, where we discussed many of his favorite themes. Most of you already know who Michael Pollan is, but in case you don't, he is the author of a number of best selling books on food and culture including The Omnivore's Dilemma which is, arguably, the most influential book on our relationship with food since Rachel Carson's The Silent Spring. He has a new book out called Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, a book that I think every serious food lover should own and read, especially the many pizza freaks who follow us here on our "journey of self-discovery through pizza" and who intuitively grasp the notion of cooking as a transformational act.  The Omnivore's Dilemma is one of those rare, but painful to read books (because of the subject matter, not the writing, which is brilliant) that has often been called a true game-changer in terms of its impact on so many of us. Cooked, on the other hand, is like sitting down to a great meal that you never want to end.

Regardless of which Pollan books you've read or not read, his message is clear (and I'm not referring to his now classic "Food Rules: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants," which makes for a great sound bite as well as good guidance). No, his deeper message, I believe, has to do with connectivity and consciousness. His books help us connect with the whole lineage of sources -- from seed, to soil, to farmer, miller, merchant, consumer, and cook -- that transform things of the earth into things of nourishment and joy. He quotes Emerson and Wendell Berry with abandon, and in so doing connects us with them and all they stand for. He reveals our inevitable complicity in the taking of life for the sake of our own, and also the priestly (or, if you prefer, the shamanistic) dimension inherent within each of us to effect the transformation of raw ingredients into something totally other. In fact, what I love about this new book is spelled out in its sub-title, A Natural History of Transformation.  I think it is this word, transformation, that transfixes me; it as akin to transubstantiation, or transmutation -- lots of "trans" words! It is the power to change one thing into something else, whether through skill, talent, training, artisanship, or simply through seeing and knowing -- knowing that everything exists on many levels and is never only what we think it is. It is knowing that everything, ultimately, emanates from something, or from some Thing, or, as I believe, from some Being -- if only we had the eyes to see it as so; or if we knew how to perform a series of actions that reveals it as so. Because, when you think about it, transformation isn't only about changing something from one thing into something else, but in the ability to see that the "something else" was there all along, hidden behind the veil of the thing we think we see. When Michaelangelo turned a slab of marble into a David he said that he just revealed the David that was always hidden in the slab. Transformation is, in this sense, a kind of revelation, a revealing of what already is.

Now, Michael Pollan didn't say all that I just wrote above, but he writes about things that make me think of things like this. When I say, as I have in many of my own books, that the mission of the baker is  "to evoke the full potential of flavor trapped in the grain," it touches on this notion of connectivity as an act of transformation. In Cooked, Pollan shows how, throughout human history, we have learned to harness fire, water, air, and earth into tools that allow us to transform (or perhaps "evoke" or "reveal" are just as accurate here), the full potential of an ingredient, whether it be animal, vegetable, fruit, or grain, into something tasty, and also digestible and nourishing, and even more important, something other than what we thought it was while revealing what it actually could be.

So the best part of Michael Pollan's visit is that I not only got to talk about things like this with him on the radio, and then had the chance to introduce him to some of our young culinary students at Johnson & Wales, where he encouraged them to realize how much power and responsibility was within their grasp to change the world, but then, after all that, and before he spoke to a thousand people that evening at Queens University, where he continued building verbal bridges of connectivity for all in attendance -- in the midst of all of that, Michael and I broke away for lunch at Pure Pizza, where we spoke for awhile about, well, about how much we love pizza. And, of course, we spoke about a few other things too....

 

PS You can listen to the podcast of our radio interview by going to http://wfae.org/programs/charlotte-talks-wfae?page=1 Scroll down the page till you find our podcast, dated Oct. 10th, and click  "listen."

 

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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.

Peter's Books

American Pie Artisan Breads Every Day Bread Baker's Apprentice Brother Juniper's Bread Book Crust and Crumb Whole Grain Breads

… and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on Amazon.com

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