Peter's Blog
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….

 
Peter's Blog, Oct. 28th, SF
Peter Reinhart

Today is the last day of our photo shoot and we have only three shots left to take but time is running out, so I can't elaborate on last night's blow out at Tony's Pizza Napoletana (how could we not go there after spending the last two months in webisode world with all those Tony's videos?). However, I'll post more later this weekend, when things settle down. We were in Tony's, at the bar while waiting for our table, watching the ninth inning of the World Series. There were two outs and two strikes when they told us our table was ready. I figured the game was essentially over (how wrong I was!) so we went to the table, out of sight of the TV in the bar. Over the next half hour or so we kept hearing cheering from the bar and our waiter gave us updates, but I kept thinking how I was missing one of the greatest World Series games ever. But all that was forgotten when the pizzas came! I'll go into more detail in my next Peter's Blog, but just wanted to give you the context. As for now, I have to get back to the photos--they're turning out great and I can't wait for you all to see them when the book comes out next year. I'll get back into this story as soon as the dust settles and we get through the shoot....

 
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....

 
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....

 
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.

 
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.

 

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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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