Ruddell's Smokehouse, Cayucos, CA
Peter Reinhart

I love smoked fish of all types. As a child, nearly every Sunday morning in our family we had some kind of smoked fish platter for brunch, usually lox and bagels but often sturgeon, kippers (hot-smoked salmon as opposed to the cold-smoked Nova Scotia and belly lox), white fish, or whatever else my folks were able to find at the local deli. That's probably where my fascination with smoked foods in general began, as we didn't have classic barbecue joints in my part of Philly, but we did know about pastrami (smoked brisket). Later, when I discovered the whole wide world of "low and slow" regional barbecue all the lights went on!

So, our visit to Jim Ruddell's Smokehouse in Cayucos was like a pilgrimage , of sorts -- a recovery of some very fond family taste memories. Jim couldn't have been nicer and more down to earth -- he clearly does this hard, daily work because he loves it. It's a one man show, and another sparkling example of food artisanship, with his attention to the the right wood and temperature choices, and the joy of a daily harvest of whatever he happens to be smoking that day.

In this week's webisode you'll meet Jim, as Jensen and Grace Lorenzen accompany me to his Smokehouse to gather ingredients for the pizzas you'll see in later episodes. As you're about to see, he made us a smoked fish taco that was as memorable as the one we had at The Taco Temple, yet totally different and distinct (could it be that we'll need to do a whole season on Taco Quests? Who knows....?). Like I said, I love smoked fish and we had more than our fair share of this beautiful product during our outing.

Sit back and enjoy our shopping trip to Ruddell's Smokehouse, on the Pacific Coast of Central California.

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.

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.




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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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