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....

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….

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.





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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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