The Grand Opening
Peter Reinhart

It's taken me longer than I expected to report on the Grand Opening of the Seventh Street Public Market because this was also graduation week at Johnson & Wales University.  I remember last year writing a mushy piece about how much I love seeing the grads marching up to receive their diplomas so I won't do another tribute other than to say how proud I am of everyone who made it. We had over 1,000 grads at just our campus (there are 4 JWU campuses) and I started thinking how nearly all of the them -- about 99% according to the school's stats -- will all be working in the industry by summer's end or sooner. Hospitality is one industry where hiring still takes place, it's insatiably looking for talent, and our grads make us proud out there.

Now, back to last week's Grand Opening. Yes, it was a wonderful, festival-like day after six months of ramping up preceded by 18 months of fund raising, organizational planning, and building up-fit. We had a great turnout, as you can see from the photo, as hundreds of folks checked out our many vendors.  A number of cities have created public markets similar to ours, so I imagine that many of you have places like this to support.  I hope so; it's more than just a place a shop, but also provides a sense of community where like-minded people can support businesses that share the same values as the shoppers. Our Meat & Fish Market, for instance, headed up by Dawn and Michael LaVecchia, not only brings in local, beautiful, and sustainably raised proteins, but also publishes a weekly newsletter that tells the stories of the ranchers and fishermen who all, in their own way with their own products, are like you pizza questers, always searching for the best, artisans in their own right. Michael LaVecchia and I will be appearing on a local NPR show called Charlotte Talks, on Wednesday, the 23rd, on the topic of sustainable seafood, along with a spokesperson from Whole Foods Market, which just made front page news for taking a strong stand against certain fishing practices, refusing to carry fish that hasn't been caught in a humane fashion.  It's very controversial because it affects the livelihood of a very difficult and tenuous profession, so I'm counting on Michael to give us the small merchant's perspective -- should be a lively hour. Even if you're not in Charlotte, you can pick it up via live streaming on WFAE.org at 9 AM Eastern time or on the archive podcasts beginning the next day.

Not Just Coffee, celebrates the craft of being a barista, not just with with latte art and  thoughtful blends of premium beans, but with the newly popular pour-over method pictured here. I was impressed by the clarity of the flavors that this technique draws out of the beans, fulfilling a similar goal to what I call the "Baker's Mission: To evoke the full potential of flavor trapped in the grain."  In San Francisoco, Blue Bottle Coffee has gotten national press for helping to popularize the pour-over method, so I'm glad to see it getting traction here in our town as well.

 

 

And, of course, Pure Pizza had a record day, cranking out pizzas as fast as our team and oven could manage.  Our head pizzaiolo, Austin Crum, and I did two demos on the temporary cooking stage (the market will soon be building a permanent stage, replete with brand new equipment and a regular demo schedule -- more on that at a later date when it's official), showing the audience our classic Neapolitan and also our 100% whole grain pizza doughs, made with flour from Lindley Mills. Joe Lindley and his family drove all the way down from Graham, NC (Near Chapel Hill), about 2 1/2 hours away, to taste, for the first time, these pizzas made with their flour. I especially wanted them to taste the gluten-free pizza that we make with their sprouted ancient grain blend (millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and sorghum), so Austin and I showed everyone that one in our second demo. Lindley Mills, located on the site of a Revolutionary War battlefield, mills the organic line for King Arthur Flour, so many of you are already using their flour without knowing it (we use the King Arthur Organic "Artisan" flour for our classic dough), but the sprouted whole wheat, as well as the ancient grain blend, are milled in small batches at Lindley Mills and, unless you call the mill directly at (336) 376-6190 (hint hint), they are only available to a few select clients.

We've been having fun at Pure Pizza with a chorizo pizza developed by Austin, using locally made chorizo, cilantro, and topped with a radish slice and lime wedge. His goal was to create a street taco experience on a pizza crust and I think he nailed it. We run out of chorizo nearly every day as this one grows in popularity. We've also just started making a breakfast pizza, along the lines of what Brad English blogged about last week, with bacon, sausage, and eggs baked on top. This one is especially popular on Saturday mornings, when we open earlier, but some of us like breakfast all day long so we're now seeing an upward tick in sales throughout the day. We've also been getting some seriously good truffle oil from another Public Market vendor, The House of Olives, which gets drizzled over the top of our wild mushroom pizza after it comes out of the oven. Truffles are intoxicating -- the more you taste the more you want.  As you can see, we're enjoying this honeymoon phase of the launch and plan on continuing developing new pizza concepts and see where it leads us. The owners of Pure Pizza (I'm just the consulting partner), Juli Ghazi and Jeff Spry, have been working round the clock, along with our ace team of pizzaiolos, so it was wonderfully affirming to see all the smiles of enjoyment at the tables during the Grand Opening.

I don't want to want to hog the spotlight for Pure Pizza when there are so many other excellent pizzerias and pizza trucks out there doing great work, but since I get to blog here on Pizza Quest it's nice to have a place and a product that I can brag about. Speaking of hog, we even have a Carolina-style pulled pork pizza garnished with our own "secret sauce."  During the Grand Opening we also featured three other sauces, the winners of a recent competition to represent this region at the upcoming DNC (Democratic National Convention), which will be held one block from the Market. So, we offered customers their choice of any sauce while the sauces lasted.  Every now and then I'll post newsy things about Pure Pizza (like new pizza concepts we come up with), but for the real scoop and ongoing news  and photos you can "like" Pure Pizza at http://www.facebook.com/PurePizza

Meanwhile, when you come to Pure Pizza, do let the team know if you read about them here. And enjoy the Seventh Street Public Market too -- the vendors are there from Tuesday through Saturday, but Pure Pizza is also open on Monday (there will soon be two other food vendors joining us there, probably in early June). It's all so exciting -- a wonderful adventure...hope you can make it.

 
Bacon and Eggs Pizza
Brad English

 

Eggs

 

The first time I had egg on a pizza was at a little French Creperie in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  My family was visiting me while I was working up there, and we took a weekend trip over to the island.  One morning we went to this little place I read about known for having a good cappuccino.  When I saw that there was a pizza with eggs, I had to try it.  I don't know about you, but when I am eating eggs, toast is the primary delivery system for getting those eggs with the sauce, bacon, sausage, etc. up to my mouth.  Why wouldn't a pizza with the egg breakfast already arranged on it be the perfect meal?

 

That first egg pizza was a scrambled egg version with some Tyrolean bacon, chives and a little cheese mixed in.  It was truly delicious.  The eggs were still moist.  It was cheesy and the bacon, I found out, was painstakingly chosen over many others based on how it performed on the pizza.  I would have to say it was an epiphany moment for me.

A few years later, while we were filming the original Pizza Quest road trip, we were in San Francisco at Pizzeria Delfina and these guys opened my eyes a little wider.  They made a pizza and finished it off by simply cracking an egg on top.  It came out sunny side up.  Craig Stoll, the owner, cut up the yolk with a fork and knife, spreading it around the top of the pizza.  Egg epiphany numero dos!  I love the runny yolk dripping off of my "toast."  It's a wonderful textural eating experience.  The yolk is, in effect, both the meal and a sauce.

 

Fast forward to now: I was in the mood for some runny yolk and pizza.  So I decided to have a Pizza Egg Fest!   I'll release these in three short recipe pictorials.  They all came out delicious and made a fantastic breakfast the next day.

The first was inspired by Nancy Silverton at Pizzeria Mozza, and it has egg, bacon, Yukon Gold

 
The Pizza Guy
Brad English

The Pizza Guy, or is he the "Other Pizza Guy? Let me explain.

I found myself driving through the desert thinking a lot about pizza.  Having thoughts of pizza dance around my head wasn't out of the ordinary, but you don't often connect pizza with the desert.  I was cruising east at about 5 miles per hour over the speed limit to avoid being taken down by one of the open highways finest on my way from LA toward the big Pizza Expo that is held in Las Vegas once a year.  I was going to finally meet John Arena, who often writes on our site.  What had me so excited was that he had expressed to Peter that he wanted to make some pizza with me.  So, as I drove my mind wandered through the possibilities of this new experience. 

John is more than a pizza chain owner.  He is a pizza encyclopedia who walks the walk and talks the talk.  He is a pizza guy from Brooklyn who struck out to find his slice of the American Dream when the opportunity to buy a small pizzeria in Las Vegas came up.  I love his story!  He and his cousin sold everything they had to come up with the down payment for the business and, through a moving service, shuttled a car out to Los Angeles for someone.  On their way, they dropped off their possessions in Vegas. After delivering the car to LA the next day, they returned to Vegas on a Greyhound bus.  A few weeks later, when they opened their pizzeria, the two of them had less than $100 between them. 

Here's my favorite part: As their business grew he and his cousin started noticing folks saying "Hey, there's The Pizza Guy, and the Other Pizza Guy."  I can't remember if John is THE Pizza Guy, or the OTHER Pizza Guy, but he is definitely our Pizza Guy!

Today he is opening his sixth Metro Pizza in Las Vegas.  Talk about a Pizza Quest!  You can see why I was excited to meet John, eat his pizza, and be shown the ropes of his hometown event - The Pizza Expo.

True to form, John was my ambassador and tour guide for the Expo.  We walked the floor, meeting people I knew from a year of operating this site but had never met in person, and ran into a number of friendly faces.  I was there to spread the word and look for potential sponsorship interest in our site as well as just connecting with the industry of pizza. The convention hall was filled with ingredient companies (Flour, Cheese, Tomato, Meats, Toppings), oven manufacturers, pizza box makers,  and all the little things that you need to operate a pizzeria, or restaurant.  It was also filled with hot ovens pushing out tons of delicious pizzas, calzones, panini and all sorts of other "samples".

After my first day, where I met a host of characters, including Scott Wiener of Scott's Pizza Tours in NYC, John invited us out to one of his Metro Pizzerias for dinner.  I was full from testing and tasting pizza all day, but I was really excited to get out to one of John's pizzerias and see what he does.  It looked like we wouldn't have time to make pizzas together on this  trip, but I was happy to go and just take in the atmosphere. 

John started cranking and the food just kept coming.  First came the fried garlic knots.  Then came these delicious meatball sliders made on the same garlic knots, but not fried.  Stop the presses!  I loved these!!  I would be in trouble if this were my local pizzeria.  Next came a giant, massive, Sicilian Pizza.  It was done perfectly.  The crust was thick and light.  It was moist and crispy and juicy.  I had stepped behind the counter to talk to John and snap some photos.  I didn't think about it then, but he was in performance mode.  He was delivering his pizzas to some pretty insane pizza lovers at the table where about ten of us sat awaiting the next course.  He checked the crust on this Sicilian over and over, pulling it out, looking at the bottom and sliding it back in.  He wanted to get the timing just right, and he did.

Earlier in the day, as we walked the floor of the Expo, we ran across a few booths doing fried pizza crusts, and fried paninis.  John talked to me about how this was the new craze.  I had just had my first fried dough in NYC at the new Don Antonio by Starita and thought it was definitely interesting.  John explained that back "in the day," Italian immigrants would set up on the street and make deep fried calzones.  They had a sidewalk business that consisted of a pot of oil and a burner and would serve up amazing calzones right off the street.  So, this led to John's next treat, which I don't think was on the menu.  He made us up some traditional deep fried street calzones.  Watching this Pizza Guy make his food is like watching a master artist mixing his paints to create the exact colors he sees in his mind.  John was set up on a prep table in the middle of the restaurant, but I could see he was not only here in this space, but also somewhere back in time, connecting to his ancestors.  He comes from a long line of family members that worked in and around the pizza business.  You can see that his heart is connected to his past, their shared experience, and also the present, where he is truly fulfilled sharing his soul through his pizzeria.


The deep fried calzones were amazing.


Out came another pizza.  It's called the Seafood Fra Diavalo.  Did I start the presses again?  If so, stop them again.  You will be seeing this baby being recreated by yours truly on these pages soon enough.  It was really good and it was also interesting.  Then, out came a tomato pie with roasted red and green peppers, tomato sauce, olive oil and oregano.

Let's just restart the presses tomorrow. 

My favorite moments of the night were still about to happen.  John finally finished making and delivering platters of pizzas and appetizers and came out and sat down.  We were all talking and laughing and he looks at me and says, "What's this?!" while pointing to my plate, which was now full of left over pieces of everything I had been eating.  I looked down over my bloated belly and smiled, thinking how good everything was and how full I was.  He then said, "Great!  Brad English doesn't like my pizza!"  I laughed and realized he was kidding, but then I started to explain that I was stuffing every bite I could into my mouth but, after a day of eating pizza and now a night of it, I had finally reached my limit.  I assured him that Brad English did indeed love his pizza.

The punchline of this piece of the story is that when I was back in my hotel room and called my wife, I relayed this part of the story.  She started laughing hysterically.  She said, "You're THE Brad English?  You're named now?!! Hahahaha". 

Metro Pizza bills itself as a family-style pizzeria.  They are that and more.  There's a huge wall-sized map of the United States with famous pizzerias marked on the map.  John is such a pizza fanatic that he will give you a free dinner if you take a photo of yourself in front of a pizzeria in another city and give him the photo to post on the wall.  Talk about a pizza guy on his own pizza quest.  What a great way to build a family.

Thanks John for the great pizza and the personal pizza tour throughout my days at the Pizza Expo. 

Brad English - Yet Another Pizza Guy.

 
Peter's Blog, May 9th, Pure Pizza
Peter Reinhart

So, I've already written that we we opened Pure Pizza here in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, but the Grand Opening is really going to be this Saturday, May 12th, when the entire Seventh St. Public Market, where we're located, has its own Grand Opening. There will be music, jugglers, demo's, lots of food -- basically an all day celebratory festival (and for the whole week following) after two years of build up and many false starts. You may recall that back in December I wrote about the Public Market when we had our "soft opening."  These past six months have been like a dress rehearsal, or like when a show goes into previews before the real Opening Night, as all of the venders worked on their own location, displays, and products. Now, at long last, it's all come together, along with the influx of spring produce, and now all the shops will be open, beginning Saturday, for the big hoo-ha event.

I'll take some photos and report back next week with a more detailed report, but I did want to show you a couple of shots of one of our most popular pizzas, the Pepperoni Supreme, featuring locally made pepperoni, house-pickled red peppers as well as pepperoncini, and a nice topping of our Bianco-DiNapoli organic tomato sauce and a blend of gooey cheeses.  You will also notice that the ones in the photo are made on our sprouted ancient grain pizza dough, made with a blend of sprouted whole wheat flour and five other sprouted whole grain flours (for those who prefer a different crust, all the pizzas are also available on a classic white dough made with organic, locally milled flour, as well as on a gluten-free dough made exclusively with an organic sprouted ancient grain blend, all of the grains being gluten-free).

There is no other pizzeria in the world making these sprouted grain pizzas, so we're pretty excited about being on the cutting edge. Again, I'll have more photos and details next week, but I just wanted to let those of you who are within shouting distance of Charlotte know to try to come by on Saturday for the festivities. I'll be doing two demo's (at 12 noon and again at 1 PM), and will be hanging out all day to enjoy the party, so please be sure to say hi. In addition to our pizzeria, the market will also feature a juice bar, a sushi stand, a killer pour-over coffee and espresso cafe, a wonderful olive oil and balsamic vinegar store (offering free tastings!), a fresh fish and locally raised meat market, lots of organic produce, baked goods, a comfort food restaurant called Fran's Filling Station (the second location of a very popular Charlotte restaurant), gelatin art, and lots more. Hope to see you there -- if not, I'll be back next week with my report.

 
How do you re-heat your pizza?
Brad English

 

A Second Transformation - How do you reheat your pizza?

One morning recently I woke up thinking of making my second favorite pizza: Left-Over Pizza.  I often eat these babies cold, right out of the fridge -- there's just something I really like about a cold slice of pizza.  This is a great grab and go breakfast, washed down by a hot cup of coffee as I drive to work.  Ideally though, if there's time, I'll reheat my pizzas.

I thought about writing about my reheating process because of a recent incident.  I was working with a fellow pizza nut.  I had ordered some pizza from a new place in LA and sent a box up to her office.  I was out prepping a job and when I asked her later how the pizza was, she told me that her assistant had re-heated the pizza in the microwave and she wouldn't eat it.  I loved that, as I feel the same way.  Microwaves are great for soup and left-over Mexican food, but not pizza.  The dough is totally turned into something else -- a hot, tough-chewy sort of space dough, or cardboard type of thing.  Not good.

Over the years, I can't say when, I developed my pizza re-heating routine.  It's not complicated, but I think it's worth a post.  I hope we'll get some feedback and some new secret tricks from you as well.

My secret: I broil my left-over wedges.

It's not as fast as the microwave would be to bring it up to temperature, but it also doesn't destroy what was once a good slice of pizza.  I would even go so far as to say that it may breathe another bit of life into the pizza.  It transforms it to something similar, but adds another aspect of handling, or cooking to it -- a short high intensity exposure to heat creating a crisp and bubbly hot slice.

 

Start the broiler.

I use the top rack.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil.  Place the pizza slices on the foil top down (cheese side down - crust up).  Sometimes toppings may come off, but you can grab them when you flip the pizza and place them back where they belong.

You have to pay attention here.  The broiler is hot and we're way up top on the upper rack and you will burn the pizza if you get distracted.  The trick is to find that perfect moment to flip the pizza.  You want to see the crust bottom turning brown.  You may see moisture bubbling loose from the crust.  You may let a little of it actually char.  Be careful, it will turn brown and then go black (too far gone!) rather quickly, so pay attention.  It is a matter of personal choice how far you take this.  Think of it as dialing in your crust.

Pull the rack out a little, or reach in with long tongs and flip your slices.  Pick up any fallen toppings and place back on the pizza.  Again, watch closely.  I'm looking to get things bubbling and turning a little brown.  You can decide how far to take this. Again, a little char here is good, as long as you don't over-brown everything along the way.

Take the slices out as soon as you think they are done - maybe a few seconds before you think they're done!

What you get with this method, in my opinion, is a new slice of pizza.  It's not the same as the original because you have transformed it a little, or a lot depending on how far you take it.  The crust is crisper than the original, but it's still tasty and crunchy and feels like bread should.  It's still a nice pizza dough.  The toppings are melty, caramelized, and slightly more melded to each other than the time the pie first came to life.

Delicious in my opinion!

I know Peter has another method and I want him to share that here as well.  He said that it's the same idea focusing on bringing the pizza back to life, or giving it another life although slightly transformed from the original. (See his note at the end of this post.)

One last thing on this.  I was just in NY again and took a train out to Di Fara's Pizza in Brooklyn.  Let me first say, this was well worth the trip and the wait, as Dom DeMarco made one pizza at a time for a long list of customers.  Afterward, I spoke with Peter to tell him about the pizza and he said he heard a secret to experiencing these pies.  The "secret" was that if you order a slice, they will re-heat it and that second time in the oven really brings it all together.  Can I rest my case here?!  I didn't try this at Di Fara, but I can now imagine what this secret is all about.

Let us know if you have any other secrets, or procedures in re-heating your pizza.

Note from Peter: Okay, here's my variation on Brad's excellent method:  use a non-stick frying pan and heat it up over a medium hot burner. Mist it lightly with olive oil pan spray or rub it with olive oil and place the slice (or slices), cheese and sauce side up, into the pan and put a heavy pan or pot or weight on it to press it into the pan (or press it down with your hand or a Teflon spatula or burger flipper). As soon as the bottom of the crust gets piping hot -- about 30 to 60 seconds-- flip the slice over, cheese side down, and again press it into the pan until the cheese melts, about 30 to 60 seconds. Use the spatula (or Teflon burger flipper) to get under the cheese and transfer the slice, right side up, to your plate where a hot, cheesy slice awaits you for breakfast or any time of the day or night.

 

 

 

 
Peter's Blog May 2nd, "Eat The Street"
Peter Reinhart

I keep ruminating on my experience on Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, Queens, during the IACP Conference week (see my previous posting on this, dated April 7th). As I described then and re-read about the various street food taste bursts that we discovered there, I also continue to recall that at nearly every truck or cart one particular phrase kept coming to me: "They're pursuing the American dream."  I even projected myself 10, 20, and 30 years into the future, imagining the children and grandchildren of some of these street venders with brick and mortar restaurants of their own, or other businesses, making films, or running medical practices -- these street venders were like my great parents, working their butts off to lay a foundation for those to follow. Some might keep the food carts going, or expand upon them, but I'm sure many will say, "I'll never work that hard again; instead I'll work smart."

I recalled a vignette I told in "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza," when I revisited after 30 years the favorite pizzeria of my childhood and discovered the son of the owner still working there; he never liked pizza as a kid, but he loved cheese steaks and so he dedicated himself to making the best cheese steaks in the world much as his dad had done in making the best pizza.  And he succeeded, opening the store only four days a week so that he could have a life while still making a decent living and earning the accolades of foodies everywhere. Meanwhile, his brother and sister, both of whom I also remember working there as kids when I was a kid, had decided they wanted no part of the place and moved on in different diections with their lives.  The American dream....

I think about this now because I just read an interesting article in the current issue of Newsweek by Daniel Gross called, "Listen, The U.S. Is Better, Stronger, and Faster Than Anywhere Else in the World."  He spells out a rather optimistic analysis of the economic recovery that, while not yet complete, nevertheless has outpaced most predictions by the so-called experts, and has certainly outpaced the recoveries in every other developed  country during the same time period. Without trying to recap the article the bottom line, according to  Gross's implication, is that the USA is still the best place in the world to live because here, unlike in no other place, it is still possible to achieve your dream, and everyone else in the world knows it.

So, this was my takeaway after a day of joyful, gluttonous eating and drinking of Tibetan Momo's, pan Latino tamales, street tacos, quesadillas, pandebobo's, ceviches, and rum-filled caraljillo's: that there is motivation at work within the souls of each of the venders, not just to make a living but to build something for the future. It may be a humble beginning (and humbling experience to encounter) but, as we've all learned from our Native American as well as other cross cultural social studies, most traditional cultures think seven generations ahead.  What I find exciting, beyond the American Dream scenario I saw on Roosevelt Ave., is how this ethic is filtering into the first generation counter-culture street food businesses, not just the immigrants but also long term, perhaps even privileged young multi-generational Americans.  It reminds me of the idealism of the 1960's, the back to the earth movements and the like; that the American Dream is not something that is handed to us but is something that must be grabbed, reached for, and worked for. It means so much more when it happens that way.

 
Peter's Blog, April 24th, 2012, I'm Baaack!
Peter Reinhart

I feel as if I've just emerged from suspended animation. I spoke too quickly in my post- IACP posting when I said "I'm still standing," as a few days later I hit the wall, ended up in the hospital, and couldn't stop coughing. Turned out it was just bad bronchitis and dehydration, all of it probably initiated by the major pollen drop here during the too-early spring and then complicated by over work and, well, just pushing too hard (too much Questing? Never!!). So, I've spent some time bundled up, reading, watching TV and movies, and coughing up …  well, let's not get into TMI….

So I'll keep this short and sweet and hope to follow up soon with photos and more commentary, but the main good news is that Pure Pizza has, at last, officially opened after nearly two years in planning and ideation, and we're off to a great start. Actually, there has been no official announcement that we are open -- just word of mouth and a few Facebook hints here and there. This first week has been intentionally a "soft" opening to work out all the kinks, but so far the response has been fabulous. When I can get over there I'll take some photos and tell you more, but for now you can check out it out www.facebook.com/PurePizza and hopefully you'll "like it" and help spread the word. It's a really simple concept, located in the new, year-round  Seventh Street Public Market in downtown Charlotte, with a general, common dining area much like a food court.  There are lots of other cool venders in the Market, and we're just 2 1/2 weeks from the "Grand Opening" of the whole market, when all the venders will be up and running along with lots of fresh spring produce (much of which gets used on our pizzas). I'll get you some photos as soon as I can but, if you're in the area, please drop by. (Note, the Public Market actually opened back in December, but it was, again, a soft opening in order for a few of the  venders to get up and running -- it took us, Pure Pizza, until last week to get all the permits and equipment in place, for instance. The Market has long targeted May as the time for the big splash, when we'd be fully populated with venders, so it's getting exciting to see it all flesh out and come to life -- I'm loving being a part of this important civic project.)

In the meantime, I've heard from a number of Pizza Quest followers regarding their own adventures, including John Rudolph of In Two Worlds Productions (see my recent post regarding the street foods of Roosevelt Ave. in Queens), who wanted everyone to know that he and Andrew Silverstein and the rest of their team will be giving more of these tours in the coming weeks (May 19, and June 2 and 16). So, if you are interested in joining in, contact John at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it    I can attest to how much fun it is.

Pizza Quest fan Sally Newton has posted her photos of following my recipe for croissants at http://bewitchingkitchen.com/2012/04/17/thrilling-moments/ Her excitement at being able to make killer croissants is as contagious as, well, as my recent coughing fits. Check it out and great work Sally!

Also, some friends of PQ as well as of The Fire Within, Victoria and Stephanie (Stephanie was a former student of mine at JWU a few years ago), have recently been nominated for best food cart in Richmond, VA, for their wood-fired pizza truck, Pizza Tonight.  Not sure if this link will work, but if you'd like to cast a vote for them try pasting this in: http://www2.richmond.com/special_section/besties-lunch-cart/2012/apr/17/best-lunch-cart-richmond-vote-now-ar-1838071/?referer=None&shorturl=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2FIgjEhG
Victoria was out in Boulder for the Fire Within Conference last year when we filmed some of the instructional videos shown here on the site, so I imagine she's using some of the tricks and techniques we worked on there.  Based on the photos I saw on their Facebook page, they are doing amazing work in Richmond -- if any of our readers are familiar with them, how about a few words or testimonials below in the Comments section?

Now that I'm starting to pick up some momentum, I'll be back soon with more thoughts on the IACP Conference, Pure Pizza, and all sorts of other things sparked by this never-ending Quest. Brad has been inundating me with great photos of yet another New York City/Brooklyn pizza crawl he's been on, including jumping on Scott Weiner's NYC Pizza Tour, plus a visit to the legendary DiFara's, and also to the unique and wonderful Roberta's in Bushwick. I'm totally jealous.  More on all that soon....

 
Roasted Seasoned Eggplant Pizza
Brad English

I remember standing in line late one night, or rather early one morning on New Years Eve, down in Hermosa Beach at one of our favorite local NY Style Pizza by the slice establishments called Paisanos.  I always used to joke with my wife and friends when one of the owners would call out to someone "Hey Paisano!"  I would say, "I thought I was Paisano!"  When they showed up a few years back, when I was a younger man, I would more often than not find myself wandering by, looking for a slice or two after being out for the night...if you know what I mean.   It was nice to have the added ambiance in this NY Style pizzeria here only a block off the beach in Southern California that came with a cast of NY Paisanos who felt at home barking out their indignant proclamations with their freshly imported NY Style attitudes. On this fateful New Years morning I placed my order for my favorite pizza -- their Roasted Eggplant and Sliced Tomato Pie.

Well, it turned out to be the LAST pizza of the night. (I already mentioned that it was late!)  I think we alll know how good a late night slice of pizza can taste.  Now imagine it's the last late night pizza available and there's a line out the door behind you.  My small group of friends formed a wedge as we moved out the door and ran for our lives to catch a cab home!

Yes, that last pizza of the night did hit the spot!  Perhaps this why I love eggplant on pizza so much.  I loved it before this, but since then, there is a more solid connection with the triumphant memory of being the "one" who won the lottery that night with this simple ingredient.  I was recently in our forum looking around and found a discussion where eggplant came up.  It hit me like a ton of bricks!  I couldn't believe I had I waited so long to play with this ingredient in my pizza making at home.  My Paisano memories came flooding back and I knew I had to pick up some eggplant!

To the kitchen!

Roasted Seasoned Eggplant Pizza


Pizza Quest Signature Beer Dough *LINK
Simply Red Tomatoes turned into Peter's Crushed Tomato Sauce
*Any quality canned tomato will work *LINK
Fresh Mozzarella *I used Bel Gioioso's
1 Japanese Eggplant sliced about 1/4" thick
Sliced Tomatoes
Fresh Basil
Olive Oil

*You can/should also add grated Parmesan cheese and Red Chilli flakes at the end.


Peter's Crushed Tomato Sauce is a perfect pizza sauce. Once you make it a few times following his recipe, you can start to do it on your own, just adding what feels right.  This is so simple and tastes so fresh I really don't see any reason to do anything else when I'm using a tomato sauce.  When I first tried it after reading Peter's book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, I literally thought, "This is it! This is the perfect pizza sauce."  Now I know perfect is not possible, but this may be an exception.


Roast the Eggplant:

Get your oven going early, to Pre-Heat your pizza stone to the highest temperature, for at least an hour before cooking your pizzas.  I threw the eggplant into the oven while it was heating up to pre-roast it.

Peel the skin off the eggplant and slice into 1/4" slices.
In a bowl mix the slices with Bread Crumbs and add in some herbs and spices to give them that special touch.  I poured a little Olive Oil and then added some Oregano, Basil, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper and actually a little Cayenne because I'm insane.  You'll see I didn't overdo it in the photos. 

I pre-roasted them until browned, pulling them out of the oven in time to allow them to finish up on the pizza (but they do need to soft when you pull them out).  I didn't time this, but think it was about 20 minutes as my oven was already hot.  Check it after 10, 15 etc.


The Prep and Build:

Build the pizza by placing the Crushed Tomato Sauce on the dough.

I added a swirl of Olive Oil to the sauce

Add pinches of the fresh Mozzaarella

Add the Roasted Eggplant

Add sliced/chopped basil after the bake.

Add the sliced tomatoes (Play with the thickness of the tomatoes to affect how much moisture they will hold after baking, but a scant 1/4" thick is probably ideal).


Bake:

Place pizza into the oven.  If you have it, switch the oven over to Convection Bake, which seems to give me a better bake. 

Check the pizza in about 7 Minutes.  When it's done, remove it.

This pizza came out beautifully.  I used a thicker cut on my tomatoes, so the overall pizza, was initially "wet".  But, as it cooled, it settled down.  I added the basil, sliced it up and remembered a simpler time, before kids, late one evening, walking down the street with some friends and a piping hot Roasted Eggplant Pizza from Paisanos.

(*The cayenne was interesting.  Play with the seasoning on the eggplant, it's a great vehicle for flavor.  With the bread crumbs and pre-roasting you also get a little crunchy texture going on after the final bake and even some charred crispy bits.)

Give this a try and send us your own versions with photos and a story!


Enjoy!

 

 
A Tale of Two Flours
Stan Ginsberg

Note from Peter: Our friend Stan Ginsberg and, as of last week, now an IACP award winning author of the wonderful book, Inside the Jewish Bakery, started a small mail order specialty flour company called New York Bakers, to meet the need for those of you who have been searching for hard to find, high quality brands. You can read more about Stan in the Contributor Profiles section. We welcome him now as our newest Guest Columnist, as he tells us a little bit of his own quest to decide which Italian pizza flour he likes best. As you will see, it's not always clear cut. And, for those of you who are bread bakers or want to learn about the history and inside stories of some of America's most famous Jewish bakeries, I highly recommend his book, written with co-author Norman Berg.


When I started The New York Bakers (www.nybakers.com) a little over 2½ years ago, my goal was to offer home bakers the broadest range of non-bleached, non-bromated professional flours I could find. I didn't know what I was in for since there are dozens of professional flours out there. However, I soon earned that despite all the brands, most commercial flours are variations of four main classes: high-gluten (14% protein), bread (12½%), pastry (9½%) and cake flour (8%). I also discovered that the vast majority are produced by a handful of mega-millers –- think General Mills, ConAgra, and Cargill -- and also a number of mid-tier mills like Bay State, and Pendleton Flour Mills. And then there are the small mills, like Heartland and Central Milling, that produce premium flours for artisan bakers. And of course, King Arthur Flour, who contracts with reliable small mills to package to their specifications.

But one category that I really wanted to make available was imported Italian Tipo 00 pizza flour and, of course, the flour I wanted was Caputo, which everything I read described as the ultimate pizza flour, straight from Naples, the epicenter of the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) universe. So out I went to locate a distributor. I found one in LA (despite our name, we're in San Diego) –- actually it was a bit south of LA proper, in Vernon, which is completely industrial -- no one actually lives there. So I phoned them and talked to one of their sales folks, who said, "Yeah, no problem. We have the Caputo, so come on over and pick it up."

So into my car I went for the 2-hour (optimistically) trek on the SoCal freeways up to Vernon. I have to admit, I was really excited. After all, everything I'd read told me that Caputo was the Holy Grail of pizza flours. So imagine my shock and disappointment when the warehouse guy comes back with several red, white and blue bags that said "Pivetti" where "Caputo" should have been.

"No worries," said the sales guy when I went back to the office to talk to him. "They're virtually identical. Besides, we have lots of customers who love the Pivetti."  What was I to do? I took the Pivetti, drove back down to San Diego and changed my product lineup to read "Pivetti."

Then I did some research and learned that the Pivetti mill, which has been owned and operated by the same family for over 130 years, is in Modena, in northern Italy, well away from Bella Napoli. It’s a city best known for its balsamic vinegar, sausage-stuffed pig feet called zampone (not to be confused with the hockey ice machine), and native son Luciano Pavarotti. "Drat," I thought to myself, "what do those northern Italians know about pizza?"

Of course, I hadn't tried the stuff yet – in fact, I'd never used any authentic Tipo 00 flour – so I proceeded to do so. I used the classic formula for VPN, which was 58% water, 2% salt, 0.3% fresh yeast, no bulk fermentation, and cold retardation of the dough balls of 12-18 hours.
Well, I was blown away. I had been using high-gluten flour, mainly General Mills All Trumps, at 75% hydration and with 5% olive oil, for my pizza doughs, and constantly found myself struggling with tearing. The Pivetti was pure pleasure, even at that low hydration level. The gluten was well-developed, but the most extensible I'd ever worked with; when I stretched it, it stayed stretched, and I could get a 16-inch pizza out of 10oz/280g of dough. I could literally read a newspaper through that crust. So I was a happy camper.

But I couldn't stop thinking about the Caputo. One of my customers in Arizona found a distributor there and started using the stuff. She told me that it was more elastic than the Pivetti, and held its shape better. I was tantalized, like the kid at a store window filled with imagined candy.
Finally, a couple of months ago, my supplier told me that he had the real-deal Caputo in stock and would I be interested. I think I broke the speed limit on my way back up to LA, loaded up the car with several bags of Caputo, plus a couple of Pivetti, and tore back home so I could try out my new found treasure.

It wasn't what I expected. Where the Pivetti was white and fine, the Caputo was more yellow and had what felt like a slightly coarser grind. Where I expected the same degree of extensibility, I found instead greater elasticity, comparable to a mild bread flour like General Mills Harvest King (12% protein) or King Arthur Bread Flour (12.7%). The Caputo formed beautiful round crusts, with a well-defined edge, but the gluten was really evident.

Here's how they compared in my test bake:
Raw flour: The Pivetti flour is a very pale yellow, nearly white, with a very fine grain. The Caputo has a somewhat coarser grain (although still fine, since 00 refers to the grain size and not protein/ash content), and a definite beige/ yellow brown color.
Mixing: The Caputo is definitely thirstier than the Pivetti. At 58% hydration, the Caputo formed a much stiffer dough -- to the point where my Kitchen Aid Pro was laboring on the dough hook. Not so with the Pivetti, which produced a smooth, fairly slack dough.
Benching: I rested both doughs for 20 minutes before dividing it into 280g boules and put each into a lightly oiled plastic sandwich bag.  The dough then went into my wine cooler for 10 hours.  The Pivetti dough increased in size more than the Caputo and was slightly softer to the touch.
Throwing the pizza: Both doughs rested at room temp for 2 hours.  My technique was the same for both doughs: cutting the sandwich bag away so as not to disturb the dough, flouring both sides and using my fingertips to stretch the middle, then shaping the pizza by putting the rim over my knuckles and stretching it to about 16" in diameter -- thin enough to see light through the center.  I then put the dough onto a floured peel, dressed the pizza and baked at 550F for about 6 minutes.
Both doughs were quite extensible, the Pivetti more so because its protein content is clearly lower than the Caputo, which almost felt rubbery and very firm. That said, both doughs threw very nicely, with a nod in the direction of the Caputo for ease of forming a more uniform circle.
The crust: The Caputo crust was denser, chewier and more flavorful than the Pivetti, which sprang nicely in the oven, leaving big air pockets in the rim.  Both crusts were thin and crisp, and biting off a piece of the Caputo pie took more effort than the Pivetti. At the same time, the Caputo didn't seem to hold up under the weight of the toppings as well as the Pivetti, so there was more sag when we picked up the slices. That said, both crusts had distinctive personalities and were excellent in their own way,
Verdict: If you like a chewy crust, not unlike good American pizza (emphasis on good), the Caputo wins hands down. My family and I prefer a crisper, less chewy crust, and the unanimous winner in my house was Pivetti.

Final Note from Peter: What do you think? Anyone have your own opinions of these two or other Italian flours? We'd love for you to comment. This could get us into "Coke or Pepsi?" territory....Meanwhile, check out Stan's full selection of flours at his website, including Central Mills newest blends.

 
A Simple Salami Pizza
Brad English

Sometimes you just want comfort food.  This pizza is comfortable and comforting.  This is a pizza that will warm the cockles of your heart.  There isn't much fanciness about it.  This version isn't what we'd call artisan, or pushing the limits of artisanship anywhere.  It's just good.  It's just sauce, cheese and salami. 

You can, of course, make this fancier.  You can go down to the deli, or your fancy gourmet market and get yourself a funky cool salami with some wild name and it will likely be even better yet.  I would make this with sopressata, speck, a specialty salami, or any artisanal hand crafted salted pork product I can find and each unique product will definitely give this pizza it's own unique expression of what is possible by bringing quality ingredients together and making something bigger than the whole of the parts.

That day I was in the mood for comfort and I was home and didn't want to go shopping.  I had the dough, cheese, tomatoes and some basic sandwich salami -- in a bag.  This salami is meant to process sandwiches for hungry kids and families on the go. It's perfect for a last minute party platter if such an occasion arrises.  Though it's in a bag it's still good!  In my opinion salted/cured pork is by it's nature simply good.

Have you ever seen the Simpson's episode called "Lisa the Vegetarian"?  Homer explains the specialness of pork here better than anyone.  Lisa declares that she is no longer able to eat meat after a visit to a farm where she got to pet some of the little cuddly animals. Here's the "meat" of the conversation (pun intended)…where Homer continues in shock:

Homer:  Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!  Lisa, honey, are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again?  What about bacon?

Lisa:  No

Homer:  Ham?

Lisa:  No.

Homer:  Pork chops?

Lisa:  Dad!  Those all come from the same animal!

Homer:  [Laughing] Yeah, right Lisa.  A wonderful, "maaaagical" animal! [Laughing]


For the record...I am not saying anything negative here about vegetarians! I love vegetarian pizzas as well.  It's just a shame they don't get to eat this magical animal in all of it's forms - especially the salted/cured ones and the slow barbecued, roasted, or grilled ones! 

Okay, moving on before I bury myself here and alienate half of our readers...



Simple Salami Pizza


Pizza Quest Signature Beer Dough *LINK
Simply Red Tomatoes turned into Peter's Crushed Tomato Sauce *LINK
(*Any good quality canned tomato will work)
Olive Oil
Grated Mozzarella
Sliced Salami
Red Chili Flakes


*Peter's Crushed Tomato Sauce is a perfect pizza sauce. Once you make it a few times following his recipe, you can start to do it on your own, just adding what feels right.  This is so simple and tastes so fresh I really don't see any reason to do anything else when I'm using a tomato sauce.  When I first tried it after reading Peter's book, "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza," I literally thought, "This is it! This is the perfect pizza sauce."  Now I know perfect is not possible, but this may be an exception.


The Prep and Build:

Build the pizza by placing the Crushed Tomato Sauce on the dough.

I added a swirl of Olive Oil to the sauce

Add grated Mozzarella

Add Salami, sliced thin -- your favorite kind, but Genoa is pretty hard to beat

Place pizza into the oven.  If you have it, switch the oven over to Convection Bake, which seems to give me a better bake. 

Check the pizza in about 7 Minutes.  When it's done, remove it. I'm looking for charring on the salami and crust.  I love the little burnt bits and tips of the ingredients and dough!

Hellllo --  look at this!!  I typically don't have an idea of what I want to write when I make pizzas for this site.  I have an idea of what I want to eat, or explore, and when I come back and pull up the photos and think about the pizza I just see how the combination of my notes, photos and memory come together.  For this pizza, my first thought was Comfort Food, simple and fine, perfect for drop in guests (at least the meat eating ones)!  Thanks for stopping by for a visit...

Give this a try and send us your own versions with photos and a story!



Enjoy!

 
Peter's Blog, IACP Conference, First Recap
Peter Reinhart

Last week I spent five exciting days in NYC attending the annual IACP Conference, which I referenced a couple of posts ago (especially for those culinarians among you who may want to join).  I think of it as fantasy camp for professional foodies.  There were over 40 workshops, panels, tasting sessions, field trips, throughout the conference so it was impossible to attend more than a small percentage of them -- which is why so many of us come back every year, to make up for the ones we missed. Here's a list of some of the things I did:
--"Eat the Street," a tour of Queen's famous Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, considered to be the most diverse street food scene in the world. In our short (but very filling) tasting, we had Tibetan Momo dumplings filled with a tender, spicy meatball; Ecuadorian Bollos de Pescado (a plantain wrapped fish tamale); a classic Elote tamale bought from a little old lady holding an insulated box filled with them; an amazing Columbian cassava (tapioca) and cheese filled roll called Pandebono (chewy and cheesy--I could have eaten them all day and I definely plan on learning how to make them!); one of the most popular and successful street taco trucks, run by Mirna Allone, called Mexico Lindo where the tacos and also the homemade hot sauces and salsas are truly quest-worthy; and then we had a killer street quesadilla at another stand, Las Quesadillas de la 86, which were like the tacos except they were grilled to order on a small outdoor flat grill, serving business men in suits as well as pedestrians like us; and then we washed it all down with a wonderful Columbian rum-spiked coffee called Caraljillo, at a sweet little jazz bar called Terraza 7.

There were other bites in-between -- I can't recall them all -- but we were stuffed by the time we got back on the elevated/subway #7 train and headed back to Manhattan.  I could (and probably will) do a whole posting on this excursion alone, as it fits so nicely in with our Pizza Quest themes, so I'll quickly mention some other conference highlights and return at another time to expand upon my Roosevelt Ave adventure over the next week or two. But let me say thanks to tour leader Andrew Silverstein, who is putting himself through an economics doctoral program by taking people on these street food tours. If interested, contact him at: streetwisenewyork.com  Thanks also to John Rudolph, Executive Producer of the NPR series Feet in Two Worlds, who documents these inspirational immigrant stories on radio (news.feetintwoworlds.org) , and to Fany Gerson, who provided additional commentary from her perspective as a Mexican-born baker and author now living in New York City.

Other highlights (and I can see now I'll really have to do this as a series of blogs since each one deserves more space than I can give here):
--A "conversation on the stage" between author Ruth Reichl (formerly of Gourmet Magazine and before that the restaurant critic for the New York Times) and super chef Grant Achatz (of Alinea and also Next, in Chicago) on future things we might see in restaurants (inclduing food that actually levitates before you eat it!).

--A presentation on the new generation of reinvented Jewish deli's, with Ari Weinzweig (co-founder of the famous Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, MI), author and Jewish food expert Joan Nathan, Ed Levine (pizza expert and founder of Serious Eats), and Noah Bernamoff, owner of Mile End Delicatessen in Brooklyn, an example of this new renaissance in Jewish deli's (he brought along some of his Montreal-style smoked brisket -- pastrami to the rest of us -- which made him instantly one of my favorite people at the conference.

-- A discussion of how traditional recipes from classic French cuisine evolve over time, featuring cooking teacher extraordinaire Anne Willan (of La Varenne), Master Chef Daniel Boulud, and award winning author Dorie Greenspan.

--A presentation on the growing phenomenon of food festivals -- and how hard it is to do one properly -- by folks who have put them on in Austin, Portland, and in Panama.


--A panel on The Fashion of Food, with super-star chef Marcus Samuelsson, Bon Appettit's Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapaport, New York Times food writer Kim Severson, and Susan Lyne, founder of the on-line magazine and food emporium Gilt Taste.

--A panel on how food can make a city famous (that's a big question we keep asking here in Charlotte, as we see cities like Portland Austin, Charleston, and of course, NYC, Chicago, and London accomplishing exactly that).

--A workshop on the next frontier in baking using sprouted wheat flour and other sprouted grains, by Peter Reinhart (hey, that's me -- I'll write more about how this went in a future posting but for now I will say it was a success -- and thank you to the team at the French Culinary Institute for all their help).

--A product and information fair where we got to taste, touch, and see all sorts of new foods and tools.

--Media tours to various magazines, the Food Network test kitchen and studios, and independent production studios.

--And, of course, the grand finale Awards Gala, where Pizza Quest almost won for Best Food Blog.

--Last but not least, time to visit a few of the fabulous NYC restaurants, in my case, Mario Batali's Lupa and new Iron Chef Marc Forgione's called (surprise), Marc Forgione.

More on all of this in coming postings, but for now, I'm still standing, gained only a few pounds because of all the walking I did (NYC is a great walking city!), and I returned home to tell about it. Next week we'll dig a little deeper into some of the key takeaways I got from this adventure. Next year the conference will be held in San Francisco, my old stomping grounds, so you know I'll be there! If this little tease of some of the things that go on at the conference have enticed you, perhaps you will be there as well.

PS If any of you who reading this were also in NYC at the conference, I'd love for you to chime in below, in the comments section, and share some of your own highlights.

 
Pizzeria Crawl on Bleecker Part 3
Brad English

I was having an interesting night. I haven't always been comfortable just going out alone and sitting in a restaurant while surrounded by people who were out together enjoying a social experience.  I don't remember when that changed exactly, but I do remember how it became that much more of a comfortable thing while I was working in New York.  I realized that I liked it in a way because, in this city there is so much going on and it would be a shame to not go experience it all just because you were there alone.

I just had two great pizza experiences in a row, in the span of a couple of hours, and had only walked a couple of blocks.  John's Pizzeria was a throwback to a classic New York style pizza that

 
Asheville Bread Festival 2012
Peter Reinhart

I'm headed to NYC, the Big Apple, for the annual IACP Conference (the first time it's ever been held in NYC -- it moves to a different city every year -- next year it will be in San Francisco). It will be like fantasy camp for foodies this weekend, culminating on Monday at the Awards Gala when we'll find out whether Pizza Quest wins for Best Food Blog of the Year.  Thank you, all who voted for us. The voting closes March 30th, so there's still time. Just go to www.iacp.com and look for the big VOTE sign and click through. We are one of three finalists in the judges category but would love to win the People's Choice award too, which includes dozens of other blogs.  I'll report more on this next week when I return.

But first I want to give a quick recap of last Saturday's Asheville Bread Festival, which was fabulous, as always. I did a demo from the upcoming "Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking," and made gluten-free chocolate pecan cookies and also a walnut, almond sweet bread for the 100 or

 
Mossuto's Fat Lip Pizza
Brad English

I was recently working back in NYC.  I had a number of pizza adventures on this short trip, which I started writing about a few weeks ago, and this pizza recipe is from one of the more interesting visits, which I haven't written about.  I was staying with my good friend Holly, who is like a sister to me.  I grew up next door to her family, where her twin brother Billy and she quickly became my big sister and brother by proxy.  They were five years older than I was and helped "keep me in line" like I kept my younger brother and sisters in line!  Our two houses may as well have been connected by a hallway, that should have been built, to make the trip across the well worn path more hospitable during the cold winter months.  But, that would have ruined the Stoop-Ball court between the houses.

 

Holly was dying to take me out for pizza.  I had just come from New York City where I had lunch at the new Don Antonio by Starita, where I met Roberto Caporuscio (who also owns Keste, one of my favorites), and had a truly unique new pizza for lunch and got to spend some time with Roberto and his daughter Giorgia back in the kitchen.  How can you follow that up?  I am never pizza'd out but I wasn't currently in the mood.  Holly kept insisting we go try this new place.  I wasn't really hungry and frankly, she isn't a pizza fan.  A few days before, she boldly said to me that she wished I was on a Wine Quest instead of a Pizza Quest. What she didn't realize, though, is that I was on one of those also.  The Quest is the "Quest".  Period!  So, anyway, I was a little skeptical of getting dragged out to a Jersey shore pizzeria that night!  She insisted, though, wanting to show me this new place that wasn't far from where we grew up over in Wall Township on Route 35. 

The place is called Mossuto's Market.  It's an Italian Market/Deli turned Market/Deli/Pizzeria/Restaurant.  I'll tell you more about it all in a follow up article, or two.  But, what I want to tell you about now is the new pizza I ran into that night.  Its name is "The Fat Lip" and it's a signature pizza of Biagio Schiano, who is

 
Peter's Blog, March 22nd, 2012
Peter Reinhart

It's hard to believe, but the time has come for another Asheville Artisan Bread Festival, this Saturday, March 24th.  Seems like just yesterday we were there, that I posted some photos here on Pizza Quest, and that we had a chance to celebrate with artisan bread bakers, cheese makers, and other Asheville area craftspeople in the lovely foothills of the Smokey Mountains.  This is our 8th annual event and I've been to every one, usually presenting a demo on whatever my latest obsession is.  This year, I'll be presenting the first sneak preview of recipes from the new book that Denene Wallace and I just finished called The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, published by Ten Speed Press.  The book goes to press in a few days and won't be available until mid-August, but the folks who come to Asheville will get to taste two of the recipes from the book and learn how to make these unique products.  I'll write a lot more about the premise and methodology of the book in future postings but, suffice it to say for now that the recipes are not only gluten-free but also sugar-free and, essentially, carb-free, with zero glycemic load.

 
Pizzeria Crawl on Bleecker Part 2
Brad English

Note from Peter: This is Part Two of Brad's recent personal pizza quest in New York City on Bleecker St in Greenwich Village. Following the lead of guest columnist John Arena's dictum that this was the best pizza neighborhood in the country, Brad had quite an interesting adventure and shares it with us here. If you haven't seen Part One, scroll down the page and begin there -- this new posting picks up from where he left off.

As I walked down Bleecker Street in the light rain, I felt satisfied.  I had just had a storybook first pizza at the famous John's Pizzeria.  I would love to have sat there longer, perhaps ordering another beer and continuing to eat more pizza.  I could have easily turned and walked uptown, dropped under the city streets back into the subway that would take me to my hotel.  But, I had a plan.  I was heading down Bleecker Street on my mini pizza quest (or as I used to term it, a Pizzeria Crawl).

I walked down the street and looked over as I passed a bustling Keste Pizzeria and almost couldn't believe I was walking right by it!  As many of you know, this place has been at the top of my list since I first experienced it.  But, I was inspired by John Arena's article and decided that I wanted to seek out something new this night.  Not far down the block I came to Pizza Roma.  I had forgotten about it being Valentine's Day, but I remembered when I saw Pizzeria Roma.  There were hearts on the window, and even a heart shaped pizza on the inside window display.  This place feels more like a small neighborhood bistro, or cafe, and this one was celebrating holiday!

I thought I would stop in at this point and just try a slice and keep walking down the street.  My plan for the night was to hit John's, Roma and Joe's.  I had a hard time cutting my John's trip

 
Pizzeria Delfina, revisit with Anthony Strong
Peter Reinhart

I mentioned last week that Anthony Strong was recently named San Francisco's 2012 Rising Star Chef for his work at Locanda, Craig Stoll's newest restaurant, located just around the corner from Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina in the part of town they affectionately call, The Gastro. So, in tribute to Anthony's well deserved success and budding fame, and for those who missed this the first time around, we're replaying our visit with him when he was head pizzaiolo at Pizzeria Delfina. In this segment, I sit down with Anthony and Craig as they explain how Pizzeria Delfina evolved out of the original Restaurant Delfina ("If Delfina is John Coltrane, then Pizzeria Delfina is Iggy Pop," Craig says -- I love that analogy!).  You will also hear one of our all time favorite Pizza Quest sound bites, also featured in our introductory webisode at the top of the home page, in answer to the question of why they work so hard and do what they do. As Anthony says, "It's a compounding interest of obsession."

Obsession -- in this context I believe it represents the notion of passion, but perhaps passion on steroids -- is a driving premise of Pizza Quest.  We saw it in Anthony's eyes as we chatted with him and Craig over some potent cups of cappuccino (trust me, it was there both before and after the cappuchino). Craig has it too -- this obsessive streak-- but as an older, mature, James Beard Award winning chef who has already been to the mountaintop, he does a great job of what I call "keeping a lid on his happy." In his own way, though, he too embodies obsessive drive. But as you focus on Anthony in this segment, perhaps many of you can relate to that youthful excitement of discovery, the realization that life is fathomless, opening before us like a springtime tulip; a relentless, enervating, delicious adventure. Anthony and Craig represent bookends, in this regard; the arc between a chef on the rise, at the genesis of what promises to be a great career, and an already celebrated chef who has achieved far more than 99% of the chefs in the world, at the zenith of his success, yet still looking for new mountains to climb and talented young chefs to mentor.

These are the people we look for, the artists we celebrate, whose contagious excitement about their own discovery process leavens the rest of us, whether through the food they feed us or simply the energy that they generate as a result of their obsessive drive on our behalf and that we just want to absorb.

Congratulations again to Anthony -- and also to Craig (and his equally talented wife Annie, the co-creator of the Delfina/Locanda empire)! And, to our viewers, especially the ones who missed this the first time around, enjoy the vicarious thrill of being in their presence and sharing their vision. Fire up your espresso makers and dive in.

 
A Tomato Sauce Sandwich Pizza
Brad English

My Left-overs journey continues with my Cheese Steak Sandwich theme:  I had also grilled up some sausages the previous night, which were sitting in the same container with my Tri-Tip.  Now, nobody would want the sausage to feel left out, would they?  Would you? 

As I mentioned, I was using a can of Simply Red Tomatoes that I was given by Rob DiNapoli.  My first pizza, a Tri-Tip based Cheese Steak Pizza, turned out great.  The tomato sauce was a delicious foundation to this famous pizza sandwich combination.  The tomatoes were bright and tasty and, dare I say, fresh tasting even though they came out of a can.  I recently came upon my first pizzeria where that made their tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes every day.  I will be telling you all about this place soon enough, but it was the first place I had come across that did this.  Quality canned tomatoes are used by so many pizzeria because they are good, or even great, and also consistent.  And, in this case, they were all of the above.  Delicious. 

I wanted to use the grilled sausage and try another version of this concept, basically using the same ingredients as before, but what could I do differently?

What about adding the tomatoes on top after the bake?  I am a huge fan of this concept. If you have been reading my pizza recipe rantings, you'll have seen quite a few examples of this.  The cool ingredient layer, on top of a hot pizza, adds another taste sensation and even a new flavor profile to the experience.  A cool, or room temperature sauce just tastes different than a cooked sauce.  This isn't to say that one way is better than the other.  It is just different.  It is another way to extract flavors in a different way and experience something in a unique way.

My final thought was to make this pizza a little more about the tomato sauce.  A tomato sauce sandwich pizza.  Stay with me.  Let's go make the pizza.

 
Peter's Blog, March 12, 2012
Peter Reinhart

March Madness begins this week in college basketball -- my favorite sporting event of the year, full of last second drama and indelible moments of sports greatness. But it is also a big week for pizza too. Tomorrow, the annual Pizza Expo begins in Las Vegas -- the biggest, baddest pizza show in the world and we're sending the intrepid Brad English to cover it for Pizza Quest. I expect he'll have some terrific stories, adventures, drama, and photos to share with us when he returns. For those of you who are also going to be there, look for him -- he's the big, bald dude with the camera, probably with a slice in the other hand. Introduce yourself to him and let him know your a Pizza Quest fan -- it will make his day!

Hey, I just got an e-mail from the Delfina's Restaurant group and guess what? Our friend and super-obsessive pizzaiolo Anthony Strong, featured in our Pizzeria Delfina series of webisodes, has just been announced by the San Francisco Chronicle as their 2012 Rising Star Chef for his work at the newest addition to the Delfina restaurant constellation, Locanda. We saw his talents at the pizzeria, but now he's on an even bigger, broader stage so if you're in SF, check him out at Locanda and tell him you heard about it here.

Also, and I assume the timing isn't a pure coincidence, Parade Magazine made pizza the cover story for yesterday's edition, which I'm sure many of you saw if you get the Sunday paper.  The article is by the wonderful Jane and Michael Stern, of Road Food fame, so they have true street cred. I'd love to hear your reactions to their honor roll list, which included a few places I've been to (Pizzeria Bianco, Al Forno, Serious Pie) and a lot of places I've never been to (Coletta's in Memphis, Buddy's in Detroit, Dean-O's in Lafayette, LA, DiCarlo's in Wheeling, W.V., Menches Bros in Green, OH, Hot Truck in Ithaca, and Frank's in Silvis, IL). Suddenly, I feel like a Pizza Quest virgin again -- I need to get out more!  For those who know these places, or the others in the Stern's list, or who want to nominate a place not on the list, please write to us here in the Comments section.  It's time to find out where greatness is happening and deserves to be recognized. If you do make a nomination, state your case -- we need to know why it's on the list, not just because you like it but by what criteria you make your claim.  Maybe we can assemble the most worthy nominations into a Pizza Quest Hall of Fame of our own.

So, again, just to be clear, tell us who but also tell us why -- it doesn't have to be long but it does need to be convincing. This is our version of March Madness -- so let the madness begin!!

 
Another Left-Overs Cheese Steak Pizza
Brad English

If you know me, you know I love Tri-Tip or Santa Maria steak and, chances are, you've probably had it a few dozen times off of my grill.  The Tri-Tip cut is mainly a West Coast thing.  It's certainly my thing. As I understand, it used to be a cut of meat that was mainly used to be ground up for hamburger, or used for stew meat.  One day back in the late '50's, at a Safeway Supermarket in Santa Maria, CA, the meat manager decided to throw this whole cut of meat onto the rotisserie with some salt, pepper and garlic salt.  The butcher commented that he was wasting his time, that this meat would be too tough to chew. Instead, after about an hour, what they discovered was something new.  This left-over section of beef, shaped like a triangle (Tri-Tip), turned out to have a whole new texture and flavor profile.  Here's a link to a couple sites for more information on cooking and the history of Santa Maria Tri-Tip.

The first is a great article by Russ Parsons of the LA Times.  I had been using this recipe for some time before I had the chance to meet Russ while filming at Pizzeria Mozza (check out our Pizzeria Mozza webisodes to see his conversion to loving Nancy Silverton's Hawaiian Pizza, something he thought could never happen).  At the time, I didn't even know Russ wrote this article.  One day, I looked at my folded, faded cut-out newspaper article and noticed Russ' name.  Needless to say, I was that much happier having met him - now realizing I was already a huge fan! 

http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jun/29/food/fo-calcook29

Here's another link with a little history about how the cut came to be:

http://www.santamariaelks.com/history/tritip.html

Now, I'm not saying these guys are going to be written up in the history books for this, but they are in my history notes.  There are some great websites out there discussing how to cook a Tri-Tip and I have used it many times to create pizzas.  And, if you like Cheese Steak Sandwiches like I do, then how could you not like a Cheese Steak Pizza?  I can still remember the first time I had a Cheese Steak while I was working one summer for my uncle's moving company.  We pulled into a nondescript strip mall and

 
Pizzeria Crawl on Bleecker Part 1
Brad English

John Arena recently wrote a Guest Column here on Pizza Quest about one of the best areas in the country to go on a pizza tasting tour, or to engage in a personal pizza quest in one single neighborhood.  He doesn't claim that this is the "best" place to go, lest he start a pizza turf war.  Rather, he defines Greenwich Village, NY as a special place that will deliver some of the best and certainly some of the most diverse and interesting pizzerias in one neighborhood that you will find.  I happened to have been headed back to New York the very same week that we published John's article.  I knew I wouldn't have much free time, but then again, I don't need much of a window to seek out a good slice of pizza while in New York.  I always try my best to find something new, as well as to stop in at some of my other favorite places.  In a city this large the list is always growing - especially, when you only get to come in for a visit a couple times a year. 

John had connected me with Scott Weiner of Scott's Pizza Tours.  We tried to figure out a time to get together, but our schedule's weren't lining up.  When my first moment to escape for some "me time" came I targeted Bleecker Street in the Village, where I could practically crawl to hit some of the top pizzerias in the city in short order.  My hotel had a subway stop only steps from the lobby door.  The #1 train took me to within a block or two of John's of Bleecker where I decided to start.  I had always wanted to go there, but my visits to Bleecker had thus far always taken me straight to Keste (if you've been to Keste, you'll know why I kept returning!).  But, tonight I was following John Arena's lead and was going to try a couple new places that he spoke about.  For a winter's night in New York, it was quite pleasant.  There was a light rain just starting that felt like a little mist as the tiny drops began to hit my face while I walked down the street. 

I got to John's and took a few pictures outside and could see through the windows that the place had a simple charm to it that had been worn in over time.  You quickly see just how worn in it is as you notice the carved wooden booths that so many customers, over so many years, have chosen to "decorate."  I looked over the menu and the long list of pizzas.  These are just starting points, or suggestions.  The menu encourages that you build your pie from scratch.  Each suggestion starts with Cheese, then Tomato Sauce and it goes from there.  A few things popped out at me right away: Anchovies, Sausage and Mushrooms.  It was as if these ingredients came off the page at me from different lines.  I didn't find that exact combination, but stopped looking much beyond my realization that this was the pizza I wanted.

I ordered a beer, a simple salad, my pizza and waited.  As a pizza quester this place, on this night, was perfect.  The pizzeria is old, worn, comfortable in a cozy sort of way and just oozes what a New York Pizzeria is meant to be.  It was raining outside, which always makes being inside just a little better.  It's like that difference between reading a book on your couch, or watching a movie when it's raining outside.  The room was busy.  There were a few larger groups, some smaller ones and some couples gathered around the tables in various configurations just talking, eating pizza and enjoying their night out.  I forgot it was Valentine's day here. It felt like any night in what would otherwise be a small neighborhood pizzeria in any city or small town across the world.  

My pizza came and looked terrific.  It said New York to me.  It was the classic New York style pizza that called back to my childhood memories of what defined what pizza was and should be.  This isn't what I would call street slice pizza that I also loved so much.  The coal fired crust separates it there.  But, it was that simple New York Pizza that so many west coast pizzerias just couldn't seem to reproduce for so many years.  You find a decent one, or a good one once in a while, but it's not the same.  Maybe it is the water?  Or, maybe it's an East Coast/West Coast thing?  This could be an interesting Quest series to tackle some day.

My Pizza...

I rarely get to have anchovies on a pizza at home because my family isn't "down" with the concept.  I'll hide a little in here and there, and sometimes get away with it if I chop them up really fine and sneak them into the sauce below the melted cheese, but that's not really a good idea. When they figure it out, it's bad news!  So, these anchovies were that much better!  This pizza had a perfect balance of ingredients: cheese, tomato sauce, anchovies, sausage and mushrooms.  I can't fail to mention the delicious coal fired crust again!  My pizza was a great example of how the simplest ingredients, combined in balance, can create a truly satisfying meal.

I am not here to review Johns.  I didn't speak to anyone about their ovens, or find anything else out about the place.  I was here to experience it.  I grew up in New Jersey and my pizza benchmark is based on this kind of pizza.  This is the city and the style of pizza that laid the foundation of what would later become this more formal quest.  At some point I remembered I was on a little Greenwich Village pizza crawl here and stopped short of eating the whole pie to save room for then next stop.  Let me tell you, that was tough! Johns on Bleeker St. lived up to it's reputation.  I would love to come back and explore the full range of this place some more in the future.

Next stop -- Pizza Roma....

 
Sauteed Jalapenos and Tri-Tip Pizza
Brad English

My in-laws were down one weekend recently.  I had decided to make some pizzas for them.  They were all sitting at the table playing a fierce game of Attack Uno.  I figured it was safer for me to give them all some space as the family battle unfolded.  This may seem to be an ordinary game, but my family, is not ordinary.  This can get serious. 

We had grilled up some Tri-Tip the previous evening and had a good amount of left overs.  I thought I would take advantage of this favorite ingredient of mine that I had laying around.  I'm often just as happy with my second round use of a good Tri-Tip.  One of our favorite meals is a Pepper Steak, which features left over Tri-Tip, Chopped Bell Peppers and Onions all sauteed up with a little oil, salt, pepper and any other herb or spice we feel like throwing in.  Toss this with pasta and you have a happy English Family.  But, this time, I was going to take this to the flatbread.

My kids fought valiantly with their grandparents, their uncle and their mother.  Uno is a high stakes game that lifts my kids up and brings everyone else down to where they are all on the same level - the battle field.  I started to chop ingredients and get a head start sautéing items for the pizzas I was going to make later on.  I sliced up some onions, mushrooms and a couple jalapeños that I had in the fridge.  As the war waged on over at the kitchen table only a couple of yards away I chopped, sliced and snapped pictures in relative peace.

The onions and mushrooms sautéed up without a hitch, or so much as a notice from the family.  Then I decided to sauté my sliced jalapeños.  I noticed a little tearing as I did this.  But, mostly I noticed the Uno crowd getting louder.  They weren't just getting louder due to their competition though.  It started with a single cough.  Then I heard a couple more.  As someone would shout out some game attack charge, it was proceeded by a cough.  Then, the chatter was also followed by a cough.  Pretty soon, the whole group was laughing and coughing as the game got more and more intense.  All at once, we all realized what was happening!  The smoke from the sautéing jalapeños had filled the room with whatever make those babies hot and was bringing tears and coughs and a lot of hilarity to this family gathering!  They spiced up our food later, but definitely had a spicy effect on the game too.  Needless to say, when we all realized what was going on, we laughed our heads off as we then opened all the doors and windows.

It was all worth it.  I had some nice rare pieces of Tri-Tip and when it all came together with the jalapeños, I created a pizza that was "perfect".  I know that perfection isn't really possible, but

 

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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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