Spicy Mayo Sauce
Brad English

I have been really busy the past couple of weeks and haven't been able to post any recipes, though I have some interesting ones to share as soon as I can get them all together and posted.  I decided to post an interesting sauce that I came up with for one of these pizzas that I will share shortly.  I came up with this as I was trying to figure out an appropriate sauce for the pizza I was making.  It wouldn't work with a traditional tomato sauce and my usual go-to  special sauce - an herbed oil -- didn't seem to be appropriate.  So, I thought I would try something...

...and it turned out great!  I decided I would post this as a separate recipe in advance of the coming pizza. (aka, a "teaser"). Enjoy!!

 

 

Spicy Mayo Sauce

- Mayonnaise

- Peter's Chili Oil   *I make this all the time from Peter's book "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza,"  *Link here

- Chopped Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños and Garlic

*See our homemade recipe:  *Link here

 

In a bowl, mix mayonnaise and chili oil.  I used a good amount of the chili oil so that the mayonnaise mixture won't dry out during the bake.

 

Add the chopped jalapeños and garlic, and mix everything together.

 

That's it.  It's not complicated, but I think it is iunique and delicious!  I will definitely be trying this on a sandwich in the near future (maybe with a little less oil for that).

 

*Tune in next week for a really fun and interesting pizza that we used this sauce for!

 

Enjoy!

 
FAQ #3: Three Pizza Doughs
Peter Reinhart

 

Can you send me a recipe for pizza dough? I get this question a lot so here are three to get you going. We often refer to the first two recipes, below, in our instructional section and many of you already have them in your repertoire. But for those of you who are new, I'm reprinting them here in one place for easier retrieval. In addition, I've added a unique gluten-free recipe using sprouted gluten-free flour, along with the contact info for where to get the flour. I've written about this new development in the world of flour, sprouted grain flours, in previous posts so please refer to those for background. But here, for the first time, is a recipe you can use to make this dough at home.

We'd love to hear back from you, in the comments section below, with your results and also any questions that we can answer for the benefit of everyone.

One final note: in some of our pizzas we referred to the special Birra Basta dough we made last fall at the Great American Beer Festival with Kelly Whitaker and the folks from The Bruery. It is very similar to the Country dough, below. You can make your own version by using coarse, pumpernickel grind flour in place of the whole wheat flour and adding 1 tablespoon of dry malt powder (aka malt crystal), or use an equal amount of barley malt syrup.  You can also contact our flour sponsor, Central Milling, and order some of their Germainia flour and also a small bag of malt crystal, to make it exactly the same way we did.  I love that Germainia flour and hope to create a number of doughs in the future that use it.

 

Classic Pizza Dough, Neo-Neapolitan Style

(Makes five 8-ounce pizzas)

What makes this Neo-Neapolitan is that I use American bread flour instead of Italian -00- flour, but you can certainly use Italian flour, such as from Caputo, if you want to make an authentic Napoletana dough. Just cut back on the water by about 2 ounces, since Italian flour does not absorb as much as the higher protein American flour (if you use Central Milling's -00- flour you don't have to cut back on the water and it makes an amazing dough). Always use unbleached flour for better flavor but, if you only have bleached flour it will still work even if it doesn’t taste quite as good. If you want to make it more like a New Haven-style dough (or like Totonno’s or other coal-oven pizzerias), add 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. These are optional--the dough is great with or without them. As with the Country Dough, the key is to make it wet enough so that the cornicione (the edge or crown) really puffs in the oven.

5 1/4 cups (24 ounces by weight) unbleached bread flour

2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz.) instant yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)

2 tablespoons (1 oz.) olive oil (optional)

1 tablespoons (1/2 oz.) sugar or honey (optional)

2 1/4 cups (18 oz.) room temperature water (less if using honey or oil)

--You can mix this by hand with a big spoon or in an electric mixer using the paddle (not the dough hook).

--Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix for one minute, to form a coarse, sticky dough ball.

--Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute to make a smooth, very tacky ball of dough.

--Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight

 
Uncrowned Champions
John Arena

Most of you have probably read Brad English’s superb coverage of this years Pizza Expo. The Expo is certainly the premier event for pizza pros and is, quite simply, the “must see” event for anyone who is serious about a career in pizza. With that being said, this year I overheard something that at once disturbed me and got me thinking about where pizza is headed. While standing at the entrance to Expo on the first morning I overheard two executives from one of the "Big Three" chains chatting about their product. One of them asked: “ How do you like the new Original Recipe Dough?”   The other replied without a trace of irony “Oh, I like it much better than the old Original Recipe Dough”

Well, this may sound funny at first but to old school pizza makers it’s really kind of sad and here’s why: You could tell that neither of these guys had any sense of pride in what they sell. For them pizza was just a product. Next year they may be selling shoes.

So here is the thing: before we were business men, or restaurateurs, or executives, or chefs, or celebrities we called ourselves Pie Men. I don’t mean that to be sexist, there just weren’t many women making pizzas in the old days. We were Pie Men and we earned the right to be a part of that group by standing in front of a hot oven for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, year after year. We told the world who we were by staying true to the craft that was gifted to us by those who came before. Everything that a Pie Man wanted to say was communicated through the pie. That’s why every classic pizzeria is named after the founding Pie Man. In a famous interview, Genarro Lombardi patted his coal fired oven and stated, “This is what made me a man.”  No one had a certificate, no one had won any medals, we didn’t insist on being called “Chef” or any other title. In fact no self respecting Pie Man would be caught dead wearing a chefs coat.  Joe Timpone the great Pie Man at Santarpios in Boston famously wore a brown paper bag for a hat while he tended the oven in an undershirt. Most Pie Men probably didn’t own a pair of shoes that weren’t caked with flour.

To have your peers refer to you as a “good Pie Man” was the ultimate compliment. Sure we were competitors, but there was a code of honor that can only be understood by people who are connected through a common struggle. To become a Pie Man was hard work, forged through a long and sometimes painful apprenticeship. Words like “artisan” “authentic” “certified” or the collection of high sounding initials that we now attach to products and methods would mean nothing to a Pie Man. For a Pie Man only two things were important, does it taste good and am I proud of it?  The two chain guys discussing their “Original Recipe” dough that was probably created by a focus group in a lab would most likely be thrown onto the street if they ventured into Totonno’s 50 years ago.

So are there any Pie Men left out there? Yes, and some great Pie Women too. You can find them if you search hard enough. I promise you, it’s worth the effort.  Al Santillo, in Elizabeth New Jersey, is a Pie Man; so is Lou Abatte in New Haven. These kind of people usually live near or above their pizzeria. They’re covered in flour. They have old burn stripes on their arms. They look very tired, but you will see something else too…Pride.

 

 

 
Andy's Potato Pizza
Brad English

I got an email from a Pizza Quest member recently asking about pizza stones and "00" flours.  We chatted back and forth and he has enthusiastically shared one of his family's favorite pizza recipes.  It's the pizza he starts every pizza making session with.  From what he says, if he doesn't get it right "The Family" let's him know.

I'm really excited to try this pizza.  When Andy described his crust, I remembered a place my friend Holly Subhan took me to, while I was visiting her in New Jersey last year.  If you remember, she is the one who also introduced me to Mossuto's where we found the Fat Lip Pizza. *Link She's batting a thousand.  The pressure is mounting!

There's always a debate when I'm around regarding what the best pizza place is.  She had been dying to take me to this Jersey Shore favorite called Pete and Elda's in Neptune, NJ for some time.  They make a crust very similar to what Andy describes below.  It's a very thin cracker like crust.  It is light, crisp, and doesn't fill you up.  This is really, I believe, the quality that Holly loves about the pizza!   I also think she loves the atmosphere of the place.  The main part of the pizzeria is a huge winding bar that wanders through the large dining room. I can see that, even without a good pizza, this is a place I would like to hang out.  The people are friendly and, as it turns out the pizza is quite good!  I let her order her favorite the black olive and hot pepper pizza and we enjoyed a few beers and conversation with some of the locals.  If you are ever in the area I recommend you check this place out.

Now onto the Andy's Potato Pizza...I can't wait to try it!

 

I asked Andy to give me a brief introduction to his obvious pizza obsession.  He said it all started in 1983 when he was helping a friend make some wine.  As the morning wore on, his friend said, "This is taking longer than we thought so you'll have to stay for lunch, I'm making pizza".  He remembers panicking, looking at the windows for a way out of the basement!  The idea of a homemade pizza had him looking for excuses to escape.  They made the pizza on unglazed quarry tiles in a hot oven and, at the moment he took a bite, he was hooked.  His friend referenced Ada Boni's book, Italian Regional Cooking, which now gave him some great recipes to work with as he began feeding his new obsession.  He said that things remained essentially the same till 2003, when "I discovered Peter Reinhart's book, American Pie.  This was an unbelievable source of information and inspiration.  Now the knowledge base has expanded again with Pizza Quest, all limits have been removed."

How great is that?!  I have a similar story and the birth of Pizza Quest does too.  I too found Peter's book American Pie and then contacted him and a while later Pizza Quest was born.

Here is his recipe for Pizza Romana or, as his family

 
FAQ #2: Why Do We Make the Dough a Day Ahead
Peter Reinhart

I get asked this one a lot. Or, more accurately, I get lots of e-mails asking some variation of the following question: What do I need to do to make the best pizza dough? Since that's a loaded question, subject to subjectivity and regional bias, I usually punt and focus on a couple of general tricks that seem to bring best results for nearly any kind of pizza dough.  The two most valuable tricks, in my opinion are, one, to crank your oven up as high as you can get it and, two, to make your dough at least one day ahead. The reason for the first suggestion is pretty simple: the faster you can bake the pizza, with both the crust and the toppings finishing up at the same time, the more moist and creamy (yet snappy) your crust will taste. Of course, if your oven is generating too much top or bottom heat and only half of the equation gets baked before the other half, all bets are off. Or, you may have to make some adjustments as to which shelf you use. Baking is a balancing act between time, temperature, and ingredients and it's usually possible to fix an uneven bake by simply adjusting one or more of those cardinal points. In most cases, it's usually the shelf but sometimes its too strong a convection.

But first you need a good dough and next week I'll provide three master recipes for pizza doughs based on my book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. But, in the meantime, assuming you already have a dough recipe that you like or want to improve upon, perhaps from another source, the first change you can make, if you haven't already, is to make the dough the day before (or, at the very least, early in the morning that you plan to make the pizzas). A few years ago very few people knew about this trick and most cookbooks provided recipes that treated pizza dough just like sandwich dough: mix, rise, shape, and bake. This made dough for pizza but, sadly, not for memorable pizza and, as our regular readers know, this site is all about shooting for great (i.e., memorable) pizza experiences.

This little trick begs the questions, why make the dough so far ahead? Why does it make better pizza? If you haven't asked these questions and are just taking my word for it, then I have failed you because another of our goals here is to explore how to cook, not just how to follow a recipe. What I mean is that ingredients have a certain functionality as well as having flavor, and the difference between a real cook and a recipe follower is that the former, after following recipes for awhile, develops an intuition about the functionality of ingredients so that you can cook without recipes because you know what the ingredient, or the technique, provides to the process. Sometimes, it just takes one piece of new information to trigger that aha moment in which everything becomes clear, as if for the first time. Making dough ahead of time is one of those pieces of information and I'm going to tell you why and, if you don't already know what I'm about to say, this may change your baking ability forever:

Flour consists of mostly starch, with some protein and a small amount of minerals and enzymes. Starch is, when push comes to shove, just sugar -- that is, it consists of complex weaves of various sugar chains such as glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, and the like,  that are so tightly woven together your tongue can't access the sweetness, and bacteria and yeast can't get to the sugars to ferment them. Fortunately, the amylase and diastase enzymes that also exist in the grain (and sometimes additional enzymes are added at the mill in the form of malted barley flour), act upon the starches and begin to break off some of the sugar chains, especially the glucose and maltose, and free them up for the micro-organisms to feed on, and also for our palates, and also for the oven to caramelize them when they bake. But it takes time for all of this to happen, at least 8 to 12 hours, so the refrigerator becomes our friend, slowing down the rate of fermentation so that the yeast (and, to a lesser extent, the bacteria) don't digest all the newly available sugar threads but leave some behind for our tongues and for the oven. The colder the dough, the slower the rate of fermentation and also the enzyme activity. If we hit the balance point just right, by the time we bake the pizzas (and also breads, to which this technique can be applied, as I show in my book, "Artisan Breads Everyday"), we can produce the most beautiful golden crusts (caramelization of the sugars), and the sweetest, nuttiest tasting crusts due to the acidity created by the fermentation, and the deep roasting of the protein threads caused by the high heat, as well as the remaining sugar threads still remaining for our own pleasure.  It's all about hitting that balance and, fortunately, while it is science, it is not rocket science and most of the work is done for us by the use of refrigeration and letting the ingredients work it out for themselves.

Next week, three pizza dough recipes.

 
The Veggie Omelette Pizza
Brad English

Here we are at the end of my "in depth" study of eggs and pizza -- a 3 pizza egg-sperimentation.  This will surely not be the last pizza I make with eggs as there are an infinite number of possibilities to explore using this ingredient on pizza.  The immediate connection is breakfast, which pizza fits right into, performing as the toast that accompanies any good breakfast -- helping to serve a delicious egg sandwich of sorts.  Eggs can fit anywhere on a menu.  They are delicious with any meal because they bring such a unique texture into the experience of eating.  Eggs take on accompanying flavors that are more powerful, or distinct and mellow them, or blend them with each other creating a new flavor and texture.

I was recently sent to a sushi restaurant called Sakagura in New York City by a friend of mine I call "The Foodie of all Foodies " and came across a cold soup called Onsen Tamago.  This was a new experience for me, playing with my concept of flavors, textures and temperature!  Onsen Tomago is a cold soup with soft boiled egg, sea urchin roe and salmon roe.  If you're squeamish, this soup is not for you!  It was one of the more unique dishes I have ever had.  I am a huge fan of sea urchin, though, so I was down with it.  Many people can't get past the texture of this, but the flavor is so delicious and balanced that I feel sorry for those who can't get past the soft, cool pudding-like texture.  The soup base was salty and delicious.  The soft boiled egg fascinated me beyond the silky texture, but the fact that it was so softly boiled and then cooled and perfectly extracted from the shell into the soup.  When I ate the soup, the egg yolk broke and became not only another part of the texture of the soup, but also a new flavor as it mixed with the stock and ingredients.  This cool creamy soup was accented by the delicious fresh uni (sea urchin) and then I came across the cool little jelly pops of the salmon row.  It was really a unique eye opening dish.

Although I've taken a side trip here, my point is that anything you like can be enhanced with eggs. They have a uniqueness to them that isn't shared by many foods.  They transform so much from their natural state to a finished product, and can be served in so many stages along the way in their cooking process.  I started my pizza recipe eggs-ploration with a nod to the classic American breakfast standard of bacon and eggs.  That one is simple.  It's everything you like about that breakfast and has so many of the elements of a so many pizzas we all eat on a regular basis.  My next eggs-ecution was about the jalapeño and egg combination.  Again, this is my breakfast of champions.  My third in this series is about yet another standard variety of breakfast fare:  The Veggie Omlette.

I hope you enjoy any or all of these, and certainly use them just as starting points and come up with your own favorites.

 

The Veggie Omelette Pizza

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough

-I used my favorite Central Milling Germania Flour based Signature Bruery Pizza Dough but use your own favorite dough recipe

Peter's Herb Oil

Partially sautéed thinly sliced vegetables:  Zuccini, Red Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms and Jalapeños

-I sautéed the veggies to get them started cooking before going onto the pizza.  Season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked - allowing room for them to finish cooking on the pizza, but getting out much of the moisture so they don't soak your pizza.

Grated Mozzerella

Chunks of Bel Gioioso's Italico Cheese

2 Eggs

Canned Chopped Green Chiles to top the baked pizza

 

The Build:

Spread the dough on a well floured peel.

Sprinkle a little of the Herb Oil on the dough.

Add the grated Mozz and pinch off chunks of the Italico Cheese.  I didn't want this to be all about the cheese, so I used both sparingly.

Add the sautéed veggies.

I wanted to make sure that I got runny, sunny side up eggs on this pizza, so, I decided to set this pizza in the oven and pre-bake it for a couple of minutes and then add the egg and put it back in to finish.

 

The Bake:

Bake in your oven for approximately 2-3 minutes until it sets up so that you can pull it out without it falling apart.

*Make sure you pre-heat the oven for at least an hour to get your pizza stone up to temperature.  I pre-heat at 550 degrees and then turn it to Convection Bake before loading my first pizza, which lowers the temp to 525 degrees.

Pull the pizza out and crack two fresh eggs over the top.

Back into the oven.  Bake until the eggs and crust and all the ingredients are just right.  This should be about 4-5 minutes more.  For egg pizzas, base the doneness on the eggs.  If you want the crust done more, you may have to sacrifice that to make sure you don't overcook your eggs.  I have played with this and as you can see from my pictures, this pre-bake and finishing bake seems to work well.  Each oven will vary, so don't be surprised if you have to figure out your own timing.

The eggs came out great on this one.  You can see the crust has some charring and darkness to the edges and the toppings got a little brown on the edges as well.  The egg is perfectly cooked!  The yolk is soft and ready to be spread across the pizza and become part of the overall sauce.  You can probably pull the pizza out a little early, because the egg will continue to cook after it's out of the oven.  (*See my Bacon and Eggs Pizza!)

Carefully spread the yolk around trying not to move all the ingredients away from the center as you do.  You'll find that you can move things back and forth once you break the yolk and start spreading it out so that you keep the ingredients balanced for each bite.

Finally, top the finished pizza with the chopped green chills, or your favorite salsa.

Cut and serve!

 

 

 

 

 
FAQ #1, Sourdough Starters
Peter Reinhart

This will be the first of a series of posts that address the most frequently asked questions that I get from our readers.  I will just deal with one at a time, and will headline them FAQ with a number next to it as well as a word identifier, so this one will be FAQ #1, Sourdough Starters. That way, when someone wants to track one down in the Peter's Blog section each question will be easy to find.

So yes, this one is about sourdough starters, one of the great mystery areas of bread baking.  I will keep it short, as I have a much longer file that goes deeply into the subject and will send it to those who are serious about the matter, while not boring the rest of you here with the complicated stuff. This posting will be more like the headline news version.  If you want the file, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to request it.

Just to clarify and get us all on the same page, sourdough starter is really another way of saying a natural leaven, composed of various wild yeast strains and also various bacteria stains that produce both lactic and acetic acid, all living in a medium made up of flour and water.  The starter can be kept either in a wet, spongey form or in a firm, bread-dough-like form. In either instance, there is usually no salt in a wild yeast or sourdough starter (the salt gets added during the mixing of the final bread dough).  The micro-organisms live in the flour mixture, which is replenished from time to time on a feeding schedule determined by the baker.  These starters take the place of commercial yeast, or can also be used in conjunction with commercial yeast, to raise the dough. Because of all the complex acids produced by the bacterial fermentation, sourdough (aka wild yeast) breads contain an acidic flavor complexity not found in breads leavened by commercial yeast alone,

Instructions for how to make a sourdough starter from scratch are contained in the file referred to above. What I want to address here is one issue that I hear about a lot: why isn't my starter bubbling away by the third or fourth day when I make it from scratch the way it's supposed to, especially since it started bubbling on Day Two?  Something has changed in flour, I believe, since I first started giving instructions fifteen years ago for how to make a starter from scratch.  This is just a theory, based on some sleuthing done by a chemist friend of mine, Debbie Wink, who analyzed the microbiology of her starters under a microscope, but it seems to be proving itself:  there is a lactic acid bacteria called Leuconostoc that seems more prevalent in grain these days and it has changed the way wild yeast grows in a starter.  At first, it mimics yeast in that it produces carbon dioxide, much as yeast does, when it ferments the natural grain sugars in the dough mixture. It makes us think that the starter has come to life and that the wild yeast is growing and multiplying -- but the yeast hasn't multiplied. Wild yeast needs an acidic environment in order to flourish, and this is exactly what the bacteria provides. But Leuconostoc, while slowly producing acid, actually doesn't like to live in it. So, while this bacteria, along with other bacteria present in the starter (mostly having come in with the flour, but probably some also some from the air), eats sugar and creates acid, while the wild yeast waits and waits until the Leuconostoc goes dormant, and then the yeast cells become active and multiply.  As a result, what used to be about a five day process now takes as many as 7 to 10 days. The problem, though, is that if if you just let the starter sit and wait, some unfriendly bacteria can land on the surface and create molds.  If you proceed to the next feeding cycle prematurely, before the starter starts to bubble and burp, it just sets it back another few days.

So, the best way to get through this middle, dormant phase is to stir or knead the starter (we call it a seed culture at this stage, prior to becoming a full-on starter) twice a day to prevent the invading bacteria from getting a foot-hold. It may take three or four days to finally wake up but eventually it will.  By this time the Leuconostoc will go dormant and the other, more flavorful acid producing bacteria will thrive, as will the strains of wild yeast that provide the leavening for your bread. Once the seed culture come to life, you can resume feeding it as directed in the instructions to complete your sourdough "mother" starter.

Note: one trick that seems to shave a couple days off the process is to use pineapple juice (or even orange juice) on the first day when making the Day One seed culture. The acid from the juice gets things going in the right direction, but you still may run into a dormant period in the middle phase.  Don't give up on your starters, though; they will come to life if you remember to stir or knead them twice a day during the dormant phase.

Again, for more details, write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I'll send the file, or you can read about it my books, Whole Grain Breads, and also in Artisan Breads Everyday. Those of you who have your own tricks for making a potent wild yeast starter, feel free to comment below and share your methods.  Also, refer to our sourdough maven, Teresa Greenway's website at www.northwestsourdough.com for all sorts of great recipes, info, and photos.

 
Delicious Slime -- A Breakthrough!
Jenn Burns

Note from Peter:  Jenn Burns, who last appeared here following her coffee farm adventure in Central America picking beans on a steep mountain slope, is back. Jenn just graduated Magna cum Laude from Davidson College, a few miles north of Charlotte, with a degree in Food and Environmental Studies. During her four years at Davidson I've been following her career through her writings as she transitioned through the many universal rites of passage into adulthood. The following is a recounting of one such recent adventure and Jenn gave me permission to share it with all of you. Her final legacy at the university is that she was able to help guide the administration in bringing locally raised products into the school's food service operation, thus supporting local farmers and food producers. Her next big adventure will be as an American delegate to the Slow Food Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto gathering in Italy this fall.  Hopefully, the following will not be the last we hear from her. Enjoy!

In an independent study project for my Food Literature and Writing course at Davidson College this past semester, oysters somehow became pervasive in many of the readings.  Of course, the ubiquitous nature of oysters in the artisan food world should have come as no surprise since there are over 200 varieties in North America alone, and the flavor of an oyster is almost entirely determined by its terroir.  I also learned that oysters are an easily accessible food that can set a serious foodie apart from a mere food aficionado, and I realized that I had some serious catching up to do.  My only previous experience with oysters began and ended one fateful night when I was about seven years old and not yet experienced enough to be discerning about such things. Neither of my parents would ever let a slimy grey sea creature pass through their own lips, but they agreed that it would be great entertainment to see how their adventurous, fearless kiddo would react. Not knowing any better, I slurped up the small pile of slimy goop, juice and all, and began to chew. I continued to chew and chew and chew. After I became visibly more distressed, my dad suggested I just go ahead and swallow the now even goopier substance that I had collected in my mouth. I tried, but my esophagus simply refused to let it go down so there, in the middle of one of Indianapolis’ finest dining establishments, I barfed the oyster. Needless to say, I tried for years to block this experience and everything to do with oysters from my memory.

But, nearly 15 years later, oysters are everywhere in my life. A few weeks ago I read perhaps the best food memoir ever written, The Gastronomical Me, in which M.F.K. Fisher relays a story of two lesbian lovers sensually feeding one another oysters. I later learned, through research, that oysters are often thought to be an aphrodisiac because they are high in zinc, which controls progesterone and, as a result, sexual drive. Furthermore, since sexual appetite often starts in the mind, and an oyster is reminiscent of the female sex organ, oysters may encourage a psychological effect on the libido. More recently I read A Short History of the American Stomach, which, surprisingly, concludes with the history of oysters!  I learned oysters were once a staple food for colonists until they ate the native American oysters to extinction; indeed oysters were the country’s first indigenous species eradicated by humans. Now, scientists are furiously working to create a triploid oyster that could be farmed, but would not be able to reproduce in case an oyster were to escape, which would decimate local ecosystems. But, another reason is to also ensure that all the oysters’ energies go towards growing big and delicious for human consumption, and that no energy goes into such frivolous tasks as reproduction. Another interesting factoid is that all oysters are born male; then, upon reaching sexual maturity, and every year for the rest of their lives, each oyster decides whether to remain male, become female, or to be a hermaphrodite (about 1 in 50), yet it is still unknown why oysters change sex. Simultaneously, I was reading a collection on the history of various foods called, What Caesar Did for My Salad, and learned that Oysters Rockefeller was invented in New Orleans at Antoine’s in 1840 and that the recipe has remained a closely guarded secret ever since. The sauce for this dish is bright green, resembling a dollar bill; thus, it was named after the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller. Meanwhile, I am about to graduate from college and have been told on numerous occasions to celebrate because “the world is my oyster.”

All of these readings transformed my opinions of oysters to the degree that I, the previously traumatized oyster-phobe, suggested to our class that we go out for oysters. Despite studying and teaching about food for almost two decades, my professor, who I nicknamed "The Goddess of Food," had never eaten raw oysters either, so, she fully supported the adventure and agreed to join us. I found a list of the ten best places for seafood in the Charlotte area and selected one located conveniently close to Davidson College. I found myself  thinking about the pending dining experience days before the actual event; I was worried that my uncontrollable gag reflex would spring into action. I realized that I didn’t know how to properly eat an oyster and I was concerned that the oyster would taste revolting. I imagined myself with shell to lips, yet unable to take the leap. It would be the food equivalent of having toes curled over the edge of the diving board but unable to flip into the pool.

Three of us -- the professor and two brave students -- made the trek to Vinnie’s Raw Bar. It was, quite possibly, the worse place imaginable to go with one’s professor. This was the Hooters of seafood shacks. Well-endowed waitresses were wearing tight shirts and tighter booty shorts that revealed many tattoos and piercings. A party of firemen blasted hard rock. Posters, signs, and graffiti sure to offend every profession, race, and gender covered the walls. Having read Margaret Vissers’ treatise on table manners, The Rituals of Dinner, that week for the class, I could only imagine what she and Emily Post would have to say about this dive.

We tentatively ordered a half dozen raws. Thanks to the guidance of our waitress, who herself refuses to eat oysters, we put the mollusk on a cracker and added a dollop of cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Inspired by the "Goddess of Food’s" confident lead, I popped my little tartine too. It tasted like lemon and the dominating cocktail sauce and it felt like a cracker and, you know, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was good. Vinnie’s, I soon learned, sources their oysters from Apalachicola Bay, on the panhandle of Florida.  It is the only place in the United States where oysters are still wild and are harvested using tongs from small boats.  This is merely one example of how that small community strives to preserve traditional livelihoods.  Apalachicola Bay oysters are thought to be some of the best in the world, if not the best, thanks to their natural mellowness (as opposed to being overly salty) and the plump, meatiness of the oysters.  For my second oyster, which I eagerly scooped up directly from the shell, I tried a bit of horseradish instead of cocktail sauce. It too was delicious!  Although other oyster varieties, such as Naked Cowboy, Hama Hama, and sweet petite have more tempting titles, I now recommend to to any oyster virgin (which I no longer am!) to start with the best - Apalachicola Bay oysters.

Our shared raw oyster experience lasted only a few minutes and seemed almost anticlimactic at the time, although it has forever changed my self-styled status to that of a daring foodie. We soon moved on to Vinnie's fried oyster baskets and a lively evening of literary discussion as if we had not just enjoyed a small scoop of delicious slime.



 
Jalapeño & Sunny Eggs Pizza
Brad English

Eggs-perimentation - Numero Dos:

I love Eggs on a pizza.  They are a perfect topping being both a topping and possibly becoming part of the sauce of the pizza.  If you time it right, you can get the egg to cook to that perfect Sunny Side Up - runny deliciousness.  After the pizza comes out, you simply take a fork and knife, or a spoon and break the yolk and spread it around the pizza.  The egg is now playing two roles, both of which work perfectly on a pizza. But I've already told you this the last time I posted, and then Peter reiterated it in his recent blog about Pure Pizza in Charlotte.

So this is the second pizza in my latest little pizza experimentation here at Casa Ingles (as we affectionately call it)!  The fun thing about making pizza, as I've written before, is that there is a lot of opportunity for creativity.  Unlike when cooking other things, you get to try a number versions every time you make pizza.  They bake quickly and you are generally making at least 4 different pizzas during a meal.  It would get costly if you cooked up 4 large steaks every time you had that as a main dish, using seasonings and different cooking techniques.  I suppose you could cut a steak into smaller portions and do that, but that has it's own set of downfalls.  My point (and I do have one) is that pizza is a naturally interactive food during planning, prep, and eating.

You can lay out a plan and easily find a new path to the perfect pizza that you are hoping to make. I often only plan out a couple of the pizzas I'm going to make and then let the others come out of something I see while I'm shopping, or something that may be in the house at the time.  It's those found ingredients that sometimes take a pizza to the next level.  This pizza came out of the idea of using Jalapeños.  I am fascinated with the idea of pre-cooking them, which knocks out some of the heat and leaves you with a bold flavorful ingredient with enough spice to make them stand out, but not too much for those who can't take a lot of heat.

 

Jalapeño & Sunny-Eggs Pizza de Casa Ingles

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough

-I used my favorite Central Milling Germania Flour, Signature Bruery Pizza Dough but you can use your own favorite dough

Peter's Herb Oil

Partially baked thinly sliced potato

Sautéed Mushrooms, Zucchini, and Jalapeños

-I sautéed these to get them started cooking before going onto the pizza.  Season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked - allowing room for them to finish cooking on the pizza.

Bel Gioioso Creamy Gorgonzola Cheese (or other blue cheese)

2 Eggs

Chopped Scallions

Fresh Rosemary Needles

Grated Parmesan

 

The Build:

Spread the dough on a well floured peel.

Sprinkle a little of the Herb Oil on the dough.

Add the potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms.

Break off chunks of the creamy gorgonzola cheese.  Alternatively, you could use another soft cheese, like a brie mixed with a little blue cheese.  I didn't use much cheese here.  First of all this cheese is very flavorful and I didn't want it to take over.  Second, I wanted the sautéed vegetables and the egg to play a bigger role.

I wanted to make sure that I achieved runny sunny-side Up eggs on this pizza.  So, I decided to set this pizza in the oven and bake it for a couple of minutes and then add the egg.

 

The Bake:

Bake in your oven for approximately 2-3 minutes.

*Make sure you pre-heat the oven for at least an hour to get your pizza stone up to temperature.  I pre-heat at 550 degrees and then turn it to Convection Bake before loading my first pizza, which lowers the temp to 525 degrees.

Pull the pizza out and crack two fresh eggs over the top.

 

Add the sautéed jalapeños.

Place it back into the oven.  Bake until the eggs and crust and all the ingredients are just right.  This should be about 4-5 minutes.  For this pizza, base the doneness on the eggs.

The eggs came out perfect on this one.  You can see that my crust has some charring and darkness to the edges and the toppings got a little brown on the edges as well.  The egg is perfectly cooked!  The yolk is soft and ready to be spread across the pizza and become part of the overall sauce.

 

 

Carefully spread the yolk around trying not to move all the ingredients away from the center as you do.  You'll find that you can move things back and forth once you break the yolk and start spreading it out so that you keep the ingredients balanced for each bite.

Finally, top the finished pizza with scallions and some grated Parmesan.

Enjoy!  And do send us some ideas of your own...

 

 

 
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

 

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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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