Pizzeria Crawl on Bleecker Part 2
Brad English

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

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

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

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

 
Pizzeria Delfina, revisit with Anthony Strong
Peter Reinhart

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

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

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

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

 
A Tomato Sauce Sandwich Pizza
Brad English

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

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

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

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

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

 
Peter's Blog, March 12, 2012
Peter Reinhart

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

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

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

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

 
Another Left-Overs Cheese Steak Pizza
Brad English

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Pizzeria Crawl on Bleecker Part 1
Brad English

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

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

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

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

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

My Pizza...

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

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

Next stop -- Pizza Roma....

 
Sauteed Jalapenos and Tri-Tip Pizza
Brad English

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

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

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

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

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

 
Pizzeria Mozza, Redux
Peter Reinhart

This week, because we've had so many new visitors to Pizza Quest, we've decided to re-post one of our earliest video webisodes, from Pizzeria Mozza, in Hollywood.  I chose this particular segment because Matt Molina, who is the Executive Chef at Pizzeria Mozza, fills us in about what it's like to be working under the tutelage of owners Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali and we also get some great shots of the beautiful pizzas that come out of those glowing wood fired ovens. For those who never got to watch the whole Mozza series, this segment should get you fired up to go to our Webisodes section and look over the whole list (the actual list is located at the bottom of each of the two pages in this section, and all the Mozza links are at the bottom of the second page).

Matt, who has been working for and with Nancy since he was 20 years old (he's over 31 now), first at her James Beard Award winning restaurant Campanile, and now at Pizzeria Mozza, oversees a full team of pizzaioli who have to turn out not only hundreds of world class pizzas daily (their Hollywood customers won't settle for less than the best), but also an array of inventive side dishes and killer desserts. One of the recurrent themes we've explored throughout the past year here on Pizza Quest is the necessity of the presence of a key person, an artisan, to be at the center of the pizza experience.  It's enough of challenge when this all falls to one person, an artiste who controls every single pizza, but most pizzerias are too big and busy for this and must rely on a team of well-trained pizzaioli, and each member of that team carries the whole reputation of the restaurant on his or her shoulders. In the case of Pizzeria Mozza, the transmission of the artisan spirit must travel from Nancy (and Mario, though Nancy is the pizza visionary while Mario focuses on the menu at Osteria Mozza next door),  through Matt, and then through him to his team. We've seen the same challenge at other places we've featured such as Pizzeria Delfina and Tony's Pizza Napoletana and, of course, at many other pizzerias we've not yet featured in webisodes. We also have all seen how at some of establishments, when this transmission breaks down so does the reputation of the restaurant.  You can tell from Matt's personality that he'd be a great guy to work under, that he takes his responsibilities seriously, and it's obvious from the consistency of the pizzas that emerge from the almond wood-fired brick ovens that the transmission of the original spirit definitely gets through to everyone.

If you enjoy this segment, as I think you will, please go back through all the Mozza episodes, including a visit to the famous La Brea Bakery where the doughs are made (about 700 every day -- that's a lot of pizza!), a session with Matt making us some pizzas, and also watch our sit-down with Nancy Silverton and well-known food writers Russ Parsons, and Kristine Kidd.  These segments convey far more than I can in written words the excitement that great pizza evokes in all of us.

You'll notice that I used that word, great, intentionally. The pizzas at Mozza are among the greatest in the world, in my opinion, and this greatness is a result of more than any one thing or one person, but it all starts with a vision and a visionary who is committed to greatness. We all know of such places and people, and we take great joy here at Pizza Quest in celebrating them and sharing them with you.

 

 
Learning From the Ancients
John Arena

As students of pizza we spend a lot of time trying to uncover the “secrets” of past masters. We are constantly trying to reach back into antiquity with the assumption that there was a “golden age of pizza” and that it is our duty to resurrect these honored traditions. To a certain extent there may be some truth in that belief. But let’s not ignore the possibility that some of our longing for a so called “true” or Vera Pizza may not be as justified as we hope.  I am referring specifically to the ingredients that we select.

Modern modes of transportation have made the world a smaller place It is now much easier to access the ingredients that we assume are being used in Italy. Coupled with that assumption is the belief that ingredients from Italy are of the highest quality and will produce the best pizza. Certainly in many cases the food products of Italy are outstanding, but let’s take a closer look:

We have all used or heard about the celebrated “00” Flour of Campania.  It is usually very good and, for certain applications, it is the right choice for pizza; but don’t make the mistake of

 
Peter's Blog, February 24th
Peter Reinhart

Hi again.  We've kept a lot of recent postings on the home page because we've been getting a number of new viewers and one thing I've noticed is that most people tend to stay on the home page rather than explore the archives or section categories (I know this thanks to Google Analytics!!). So, we're going to leave things up as long as we can before they automatically default to the archive section to allow as many of you as possible to catch up to some of the ongoing topic points. But I do encourage you to visit the various sections, as you will find lots of golden oldies there and, to our great surprise, we've been astonished to see how much material we managed to post in just over a year. If I didn't have a conflict of interest I'd say, "Quite impressive!"  Oh look, I said it anyway.

One of the recurring themes that you will see in these past (and future) postings is the celebration of the artisan spirit and what we think is their expression of greatness, whether in pizza or in any pursuit.  Chris Bianco once told me that he's tired of hearing the word "passion" bandied about so frequently when it comes to greatness because he doesn't think it is the vital defining quality that everyone else thinks it is. I believe I know what he means and, perhaps, a better way to utilize that passion word is to frame it within a larger definition of greatness. Passion probably is, as Philosophy 101 would term it, a necessary but not sufficient cause. Passion, as many of us might also say, has become a cliche. And here on Pizza Quest one of the things we strive to get beyond is cliche. So the question still stands: what is the defining quality of greatness?

We've focused in these articles and webisodes on technique, method, ingredient quality, the virtues of local, organic, wholeness (as in whole grain), authenticity, tradition, and, of course, on passion. I've cited another quote of Chris's that he gave me when I was writing "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza," when I asked him what was the secret to his amazing pizzas; his response was (after citing the quality of the ingredients and the dedication of his growers and suppliers as necessary but not sufficient causes), "It's me, I'm the secret. I can teach people my tricks and techniques but I can't teach them to care as much as I care," and this drills down a bit closer to the core of the matter. But we're still always drilling even deeper, trying to capture that elusive something that would answer, once and for all, "What is the secret to greatness?" Yes, caring more than anyone else is yet another necessary but not sufficient cause, but even that doesn't scratch the itch beneath the itch. So what is it then?  Do you see why we call it a quest?

I'm a firm believer that the most important things we strive for are ordained to be elusive, like a carrot on a stick and even when we find what we're looking for we rarely recognize it in the moment, and then we realize, later, that now it's just behind us, a memory. That's what most people refer to as nostalgia, looking back to happier or significant times with a kind of regretful longing, as if things will never be quite that good again. But a truer, deeper, and more literal meaning of the word nostalgia (and I've written about this in earlier blog postings) means, "A longing for one's true home, yet to come."  C.S. Lewis is my go to guy for this one and he believed that this longing is more a forward thrusting, not a backwards glance to the past, though the emotions this longing evokes are often similar. Whether it touches upon a distant memory or is an intuition of a memory not yet experienced, outside the realm of time but nevertheless a future reality -- well, those are two sides of the same coin, and another vague and ambiguous way of defining that coin is "soulful."  Yet even as I write these words I'm reminded, again, that the more we try to define it in words the more elusive it becomes. But an encounter with it somehow rings within our own beings, our souls, and whether in the moment or after the fact, we recognize it when we see it.  We've been defining this encounter as "memorable," as a way to distinguish it from other experiences that are merely good, status quo, or expected. An "abnormal, memorable moment that opens a door into a longing for something true, something lasting, maybe even eternal, maybe home...,"  and then it's just out of reach again, and it becomes an inconsolable longing.

And that's why the search for the perfect pizza is both a great metaphor and also an earthly delight. Because, fortunately for us, in this quest we do have a chance from time to time to encounter a real, literal slice of nearly heavenly joy and to establish new reference points and new memories for greatness, even if we can't quite put our finger on the words. And then we get to start again....

 
A Pizzeria Basta Market Menu Pizza
Brad English

When I make a few pizzas, the one I often end up liking the best was the one that wasn't planned so much, but just sort of came together.  This pizza may have been born because I was in a store and something caught my eye.  I might have come across a new pile of chili peppers.  I might have sampled 5 or 6 salted pork products and found something interesting.  Or, I may have had something at home that spurred an idea or tied some of the other ingredients I had shopped for together. 

This favorite pizza of mine is more often than not the "Last Pizza" I made. It's my left over ingredient pizza, or my "idea pizza."  It's the one where I let chance or even fate drive the story of the pizza I am creating.  This is a fun pizza to make.  It comes together a little more organically, as if you said to yourself that you felt like pizza that day and went out to the garden to see what you could find.  The "Last Pizza" is truly a creation from scratch.  When you hit a home run, or sometimes a grand slam with this pizza, it's a little more special because there is just a touch more discovery here than when you follow a recipe.  I think there is a bit of this in all the pizzas we make, which may be why we're on a quest here.

Kelly Whitaker at Pizzeria Basta has a list of pizzas on his menu that are always there like most restaurants. As a customer, you know you can get your favorite pizza, which is what we often crave. He also has a Market Menu that is driven by this same concept of cooking with the most fresh and interesting ingredients you can find. I love that in a restaurant.  It makes me feel that the chef is thinking and touching the process and, more importantly, caring about it.  If I were a chef, I would certainly want to cook this way.  They spend a lot of time developing the menu designed to satisfy their customers.  But, I think that a chef would enjoy this process of discovering and creating something new even more than I do with my "Last Pizza".  To Kelly, I imagine this is what the Market Menu provides for him. And, if you're like me, it provides a great option as a customer to enjoy something new at a familiar place.

I will probably continue to visit Basta's website (www.pizzeriabasta.com) to see what new Market Menu pizzas Kelly and his team come up with.  After all, I am just a home cook; Kelly is the chef and I am happy to follow his lead and make and share his pizza ideas.  Interestingly, as I choose to make my versions of Kelly's Market Menu Pizzas in the future, they will become my planned pizzas and, while I'm out shopping for those ingredients, I will keep an eye out for something different for my own new Last Pizza for that day!

Looking at his Market Menu pizza online recently, I could see that this was definitely a gourmet ingredient driven pizza.  First of all, he is using the Bianco Dinapoli Organic Tomatoes.  I did a series of recipes using these - just a simple crushed tomato sauce with nothing added, and it was almost unbelievable how good they were.  In fact, my son Owen commented that day on how great my sauce was.  It was such hard work for me.  I opened the can and squeezed the tomatoes into a bowl by hand. How pure is that? 

He also used a nice salami that

 
Peter's Blog, Feb. 17th, 2012 -- Great News!
Peter Reinhart

Yesterday was my birthday and among the terrific gifts I received, including a fabulous dinner with Susan at Charlotte's  delightfully romantic Passion8 Bistro -- a real gem of a place -- I got some especially great news: Pizza Quest has been nominated by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (the IACP) as one of three finalists for best food blog of the year! Here's a link to all the nominees in the book and media categories: http://eater.com/archives/2012/02/16/iacp-announces-2012-food-writing-finalists.php

I'll be in NYC for the annual IACP Conference, where the winners will be announced at the awards gala on April 2nd, and where I will also be doing a demo presentation on sprouted grain flours on April 1st. The IACP is an amazing organization,

 
The Best Pizza Neighborhood?
John Arena

Answering The Big Question

We are all very lucky that the quest for pizza excellence involves some really interesting and (usually) very tasty field research. In fact, although I grew up in a pizzeria I didn’t really start to understand my craft until I began traveling, observing and, most importantly, eating pizzas around the country and around the world. Those journeys, over more than 40 years of pizza obsession, have not only resulted in memorable food experiences,  they have also been the catalyst for some of my most valued relationships. including a treasured friendship with Jonathon Goldsmith of Chicago’s Spaccanapoli. So, as a fairly well traveled pizza lover, the question I am most often asked is, “Which city has the best pizza?” This is a question that can turn the most timid soul into a valiant defender of civic pride. It is also, in my opinion, the exact WRONG question for an aspiring pizza maker or a motivated pizza veteran to be asking. Let’s face it, taste is subjective and in the modern era just about every city can contain some hidden gems along with a collection of pretenders and old timers resting on their laurels. For me a visit to a place like Home Slice in Austin Texas, with all of its quirky charm, can be as exciting as a trip to one of the venerable pizzerias of Naples.

 

So, let’s put aside the question of “Best” which we know can never really be settled and focus on a more relevant question for those of us looking to make better pizzas. What is the best city to visit if you want to improve your pizza knowledge and experience and even your own skill? The answer to that question can not only provide an interesting destination, it will save you a fortune in international travel and put you on a path to inspired pizza making.

While the world is full of great pizza cities, there is one place that offers a glimpse of our art -- past, present and future. In fact, it is not even a city but a particular neighborhood. In one small enclave within just a 10 minute walk you can experience an evolutionary timeline of pizza making. That place is… Greenwich Village in New York City. OK, I can hear the groans going out from Boston to Phoenix, but remember I am not making a judgment about who has the best pizza. I am simply stating that Greenwich Village is the best place to visit for a one-stop pizza education. Sure Wooster St. in New Haven is the home to several great pizzerias, but they are all doing essentially the same thing. Chicago has, in recent years, developed some real pizza diversity but you would have to travel all over the city to visit them. For shear pizza concentration there is no single place on earth that compares to “the Village”.

Start out at Keste, where they are making traditional Neapolitan pizza that would bring tears to Queen Margherita’s eyes. Roberto Capporuccio’s skill will inspire you with some of the best renditions of the classics and some modern variations that are bringing new life to pizza making in Italy. Step across the street and you are at John’s, the landmark coal oven pizzeria that is a time capsule of the days before cheap slices and a million places named Ray’s became synonymous with New York style pizza. Places like John’s and Arturo’s, another coal-fired place a few blocks away on Houston St., will give you an idea of how pizza started to evolve when it got to America.

If you want to see how the very same thing happened as pizza traveled from Naples to Rome, simply step back across the street to Pizza Roma and experience the wide variety of creative pizza toppings that have taken the Eternal City by storm at places such as Pizzarium. Pizza Roma will verify that culinary self- expression is as common in Italy as it is here. Now walk a few blocks to Joe’s for a great rendition of the classic NY pizza slice. This is terrific example of the post World War Two street slice that is most often associated with New York style pizza. Enjoy their thin crust pizza and, while you are there, grab a slice of “Sicilian” pizza, the thick, square-pan pizza that most closely resembles “housewives” pizza in Italy. If you want to see the pie that inspired that style, walk a few blocks over to Ben’s on the corner of Thompson and Spring St. and order a slice of the “Palermo”. This is one of the true pizzas of Sicily, no mozzarella, just a thick sauce heavy with sweet onions (in the old country they also dissolve some anchovy in the sauce), rich with olive oil and topped with grated cheese and bread-crumbs. In Sicily they call this sfincione, a regional variation that could be considered the grand-mother of pan pizza. Still hungry? Catch a sample of modern international pizza at Slice on Hudson St. where Miki Agrawal is putting a new spin on pizza with healthy pies inspired by her Indian/Japanese heritage.
The whole trip will take one afternoon, give you new insights, fill you up, and save you a fortune in plane fare. More importantly, field trips like this will reinvigorate your personal pizza quest and inspire your own contributions to our craft.

*Pictures courtesy of Scott Wiener of Scott's Pizza Tours.

http://www.scottspizzatours.com/

 
Kelly's White Pizza
Brad English

I'm currently exploring some of Pizzeria Basta's great pizzas.  The word Basta means "enough" in Italian.  I think that word offers a great insight into Kelly's cooking in general.  With Basta he created a pizzeria restaurant that showcases delicious foods in a simple and pure way.  He also wants everything to be "touched by the fire," so literally everything eventually sees some time in his custom wood fired oven, either from start to finish, or as a finishing touch like his Sous Vide Beef Ribs that slowly cook under pressure for up to 72 hours, and then see the intense heat of the wood fired oven just long enough to add the crispy charred outer layer that completes the dish.  He allows his ingredients to speak for themselves and blends them beautifully.

I think Kelly's concept of "Enough" speaks to the simplicity, balance, and purity of the tastes he is striving to share with his customers.  When you watch him preparing a dish (we hope to bring you more videos of that soon), you see that he is taking those elements into consideration at every step.  He doesn't just place an ingredient on a pizza.  You see him staring, almost analyzing each move he makes.  You can imagine that in his mind you'd be hearing "That's just right.", or "Enough" when he places his basil down, or adds a touch of salt, or even the amount of cheese he lays across a pie.  The bottom line is that he cares about what he is doing and that transforms ordinary quality ingredients into something great.

I love that about his cooking.  It brings a true balance to all of his food.  He allows each ingredient to be tasted and yet become something more when brought together.

Enough!

One of the perfect pizzas on his menu that celebrates this philosophy is the White Pizza.  It is dough, cheese, basil and a little garlic.  That's simple perfection.  You'll see below how, in my version, I added a little more than enough of one ingredient.  Although my pizza was fantastic I came away with a better understanding of what Kelly was striving for because of my own lesson in finding balance.


Kelly's White Pizza


- Peter's Classic Pizza Dough *See archives for recipe
- Peter's Herb Oil *See archives for recipe
- Ricotta
- Mozzarella
- Parmesan
- Sliced Garlic
- Whole Fresh Basil Leaves

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to highest temperature (550 on most home ovens) for at least 45 minutes to an hour prior to baking in order to get your pizza stone up to the right temperature.

Spread out your dough and place it on your well-floured pizza peel.

Add a little Herb Oil to the dough - Hint: use just "enough"!

Add the Mozzarella and pinches of the Ricotta cheeses.  Consider how they will melt together to determine the amount you want.

Add a little thinly sliced garlic

Drag your basil leaves through the garlic oil to coat and place them on the pizza.  In fact, if you are doing this, you may even omit the step where you add the herb oil to the dough.  I think this alone will be "enough".  I like the way the basil comes out when it has some oil on it.  It stays a little more moist and also gets crispy.

It's time for the oven.

This one baked for 7 minutes on Convection Bake - which adjusts my temperature down to 525 degrees.

Looks nice! It has a nice deep colored crust and a little charring.

Add a little Sea Salt and you are good to go.

The crust is puffy and the pizza has some nice caramelizing all around.  It is delicious.  You experience the warm crust followed by the garlic cheese and the then aromatic basil chimes in as a finishing note. 

*Note: As I said above, my version had a little too much oil.  Next time, I would adjust the amount I used on the crust back a little bit.  I don't know if Kelly used a little oil on his crust - it's not listed in the ingredients on the menu.  I added it because I love what this herb oil does - especially on simple cheese featured pizzas, so I almost always add it if I'm not using another sauce. 



 
Peter's Blog, Feb. 7th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

A couple of weeks ago I presented a demo on gluten-free baking at the annual Professional Association of International Innkeepers Conference (PAII for short). This year the conference was held in Little Rock, Arkansas and I had a wonderful time hanging out with people who really get the spirit of hospitality. Let's face it, to own a bed & breakfast inn or small lodge, as the attendees do, you don't do it to get rich, which everyone knows is not going to happen, but for the intrinsic rewards of serving others and facilitating their guests' relaxation, regeneration, and vacation plans. It's really hard work, often thankless, but sometimes a gracious guest gives back to the inn keeper the one thing that makes it worthwhile: sincere gratitude. I've been appearing at these conferences over the years and often see the same people as well as newer members who come to the conference to share knowledge, learn how to control costs and improve marketing, and to find new products to give their inns that little extra something that allows it to separate itself from the pack and elicit return visits from the guests. Sounds a lot like the pizzeria operators we've been featuring here on Pizza Quest, and I thought about this similarity often during the two days I was at the conference.

The last time I appeared at the PAII conference it was being held in Atlanta during the same week that Veraasano's Pizzeria opened, but before Pizza Quest had officially been born. I called Jeff Varasano to tell him I was in town and he was generous enough to invite me to his Friends, Family, and Press Opening event. The pizza was wonderful and I sensed the buzz of excitement and anticipation that everyone on Jeff's staff held (for those who don't know about Jeff Varasano, he had one of the most famous, viral pizza blog postings ever, a number of years ago, claiming that he could make a better pizza at home than most pizzerias. He gave out his dough recipe and techniques, and was visited by hundreds of thousands of hits.  A few years later he actually opened Varasano's Pizzeria and the game was on! For all of the back story and some great pizza photos check out his website at www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm or do a Google search of the videos and all the press he has  generated). My point is that there is a parallel between the pizza passion that we've been tracking here, in people like Jeff, and the passion that drives innkeepers to work so hard to extend themselves beyond exhaustion just to bring joy to others. We talk about the "fire in the belly" and that's what we keep questing for, an understanding of what that is and what drives it, and now we can add another metaphor to the growing list of artisans, which an innkeeper is in a unique way, that signifies this elusive quality.

One of the fun activities at the conference was an evening at The Clinton Center, which is the Presidential Library and archival museum of Bill Clinton. I didn't know what to expect, having never been to a Presidential Library before, so I was deeply impressed by what I saw. Lots of great video material, journals, re-creations of the Oval Office and other rooms in the White House, great art and also a collection of the many diplomatic gifts he received from famous visitors. There is also an ongoing cycle of installations dedicated to celebrating local or contemporary artists. The latest exhibit is a collection of pieces made exclusively of Lego Bricks (don't laugh -- these pieces were breathtaking, as you can see from some of the photos I took. I especially liked the one of President Clinton's head, with little Lego men climbing out of the top!).

Again, one of the things that made a big impression on me was the passion of the man, President Clinton, that drove him to participate in and create a number of historic moments and to affect the world. Whether you agree with his politics (or morals and questionable behaviors), there is no question, as you follow the archival narrative on display throughout the building, that he too had, and still has, a fire in his belly and a passion to change the world, to leave it better than he found it, and to wade in where angels fear to tread. Of course, there are many such men and women with this benevolent, philanthropic, and transformational vision for themselves, but it was exhausting and humbling to see what one man (and one woman, because it was clear that Hillary was a full partner in their work) could accomplish, regardless of the personal price.

This isn't a political website, it's a pizza site (and I saw a few photos on the Clinton walls where pizza played a role, though not as big a role as barbecue), so I'm not promoting anything except this: the common ground we all share -- those who read these postings and watch our videos as well as those who are featured in them -- is that we have an intuition that life and existence has a purpose and can, in rare moments, express itself in meaningful, satisfying, and fulfilling ways. These moments are elusive, we can't manufacture them at will, we can only willingly pursue them and then hope for a taste of grace that scratches the deep itch we yearn to quench. But even when we do scratch it becomes elusive again and, once more, we're back on the quest. One of the things that keep us going in our quests is when we meet others who are on theirs and who show us (and not just tell us) that it really is worth it. This, my fellow questers, is what we celebrate.

 
Kelly's Arugula Pizza
Brad English

When we first began contemplating what Pizza Quest could be as a Travel/Food Series, one of our early goals was that the show would vicariously transport viewers around the world as we journeyed on our quest to find the secrets to that perfect pizza. I wanted people to feel what I had when I first read Peter's book, "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza".  As I read the opening chapters I felt as if I was connected to Peter as he described the places, the people, the smells, the tastes and some of the secrets of the master pizzaiolos he had found.  I knew right away that this had to be a show some day. I mean, who doesn't love pizza?  But, even more than the recipes and great pizza I hoped to make, I think it was about the experiences that Peter shared that made the biggest impression on me (don't get me wrong, the recipes are great and my pizzas are well on their way toward perfection, if that's even a possible end goal).

Over the years I had always loved my own "journeys" when I watched Anthony Bourdain exploring so many cultures and tasting such amazing food.  My favorite parts of those travels was when it seemed I forgot I was watching a show and would just get lost in the moment, as if I was with a good group of people all enjoying the shared passion of good food and good conversation.  Nobody can take you to this place like Anthony.  You really should "travel" with him if you can.  He's on TV every week - don't miss it!

 

I also remember the hours I've spent sitting there with Mario Batali as if I were the 4th guest on Molto Mario while he cooked another mouth watering meal he had learned while studying in Italy.  His passion for not only cooking, but for the story of cooking, or really the people and traditions behind the cooking, is what ultimately sparked my interest as a home cook.  I think that's why so many Food and Travel shows are so popular.  We all can't get everywhere we'd like, or travel with our favorite TV show hosts in the real world.  A well done food/travel show, book, blog, or even a recipe can transport us there instead, even if for only a little slice of that moment in time.  With food I think that experience can be heightened because we use so many of our senses in the process of cooking and, ultimately, tasting the food. 

I recently watched an episode of Bourdain's "No Reservations" with my son, Owen.  Anthony took us on a trip to Brittany, France where, by the time it was over, Owen was making plans to go to Brittany when we could somehow make the time.  The kid is a dreamer!  We'll probably have to settle for a shellfish tower here where we live, in Redondo Beach, which to someone else in the world may be as exciting as a trip to Brittany would be for us!  Or, on our quest for a better quality of life, maybe we'll bring a little Brittany here to our home and, by doing so, we'll not only taste a little of what Brittany is about, but also crack a few crabs, pull a few shrimp, and dip a few lobsters with a few of our friends. 

From the beginning, our website was intended to be a community, or gathering place where we could continue to share the experience, or quest with our viewers and hopefully, have them share back. 

I was thinking about all of this recently when I was planning to make a new round of pizzas. I thought about one of my favorite chefs. I've had the pleasure to eat his food and spend a bit of time with him over the past year thanks to Pizza Quest.  His name is Kelly Whitaker, of Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, CO.  I thought I might take a little quest-like trip and see if I couldn't bring a little of the Pizzeria Basta magic home for a night.  So, I took a look at Kelly's menu on the Basta website and decided to make a few pizzas of his, both to test my skills, and also to share of some of his great pizzas with my family. 

I'm going to make a few of them and write about them over the next few weeks.  The first one is the pizza Kelly simply calls "Arugula" on his menu. 

Kelly's Arugula Pizza


- Pizza Quest Signature Pizza Dough *See archives for recipe
- Peter's Herb Oil *See archives for recipe
- Smoked Gouda *Kelly calls for Smoked Mozzarella
- Grape Tomatoes
- Prosciutto
- Wild Arugula 

Instructions:

*Note:  My ingredients vary here a little from Kelly's original recipes because of what I could find in the store, or I had on hand to use.  Again, I want to stop and point out how truly fun this aspect of cooking is. Using a substitute ingredient will not only make the recipe a little more of your own, but will also open up the opportunities of discovering other taste connections and aha's.

Make sure to pre-heat your oven to 550 degrees, or higher if it can go.  Later, before baking, I put my oven onto Convection Bake, which automatically lowers it to 525 degrees. This seems to cook my pizzas faster by moving the hot air around the oven.

Spread the pizza dough out on your floured peel.

Drizzle a little of Peter's Herb Oil on the dough.  I added this, because I nearly always use this on any pizza that doesn't have a tomato sauce. 

Add the grated Smoked Gouda, or Smoked Mozzarella

Add the halved grape tomatoes, cut side down.

Tear some prosciutto into pieces and place them around the dough.

Into the oven it goes.  When it comes out nobody knows (your oven will decide that)!  But, through repetition, I know that mine comes out in 8 minutes. 

Add a little fresh Arugula to the top, to taste, to finish it.


Cut and Serve.

This was a sweet, smokey, herby, "prosciuttoey" pizza. The tomatoes steam and soften and kick in a sweetness that literally pops in your mouth with flavor.  This was juicy and moist and warm and just plain old awesome!

That's my version, so who has another variation?  Let us know and thanks to Kelly for the original!

 

 

 

 
Peter's Blog, 1/31/2012 -- Emeril's e2
Peter Reinhart

I had lots of things to blog about this week but something happened a few days ago in Charlotte that knocked all the other news into next week. Emeril Lagasse opened a new restaurant right here in Charlotte, called e2. This city, which is hosting the Democratic National Convention in September and has, for the past fifteen years been carrying out a dynamic strategic plan to turn Charlotte into America's next great city, has been yearning for a celebrity or major superstar chef to open a restaurant here. We thought it might happen a few years ago, and a few big names did scout us out and some even made brief, but really uninvolved forays into the local scene. We already have a number of terrific home town chefs doing some excellent work but the public rarely appreciates what they have till they're gone (or so says Jonie Mitchell). But now, at last, validation and opportunity converged as e2 opened last week and, due to the generosity of Emeril and his team, especially Jeff Hinson, I got invited to dinner and a chance to try many of the menu items (the name, by the way, refers to a number of personal associations for Emeril, including the twenty-plus years since he opened his first restaurant, with this new one representing a next generation and manifestation of that original "essence and energy").  I'll address some of the dishes a little later but, first, a few more comments on the significance of this opening and how it relates to Pizza Quest.

As our regular followers know, Pizza Quest isn't just about pizza -- pizza is our guiding metaphor in a journey that celebrates artisans and artisanship of all types. We are really searching in this quest for excellence and, bottom line, we are searching for people who have a fire in their bellies to create that excellence no matter how hard it may be to do so. Pizza is a living symbol and signifier in that regard because it means so many things to so many people and, at the symbolic level, means a lot more than just tomatoes, cheese, and crust. The ancient Greeks had a word for what their philosophers thought was the purpose of life: eudaimonia. It is untranslatable into English in its totality but the closest anyone has come to a translation is "to flourish, or to thrive."  I thought a lot about this word and concept and the deeper purpose of Pizza Quest as I enjoyed my dinner at e2.

 

 

 

 

Cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charleston, Dallas, and many others already have so-called superstar chefs in abundance and folks from there may think this excitement is a bit naive, but I remember a time when many of those cited above didn't have great restaurant reputations. But, eventually they drew a number of local and national chefs who helped them establish a cultural food identity and now they all have flourishing, thriving food scenes (see how I worked those eudaimonic words into this?). Charlotte, to date, does not have such a reputation but it aspires to. I remember when Yountville had one restaurant that was pretty good called The French Laundry, but it wasn't owned by Thomas Keller and it was basically a one restaurant town. Then Chef Keller took over and changed everything and now, as anyone who has gone to Yountville knows, this two block town now has more great restaurants per square foot than any place in America. It's only been a few years, less than twenty, so things can happen that fast. But it has to start with someone. Chris Bianco did the same for pizza in Phoenix and we've seen other places where one breakthrough restaurant spawned a thriving, growing food savvy community. I grew up in Philadelphia and, despite our hoagies and cheese steaks, the food scene was pretty dull until Steven Starr and other bright restaurateurs, and some talented chefs like (Iron Chefs) Morimoto and Jose Garces, and even chefs who beat the Iron Chefs, like Marc Vetri, and a number of others, changed the game completely and turned Philly into a great food town. It can happen. And I think this is what Charlotte aspires to. Will it happen here? I think so. Will it take twenty years? Maybe, but maybe even faster. A lot depends on a spark and the best spark we've had is that Emeril has chosen to make a statement here and, if it strikes fire, I expect to see not only other well known chefs open here but also for great local chefs to emerge as they have in Charleston (which is probably the hottest restaurant city in America at the moment because of the emergence of three or four amazing, local chefs like Sean Brock and others). They don't need celebrity chefs in Charleston because their own chefs have redefined their cultural culinary identity. Larger cities, like New York (and Paris and London are even more perfect examples), are more like synthesis locales, giant salad bowls, that require both local and outside talent to converge until critical mass is attained. Charlotte will probably be more like those cities and it will take, in my estimation, about six to ten years for critical mass to occur (things happen faster in these digital times). Is e2 the greatest restaurant since Per Se? No, it doesn't aspire to be -- it's a fun restaurant that merges creative menu items (both familiar and inventive), reasonable prices, and the imprimatur of one of our most beloved culinary icons. This restaurant means more to Charlotte than it may even mean to Emeril, or it may be a harmonic convergence that leads to some sort of culinary big bang. Time will tell, but I'm betting on it and will continue to report on things here, not just because I live here, but because now Charlotte has joined the metaphorical lexicon, like pizza, of the quest that never seems to end.

In the photos you'll see some of my favorite moments from my night at e2: a wood oven roasted marrow bone with mushroom toast points served with tender slices of seared yellowfin (a little marrow spread on the toast, topped with the butter-tender fish created an explosively satisfying bite); a shrimp pizza with artichoke, fontina val d'aosta, white cheddar, and herb pesto (at first look I didn't think it would compete with some of the pizzas we've featured here from Mozza, Tony's, or Pizzeria Delfina but I was delighted by how much snap the dough had -- followed by a soft,creamy crumb, and a nicely charred underskirt ( took a photo of it but it didn't turn out -- sorry). And I have to say, the cheese combination coupled with the shrimp and artichoke slices was totally delightful; three slices of hamachi tuna crudo in tangerine oil with jalapeño slices and micro cilantro in a ponzu sauce -- these were just some of the starters and this high standard was maintained throughout the night. I'm not a restaurant critic and so will not pretend that this is a critical review, but just to give you an example of some of the other dishes we sampled: citrus tea lacquered "five-day" duck served with Anson Mills farro (Anson Mills is one of the places I hope to film for Pizza Quest one of these days -- a rock star brand in the artisan grain world); a tile fish special of the night (caught off the Outer Banks of North Carolina); Dry Aged Creekstone Farms Natural Angus Strip Steak, and Emeril's unique take on shrimp and grits. And, of course, there's Emeril himself (yes, that's me with him, just after the dinner rush ended), having directed and expedited his team through the entire service. The whole menu, which changes frequently, can be found at: http://e2emerils.com/ 

Like I said, this isn't a restaurant review website -- we just like to celebrate people and places that we like and, as a faculty member at Johnson & Wales I'm, of course, extremely proud of our most well known graduate, but I'm even more thankful that he's now in Charlotte for the initiation of what promises to be a new culinary era here. I'll keep you posted.

 
Margherita Pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala
Peter Reinhart

 

We've been wanting to share this webisode with you for quite a while, so here it is. Last year, when we were at the Fire Within Oven Owners Conference, we taped a number of demo's in the beautiful mobile ovens built by Joseph Pergolizzi and his team of masons and metal craftsmen. Among those in attendance was Andres Salazar, who was just on the verge of releasing his first batch of Buffalo Mozzarella in the USA. As you will learn, his herd of grass fed water buffalo live in Columbia, South America, and the Salazar family has perfected the art of making gorgeous, creamy cheese from the milk. I'll let Andreas do his own talking but I have to say, this was amazing cheese -- so sweet and velvety that, after the tape stopped rolling, I couldn't stop eating the cheese. It maybe hard to find, but it will be found under the label of Annabella Cheese and at www.annabellacheese.com/

You'll notice that after Joseph's Margherita pizza came out of the oven we garnished it with threads of fresh basil that have been sliced chiffonade-style. This is different than we saw Tony Gemignani and our other featured pizzaiolos do it, but I like this method for when you're having pizza parties and have to cut the pizzas into slices for everyone (as opposed to the more traditional method of one pie per person, folded and eaten). Consider it yet another option to add to your repertoire.

We love discovering artisans doing extraordinary work, and what a treat it was to meet Andreas and hear about the commitment he and his family have made to go "all in" with their water buffalo farm and cheese business. Enjoy it now, even if vicariously on the screen, as we make a pizza with this extraordinary cheese and let us know if you've been able to find it anywhere and, if you have, what you think.

 
A Morphed Pizza Dough
Teresa Greenway

Morphed Pizza Dough with Mushrooms, Blueberries and Spinach


Lately I have been thinking about morphing a sourdough crust dough with a commercially yeasted crust dough and combining the best qualities of both. Using a sourdough levain or starter in your pizza dough can make a significant flavor and texture difference. The sourdough starter adds acidity to the dough which affects strength and flavor. The commercial yeast helps the crust ferment more quickly so it is a lighter, less tough dough. Add the two together and you get a quick, airy, chewy crust with good flavor. Here is the recipe for the dough, it makes two large 15” pizzas:

 

Proof two teaspoons of commercial yeast in 2 oz of water for 15 minutes.
Add together in a large mixing bowl or dough mixing trough:
•    10 oz/283g sourdough starter @ 100% hydration
•    2 oz/56g evaporated milk
•    10 oz/283g warm water
•    The commercial yeast/water mixture
•    16 oz/453g bread flour

Mix these ingredients together and allow them to rest for 30 minutes. After resting add:
•    .6 oz/17g sea salt
•    1 oz/28g oil

Stir the salt/oil in well and then add an additional:
•    8 oz/226g bread flour

For the last 8 oz of flour, add most of it (6-7 oz) to the dough and then knead the dough for 10 – 15 minutes using the flour left over for kneading. After the dough feels smooth and soft and you can stretch a windowpane, pat or spray oil on the outside of your dough and then let the dough bulk ferment for two hours in a covered container. Divide the dough into two pieces once the bulk ferment is done. Then proceed as usual. I divided the dough and let the pieces set for 15 minutes and then stretched/rolled them out. I placed them on parchment paper and allowed them to proof for 45 minutes. Then spread your choice of sauce and toppings. I used white cheese, spinach, mushrooms and blueberries. Bake at 500F on a very hot baking stone for 7 – 12 minutes. Makes about 3 lbs of dough @ 65% hydration.

Teresa Greenway
http://www.northwestsourdough.com

 

*Note from Brad:  Thanks again Teresa for another great recipe!  I hope this inspires others to jump in and try these and even share more of their own with us all here!

 

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 24th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

In the past week I received three gifts: the first was a new folding proof box for home bakers made by Brod & Taylor. I tried it out and love it for two reasons: during my baking classes for home cooks I get asked all the time how to proof bread without a professional proof box. I suggest things like using the dishwasher as a steam box, the microwave with a glass of boiling water, an upside down styrofoam box with a lightbulb hanging through the roof, and other improvisations. But this new device is a compact (yes it folds up for easy storage) mini-version of a real proof box (and you can even make yogurt and sour cream in it), with a hot plate, water pan, and, temperature controls. The second thing is that it's just a beautiful design, something you want to let people see. I just read the Steve Jobs biography and have a new appreciation of his genius for creating (with the help of his over-worked and over-chastised, under-recognized team of collaborators) beautiful tools. This is a similarly beautiful tool and, for serious home bread bakers, solves the proofing problem.  We all have a tendency to say, "Hey wouldn't it be nice if someone would make ...." and then we go on with life.  Well, these guys went out and made it and it sells for about $150. Check it out at:  http://brodandtaylor.com/

This must be "thank the people week." Here's the second of the three gifts I mentioned above,  a great e-mail from Raphael Vaccaro along with some photos he sent. I'm posting this not because we will post every restaurant person that writes to us (though I am willing to post some as Guest Columns if you send me a good story at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), but because I love the fire and passion and sense of connectedness with which he tells his story (and I like the way his pizza looks too!). We say here that we want to celebrate artisans and artisanship wherever we find them so here's an example:

Good Afternoon Peter:

My name is Raphael Vaccaro.  I am second generation restaurateur in Akron Ohio.  I have been working in the industry all of my life.  About 2 years agoI had an epiphany that would change the way I cook and the whole concept of bread making.  You do not know it, but your books and explanation had a lot to do with it.  This together, with the passing of my father, the patriarch of the family business; I have felt great comfort in and peace knowing that a 58 year old family pizza business has been elevated to the next level.

Just a quick intro:

· My father started in 1957 -- a classic deck oven pizza business.  It's grown into 7 locations.

· He was the first in the area to install a Middleby Marshall conveyor convection oven.  All stores utilized them.  This was in the early 70’s.

· Transferring the pizza cooking process from deck oven to conveyor gave us the ability to do high consistent volume, but we also sacrificed a lot of texture.

· In the early 90’s my father went from several locations to one location, changing his venue from classic old school Italian. I felt the need to go upscale because we relocated into a very upscale high end neighborhood.

About 2 years ago my brother built a wood-fired pizza oven in his back yard.  He kept telling me how good the flavor of my parents old style pizza is in that oven.  It was my dream to go with the wood fired ovens.  The caveat to the oven is that most restaurateurs do not know how to use them.  They have no concept of intense temperature, how to work with dough, and the cold slow fermentation of yeast.   I see countless pictures on the web of wood fired pizza’s, artisan Napolitano style, true to Italian heritage, blah blah blah.  The pictures I'm sending, though, look OK in high resolution, but when you actually follow the procedure of retarding dough, the quality and flavorand overall result is beyond ordinary or what any picture can show.

My brother introduced me to the Bread Bakers Apprentice and Pain à l’Ancienne…I have since changed the whole pizza making procedures that my father started to the next generation of Vaccaro’s Pizza.
About a year ago I found an old Blodgett deck oven and refurbished it.  I opened up the gas valve to change the btu’s from 37k to about 65k btu.  I lined it with fire brick.  I added a 650 degree thermostat.

The story goes on and on and on.  Enclosed you will find the final product with Pain à l’Ancienne and 00 Caputo flour.  The crust is INCREDIBLE.   I also switched from using provolone or mozzarella like any other American style pizza and switched to 100% DOP Pecorino Romano.

I look forward to more correspondence as this pizza tradition develops into the next tradition of our family business.  My next version of dough will be whole wheat and also using spent grain from a local micro brewery.

Raphael

PS…I have also enclosed some pictures of a new prototype oven I am building to be mobile for my catering.  It is a combination of the Pompeii and Tuscan ovens.  This is lined with thermal blanket with fire brick.   I should reach 800 degrees with no problems and be able to roast meats for my dinner service.
Ciao

Raphael Vaccaro
Vaccaro's Trattoria



Finally, gift number three, here's a note from a home baker in the UK, Ilian, who also happens to be a professional food photographer, as you will see from these amazing shots. If you like them, check out his website for more. Enjoy!   www.ilian.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Peter,

Just want to say I have your Whole Grain Breads book and I made Four Seed Crackers. Thanks for the recipe, the crackers are amazing. Attach are some of my images.

Best Regards

ilian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay folks -- you did all the work this week and thanks to Ilian, Raphael, and Michael Taylor of Broad and Taylor.  And to everyone else,  do feel free to share your stories with us -- we'll publish the ones that carry the same spirit as these.




 
A Crab Dip Pizza
Brad English

How can I use crab on a pizza?  I had crab - if not just out of the ocean fresh it was caught by my friends steamed and brought home to me.  In my mind that's far better than just caught fresh any day!  As I hope you've already read, I had decided to make one pizza with some of the fresh cracked crab placed on top of the warm pizza after it baked. I thought that would be a great way to use the crab as close to it's original form.  But, what else do I love with crab?  What other ways could I use the rest of my supply?  That's simple.  Crab Dip!  I love crab dip.

Crab Dip is already practically a pizza topping waiting to happen.  It's a warm cheesy topping that you spread on a cracker, or a slice of bread.  What does Peter always call pizza?  He says it's basically "dough with something on it."  That pretty much brings your typical crab dip served up on a slice of a nice baguette into the realm of Pizza.  Wouldn't you agree?  The simplified instructions would be:  Place crab dip onto pizza crust.  Cook.  Eat.

So, off I went to the internets, as I like to say. Let's see what kind of Crab Dip recipes we can catch there.  I browsed a few references for Crab Dip and Spicy Crab Dip until one jumped off the page from the Food Network.  It was Emeril's "Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip".  It looked Hot as in spicy and it had the word Jalapeños!  I didn't need to wander any more.  I was hooked (or, netted to play the pun) as I read the ingredient list and surprised to see he didn't call for just jalapeños, but pickled jalapeños!  Well, who do we know who has his own pickled jalapeños sitting in the fridge that were made by none other than MOM herself!  It was me. I had Mom's Pickled Jalapeños, which is what I wanted to use anyway.  Crab, Emeril and Pizza - how could that be a bad combination?  This was going to be fun.

You can go to Food Network, or simply google "Emeril's Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip" to get his original recipe.  I didn't create this, I just used it as the basis for my pizza.  I will post the recipe here as I modified it for my use.  For the original, please go directly to the master himself! 

A Cracked Crab Dip Pizza


- Peter's Classic Pizza Dough *See archives for recipe
- Peter's Herb Oil *See archives for recipe
- Emeril's Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip *I did a modified version.  Or, use your favorite crab dip.
- Monterey Jack and Mozzarella Cheese
- A little Cream Cheese
- A little grated Parmesan Cheese
- Arugula
- Limes for drizzling


Instructions:

My version of Emeril's "Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip"

I halved his recipe as a guide because I was making one pizza and had about 1/2 the crab called for in his original recipe!  The left overs were delicious as well the next few days!

- 1/2 pound Cracked crab, or packaged Lump Crab
- Chopped Garlic - about 1/2 teaspoon
- Grated Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Cream Cheese
- Chopped Mom's Pickled Jalapeños
- 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 teaspoon of Hot Sauce - I used Frank's Red Hot
- 1/4 cup of Mayonnaise

Combine the Crabmeat, Garlic, Mom's Jalapeños, Cheeses, Worcesterchire, Hot Sauce and Mayo in a mixing bowl.  I added the 3 cheeses by eye - wanting this cheesy, but not too cheesy.  For my version I added a little cream cheese to make it a little creamier. I did not add any salt at this point because I felt that my Mom's SOY Pickled Jalapeños had enough and I like to finish the warm pizza with a little anyway.

There is no need to pre-bake this.  Just mix it and set it aside.  Bake the rest of it after you are done making your pizzas for later.  Again, check out Emeril's original for the official version.

The Crab Dip Pizza

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature (about 550 degrees) for at least an hour prior to baking your pizzas to make sure your pizza stone comes up to temperature.

Spread your dough out on the pizza peel and cover lightly with some of Peter's versatile Herb Oil.

Add the Crab Dip onto the pizza.  Spread it out a bit.  It will cook down and flatten out as it bakes.  I sprinkled a little more cheese on top as well before baking.

That's it:  Dough then Dip.  Now it goes into the oven.  My oven was now on Convection Bake at 525.  This pizza went in at 12 after the hour and came out at 19.  That's 7 minutes.  Pretty fast for a home oven.  And, look at the bits of char I got.  This was a nice bake for a home oven. 

Right when it comes out of the oven hit it with some fresh squeezed lime and don't be shy about it.

Top with some wild arugula and a little grated parmesan cheese to finish.

Cut and Serve!

This was rich and spicy!  This is not a pizza you'll sit down and eat by yourself.  But, as an appetizer, or if you are sharing, it was really nice.  Imagine taking your favorite crab dip and spreading it over a warm hot slice of an amazing bread that you just pulled out of the oven. Ok, that's this pizza!  Delicious.

Try it out.  Let me know if you've ever done this, or if you do, what you did to make it your own.  Interestingly, I pulled a slice of this out of the fridge the next day and took a bite of it cold.  It was really good - cold.  It wasn't as rich and I ate a couple slices as my breakfast of champions meal of the day. 

Thanks Emeril and thanks to my friends the Wildermuth's for bringing me some of their Dungeness catch to both enjoy with them and take more home to explore some new pizza ideas!

 

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 17, 2012
Peter Reinhart

Just received a call from a friend of mine from Syracuse who said she received her latest copy of Better Homes & Gardens and saw the pizza article about me. I think it hit the news stands today. I don't know when it will go digital but I just taped a narration voice-over for a short video on how to shape a pizza dough, which should show up on their web site at some point soon. I'll let you know when it goes live and we'll post a link to it here when it does. It's short and sweet (about a minute and a half long), but it was fun to sit in front of an iMovie console and tape a narrative over the video stream. It was the first time I've ever done that and I can see how easily it could become a habit. If any of you discover that the video is live before I do please let me know by writing to me here in the Comments section.

Also, I wanted to remind those of you who have been writing to ask about where and when I'll be teaching around the country in the near future, that I'm just starting to schedule a new tour for late summer and fall, 2012. The new book I've been working on is almost finished and when it is I'll have more opportunities to get back on the road, so as soon as I have the new dates I'll post them here. For those who live in Little Rock, however, I will be doing a demo next week at the Professional Association of Innkeepers International Conference at The Peabody Hotel. Of course, the demo is limited only to attendees at the conference, but if you want to meet up for a drink or a cup of coffee, drop me a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I'll be arriving late Tuesday night and my demo is Wed. afternoon but I'll be free afterwards so who knows what kind of questing we can get into. Is there any killer pizza in Little Rock? Time to find out!!

One final note: our friend Paisley McCaffery's mom, Sheila, has a really fun blog in which she shares the menus and anecdotes from her A-list dinner parties over the past thirty or so years (maybe even longer -- she seems to have known just about everyone worth knowing). In her most recent post she fired up a few pizzas, recounted some memories, and gave Pizza Quest a shout out. So, check out her blog at: http://entertainingaddict.blogspot.com/ and let her know we sent you. All I can say is that I want to get invited to one of Sheila's parties. She doesn't go on quests, the quests come to her -- you go girl!!

More coming this week, so keep checking back. And may your pizzas all be perfect!!

Peter

 

StartPrev12345678910NextEnd

 

Login Form

Who's Online

We have 50 guests online

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

Home