TJ's Asparagus Pizza
Brad English

I have been corresponding through our email with a Pizza Quester named TJ about making the Buonchristiani Lamb Sausage with Fennel Pizza.  TJ asked a few questions and then went off and had great success making the pizza  (that really is one that you have to try -- I love that pizza!).  In one of TJ's emails he told me about one of his own favorite pizzas.  It's a thinly shaved asparagus pizza.  Right there, that sounded really interesting, so, I thought I would give it a try. (in other words, he had me at "shaved asparagus")

I asked TJ where he got the recipe and he said that the original recipe is from the blog Smitten Kitchen.  I looked that up and here is the link so that they get the credit.  It's another great pizza!  We love pizza, don't we?!  You can find the original recipe here:

I am going to use TJ's own words to tell you how to make this pizza.  I think it demonstrates a couple of things.  The first, and most important thing, is simply this: passion.  This pizza is a perfect example of how important these simple passions are to our daily lives.  We keep ourselves younger by engaging our minds with tasks that push us to learn, or grow in some way.  TJ and I have never met, and may never meet, but we connected and engaged in this shared passion.  I hope that experience is enriching for both of us, I know it was for me.  And, the second interesting thing is this: that any recipe can be taken and should be interpreted, adapted, and adjusted for each individual. 

Following is TJ's email about his version of the Smitten Kitchen's Version of an Asparagus Pizza.

Following the Chalkboards
Brad English

A long time ago, I took a trip with my high school buddy, Milan.  We went to Europe one winter to ski and roam around a little.  The two of us didn't have any real plans, beyond hitting some key ski spots like Chamonix, Zermat, Davos, St Anton, and Kitzbuhel among many others.  We had a stop planned in a small farm town in Slovakia to visit his relatives but, other than that, our planning consisted of getting tickets and reserving a rental car. 

We hit the ground driving.  Leaving Frankfurt, we eventually made a stop in the Black Forest for some German beer on Lake Titisee.  It was a cold day, and a blanket of snow covered most things.  There weren't many tourists there that time of year, but we found our beer and it was as beautiful a place for a cold beer as I had ever been.  I would find many such places on this trip.

A Pizza Farm
Jeffrey Michael

On my last couple of visits to Minnesota, I had been hearing about a unique and must see‚ pizza place in Stockholm, Wisconsin, about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities.

So this year, during our annual summer visit to see my wife's family, we decided it was time to make the trip out there.  On our 14th wedding anniversary, my wife, Julie, and I packed up the car with our friends, and fellow adventurers, Chris and Kristen Johnson.  As a side note, the Johnsons had recently opened up a fantastic Texas style barbecue joint in Bayport, Minnesota ( and this may have been one of the only nights in months when neither of them was working at the restaurant.  So with a leap of faith, and the car loaded with blankets, utensils and beverages, we turned south on the highway and began our quest.

That's right, you bring your own utensils, beverages and any other thing you may want to sit/lay/sleep on.  No this, wasn't your usual checkered tablecloths pizza and beer joint.

When we arrived in Stockholm, there was not much open in this quaint town except for the Stockholm Pie Company ( 

An Amazing Smoked Albacore Pizza
Peter Reinhart

Okay, so we picked up our smoked albacore at Ruddell's Smoke House and now what?  Time to make a pizza, of course. Chef Jensen is an inventive cook and has a great eye for presentation as well as a firm grasp on how to use fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  And I'm big on the use of acidity -- this time in the form of both hot an cold heirloom tomatoes as well as Ruddell's "secret sauce" -- to make things pop so, between the two of us, I think we came up with an amazing pizza (but it was really mostly Jensen -- I just got to go along for the ride and throw in a few comments).

The use of the finishing "secret sauce," provided by Jim Ruddell himself, is the final key to tying all these great ingredients together. It was, as far as we could tell, a sort of lemon aioli, like an olive oil mayonnaise with extra lemon if you don't want to go to all the trouble of making aioli from scratch; we're not sure how Jim made his but it was good! The sauce, whether this one or any number of other "secret sauces" that all fish taco shacks have in their arsenal (as does any great hoagie shop), causes every ingredient to seemingly explode and give up its full potential of flavor. I mean, when you fold a slice of pizza around these ingredients there really is very little difference between a pizza - a sandwich - or a taco, which is exactly the point I've been making for years: pizza is just dough with something on it and it exists in every culture, in many variations, and under a variety of names. Dough with something on it, when the dough is killer and the something on it explodes with flavor, it works every time no matter what you call it.

So, our goal was to create a sort of fish taco pizza and, in one of my favorite moments in this video, you can tell how well we did by looking closely at Jensen's wife, Grace, and the subtle look on her face when she takes her first bite -- priceless!!

The Cass House Signature Central Coast Pizza with locally smoked Albacore!

A Fish Tacone Quest
Brad English

It's officially Fish Taco season here at Pizza Quest.  Why not?  It's summer and there isn't a better time to enjoy the fresh summery flavors than in a great fish taco!  As you've seen in recent webisodes, we stumbled onto two incredible fish taco places while visiting The Cass House Inn in Cayucos, CA.  Both the Taco Temple and Ruddell's Smokehouse create some of the most delicious fish tacos I have ever had.  You will see later this week, in an upcoming webisode, how our passion for great fish tacos translates into a truly unique Central Coast Signature Pizza designed by Chef Jensen Lorenzen and Peter, using some of Jim Ruddell's fresh smoked Albacore.  So, sit tight, as we keep exploring the world for memorable foods.

While we're on this subject, I want to share my own fish taco recipe, one that I have worked on for

Peter's Blog, July 12, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Today (Monday) we made pizza dough during the first day of our week long Kid's Baking Camp at Johnson & Wales. I'm jazzed, because tomorrow we're going to actually make the pizzas with my 14 campers, all between 13 and 15 years of age. These are great kids and today, on Day One, we made killer chocolate chip cookies, wonderful soft dinner rolls, and flaky blitz biscuits. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be making apple pie (if pizza isn't "American Pie" then apple pie truly is), French bread with pre-fermented dough, and, of course, individual pizzas. Later this week we'll make pate choux filled with pastry cream, bagels, soft pretzels, focaccia, and banana cream pie and quiche, and who knows what else. In the class room next to mine there is a group of 9 to 11 year old kids baking up a storm -- I saw lots of great looking cup cakes today. Upstairs there is a group of 11-13 year old kids. There is also a hot foods class for another group of kids of various ages -- the school is filled with kids hungry to cook and hungry to feed each other their food.

What I love about this camp is how easily these kids pick up the techniques and how well

Ruddell's Smokehouse, Cayucos, CA
Peter Reinhart

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

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

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

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

Peter's Blog, July 5th
Peter Reinhart

A Primer on Flour
Hi Everybody,
I've been getting a lot e-mails asking about flour and how all the different types work for pizza. Here's a quick, and by no means comprehensive look at some of your options. There is so much good flour available that you can't go wrong, but with all the interest in Italian style flour as well as the various types of American flour, it might be helpful to know the following:

-- Italian "Tipo" Double Zero (--00--) Flour is favored by people who have been to Naples or to one of the new American VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) pizzerias and love the soft texture and natural sweetness. The term "double zero" refers to both the purity of the flour -- culled from the endosperm (white part) of the wheat berry and very finely milled, usually of moderate protein levels (about 9.5% - 10.5%) comparable to American All Purpose flour. It has wonderful extensibility (as opposed to elasticity) which makes it easy to stretch for pizza. It also does not absorb as much water as American flour, and doesn't require as long a fermentation period to release it's wonderful flavor. It does not usually come with malted barley flour, as American flour does to promote browning, because it is designed to be baked at very high temperatures for a very short time (less than two minutes, usually closer to one minute) so the malt enzymes could cause it to burn. The most well known brand, now available to the American marketplace at some specialty stores and via the Forno Bravo e-store (and from Orlando Foods via their distributors, if you have a pizzeria), is Caputo. Another brand, of similar quality, is San Felice, but it is harder to track down if you don't have a pizzeria. By the way, "Italian" flour is not made with only Italian grown wheat but rather a blend of wheat, some of it from the USA, that meets the specifications (specs) of the mills. Also, there are a few -00- types, some used for pasta, some for bread, and some for pizza, so be sure to get the right one for your situation.

--American Double Zero (--00-) Flour is a new option, now available via Central Milling and possibly other mills. But the American version tends to  contain higher protein flour (close to 11.5% - 12%) than the Italian brands, but yet retains the Italian extensibility qualities due to the specific wheat selections. It feels very soft because it is finely milled, and absorbs far more water than the Italian brands. Llke the Italian, it is unbleached and retains a beautiful, golden hue. Central Milling now makes a few types, some with malt and salt added, for pizzerias or for home cooks not planning to bake at super hot temperatures. The Central Milling flour is certified organic and has a soft, sweet flavor very similar to the Italian brands. Ordering info listed in a previous Peter's Blog.

--Unbleached Bread Flour is available at all supermarkets, produced by a number of major mills such as General Mills, King Arthur, Pillsbury (now owned by General Mills), Con Agra, and many regional mills (used primarily by restaurants and bakeries). The protein level is somewhere around 12.5% and the flour makes excellent bread, pizza, and focaccia, especially when made at higher hydration levels than the Italian flour. Because the protein level is higher, it has a chewier texture, a kind of al dente quality, that many of us find appealing. It is usually sold with a very small amount of diastatic malted flour added, which helps promote browning due to the enzyme activity of the malt.

--High Gluten Flour is often favored by American pizzerias because it is so strong that it can be stretched or spun out into larger pizzas, up to 18" in diameter and in some places, even wider. The hardness of the protein (gluten) is offset by the addition of oil or shortening, up to 6% and in some instances 8% of the flour weight, and usually some sugar or sweetener is also added. While the artisan pizzerias tend to steer away from this flour, the general public loves pizzas made with it because of the large slices and ability to hold a slice straight out without "droopage." I think of it as street pizza or college pizza -- loaded with cheese and other toppings. This flour is hard to find at supermarkets but restaurants and pizzerias can order it from their distributors and, if you want to use it (it is especially favored for bagels, multi-grain and rye breads, as well as for this style of pizza) you might be able to buy some from your local bakery or pizzeria.

Final note: While everybody has their own favorite types I always fall back on this truism: There are only two kinds of pizza -- good and very good; it's hard to make bad pizza unless you burn it. So stick with what you like and play around with the other types as you expand your repertoire. American (and Canadian) flour is the best in the world and usually finds its way into Italian and French brands, so remember that it's really about finding the type (tipo) of flour suited to your preference and then learning how to use it. And, of course, there's only one way to learn how, and that's by making lots and lots of pizza.

My Love Affair with Pizza Napoletana
Brad Otton

My love for Pizza Napoletana started the first time I ever tasted a pizza straight from a wood burning oven in Napoli. I had only been in Italy a couple of days and was not prepared for what I was about to eat. These were the early 90’s, before food blogs or the internet. While I knew that Italy was the birthplace of pizza, I was uneducated when it came to the significance of Napoli in the history of pizza. More importantly, I was unaware what made Pizza Napoletana different than the chain pizza I was raised on growing up in the States. My first ever Pizza Napoletana was actually served “libretto” style from a back ally pizzeria near the main train station. Before the invasion of the Euro, you could get a folded up “libretto” margherita pizza with a Fanta Aranciata (aka orange soda!) for about 2,000 Lire or about $1. My love for this pizza started here, folded up pizza in one hand, Fanta in the other and hot San Marzano tomato sauce dripping down my arm. It was quite simply the greatest thing I had ever tasted.

But a deeper passion for pizza was not born until I traveled back to Napoli with the intention of opening a pizzeria in Las Vegas. There I spent time training with Enzo Coccia and Davide Bruno at Pizzeria La Notizia. Spending the mornings training with them and the evenings working and being around the pizzeria is where I developed an intense passion for Pizza Napoletana. This kind of pizza passion is infectious, and it is impossible to experience how proud these pizza makers are without it transferring to others.  Among these pizzaioli the history of pizza is taught as we would teach about the Revolutionary War, it is a part of their identity and their heritage and they do not take it lightly.

After spending time with the crew at La Notizia I was convinced that I not only wanted to open a Pizzeria Napoletana, but I wanted to honor the tradition of the product and do everything possible to re-create the exact pizza that has been made on the streets of Napoli for over 300 years. Since the day we opened Settebello our only requirement for choosing which products we use is if it makes the pizza more authentic. Price cannot be an issue. When I sit down with our head pizzaiolo to evaluate products the only question we ask ourselves is if this product makes our pizza more authentic; that is all that matters.

The Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) has provided a strong support structure for those of us who have decided to take the route of making authentic Pizza Napoletana. Initially there were only about 10 members scattered across the US but it provided a strong support group of people all trying to achieve the same goal. The VPN was established by pizza makers in Napoli to protect the integrity of Pizza Napoletana. Certain standards are set up to ensure that members are trying to maintain an authentic product. More importantly, for us it was a fraternity of sorts. Members all seem to help each other out in any way possible and, as new restaurant owners, this was priceless.

Note from Peter: Brad Otton, whose bio is posted in our Contributor's Profile section (some of you may know him as the former starting quarterback and Rose Bowl champion at USC), is one member of a growing community of pizzaiolos committed to the VPN model. We'd love to hear from others and will soon be presenting webisodes featuring some of the other American pizzaiolos who are likewise dedicated to authentic Pizza Napolitano. We all know that there are many ways to make pizza, many versions,  but we'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and questions regarding this particular style. With Brad's help, and the help of the other experts we've met, we'll try to answer your questions and to help keep the discussion going.  Feel free to start the thread right here.

Mozzarella Curd Pizza with Pepperoni
Peter Reinhart

Joe D'Astice, of S'mores Pizza fame (see the Instructionals archives), is back with another demo as he shows us how he uses fresh mozzarella curd, not the stretched cheese balls, to save time and money and still come up with a gorgeous, delicious pizza.  It really raises the question of why more pizzerias don't simply use this method instead of making or buying the more expensive version, so we're going to start asking this question and see what we can find out from the experts. If you have any thoughts or experience in comparing the two versions please let us know because I was pleasantly surprised at how similar this cheese tasted and performed comparable to the silky cheese balls.  Of course, there's tradition, which is a serious matter and usually filled with folk wisdom that isn't immediately apparent, and there's also something oh so satisfying about handling the cheese in a warm salt water bath that makes it worth the effort on so many levels (see our webisode filmed at Pizzeria Delfina with head pizzaiolo Anthony Strong, as well as the Bel Gioioso click-through button to their video on the subject).  But for those who don't want to go through all of that, and can find the pure curd at your local cheese counter, this version is a simple solution. The curd looks more like what we used to call Farmer's Cheese, so there are a lot of other applications for it -- even in cheese cake or cheese filling for Danish pastries and the like -- for which this can be used. Feel free to share your own tricks and tips right here in the comments section. In the meantime, enjoy this demo by our friend Joe, filmed at The Fire Within Conference in Boulder, CO, and visit him and his mobile oven in Rockford,, Illinois.

Quesadillas Ingles
Brad English

A little voice, in fact, a very persistent little voice is constantly calling out "Daddy, can you make me a quesadilla?"  Moments later the chorus continues and continues until I relent or take the dog on a walk.  This happens in the morning, after school, for dinner, or later in the night as a snack!  The result of these requests has meant that I spend a fair amount of time over my stove making up quesadillas for the kids (and others of us).  And, also the dog has gotten his fair share of walks. 

This is Pizza Quest, however, not Family Pet Quest - so let me focus on the mighty little quesadilla.  Sometimes, it can even be a mighty big quesadilla.  One of my favorite versions is a Breakfast Quesadilla, which is a cross between a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast pizza.  The dough, or tortilla is simply the delivery system.  Peter has often referred to pizza as dough with something on it, akin to a grilled cheese sandwich or any other product where dough serves as a host for a number of ingredients to make a tasty meal. The quesadilla, in my opinion, falls right in line with this concept.  It's a dough and its main basic ingredient is cheese.  Who is going to argue this isn't a pizza on some level?

Many great Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants take that to a whole other level, offering a quesadilla as a meal with chicken, or as a full breakfast, or whatever they have come up with to enhance the basic cheese between two tortillas concept. 

As I said, I have spent a good amount of time playing around with my versions here at home.  With my last name being English, these are now "officially" being called Quesadillas Ingles.  I never really thought about it much, it's just cheese and a couple of tortillas heated up on the stove top but, after being "forced" to make these things over and over and having a few incidents where I might have a lucky accident, I began stretching the concept beyond slapping some cheese between two tortillas.  One of the first "accidents" I recall was noticing when a little cheese spilled out from between the tortillas and fried into a perfect crispness on the side.  I love that crunch! 

Sorry for the digression, but, we have to take a short road trip up the coast.  If you live anywhere near Santa Barbara, CA, add a visit to La Superica Taqueria on Milpas Street to your list of must-do places.  You will always find a line out the door of this taqueria and you will see why after you go.  They have a side dish which is fried cheese with bits of bacon and onion.  It isn't fried crisp, but has a bit of that flavor from the onion and bacon, and the edges can get a little crisp and charred.  You take this small bowl of pure perfection and add it to your tacos, or even to just a warm corn tortilla.  It is the only place where I've come across this treat and, living in Southern California with a great Mexican restaurant always around the corner, that's pretty noteworthy.  I happened to be in the area this past weekend and took some photos that I'll share soon. 

Ok, so back to Quesadillas Ingles. One day, I thought of double decking the little corn tortillas to make them more substantial.  I think I was trying to just make them a little bigger so that I would have to make fewer of them.  I like to use corn tortillas for these and they're small and the kids are always calling out for more.  My daughter starts this pleading, usually, and then my son shows up and joins in.  Then I'm making these for two people and I'm inevitably cutting them up like small pizzas and stealing a wedge or two for myself before delivery.  Thus, the double-decker was born. 

You can add all sorts of ingredients besides cheese to make these more of a meal.  I've added sauteed onions, Mom's Pickled Jalapenos (see the Instructional archives for this recipe), chicken, and a mixture of cheeses.  You don't add much, these are more like street tacos than over-filled restaurant tacos.  A little goes a long way. 

I made two versions here in these photos.  The first is a basic double-decker with cheddar cheese.  The second has some leftover spicy Italian sausage that I had used in a pasta dish the night before.  I chopped up the sausage, which I fished out of some great tomato sauce, and sauteed it with onions.  I added some new, freshly chopped onions and sauteed those until soft.  I then added this mixture with each cheese layer and suddenly had a nice spicy sausage pizza, er, I mean a double-decked Quesadilla Ingles with Spicy Sausage and Sauteed Onions.

Quesadillas Ingles

Fresh Corn Tortillas
Cheese (Cheddar in this case, but don't stop there)
Cooking Spray, or Butter

Add anything you can think of. 
I have triple stacked these babies, but find a double stack holds up better and has the right balance of cheese and tortilla.  If you follow my technique you can get all three layers of tortillas  crispy, which is better than having a soft middle layer (in my humble opinion).


Suggested Instructions:

Set your dial to medium high; you may have to adjust.  This can be a smokey operation.  You want the heat to make things go quickly, to melt the cheese and give a little char on the tortilla, but it's a bit of a dance, so be prepared to make adjustments as you learn.

Hit the pan with a little non-stick cooking spray.  This works best to make sure the cheese doesn't stick. 

Lay down your first tortilla.

Put your first layer of cheese on the tortilla and cover with a second tortilla.  Let this go until you get the bottom tortilla crisp before flipping.  What I'm trying to do here is get that 1st tortilla crisp because it will become the middle tortilla when you flip it over.  It adds another layer of crunch in the middle.  Trust me, it's worth it.

Flip the tortilla over (after giving the top another spray so it won't stick when you flip it over).

Now add your second layer of cheese on the charred bottom, which is now your top.  Add other toppings, or fillings if using with each cheese layer. Place the 3rd tortilla on top of that and hit that with some more spray. Allow the bottom one enough time to crisp and char to your liking.  You can flip them and check, and then flip them back as many times as you need to.  The cheese will be melted quickly enough, so you are just looking for the texture/crispy finish on the tortilla. 

Flip it again onto the 3rd tortilla (the top) to finish. 

After the last flip, allow the tortilla to cook a bit. Then, pick it up and throw a couple pieces of shredded cheese on the pan and place the tortilla back down on the cheese.  Add cooking spray if you think you need it so it won't stick.  The cheese will fry/crisp quickly and stick to the tortilla.  Flip and repeat and you will have added a nice toasty crunchy cheese crust to your Quesadilla Ingles.

Take a slice!

Enjoy! Then walk the dog....


Peter's Blog, June 28th
Peter Reinhart

Last week I reported on our recent quest and pizza/beer challenge at The Bruery in Orange County (Placentia, to be more precise--their tap room is open to the public on weekends if you happen to be in the neighborhood!). I just want to add a few words this week on one aspect of our experience there, something I addressed on film during the taping but, since it won't run for awhile, I thought I'd write about it now while it's still fresh in my mind.

As we learned more about the art and craft of beer making during our tour of The Bruery facility, I kept thinking of the old saying that "beer is liquid bread." I've always taken that seriously because there are such obvious parallels, mainly, the proper fermentation of grain to evoke its full potential of flavor.  But what I realized perhaps for the first time, even though I've toured breweries before, is how much more difficult beer making is than bread baking, how much more complex it is, how many subtle choices the brewmeister has to make, gets to make, in manipulating the ingredients to create, hopefully, amazing flavors. We''re all flavorists, those of us who cook, and it's also a truism that the primary purpose of serious cooking, aside from delivering nutrition so that we can stay alive and thrive, is to deliver flavor. This is what culinarians pay all that money for when they go to expensive culinary schools--to learn how to deliver flavor. I've joked before about the reason pizza is the most popular food in the world is because it is the perfect flavor delivery system -- dough with something on it -- and I still believe that. But artisan beer making functions and delivers flavor on a whole other level, one that is dependent on

Peter's Blog, June 26th
Peter Reinhart

Yes, I'm late with this posting. I promised it by Thursday but, as so often happens, time got away from me and I couldn't get online from where I was. But here I am, to tell you only a bit about our latest quest. It may take a while before we get it all edited and posted, so this is just a little advanced notice to let you know what's coming. It all began a few months ago when Kelly Whitaker, of Pizzeria Basta, told us about a great micro-brewery whose beers they feature at Basta called The Bruery, in Orange County, Southern California. Turns out that our Pizza Quest producer and columnist, Brad English, lives not too far from there and, so, he checked it out and became friends with the creative beverage team there. One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we all found ourselves back at Pizzeria Basta, this time with The Bruery owner, Patrick Rue, who was there for a special beer and food pairing. I'll go into more detail on this part of the adventure when we post the webisodes, but the bottom line is that we filmed the food and, also, some great table talk in which, after Kelly, his beverage director Al, and Patrick explained to us their creative process of matching food with beer, we decided to challenge Patrick to match beer with pizza. That is, Kelly and I proposed that, instead of the usual approach of having a chef match the food to the beer, that instead, we create a unique, signature pizza, present it to the Bruery's brewers, and have them create a beer inspired by the pizza. Patrick accepted the challenge.

This was all back in early May.  So, to make a long story short,

Cass House "A Mulberry Pizza"
Peter Reinhart

Following our welcome and introduction to the Cass House, and a little local shopping and foraging, Chef Jensen and I finally got to that new oven of his and decided to create an improvisational pizza based on some of the ingredients we had gathered and that Jensen already had on hand. The result is this beautiful mulberry pizza with two different kinds of cheese (we made one side with each type to see which one we liked more -- the smoked blue cheese won out). My favorite take-away from this exercise was the wonderful balsamic glaze that we squiggled over the top -- a syrupy reduction of balsamic vinegar and port wine. This really tied everything together and reinforced a long held belief of mine that garnishes are the least understood and appreciated aspect of cooking. They are more than a complementary color or sprig of herb, as many people think, but must fulfill two vital functions -- eye appeal ("We eat first with our eyes"), and appropriate flavor functionality -- enhancing the other ingredients. This glaze was a home run on all counts.

If you want to see how this pizza already inspired Brad, check out his photo essay in the Instructional section (we'll also leave it on the home page for a few more weeks), where he created his own version using blackberries instead of mulberries ("You use what you can get," he told me) to great success.

We'll be making a smoked fish pizza and a few other treats in future segments but, for now, enjoy this beautiful mulberry pizza and let us know when you make your own version.

A Buonchristiani Pizza with Spicy Pork Sausage
Brad English

I was making a bunch of pizzas recently and taking lots of photos, so I went to the meat department where I shop to see if they happened to have any lamb sausage.  Yes, Jay Buonchristiani's Lamb Sausage with Fennel Pizza was that good and I wanted to make it again (see the Instructional Section for the original posting on this).  And, I had another bottle of his Syrah hanging around, so I thought, why not try it again.  But, the butcher didn't have any lamb sausage.  Since I was in a hurry, I thought I'd pick up some spicy pork sausage and give the pizza a try with that.  Jay's recipe calls for any type of lamb sausage - but not spicy because of the wine he was pairing it with.

I was having some friends over and, because of the spices, I decided to open a different wine to use to make this pizza, as well as to drink with them - a 2008 Dover Canyon Barbarian from the Central Coast.  We had recently taken a family trip to Cambria, CA with our friends, the Dunhams, and they were coming over for dinner.  Kevin and Kristin are good friends with the owner of Dover Canyon, Dan Panico.  We were lucky enough to be able to tag along for a barbecue at the winery on one of the nights while we were up there. 

What a great time!  A number of people I know who have houses in Cambria had told me to visit Dover Canyon and were jealous when I told them we were not only going wine tasting, but also going over for a barbecue.  I've had their wines on numerous occasions while sitting by the Dunham's pool snacking on cheeses and salted pork products.  You don't often get go to a private barbecue at a winery, and almost never as a family guest, kids and all.  So, I thought it was a good idea to follow up and make this pizza with one of the delicious wines we bought that weekend. 

Dan and his fiance' Glenda were gracious hosts at the winery.  When we showed up a little late, after getting out of LA traffic that Friday, we were immediately given glasses of wine and began to get acquainted.  The guys moved upstairs, above the tasting room for some pool, while the women did - something else.  Who knows?!  And, at the time, who cares!  They were busy, happy, and the kids were off running around outside, and we were drinking great wine with the winemaker and playing pool.  How do you beat that?

A little while later, we moved over to the house to start grilling.  The dinner consisted of some marinated lamb, mashed potatoes with root vegetables mixed in, grilled avocados stuffed with shrimp and mango salsa, a fresh farmers market salad, some great fresh bread, and lots of delicious wine.  We sat out on the covered back patio with a soft rain coming down and enjoyed a memorable candlelit meal. 

And we even came back the next day to do some "official" wine tasting.  

Dover Canyon is a small winery that sits on top of a beautiful rolling hilltop.  Dan and Glenda live in the older farm style house that overlooks it all.  If you ever visit the tasting room, you will surely be greeted by the big, gigantic, lovable "puppy" Saint Bernard named THUNDER!

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Peter Reinhart

I've been asked for this recipe many times even though only a few of you actually have the sprouted wheat flour but, in the hopes that you will soon acquire some, here's what to do with it when you get it: make a killer pizza dough.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, this flour is so remarkable that you don't need a preferment, nor oil, nor sweetener, nada -- just flour, water, salt, and yeast. Furthermore, you don't have to make it the day before, as I advise with regular pizza doughs, because the sprouted wheat has already created its own enzymatic changes before it even gets to the flour stage. However, it is okay to hold the dough in the fridge for up to three days if you prefer. You will get a little more acidity by doing so, which is a good thing. Either way, you will never taste another 100% whole grain dough like it, and if you don't tell folks that it's 100% whole wheat and then ask them what they think, they will probably guess that it has only a small amount of whole wheat in it. Yet you will know that, not only are they getting the benefits of 100% whole grain, but it is even more digestible than regular whole wheat and more of the nutritional benefits of the grain are available to the digestive system (the jury is still out as to how much of those benefits survive the baking process so I won't make any specific claims, but the digestibility factor is immediately apparent).

To get this flour, find the Peter's Blog dated June 7th and

The Cass House Inn Intro
Peter Reinhart

Our webisode series moves into new territory with our visit to Cayucos and the Cass House Inn. As Brad English writes in his "Road Trip" posting, located just below this one on our Home Page, this is one of those unexpected discoveries that helps illustrate the spirit of what our site is all about. Brad discovered The Cass House Inn during one of his own personal quest outings before we ever conceived of Pizza Quest (he's a helpless foodie, or as Calvin Trillin calls it, "A big hungry boy in search of a good meal"), and kept telling me about this cool place where they grow their own vegetables, built their own oven, and totally honor the agriculture and aquaculture of their region with some amazing food. So, when the opportunity to swing off the highway on our way to San Francisco opened up, we headed out to the coast (and, as you have seen, made a quick stop on the way at The Taco Temple in Morro Bay).

The town of Cayucos is very small, everything is within a few minutes walk of everything else, including the beach, and we fell in love with it immediately. We had great  fun visiting the local Brown Butter Cookie Company as well as Ruddell's Smoked Fish Shack. But we were especially enchanted by Grace and Jensen Lorenzen's Cass House Inn, where we found on display all the values and qualities that illustrate the mission of Pizza Quest: a celebration of artisans and artisanship.

This short opening segment gives you a glimpse of the bucolic loveliness of the town and a short introduction to Grace and Jensen, as well as a sneak peek at some of the pizzas we will make in later segments. Next week we'll be posting a longer segment in which Jensen and I bake our first pizza together in his newly built brick oven. In future segments we'll also visit Ruddell's to pick up some spectacular smoked fish, and of course, we'll keep baking pizzas -- we created some terrific, one of a kind pies during the short time we had together.

By the way, Jensen and Grace have a wonderful blog of their own and Jensen did a nice summary of our visit, along with some great photos of us all, at   Check it out.

Lots more still to come from Cayucos. But, for now, enjoy this opening segment, our introduction to The Cass House Inn.

Cayucos, CA "The Road Trip Aspect"
Brad English

We are just launching a series of new webisode segments that take us on our journey from Los Angeles up to San Francisco.  On the road trip we made a stop along the Central Coast of California in two small coastal towns: Morro Bay and Cayucos, CA.

This series of webisode segments mark a special moment for me on my Pizza Quest.

Peter recently blogged, on Tuesday March 29th, about being back on the road, and it stirred something in me about what this Pizza Quest thing is really all about.  I realized, when reading Peter's blog, that what brought us all together was not only the love of pizza, but even more so was the fact that, when I read the introduction to Peter's book "American Pie, My Search for the Perfect Pizza," I thought to myself how lucky Peter was to travel to all of these places, meet these uniquely interesting people, and try all this incredible food!  If Peter's book was just a list of great pizza recipes, I'd be eating better pizzas at home, but Pizza Quest probably wouldn't have come to be.  What really engaged me was his journey and the adventure of the potential of discovery.  It was about the interesting people who believed passionately in what they did.  It was the different

Peter's Blog, June 14th
Peter Reinhart


Welcome back everyone.

I mentioned in the Coming Attractions about how much I enjoyed the recent Jon Stewart rant about NY pizza.  I found it at:" --  but you can also track it down via a Google search under Jon Stewart Pizza (one of these days I'll have to figure out out to put one of those click here buttons into these postings). Anyway, I'm sure most of you have already seen it and, aside from the many satirical levels on which it worked (let's face it, all comics will lament the day when they don't have either Sarah Palin or Donald Trump to use as foils -- it's as easy as shooting ducks on an Alaskan pond), I found Stewart's rant especially insightful as a social commentary on how important pizza really is to us. In some ways, he did a better, or at least funnier version, of what fuels Pizza Quest--the deep passion and connection many of us feel -- though clearly not The Donald -- to pizza.

 So, yes, it was really funny --in some ways brilliant, albeit a bit profane (but hey, it's about pizza, so we'll cut him some slack!)-- but more importantly, it reinforces what we've been saying here since Day One: there is something about pizza that touches us deeply, not just because it tastes good but because of what it represents.

So what does it represent?

Obviously, to Jon Stewart -- and not just to him but to so many of us, which is why his rant was so brilliant-- it is a trigger point, a symbol of cultural identity. In the instance of the rant,

Webisode: The Taco Temple
Peter Reinhart

Here it is, our first detour off the pizza trail to The Taco Temple in Morro Bay, California, the culinary altar of Chef Adam Pollard and his hard working team of, well, tacaiolos.  We stopped here mainly because Brad English, who is the producer and director of our webisodes (who, along with Jeff Michael dreamed up Pizza Quest in the first place), had been there before on one of his visits to the Central Coast. He couldn't stop thinking about how great those fish tacos were, which means this place fit right in with one of the major thrusts of Pizza Quest: food memories that rock our world. I've written many times that my definition of the difference between good pizza and great pizza can be defined by that one word, memorable. In other words, a place you just have to bring friends to, can't stop thinking about, and that becomes the benchmark example of a food that lands in your memory Hall of Fame. The Taco Temple was that kind of place for Brad and he felt duty bound to share his Hall of Fame experience with us, and we're so glad he did.

As we drove past it on our way to Cayucos and The Cass House Inn (which we'll show you in next week's webisode), Brad shouted, "There it is!!" I was half asleep and didn't know what he meant as I jolted awake, but the Pizza Quest van (we're still working on getting a real "bus," but this was on our maiden voyage and had, instead, a nicely outfitted production van) made a quick, squealing U-Turn and, before I knew it, we were parked in the lot of, as you will see, a funky, coastal taco shack.  "This is the place I've been telling you about," Brad said again. "You've got to try one of these babies!"

I went in first and introduced myself to Adam, told him about Pizza Quest and about Brad's exaltation of his restaurant, and asked him if we could film him. He laughed and said, "Really? You want to film me?  Sure, come on in."  And we did.

So, what you're about to see is a little of what we experienced there; a totally soul satisfying meal, the best sea scallop taco I've ever eaten or could imagine, along with a whole bunch of other house specialties, not all shown on this tape, including a huge wedge of carrot cake made by Adam's wife. He told us about the weekly farmer's market held right there in his parking lot, where he picks up most of his ingredients, and about his commitment to fresh and local foods. His sense of pride, along with his allegiance to the fresh and local vision he'd cultivated at The Temple, left a lasting impression on all of us, and helped us to formulate a deeper sense of what Pizza Quest was all about -- the Quest, not just the Pizza.

You'll see what I mean when you click the button, so kick back and join us at The Taco Temple....

The Cass House Mulberry Pizza
Brad English

Pizza Quest is about to take us on a journey up to the Central Coast of California.  We had the good fortune to stumble upon a small coastal town called Cayucos that has some real hidden gems worth the a special trip.  One of the focal points of our visit was to explore what pizza is and could be with the terrific chef and proprietor of The Cass House Inn - Chef Jensen Lorenzen.   We'll let you in on more of the details as we release the coming video segments where we explore Cayucos with Jensen and some of the other local food stars!

I was recently reviewing some of the footage and was compelled to try to make a version of the pizza I watched Jensen and Peter create before our eyes.  Jensen had assembled a host of local ingredients, one of which was fresh local mulberries. 

Peter's Blog, June 7th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I promised to tell you how to get your hands on some of that great flour from Central Milling, as well as the "Super Sprout" sprouted whole wheat flour from Lindley Mills. So first, here's the number for Keith and Nicky Giusto at Central Milling, in Petaluma, California: (707) 778-1073. Ask for Keith or Nicky and tell them you read it right here. Before you do, check out their website at  They have many types of organic flour but what you should be asking for, if you have a wood-fired oven, is the new Double Zero (-00-) "Normal."  You can also ask them about their Double Zero "Reinforced," which I think is more appropriate for a home oven. If you can talk them into selling some other types as well, go for it!

As for Lindley Mills, call them in Graham, NC at (336) 376-6190 and ask for Joe Lindley. You can tell him you read it here. OR, you can also order the flour via the King Arthur Baking Catalogue, which many of you probably already receive (if not, get on their mailing list--the catalogues are fun to read and they have all sorts of cool things for sale). It won't indicate "Super Sprout" or Lindley Mills but will be sold as Sprouted Wheat Flour. Wherever you get it, you'll have fun working with this flour. Next week I'll post some recipes for making pizza dough with all three of these flours (Normal, Reinforced, and Sprouted Whole Wheat).

I don't know the price of any of these, so you will have to work that out when you call them, but I have a feeling there are lots of great pizzas ahead for all of us. We'd love to post your photos and pizza ideas if you come up with anything fun and exciting. Just let us know.

One more note: we're starting a new webisode series on Thursday from california's Central Coast. We'll be spending most of the time (there are a number of segments coming up) at The Cass House Inn, but we're going to kick it off with a stop we made as we were headed there, at the wonderful Taco Temple in Morro Bay, CA (you saw a snippet of this on our very first webisode, still posted at the top of the Home Page). Now you'll get to see more of what got us all excited when we made the detour. Be sure to check it out on Thursday. Till then,

May Your Pizzas All Be Perfect!






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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