Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pizza Cones at the Fancy Food Show!

My sister, Maya, is an avid foodie and is currently attending the 55th Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York City. Last night she sent me a picture of the Conizza pizza cone exhibit and I immediately exploded with jealousy.

The Kornet brand pizza cone is something I have blogged about before. I am totally interested in this really wacky version of pizza and I've wanted to try it for a long time. I even asked for a box of frozen pizza cones for my birthday! Alas, shipping frozen pizza cones from over seas is rather expensive and my birthday wish did not come true.

I have been loosely following the pizza cone trend. There are a few brands that will make the pizza cone fresh for you sort of like how they make your sandwich at Subway, other brands employ a machine or even the microwave. Of course I am curious to know if any pizza cone lives up to the novelty and hype. Maya tried one from Conizza and we text messaged about it. Here is our conversation:

Lauren: Show me some of that fancy food!
Maya: Cono Pizza! (Pic)
Lauren: OMG. Did you get one? How was it? OMG!
Maya: Terrible! Like a Hotpocket?
Lauren: MMM. So good/gross. Were they frozen or were they making them fresh like in the video from Japan?
Maya: Frozen.
Lauren: Yuck. In Japan they make them fresh like in Subway or something. How were they cooking the frozen ones?
Maya: Yuck.
Maya: I meeeean, awesome!
Lauren: LOL

Here are some of the pizza cone brands some even have locations opening up in the US. Who's up for a pizzalicious road trip?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Katy Perry is Pizzalicious!

Pop singer and guilty pleasure Katy Perry is having a pizzalicious recovery from the flu. Several extremely shallow news agencies, too embarrassing to admit I read, reported that the singer recently posted a picture via her Twitter account in which she was in a bath tub with a pizza. The tweet accompanying the pic read "I have no self control." And so ladies and gentlemen, Katy Perry is Pizzalicious! Good work Katy.

Thoreau Mode

This weekend I went to a conference/camping in the mountains with some friends. I had a great time. I learned so much and shared some of the things I know. There was a huge and thrilling thunderstorm there while we were camping, with amazing clouds and thunder so loud it woke us up when it echoed through the mountains. It was dry most of the time though. I met some cool new people and really enjoyed getting to know some people I already knew better, like Richmond musician and ukulele enthusiast, Alison Self. You should get to know her too.

There were so many stars out there in the mountains of northern VA. We laid on a blanket just looking up into the dark for a while. We could see constellations and my friend Alex pointed out the Milky Way to me, though at the time it wasn't so clear. A few hours later it was so dark and clear that you could really see the Milky Way as an obvious wave of light and stars through the sky. I wish I had some means of astrophotography to capture what we saw.

Here is a picture of the Milky Way taken in Crockett Park in Fauquier County, VA on a clear, moonless night on August 31st, 2008. So that's not too far from where we were. That photo is from the Astronomy and Astrophotography Blog, who also informed me that the Milky Way Galaxy contains between 200-400 billion stars. Whew!

I (learned how) and then swam in the lake there too. It was totally fun, but the second day I got a wicked sunburn on my back and a little too much color on my face. It was my own fault because I didn't wear sunscreen despite being advised to do so. Man that sun is so hot it really burns you up quick!

There was also singing around the camp fire at this conference which was so adorable that even I participated. I sang some songs about coal miners and pirates because I don't really know any songs about pizza that are suitable for a campfire.

I helped to prepare several meals for the group at this conference and was hoping to find some way to make pizza. Most of the meals were prepared using found and donated items so everyone did what they could to get creative. Alex, my friend/sous chef, and I got bonus points for our creative use of bread in, French toast, bread pudding, and two different kinds of stuffing and Alex doesn't even eat bread. The closest I came to pizza was to make this bread casserole stuffing thing with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Luckily for me after camping and conferencing was over some of us met up at a brewery for "some 'za and brewskinins, bro."

Perhaps you are unaware of this, but Charolttesville, VA and the surrounding counties host tons of booze tourism. There are several vineyards and breweries up there. Star Hill is a pretty good brewery and of course Mellow Mushroom is always worth the trip to C'Ville (to the only Mellow Mushroom in the state) for their awesome pizza, Esperanza dressing and very large beer selection. We stopped in to the Blue Mountain Brewery and I have to say, they had some excellent beers.

I certainly don't know as much about beer as I know about pizza, but I do know what I like. I love dark beers - so dark you can't even see your hand on the other side of the glass. Porters and stouts... all that liquid bread, gimmie! I also really like Belgian style beers because they are so sweet and gentle to me. Ha ha. I drank a glass of Blue Mountain's Evil 8° Belgian-Style Dubbel Ale (19.3° Plato, 50 IBUs and 7.7% alcohol by volume*) "Brewed in the Belgian Abbey style using caramelized Biscuit malt, Goldings hops and a unique strain of brewers' yeast." Delicious.

Some other favorites at the table were the Rockfish Wheat Ale and the I think the other favorite was the Dark Hollow Artisanal Ale, a bourbon barrel aged stout with a really sweet finish. It would have been good with a piece of chocolate. The Rockfish Wheat Ale (13° Plato, 20 IBU's, and 5.4% alcohol by volume*) is a Bavarian-style "Kristall Weizen" filtered wheat beer that had sort of a banana finish to it. It was really refreshing.

We also devoured some pizza there and I have to say the pizza is, unfortunately, not as good as the beer. Really it was more of a texture issue than taste. Half of the table got the Veggie Pizza with red sauce and no Cilantro the other half got the Veggie Pizza with the classic cilantro pesto sauce and the extra cilantro on top. Other toppings for both pizzas included, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, garlic, red onions, goat cheese and mozzarella. This was beautifully piled on to what the menu referred to as an "all natural thin crust" and what I referred to as a tasty but wet cardboard crust.

Based on looks or taste, or good company alone, I would have given this pizza high scores, but there is more to pizza than just looks and taste and good friends to share it with. A good crust is absolutely crucial to a good pizza. A good crust is more than just a vehicle for toppings, it is the sturdy, delicious foundation on which a great pizza is built. You wouldn't build the Colosseum on a plot of quicksand would you? Pizza is the Colosseum and crust should not be quicksand! Take care! To be fair, it is really hard to find a tasty "all-natural" crust especially one made from whole wheat as this one appeared to be made from. That crust was soggier than my socks after it rained on our camping trip.
Blue Mountain Brewery, I implore you! Please put the same care and craft into pizza as you have put into your fine beers. Put a little research and effort into that crust and your pizza could be great. Get it together. I am available as a consultant and taste tester. :-P

*Plato: The Plato (oP) scale a measure of the sugar levels in the wort (the sweet liquid that comes from mashing grains) prior to fermentation. Due to the process of fermentation the sugars are then converted to alcohol.
*IBU: The International Bitterness Unit is a system indicating the hop bitterness in finished beer. An IBU is one part per million of isohumulone, an acid derived from hops. A typical light American lager may have around 10-15 IBU's, an English brown ale around 20, an India Pale Ale 40-60, and some barley wines reaching up towards the 100 mark.
*Alcohol By Volume: Most massed produced American beers weigh in around 5% alcohol by volume.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pizza for the Troops.

Today the NY Daily News reported that UNO Chicago Grill is sending Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan 28,000 pizzas for the fourth of July. Pizzas will be shipping the pizzas in special containers so they're fresh when they arrive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pizza Snackage

These are NOT delicious but they DO break apart into little slices. So yeah, I guess they have that going for them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Going Green (Pepper)

I have noticed that a lot of pizza joints are going the organic/healthy rout lately. Even large national chains like Papa Johns and Pizza Hut are advertising whole wheat crusts and all natural toppings. There are a few smaller pizza chains that have been green all along. Let's take a look:

Amy's Kitchen On the frozen pizza tip we have Amy's! Amy's is the BOMB and also the leading provider of natural frozen foods. They provide some delicious vegetarian frozen pizza varieties including options for a boatload of food-allergies and religious dietary restrictions. Ingredients are organic and all-natural.

My favorite Amy's pie is Cheese & Pesto Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust. Dang that's a good pie! There is something about pesto on a whole wheat crust is REALLY delicious!

Naked Pizza This New Orleans based pizza parlor opened in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina. Since then their mission has been to combat "our national epidemic of obesity and chronic disease" by offering lower calorie pizza made from natural ingredients as an alternatives to everyday fast food and pizza, something they call "Pizza 2.0."

Naked Pizza boasts a commitment to good nutrition. along with a multi-grain dough mix that includes more than 10 seeds and grains, skim milk mozzarella, prebiotics and probiotics which are microscopic fibers and good bacteria that live in your guts and promote healthy digestion and immunity. Their crust and cheese are 100% natural and according to their chart a slice of thin crust cheese pizza is just 91 calories. They also have menu items that pay homage to their area like the Creole Cajun Throwdown with has Alligator Sausage, Shrimp, Chicken, Garlic, Bell Pepper, onions. Wait! back it up! ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE!? WOW! You can follow Naked Pizza on Twitter.

Pizza Fusion was also started in 2006 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was founded college classmates Michael Gordon and Vaughan Lazar. Their idea was to provide an pizza delivery service that would fill the "huge void in the restaurant sector that prevented people from eating out organically."

Pizza Fusion builds franchises LEED certified buildings , delivers pies in hybrid cars purchases renewable energy certificates to offset 100% of their power consumption.

Pies at Pizza Fusion are a little on the pricey side because rather than buying cheap crap ingredients they are purchasing local and organic ingredients. they also offer Vegan cheeses and gluten-free crusts and desserts. I have to say that as someone who was previously on a gluten-free diet, this is a great idea! Pizza is a huge miss for people with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Pizza Fusion offers gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and lactose free menu items. Good for them, but I would like to see the prices come down a bit if it is at all possible.
Pizza Fusion is also on Twitter, and they also have a location in Richmond, VA!

Mellow Mushroom is an Atlanta based pizzeria that has been around for about 30 years. They might not be the most organic pizza chain, but they certainly are making an effort on the VEG front. They offer tons of veg options. I have to say, that from a chain, Mellow Mushroom seems to have some way more casual business policies. That is, they seem less rigid in their quest for corporate conformity, while maintaining product consistency. They have a very laid back, and humorous atmosphere which I think is pretty refreshing for a chain restaurant. They have a totally psychedelic decor tons of excellent beers on tap and also feature events like live music and trivia nights.

My best friend Catherine turned me on to this place when we were in college together. We drove all the way to their only VA location in Charlottesville just to get a pie. I have to tell you, it was worth the drive, and the headache of traffic from the UVA football game. It was a delicious pie with a nice firm crust and a most memorable sauce. Catherine had worked at a Mellow Mushroom in before college and is now a manager at a Mellow Mushroom in Georgia. I would love to see them start living up to their hippy cultural cash in and start going a little greener! Mellow is also on Twitter.

I've gotta hand it to Pizza Hut and Papa Johns for acknowledging the growing desire for natural and organic ingredients. Pizza Hut is now offering a multi-grain crust made with five grains and hyping their "all-natural" cheese and meat toppings. Papa Johns is working the 100% whole wheat crust angle advertising that their whole wheat dough is made using Ultragrain flour, an award-winning, all-natural, 100-percent whole wheat flour.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

8 1/2 = Drool

Today I had a pizza with my good friend Earl, from 8 1/2 and picnicked across the street in Scuffletown Park. The weather was so nice. We sat in the shade and I drank a Lemonata and Earl drank an Aranciata-So refreshing! I've know Earl since high school! We caught up and had a nice chat and then we took a walk. Earl is a wonderful musician and avid video blogger and just a great blogger in general. We both have really exciting things on the horizon, and we both love, love, love 8 1/2's pizza!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, 8 1/2 has the BEST pizza in Richmond. We got a piping hot pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and anchovies. Their red sauce is just perfect. It is just the right combination of sweet and spicy. Their anchovies are are really great too; they're nice and salty with out being too fishy or metallic tasting. I'm pretty sure the mushrooms are rolled in crack first. The crispy crust at 8 1/2 is awesome also. It is just the right thickness and is nice and tender without being floppy or soggy.

Getting pizza from 8 1/2 always feels really special and elite because they only make one size pizza and they are carry-out only. I can't really explain it but it always feels a little special getting a pizza from there, like you know about a secret or something. Ha ha.

In addition to being my favorite place to get pizza in Richmond, 8 1/2 is also my favorite film from famed Italian director, Frederico Fellini! What a bizarre and brilliant film. My favorite scene (in this film or ANY Fellini film) is when the kids go to Sarahghina's shack on the beach and pay her to dance the Rumba for them. Then they get caught by the priests and they tell Guido that Saraghina is really the devil. Guido gets scolded and breaks his mother's heart. Here's the clip.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Martha Stewart is Pizzalicious!

This pic of Martha is from an old Halloween issue of Martha Stewart Living. My sister, Maya, and I used that issue a a TON for the last Halloween party we had when we were still living together. That mag is a treasure trove of good ideas! Seriously, if you don't read any other issue of MSL all year, read the Halloween one!

Today I called into the Martha Stewart show on Serius/XM radio. I told her that I had been using a pretty good recipe for pizza crust but that I didn't think it was salty enough. My question was could I add more salt with out changing the quantity yeast. The answer is NO, follow the recipe!

Martha recomended a pizza dough recipe from the May 2009 issue of Martha Stweart Living. While we were waiting for an intern or assistant to bring her the issue, she told a delightful anecdore about eating pizza at her neighbor Ralph Lauren's house. His chef prepared four different kinds of pizza for them. She said it was was the first meal they had ever eaten together even though they've been neighbors for five years or so. She also told me her absolute favorite pizza is at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix headed up by Brooklyn native, Chris Bianco. Bianco has made a lot of "best pizza" lists. I can't wait to try it one day.

An assistant brought her a copy of the issue so she could read me the recipe, but she got a little upset when the printed recipe didn't seem to have the quantities for ingredients readily available. That makes sense, as it should obviously be the first thing listed on the page. She suggested I reference that issue, but I just looked it up on her website

Makes four 12-inch pizzas
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce envelope)
2 cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting, preferably organic
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, for bowl

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 3 cups flour and the salt, stirring until smooth. Stir in an additional 2 cups flour; continue adding flour (up to 1/2 cup), 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until dough comes away from bowl but is still sticky.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead with lightly floured hands. Start by slapping the dough onto the counter, pulling it toward you with one hand and pushing it away from you with the other. Fold the dough back over itself (use a bench scraper or a wide knife to help scrape dough from surface). Repeat until it's easier to handle, about 10 times. Finish kneading normally until dough is smooth, elastic, and soft, but a little tacky, about 10 minutes.
Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, 2 hours. Press it with your finger to see if it's done; an indent should remain.
Scrape dough out of the bowl onto floured surface, and cut it into 4 pieces. Shape into balls. Dust with flour, and cover with plastic. Transfer to refrigerator, let rise overnight.
Prepare pizza according to recipe.

The pictured pizza is Martha's Oven-Dried Heirloom Tomato Pizza. OMG!!1! I want to go to there. You can check out that recipe here. There is even a video to show you how she does it. I love you Martha!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Designer Slicer

Frankie Flood, teaches jewelry making and metalsmithing in the Milwaukee area. According to his crafthaus page his current interests "functional objects and the history of toolmaking." This is certainly an excellent example of his design skills and his dedication to both form and function. I wonder how much they go for. That Batman looking one is awesome!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kobayashi owns the P'Zone, Carbon holds down Brooklyn

Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi, 31, a professional eating champion from Japan took on American eater Joey "Jaws" Chesnut, 25, in a Pizza Hut P'Zone eating "chow"lenge hosted at the Spike TV Guys Choice Awards.

Rules included no dunking, a popular technique in hot dog eating competitions to soften the bread. Kobayashi and Chesnut both drank loads of water, but left the side of marinara sauce untouched. The average weight of one P'zone is 1.07lbs.

From the Associeated Press: "Kobayashi, a six-time world hot dog eating champion from Japan, consumed 5 3/4 P'zones in a six-minute span of chaotic consumption Saturday to edge Chestnut. The 25-year-old from San Jose, Calif., wolfed down 5 1/2 P'zones on Stage 15 at Sony Studios."

Kobayashi was recovering from the painful jaw disease TMJ at the time. Chestnut Held a previous 2008 P'zone Eating title beating out Marivic Stewart by chomping down 4 1/2 P'zones.

In other pizza competition news, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Sal Carbone won the Pizza Eating Champ title for the third year in a row, at Sunday’s Pizza Eating Competition in Bay Ridge. Carbone downed 22 slices of pizza in just 12 minutes. His previous record was 15.

The fifth annual competition was hosted at Rocco’s Pizzeria at 7818 Fifth Avenue, was part of the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Street Festival.