Sunday, February 5, 2012

DIY Pizza for Super Bowl Sunday!

Did you know that more pizza is ordered on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year? Damn! In keeping with solidarity for IWW-Pizza Hut Workers Union members in Sheffield, UK I will not be ordering Pizza Hut Pizza today and I encourage you to do the same! Instead try a DIY Pizza. Bake it before the big game to fill your house with a pizzalicious smell!

Here are some interesting and creative takes on making an already awesomely portable food even more game-day-friendly!

Check out Molly Cody's recipe for pull-apart pizza.  You just take a big sourdough boule cut it up and stuff it with your favorite toppings put it back together and bake till it is GBD! then pull it apart again!

Check out this super easy recipe for Ritz cracker pizzas! IT might be a little to "Lunchables" for some folks... but those folks should just stop pretending like they don't like pizza Lunchables. It is the best one.
 Top Ritz crackers with your favorite pizza toppings and bake until cheese is melty! Use sparingly a thicker sauce or even seasoned tomato paste for best results.

A while back I submitted a cute recipe to Slice for pizza cups... not to be confused with pizza cupcakes, which you should also bring to your super bowl party! Mmmmm. Make it even easier by picking up a pizza kit from Pizza Tonight (if you're in RVA) or getting dough from your favorite local pizza joint (if you are elsewhere).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Blow Toad - Richmond, VA

Last Friday, some friends and I went to a preview of Blow Toad, Richmond's first and only coal fired pizza place. This is the new restaurant of two-time nominee for the James Beard Award and lauded local restaurateur Jimmy Sneed. 

Sneed has had his hands in several well-known and award-winning restaurants including Richmond's The Frog and the Redneck (now closed) and Chicago's SugarToad.  He also is co-owner of the acclaimed veg-friendly restaurant and pizzeria Fresca on Addison with his daughter. The chef de cuisine is Nikoli Creatore, a veteran of Balliceaux which has always had an exceptionally creative and delicious menu.

Naturally with all these accolades I was expecting some awesome pizza but what we got fell far short of my expectations.

 At this very generous, FREE preview the team at BlowToad were dishing up pizza, samples of entrees and appetizers and dessert. The waitress came to take our order for two pies and three ap/entree samples and drinks (non-alcoholic)! She told us a little about the menu and the coal oven and took our order on an iPad. She also warned us that we were attending a test run and that if we "think the food was terrible it will only get better and if [we] think the food was great it will only get better."

We ordered two pies... one with smoked chicken, caramelized onion and Edwards Ham and another with  smoked sausage and goats cheese.  The waitress brought two smoked chicken pizzas. One had no onions. Drink orders were also fulfilled incorrectly. So, I guess the staff needs a better waitron app for the iPads. I wonder what pizza grease does to a touch screen.

The pizzas came out quickly but also before any of the appetizers did. The chicken on the pizza was barely describable as "smoky" and the salt from way too much ham overpowered both pies. As for the crust, I am disappointed to say that it was truly lackluster, totally soft and lacking any of the outer crispiness you might expect from a coal oven. Coal ovens provide a truly unique twist to pizza. This oven has a ways to go before it is seasoned enough to really add anything other than the taste of coal.

I would have a really difficult time believing that the pizza was cooked in an oven hotter than  maybe 600 degrees despite a house manager's instance that their oven can be fired to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. She asked not to be identified. I was also disappointed to hear her say that when the restaurant was not busy the oven would be fired at a lower temperature. There is just nothing like a pizza fresh from a REALLY hot oven. an oven fired to 1,000 can cook a pie in about a minute and a half.

Just after the pizzas arrived the appetizers came out. We ordered the Southern fried chicken and macaroni and cheese-- something that seemed totally out of place on the test menu. Maybe Sneed is trying to reject the notion that this might be an Italian restaurant. It was good, not great and the mac and cheese was nothing to write home about.

We also ordered the calamari which, I have to say, was totally awesome. It was fried to perfection. It was tender, crispy and fresh not rubbery or soggy.  It isn't just my love of cephalopods, the calamari was really the highlight of the meal. It is a good thing that it was good on its own with just a little lemon because they are serving it with a cup of honey-mustard. Yuck.

The third entree we sampled was prime rib with french fries. Again it was good not great. The fries were rustic with the skin still on and done very well.  My compliments again to whoever is working the fry station.  Finally we had dessert.  The waitress brought what she described as "the chef's version of a Tiramisu." It had a great flavor but the mouth-feel was all wrong. It was honestly the texture of unbaked chocolate-chip cookie dough. The coffee flavored filling was laden with big cold, raw chocolate chips. I don't know... it wasn't for me.

The rest of the test menu included things like wings and of course sugar toads.  The house manager told us pies will start at $8 (for a 12")  and they are slated to have up to 24 beers on tap and another 40 or so in bottles. They will also have a wide assortment of whiskeys. The house will also feature beer tasting classes.  This seems to make the focus of the place on booze and not food. That is definitely where the most money is to be made.

Even if you get drunk elsewhere BlowToad plans to have a pizza pick-up window open until 4am. Which might explain why there are numerous, visible security cameras all over the outside of the building but not why there are so many inside. Police state pizza much?

Let's talk coal and coal ovens. The house manager informed me, adamantly, that they only use "clean coal," called anthracite, to fire their new oven. This behemoth oven was built by Nabil Attie who also built the wood-fired oven at Fresca.  I will definitely check back after their hard opening, but as of now it seems like maybe they are wasting their oven. They have an incredible tool there that is totally unique in Virginia. They should fire it hot and hard and make as many pies as possible in there. It is like a cast-iron pan. It needs to be seasoned!

I'm not dumb enough to believe that there is such a thing as "clean coal," and frankly I'm surprised that no one objected to a constant coal fire burning in Carytown (a posh shopping district in Richmond, VA). It definitely makes the area smell like a coal fire and I'm sure it has to do with the oven being open and accessible to anyone in the parking lot.  I hope there are plans to enclose this opening somehow because it seems like an accident waiting to happen. In any case like all coal it is dangerous and hazardous to health. Just ask anyone who (no longer) lives in Centralia, Pennsylvania where an anthracite fire has been burning underground since 1962.  Maybe this is true for all power sources and maybe good pizza is worth the risk. Perhaps I'll open the first pizza place in the world with a nuclear oven!!!

All in all this place has their ups and downs and I hope that the waitress is right. I hope it will only get better. Kudos to them for a novel idea and good luck with better execution.

Photos by Neils A.

Foul bachelor frog weighs in for Pizza Meme Week

Foul bachelor frog: iron chef

UK Pizza Hut Workers CALL FOR ACTION!

The Pizza Hut Workers Union in Sheffield UK ha issued the following call for action!

Greetings Fellow Workers,

Pizza Hut Workers Call Out for Solidarity - 4th of February 2012

On the 4th of February Pizza Hut Workers will be holding a protest outside our store in Sheffield in continuation of an ongoing dispute over working conditions, and we are requesting solidarity pickets at Pizza Hut stores, mangered or franchised.
Details of dispute to date:
In April of last year Pizza Hut workers placed a collective grievance about the following issues –
·         Bank Holiday Pay – The standard practice in the UK is for workers to be paid a rate of time and a half for working unsociable days, such as Boxing day, or New Year’s eve. However, Pizza Hut has reversed
this in all cases now across all its stores, and now even if a worker was to be in on Christmas day they would still be paid the standard wage. We demand that Pizza Hut pay all workers time and a half for working Bank
Holiday days.
·         Delivery Drivers Commission - Delivery staff, using their own cars, are paid a commission rate of 60p per delivery. The rate has remained static for several years. This is despite a changing delivery radius and the rising price of petrol. A driver can deliver a pizza that could be part of a 6 mile round trip, giving them a rate of 10p per mile. A worker on minimum wage is expected to pay for the cost of running a car as well as towards the cost of fueling it while at work. Despite a review and the promise of a new rate, the rate has remained the same.

The Pizza Hut Workers Union also has concerns outside of this dispute including delivery staffs safety gear, a decreasing pay packet that falls behind inflation and a demand for a real living wage for all Pizza Hut workers. We ask for your support in our on-going dispute.

Advice for interaction with Management, Fellow Workers and the Public Management

We would advise that supporters simply do not engage with management other than to inform them that you are holding a solidarity picket in support of Pizza hut workers demanding proper Bank Holiday pay and a fair Delivery Commission.

Pizza Hut Workers:
This is not a strike action so we are not expecting workers to not go to work, but we want to engage with workers as much as possible. Part of the advantage of the action on the 4th of February will be to encourage Pizza Hut workers, and to show them that our union supports them and that it’s OK for them to demand better at work. We would encourage supporters to give Pizza Hut workers a flyer providing information on the current dispute as well as an application form and encourage them to join the union. We can use this as a way to build the membership of the union and develop a confidence for acting at work in a sector that has seen little or no industrial action. The aim should be to discuss with them in as much depth as possible the
details of the dispute and how joining the IWW can help them at work.
If you look at the attached flyer there is a pro-forma letter on the back, supporters should ask the public to send the letter to Pizza Hut registering their support for our demands. We would also ask that supporters get members of the public to sign the petition of support. We would encourage supporters to engage with the Public, and ask them to go elsewhere until the dispute is settled, pointing them in the direction of their nearest alternative pizza establishment.

We thank you for all your support and continue to be amazed by the level of solidarity we have received from Fellow Workers all over the world.

For the One Big Union,
Pizza Hut Workers Union

Friday, February 3, 2012

I can has pizza

Of course I would have to include a pizzalicious meme from the icanhas Cats.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Insanity Wolf for Pizza Meme Week

More than dogs delivery drivers fear Insanity Wolf... especially during Pizza Meme Week