Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Glögg Blog

I paid a buck for a duck
and got a buck for the duck...
   Some people have said I should call this chapter my Glögg Blog. I like the sound of that. Glögg was served at the Danish Christmas Dinner and surprisingly enough, we ran out! Jannnike (Joni) served up the Danish open face sandwiches as Sanne (Sheri) handled the ducks and Danish meatballs, red cabbage, green beans and port wine sauce while I roasted the pork and poured the wine. For dessert, the Kringle and the Belgian waffles (Flodevafler) were hugely successful as I received help from Helge (Hannah) and Hildegard (Heather). Hildegard was so much help with the waffles that I decided that she earned the Viking horns and she wore them proudly. Their parents, Greg (Gunther & Jannike) & Joni graciously helped do the dishes. Many thanks! Soon after dessert we plundered the gifts under the Christmas tree.
Helge helping with the Kringle
  
   After the guests were all gone, we had the big clean up to do. What an endless chore! As we started seeing light at the end of the tunnel was when I first started seeing the chance to make another pizza. With the leftovers I thought about exploring a bit further. Leif would have! There was some duck scraps left and to spare the the suspense, I decided to make a duck pizza. Yes, I Googled duck pizza and there was somebody who had already done it. (Wolfgang Puck to be exact!) I followed his lead and ended up with one of the worst tasting pizzas I had ever made. There are just some things that don't need to be on a pizza: duck is one of them. I've never thrown out one of my pizzas but after tasting it and trying to keep an open mind, the duck pizza was the first to end up face down in the trash. I think Leif would have turned around and headed home had he discovered a duck pizza on his trip to discovering the New World.

New World & Old World Vikings
Jannike, Hildegard, Sanne, Vulgar and Avila
   I had hinted that there might be an appearance of a Viking or a St. Pauli girl and of course there was. Sanne and Vidar made their presence known by dressing up in pseudo Viking era garb. One of my nieces couldn't remember my Danish name of Vidar and when it came out she had inadvertantly renamed me Vulgar! I laughed so hard that I chose to keep the name so now I am Vulgar the Horrible. It sort of describes the duck pizza too.


Sanne & Vulgar the Horrible
Jannike's open faced sandwiches
                                           I had finished the Viking ship mural at two in the morning before the event and it was a perfect back drop to the Danish decor. Leif would've been proud. All in all, I do believe it was the best Christmas ever, as so many have mentioned to me. The Danish flags and decorations are still hanging about as we can't seem to take them down just yet. As for the Lutefisk pizza, I mentioned it a few times and received looks of horror from those who knew what Lutefisk was. Rest assured, lutefisk didn't make it on the menu. It won't make it on a pizza either, no matter what Woklfgang Puck says.
Hildegard earned her horns
Roast duck stuffed with prunes & apples








Belgian waffle with pearl sugar topped
with Nutella and whipped cream

Danish Kringle
Grandma's recipe

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Danish Feast fit for a Konge (King)

     The traditional Danish Christmas dinner is coming together. It's fortunate that I have some time to devote to putting it together during these rainy days of December. The head count has dropped from 26 to 16 which is much more manageable but still those that can't attend due to weather or health will be missed.
   Aside from the normal Christmas decorating each year that we do, the theme, of course, is Danish. That means Danish flags have to be ironed, Christmas tree decorated in red & white, (the colors of the Danish flag), a trip to Ikea to buy enough Danish ornaments to decorate the tree. Menus have been made, food purchased, gas barbecue borrowed, chairs rented, tables set, more food purchased, beer & wine etc. etc. Sheri and I have never been ones to take the easy route either. When we host it will definitely be reflective of our personalities. A dress code won't be required but there will be the occasional appearance of Erik the Viking and maybe a St. Pauli girl or two.
   Each guest will be given a traditional Danish name such as Claus or Dagmar, Helge or Hildegarde with only the first letter of their name to match the first letter of the Danish name. I will be Vidar for the evening and Sheri will be Sanne. Together, we have put Svinemørbrad (pork tenderloin), Stegt And (roast duck) and Frikadeller (Danish meatballs) on the menu as the main courses. There will be red cabbage (Røtkål), boiled carmelized potatoes (Brunede Kartofler) and for dessert I have been practicing my grandmothers' recipe for Danish Kringle (pronounced kranel with one of those guttural 'k' s in front).
    Also, as a treat, I will be making a Belgian waffle (Leige Flodevafler) with tiny bits of Perle sugar in the batter then topped with Nutella, powdered sugar or whipped cream.
 
   Sheri has asked me to paint a mural above the fireplace and I decided that it should be a Viking longship. Today, I finally got a chance to start it and am happy to say it's nearly half way done. On top of all the planning, running around and shopping we spotted a black refrigerator at a yard sale that needed a home.  Since all of our appliances are black except for the fridge it appeared to be a good deal and larger than the one we owned. That just added that much more work to the party by having to empty the old one and bring in the new one, reload it and then try to remember where everything is after loading it.
    Already I have run into people I know in the grocery stores who have asked me about what we are doing for Christmas and I tell them we are hosting dinner for the family and their first question is, "Are you serving pizza?" My answer is "no, not this year but we have in the past." I don't remember that the Vikings were big into pizza. But then again, maybe that's why they set sail and ended up discovering America in the first place... looking for a really good pizza place. Heck, Columbus was searching for spices and a new route to India, Ponce de Leon was searching for the fountain of youth, Hudson was looking for the Northwest passage. Leif could've been looking for a good New York pizza.  History can be cruel. I believe Buffalo Bill used to shoot bunnies before he decided history wouldn't look kindly on that so he re-started his great career as a buffalo hunter that earned him a better spot in the history. Bunny Bill? Doesn't sound good, does it?

  Of course, if I wanted to push a Danish/pizza theme I suppose I could make the first Lutefisk pizza with Havarta cheese on a Danish pastry crust. It sure makes me wonder though, how did the Danes go from pillage and plunder to cheese and pastries?

    I'm excited to host Christmas but also I am eager to get back in the kitchen and making pizzas again as December is slipping by and my new fridge hasn't seen a pizza dough ball yet.
Skøl and Glaedlig Jul!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pizza Tossing for Idiots

  When friends or family come over for pizza the one question that seems to surface is: "Do you toss your dough?" I want to say, "Yes." but the inevitable question that follows is, "Can we watch you do it?" That's the question that has to be addressed.
   If you are old enough to remember the Wide World of Sports intro where the ski jumper is sailing down the ramp, leans a little too much to his right then looses it and comes crashing off the jump before he ever leaves the ground then you have an idea of what the agony of defeat feels like. It has become apparent to me that Tony has nothing to worry about. No threats of dethroning him in the near future or the distant future from me as far as pizza tossing goes. It is a skill that comes with a lot of repetition and a lot of practice, not to mention the many balls of dough.
   I never have taught myself to juggle, ride a unicycle or spin a basketball on one finger, or for that matter, hit that stupid rubber ball attached to a paddle with a rubber band. I guess I'm not super human. I know Tony had to start somewhere and hopefully looked as bad as I do at the beginning, but I shouldn't let super humans like him deter me. I know he offers a course in pizza tossing for a few hundred bucks.  I remember the TV commercial where, I believe, Carlo Rossi said, "I could talk about wine all day but I'd rather drink it." That's like how I feel about making pizza. Sure, a little showmanship is fun and makes for a bit more entertainment as well as stretching your dough out to the necessary dimensions. As always though, form follows function.
   The argument could continue as to whether I am a well rounded pizza maker if I don't toss my own dough. Heck, I have tossed a football around, I've tossed coins in a fountain in Rome, tossed ideas around a room, tossed rocks in a pond and for that matter, tossed my cookies. You would think it should come natural to me. So, this is where I have to improve my skills. Maybe there's a book at Border's called "Pizza Tossing for Idiots."

   I suppose the book might read something like this:

 1. Start with fresh dough. Do not attempt to toss hot pizza with cheese and tomato sauce already on it.
 2. Do not attempt to toss sliced pizza as the wedges are too difficult to handle.
 3. Do not toss pizza dough while operating a motor vehicle.

I don't think that there is a specific law against the last one but I have to believe, unless you own a convertible, then you're probably wasting your time.


video
WARNING: THIS VIDEO MAY CONTAIN POOR TECHNIQUE! 
                                VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK


 Other chapters might advise you to not toss pizza dough in the pouring rain or on a skeet shooting range. The final chapter might be: How to remove pizza dough from your ceiling, lamp fixtures and hair. Maybe that could be a book for me in the future.
   Anyway, you have to start somewhere and I have a few things going in my favor. We have high ceilings in the kitchen and I have 50 pounds of flour in the pantry. Maybe by the time I post a video of me tossing dough a year from now I will have improved enough from the video above to not embarrass myself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Par for the Crunch

   I just bought another 50 pounds of high gluten flour. What I'm hoping to do is change some of the ways I have been traditionally making pizza. In other words, not so much by the book. After visiting Pizzetta 211 in San Francisco and talking to the server about their pizza it opened my eyes to the fact that good pizza can be made to taste right even without the world class ingredients. This too, has been re-enforced by Chef Ramsay on Hell's Kitchen where the contestants are challenged to create and cook a  meal using only standard and inexpensive ingredients such as ox tail, liver and such to serve as a high end plate. Although I'm not ready to give up the high gluten flour (since I just bought another 50 lbs.) or the Stanislaus County tomatoes in which I purchased another case but to experiment with technique and procedure.
   Crunch! That was my next goal. To find the massive crunch in the thin crust pizza that hasn't always been there for me. I had been experimenting with different temperatures on the BBQ oven and the kitchen oven. Build the pizza, slide it in and hope for the crunch when it comes out. Yes, no and sometimes seems to be the result. Then it dawned on me, crunch could come from pre-baking the pizza skin, then assemble it and finish baking it. I tried that procedure the first time and over cooked it although it was super crunchy. Next time I tried again for about half the time as the first skin. This one again was appearing to be crunchy while looking good through the glass oven door. I pulled it out after about a minute, popped the bubbles and laid on the sauce, cheese and toppings. I slid it back into the oven and finished baking it at my regular temperature of about 550º.  I thought, this is going to be good so I rushed over to get my camera, set it on video and turned on the mic. This is what I was hoping for! Turn up your speakers so you can hear it:
video   Par-baking I believe, is what this technique is called. I don't know the exact definition of Par but as far as I can tell from the English language it seems to define when something is not quite the whole deal. An example might be: Para-legal which wouldn't quite be the attorney but an assistant. Para-professional: not quite the professional;  paranormal of course would be: not quite normal etc. I'm just not sure where a paramecium, parcheesi, parachute and other Par words would fit into that theory. Oh well, my hobby is making pizzas, not dissecting the English language.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Authentic NY White Pizza Sauce

   I never had the success that I wanted with the creamy white garlic sauce. After a few strike outs I start to wonder if I should just leave it to the pros. Then, the other day I decided to follow my own advice and Google 'world's best white pizza sauce recipe'. There were quite a few more than before and one that jumped out at me was an authentic New York white pizza sauce. 
   Pizza is synonymous with New York like sausage is with Chicago, wine with California and Al Davis with suing the NFL. That's the sauce I wanted to try next. It called for a whole onion chopped up with 3 cloves of crushed garlic all sauteed in a couple of tablespoons of EVOO. After 5 or 6 minutes on a low heat, I poured in some heavy cream, added some thyme, salt & pepper and stirred until it thickened. "That's it?" I wondered, "that's too easy." But sometimes I need to remind myself that in art they would teach us that less is more. Hmmmm. Although the sauce was lumpy from all the chopped onions and not the appearance of Round Table's white sauce I decided the appearance was secondary to the flavor. 
   Using one of Gail's doughs I went for my favorite Round Table pizza recipe called the Italian Garlic Supreme. The sauce smelled good and tasted fine but it didn't blow me away at first but after it cooled a bit I spread it on the hand rolled dough when I started getting hits of garlic. I covered it with a healthy portion of mozzarella cheese and strategically placed some pepperoni, crumbled (cooked) spicy Italian sausage, some green onions and a few chopped tomatoes from Dad's garden and into the oven it went. That combination of toppings also makes a very pleasing visual appearance as well, since it's so colorful. You almost forget about the lack of anti-oxidants with all the cheese, sausage and pepperoni. It doesn't matter, I have decided that I am pro-oxidant anyway.
   A few quick minutes later that puppy was sizzling with huge garlic aromas and not the onion which really surprised me. I started speaking with a bad Italian accent again signaling that, "dis-uh pizza was uh gonna be-uh good one, ya know?" The WOW factor was a 9.5 out of a possible 10. I was impressed. 
   The first to last bite was exciting. Round Table, move over cuz this is New York pizza talking. Maybe Al Davis wouldn't be so angry with everybody if he just sat down to a good New York Pizza first. 


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some dogs never get pizza. It's sad but it's true.

  
   Often times songs will pop in my head when I'm doing something that doesn't take much brain power. I'm not sure where they come from except the deep recesses of my mind. If I'm not speaking in tongues like the example I gave in the blog: No Cheese Oil, Cheezel, then occasionally a song that describes the task at hand is hovering around my brain and lips.
   The task last week at hand was making pizzas for some friends. I had to make several for the group and as I was enjoying the solitude of the moment and thinking about the number of dough balls I had to have ready for the following evening. I started in singing to myself a Bob Marley tune but had changed the words slightly. I make two pizzas before I make two pizzas then I get busy and I make two more. It seemed appropriate at the moment as I was up to my elbows in flour.
   Later in the day, as I noticed poor Presley having a rough day lounging around the house in various favorite locations having his early morning snooze, then his mid-morning snooze and finally a late morning snooze before climbing up on the sofa for his noon time snooze just before he takes his early afternoon snooze so he can be rested up enough to take his mid-afternoon snooze and so on and so on. Fast forward to his pre-night snooze so he can get a good rest before his full night snooze. The melody pops in my head again with the words changed ever so slightly to appropriately fit the moment: I take two naps before I take two naps and then I get up and I take two more. 
   It has got to be rough being a Golden Retriever to put in a six hour day with only 18 hours of sleep. The sad part of all is he only gets the scraps of the pizza that I am eating. A crust that is a bit too chewy or a little over done is all that is waiting for him.
  He knows the word pizza and he knows where to be when it's pizza time. Yes, I am guilty of even saving pizza crust when we have gone out for pizza and wrapped the ends up in a napkin and stashed them in my pocket until we get home. I know he knows we've been out for pizza and I can't lie to him. His nose knows. Later in the evening as we are settling in I let him know the truth. I usually will snuggle in with him and share some honesty with him. I tell him, "Presley, some Golden Retrievers never get to have pizza... I know, it's sad, but it's true." I generally will follow up with another statement of truth and tell him, "Presley, some Golden Retrievers don't have dads that make pizza... I know, it's sad, but it's true." He listens but I don't think he actually believes me. I think he thinks that everybody and every Golden Retriever gets pizza as a regular diet and I'm making a big deal out of it all.




Only a few times though have I ever finished the crust of a pizza. It's usually the part I leave on the plate as I delve into the next slice. Chicago Fire in Sacramento served that ultra thin crust pizza that started with the amazing first bite and finished the same way. A couple of my sourdough thick crusts have had me excited until the end but it doesn't often happen for me. I suppose it's that sensation of all those anticipated flavors exploding in your mouth that keeps me excited about the next bite. A pizza, I think should be exciting from start to finish. If you were to ask a Golden Retriever (when he is awake), I think Presley would have to disagree. The crust is meant for him.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Elvis is alive and well!

   Elvis has made a comeback. We were invited by some long time friends, Bob & Maria to join them at an Elvis Impersonator show up in Paradise, CA. Although we had attended an Elvis Festival in Canada over a year ago and went dressed as Elvi (that's plural for Elvis) we decided to leave the outfits at home this time.
   I was lying in bed and couldn't sleep due to an aching back. I took a Motrin early on. Had a glass of wine and after an hour took a sleeping pill. Still couldn't sleep. I suppose something was nagging at me that needed to be taken care of. The tickets! I haven't gotten online and bought my tickets for the show! I jumped up, refilled my wine glass, and got online. The website was somewhat confusing to navigate. Once I found the show at the Paradise Performing Arts Center site and the seats that I wanted I scrolled down to where it said, "Buy Tickets". That was easy I thought, until the confirmation came up and I had bought 2 tickets for a cooking show not Elvis! I tried to undo my mistake but you can't. I then went to print my confirmation number out and the printer started cranking out page after page of written documents. Six pages in all! The final page read: Total $1759.00! I hit Defcon 3! No way! For some reason unknown it looked like I had bought season tickets for two to all the shows at the PPAC. I immediately got on the phone and called my credit card company to stop the transaction. They checked and told me I had only purchased 2 tickets for a cooking show and NOT the season tickets. "Can you cancel that?" I asked. "No, you'll have to call them in the morning," he told me. So I went back to the website and banged out an email that read, "Help, I want Elvis, not a cooking show. Please contact me asap." The next morning I called them at 11:10 when they opened. The lady said, "This is Nicki, can I help you?" "Yes, I bought 2 cooking show tickets by mistake"..."Oh, you must be Vincent," she said, "we're taking care of it; no problem, happens all the time.""You should have scrolled up instead of down to buy the Elvis tickets; we'll fix it."
   This is what drinking and buying can do. Never shop online after a glass of wine, a Motrin, and a sleeping pill. You could get hurt! What a lesson!
   We drove up to Chico, met with our friends at their friend's house (wonderful people), stopped for a fabulous Mexican dinner for the six of us, and of course, I had to share my story with them. Don't drink and shop became the moral of that story!
    This guy named Mike Albert with his 5 piece Big E band was phenomenal. I had to say to John & Mary who had seen Elvis live back a few decades, "I can't believe that Elvis put on as good a show as this impersonator".  He was personable, funny, great with the old timers and the kids, and really rocked the house. His moves were spot on and his voice when singing or talking was so much like the real deal I felt like I went back in time. John had to agree, he was that good!
   I never got to see Elvis live but I feel like I have now. What a great show that my friends, Bob & Maria had us drive up to Paradise for. I highly recommend Mike Albert and the Big E band! Here's a clip that I filmed at his performance. Don't tell!
video

   Bob & Maria stayed two more nights with their friends in Chico and then stopped by Elk Grove on their way home to Moraga. We got to show them our home and naturally fed them a Margermeata pizza that I baked out in the BBQ pizza oven out back. It was fun to see them again after 14 years, lots of reminiscing and a couple of Golden Retrievers later for the both of us.
   Old friends and pizza or new friends and pizza. It's always a win-win situation. Throw in a little Jailhouse Rock, Suspicious Minds, American Trilogy and you have an exciting evening for everybody! Thanks Bob! Next time we're wearing our Elvis outfits!
 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going Traditional Danish

    The third year in a row, we end up hosting Christmas for the family. That's a good thing. Two years ago we did a non-traditional Chinese theme Christmas as we had returned from a trip to China the previous year. Yes, we served Chinese food ordered out as I am only a so-so Chinese cook. (Or as the Chinese would say: mamahoohoo). My rice is good but the other areas lack the real Chinese signature. The following year we had been watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Occasionally the owner of one of these dives shares a recipe with the TV audience. Luckily we had DVR and could back it up and play it again until we got all the ingredients written down. The recipe was for Oklahoma's 2 time winning chili from the state chili cook-off. The amounts were not given so we had to estimate. It was one of the best chili's I had ever eaten. Since I was already proud of my pizza making skills we decided to go non-traditional once again and serve pizza and chili. I don't think anybody really minded that Chinese food and chili & pizza are atypical for a Christmas dinner because this year we are again the hosts of the family Christmas dinner.
    Sheri and I had recently paid a visit to my Danish Aunt Karen in Walnut Creek. We got to talking about the past and how so many of her beloved Danish traditions are disappearing. So, on the way home we started talking and decided it would be a fun idea to do a traditional Danish Christmas dinner for the family. Since she is a native born Dane and my aunt we have extended an invitation to her and one of my cousins to join us.
    I think though, that the closest that I have come to cooking Danish was boiling some potatoes and a one time shot at making Kringle, a dessert favorite of the Danes.

    So it is back to internet and Mom's attic for some recipes favored by the Danes. I have done pork roast before but only in the standard American way. The challenge, I think, will be to bring something different to the table. Duck. I decided that duck was different enough and authentic enough to make the dinner memorable and genuine. I've never cooked a duck before but I saw a lot of them hanging in the windows in Chinatown. That should make me a mamahoohoo expert. That and YouTube and anything is possible. Some red beets and cabbage is always on the menu at a Danish meal so they will be present as well. Of course we'll have to do the traditional open face sandwiches on pumpernickel and rye as appetizers. I suppose Tuborg beer and some homemade Glog will have to be the drinks of choice.

History note:

Tuborg Gold Label Premium Lager was developed by the legendary Danish brewer Hans Bekkevold in 1895. The Danish brewing tradition dates back as far as the infamous Viking era, when beer was considered a staple on Viking ships.

   For entertainment I think traditionally the Danes have typically stormed and plundered many of their neighbors so I'm tossing that idea around as well. I hope the neighborhood association doesn't read this.
   Roast pork and duck, boiled potatoes, red beets and cabbage, kringle and Tuborg, the only thing missing is a Viking game on TV. To the victor go the spoils. Yum!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Masterpiece to Masterpiece to Masterpiece

Pizzetta 211 was on our way home. We had heard of it mentioned from the Hawaiian resident, Albert Grande's website called Pizzatherapy.com. They had mentioned that they made the best Margherita Pizza around in an article which had been written by Sunset magazine. We had just left the deYoung Museum where the Impressionist Exhibit was taking place. The exhibit was our Anniversary present that Mom had given us to celebrate our 35th anniversary. My favorite artist is, of course, Vincent Van Gogh. Six of his paintings hung in a room just inches from our faces. Vibrant colors and determination by the artist jumped out at us as we gazed at the master pieces of this misunderstood artist. It was hard to leave that room. After the exhibit we headed for the bridge taking a scenic route and soaking in the City. The weather in San Francisco was perfect for sight-seeing. We meandered through the city using the GPS and realized we were near Pizzetta 211.
   Pizzetta 211 is definitely a hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Possibly enough seating inside for 8 customers and two more 2 person tables on the sidewalk sandwiched between old Victorians on 23rd Avenue, at of course, 211 23rd Ave. We stopped and walked over to the pizzeria and had the opportunity to ask the server some questions about the pizza. They seemed to break all the rules of the perfect Margherita but with enormously successful results. No tipo "00" flour here, they used all purpose flour. No wood fired brick oven at 900º either but a standard Bakers Pride double oven. No San Marzano tomatoes either but plum tomatoes from the Stanislaus Valley. Even their cheese was low moisture mozzarella instead of the classic Mozzarella di Bufala. Their basil was fresh but with a twist. Instead of fresh basil leaves laid on top of the pie they had chopped the leaves very fine and mixed them with olive oil. The server told us this helps to keep them fresh.
   Now, if you told me that they made the pizza this way without the endorsements of Pizza Therapy or Sunset magazine I would've probably said we'll go somewhere else. I am however, a firm believer in doing things in a way that whatever works. Fortunately, I was not dissuaded by the hole-in-the-wall appearance of this place. I wanted to give it a try. The pizza we ordered came back to us as we sat at the  the sidewalk table and from appearances looked like perfection on a platter. Thin crust, bright red tomato sauce, melted white mozzarella and spoonfuls of deep green basil/olive oil dripped carefully in all the right places. The colors were vibrant and carefully placed. I think Van Gogh would have seen it as an artfully painted canvas. Whatever works is by far an under-estimated statement. I have to agree with the testimonials to this place. It definitely is a hole-in-the-wall and it definitely serves up an amazing Margherita pizza. In a word, it was a Masterpiece.
   On our way home we noticed that the Blue Angels were practicing for the air show over the Bay. We wanted to stop and watch but this is San Francisco. Where do you stop and watch? As we headed over the Bay Bridge, it  came to me. The perfect place to stop and watch was on Treasure Island! Why not be in the middle of the action. Some of these jets came so close to the island you could see the pilots while covering your ears from the roar of the jet engines. Amazing choreography and intense power turned this practice session into a real show. What a great day! Three venues and three masterpieces! Van Gogh, Pizzetta 211 and the Blue Angels. This is something you don't get in Hawaii, right Albert?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Time Warp

  I was about 15 when mom had come across an old cookbook dated 1906. She handed it to me and I started paging through the brittle yellow pages. She thinks it may have been her mothers' cookbook but wasn't sure. As I began to read through it I realized, even at that age, that things were considerably different back then and especially in the kitchen. There were no mixers, timers, electronic thermometers or the like. Their ranges were wood or coal fired and educated guesses were almost a science. Ingredients of particular items were pure and natural, not in a jar on the shelf.  I enjoyed reading the instructions as they differed tremendously from what we were doing in the 60's. In order to gauge the temperature of the oven the book told you to drip some spittle on the oven door when you opened it to see if it would dance, sizzle or just lay there. If it sizzled the oven temperature was just right for baking a cake. I thought to myself, "this is insane!"
    Baking a cake back then in the 60's was an exact science. You would ride your bike down to the corner store, find a cake mix for 25¢, bring it home and follow the directions. Add one egg, some oil, water and pour it in a cake pan after 5 minutes on the electric mixer. The oven temperature would already be set and a half hour later the cake was cooling on the counter. What the heck was all this stuff about grating chocolate, adding baking powder, vanilla flavoring, measuring flour and sugar, and beating the batter for 400-500 strokes? That's crazy!
   Then it hit me. I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to bake a cake the old fashioned way and follow the directions to the letter as best as I could. Mom had a gas oven so that would be the only difference. I started gathering up the ingredients and set them up on the counter. The list went on and on and on some more when I realized it will need frosting. I remember making at least 2 trips to the store to buy stuff we didn't have. I had started at 5 in the afternoon and paused for dinner then back to the reading and deciphering of this ancient method. It was to be a three layer chocolate cake with orange frosting. It even called for grating orange peels for the flavoring in the frosting. At 11:00 at night I tested the oven door with, yup... spittle! It sizzled. I put the three pans of cake batter in the oven and just before midnight I was anxious to see what I had created. I was going to taste what 1906 tasted like in 1968. I pulled it out of the dark oven when the surface was appearing baked and went to stick a knife in it to see if it was done. To my dismay, the 3 cake pans of batter were as flat as when I put them in. They never rose. I was devastated. I re-read the cook book instructions and discovered I had forgotten to put in the baking powder.  I had spent nearly 7 hours baking that cake. I frosted it anyway and it looked like 3 pancakes with orange filling. I never attempted to cook anything from that cookbook again. 1906 was over and the 25¢ cake mixes of 1968 were the best things to ever come along, I thought.
   Today, a new generation of cooks has arrived. Sheri teaches with some younger teachers in their 20's. If she brings something into the faculty room to share that she has baked the young teachers want to know where she bought it. They can't and won't believer her when she says she baked it from scratch. To them, scratch means opening up a mix and adding an egg and shoving it in the microwave. She has to explain that scratch means following a recipe with a list of ingredients like flour, sugar, oil, eggs, baking powder etc. They stare at her in disbelief like she came out of a space ship. I suppose it would be more accurate to say she came out of a time warp from the 60's when cooking from scratch was somewhere between 1906 and the modern day 25¢ cake mixes.
The Time Warp courtesy of The  Rocky Horror Picture Show
   Last week I decided to bake a pizza dough with no yeast, and followed the recipe as I am still pursuing the perfect thin crust pizza. To my amazement, it turned out rather good. It had a nice soft chewy crust but not the cracker thin crispy crust that I am looking for. I can still feel and taste the texture of Chicago Fire's Pizza which was exceptional. That is what I am looking for and hoping to find or develop on my own and in my own time.
   If pizza is to survive the time warp the dough has to be made from scratch every time. As far as mixes go: Just say "NO!"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My First 50 Pounds

100 pounds of flour
   My first sack of high gluten flour that weighed in at 50 lbs, is nearly gone. I reached for the heavy bag in the pantry and fumbled through all these nearly empty bags of flour rolled down to the size of a Sunday paper in the Rubbermaid bin and tried to pull out the heaviest. When I came up nearly empty-handed I checked the printing on the outside of the nearly-empty bag.  It read High Gluten flour and down below it said, "50 lbs." I was shocked and amazed that I had almost used it all. For a pizzeria that wouldn't have been unusual. For a home hobby chef I was impressed. Wow, I thought, I used all that flour making pizzas in a 9 month period?  For less than $20 I was able to devour the contents by turning it all into pizza.
    When carrying in a 50 pound bag of flour from the car I had to wonder if I went overboard and just bought it because it was cheap and available. To put that question to rest, I saw that my interest in pizza was a little more than a hobby.  50 pound bags of flour are heavy to lift, move around and store. When I look into the container that holds 50 pounds of Presley's dry dog food I can never imagine him eating through all that kibble. I never ask him to save me the last bite of his dog food either nor would he give it up to me, but it's funny how he appreciates the last bite of our pizza and expects it as well.
How do they know the last bite is for them?
    It seemed absurd to buy that much flour for two people since we're not putting it in storage for Armageddon. However, I have to remind myself from time to time that I am the son of a man that has 8 to 10 gallons of paint thinner in his shed, more portable radios than Radio Shack and enough flashlights to recreate a solar flare. In his home you wouldn't have to turn your head more than 15 degrees right or left to see what time it was due to the vast number of clocks he has collected over the years and all set to within micro seconds of each other as if it were the control room at an underground nuclear missile site. So, with that in mind, I suppose a 25 lb. bag of A.P. flour, 25 pounds of bread flour and 50 pounds of high gluten flour seems reasonable.  Did I mention another 10 pounds of semolina flour as well?
   Maybe I should build myself a dry goods storage shed like the pioneers used to have out on the prairie.  No, probably not, but I think the downstairs shower that we refer to as the auxiliary pantry works out well. The glass door seals it from any would-be mice invaders. I wrap the bags of flour in plastic bags to keep any would-be pantry moths and moisture out of it and store it in a large Rubbermaid airtight container to keep any of the would-be ant invaders out. I keep my available cash in a drawer but my pizza flour is triple wrapped and secured. It makes me wonder too... but how would you explain to this soulful dog that there is no pizza in the house?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Great Taste Challenge (Revisited)


   It's been several months since I had entered the contest for the best food pairing with the Santa Margherita Wines. I had entered my Marghermeata Pizza to pair with their Chianti that racked up nearly 100 votes. The pizza is still an awesome pizza, no doubt, had they tasted it I would've won a few more votes even from the staff, I think. I believe the person who won collected some 5 or 6 thousand votes. So to put it in perspective, had this been a Presidential race it would have been close so long as Al Gore wasn't involved. I haven't thought about it much except to answer people's questions as to whether I had won or not.
   Today the UPS truck rumbled up in front of the house with a package. The doorbell rang, the relay doorbell rang too and Presley barked and I got up to see what had arrived. Thinking it had been some calcium pills that Sheri had ordered for me I felt the soft packaging and decided this must not be the calcium pills. I saw the return address and still didn't make the connection to the contest.
  Last summer I had done a mural painting on masonite boards for a woman who wanted a scene above her stove of her sister's winery down in Santa Barbara and immediately I thought it had something to do with her or her sister's winery. Upon opening it, it had a nice card that read: "Thank you so much for your submission to the Santa Margherita Great Taste Challenge Contest." The card went on to say my video didn't make it to the semi-finalist round etc. but here's a token of our appreciation. In a fine mesh wine gift bag that sparkled was an apron displaying their logo and the Great Taste Challenge 2010! Wow! I thought I had been used, abused and put out to snooze. A little gesture like this is worth mentioning I think, especially after watching numerous episodes of Gordon Ramsay's Master Chef who make the losers turn in their aprons before disappearing into obscurity. I will wear mine proudly and when people ask how I did in the competition I will say, "I lost by fewer votes than the last Presidential race." I wonder if Al Gore got an apron when he lost his race?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dynamite Pizza

   I know it's been a while since my last posting and people are wondering if pizza is out of my veins yet. That's not the case, only the time I have had to devote to writing the blogs has been shortened. Sheri says, "Work isn't just a job, it's an inconvenience." That is so true but when work comes up I have to give full attention to it and with this late summer heat everything has slowed down including me and my pizza making and experiments.
   I pulled out the binder that holds my many dough and sauce recipes and started to take inventory of what recipes I have tried and which ones I haven't yet tried. I have come across one that is another sourdough recipe but it includes garlic powder and oregano. I was hot, hungry and tired when I was perusing the file and thought I had read gun powder in the list of ingredients. That caught my eye as something I hadn't tried yet but after glancing back it clearly read garlic powder. Thank God! I don't even know which aisle at Safeway or Nugget that they might sell gun powder. I think Big 5 might carry it but that's all the way across town and if they asked me what I was using it for they might call security. It still looked worthwhile using garlic powder so I've decided to give it a go. I wonder though what would've happened if I did go with my original interpretation of using gun powder? In Rachel Ray's magazine, her one column that I read are monthly stories of kitchen messes and successes. So many of them are accidents that should have been disasters that ended up becoming a new family favorite. I think I could've made her top ten if I had insisted on gun powder.
   You want to make a pizza that's memorable and with flavors that explode in your mouth and maybe call it an Extreme Pizza or a pizza that will blow your mind not to mention your oven. I stuck with the garlic powder. After trying the recipe twice that were unsatisfactory in my opinion I decided to try a different approach. I was baking them on the stone at 550º and they were turning out hard and so tough that I had second thoughts that maybe I should have used gun powder. My final attempt I steered clear of the stone and used the pizza screen that I use when I do my incredible NewYork pizza. Instead of 550º I lowered the temp to 475º like the NY pizza, and baked it on the screen resting on the lower rack. To my surprise the pizza was chewy and and flavorful. The sourdough starter that I had added really came out in the overall taste so the gun powder was unnecessary after all.
   If I had used the gun powder I suppose I would have had to add a disclaimer to pizza lovers. "Kids, don't try this at home, Vince is a trained professional." The pizza didn't blow my mind but with the additional garlic and oregano in the mix I think it will become a worthwhile footnote to keep in mind for later use.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Barney loooves good pizza!

   So the summer is nearly over and school has started for those who participate. I have lost count of how many pizzas I have made and eaten over the last couple of months, but that isn't what is important.  Perfecting my technique and making improvements along the way is what I am looking for and I  continually change things a bit at a time.
   The first summer that I had friends over for my first pizza trial were so impressed that they told me not to change a thing. I was flattered that they thought that highly of the pizza I was making back then. That has been 2 years now and I can't believe how much it has evolved. Then, I was following word for word the teachings of Beverly Collins whose DVD, Secrets of the Pizzeria , I had purchased online. The dough, the sauce and the techniques I  did again and again to educate myself and get it right. Those were some good pizzas but as with everything, it has evolved. I have treated myself to many other pizzas along the way. From world champion pizza maker Tony Gemignani's pizzas to our local Pizza Guys and many more in between. All were of  different styles, approaches, techniques, flavors and textures. I have liked them all. Peter Reinhart, a world class bread/pizza expert says there are only two types of pizza. Pizza that is good and pizza that is very good. He is right: everybody puts their personal signature on each pizza they create.
    I'm not sure what my signature is just yet. I used to hate it when discussing art with somebody who was unfamiliar with Fine Art would say, "I don't know much about art but I know what I like." For me that statement didn't go deep enough. One could say that about pizza as well though but I, personally want to know what it is about pizza that I like. Is it the dough with all it's variables in thickness, texture, flavors, consistency? Is it the sauces that range from extremely simple 5 ingredient recipes to overly complex sauces with multiple layers of texture and taste? Is it the type, brand, blend, meltability (if that's a word) of cheeses that make pizza so interesting, fun, inviting, memorable and mouth watering? Is it the combination of toppings and quality of ingredients? Yes, yes and yes! I still don't know of anybody who doesn't like pizza, but it reminds me of an old Andy of Mayberry scene that was on that show many decades ago. Aunt Bee had just cooked an 'out of this world' dinner for Barney and Thelma Lou with Andy and Opie there at the table. After getting up from the dinner table Andy and Barney walked out onto Andy's front porch and sat down in the porch swing and said, "Boy, that was some goooood food." Then he asked Barney, "Do you like good food?" Barney immediately admitted, " Oh, I loooove good food. Nothing like stating the obvious, but that's how I would have to answer about pizza.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Their Favorite Uncle

    Elk Grove is nice place to live but I wouldn't want to visit here.  What I mean by that is this: nice communities, parks, scenery, people, and even a few dog-friendly parks. If it had a nick-name it would be called Franchise City. Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell and Starbucks, Chili's and Outback are the common sites in this town. The lack of places to go for a family visiting is limited. We actually have a winery in the city limits to take adults to, but when nieces visit from out of town we are limited.  After touring our nieces through the beautiful Nugget grocery store with metal sculptures and huge murals we ended up at the best yogurt shop in town called Tops Yogurt. I know it's the best because they have more than a hundred toppings for their huge selection of frozen yogurts. Fourteen is the minimum number of frozen yogurts available plus each of their 4 stores has a hand painted mural done by yours truly, me! The owner, Ray, prides himself in having the most productive yogurt shop in all of Northern California. I like to think that it's my murals that draw them in, but in reality it's the choices the customer has. The murals are a city-like-scapes of cartoon people centered around the Tops Yogurt shops and the areas around town that are identifiable to the community. My nieces say that Tops is better than any yogurt shop they know of in the East Bay Area.
   After a bustling day of walking Presley at the park, coffee at Starbucks, a trip to Nugget and maybe a yarn shop for the girls yarn projects, and finally a tour of Tops Yogurt to get a frozen one and a chat we end up at home. The big event at Uncle Vince's house will be making pizza.  They are going to get one of Uncle Vince's home made pizzas.  I always have a couple of dough balls in the fridge so when the time is right we can pull one out to warm up and start chopping up some veggies, turn on the oven & all while they unravel the mistakes in Aunt Sheri's knitting projects.
    Some day when they are older they will be telling their kids what a great aunt and uncle they had. They will say, "They used to take us all over Elk Grove trying to show us a good time. They took us to grocery stores and dog parks but the best part was we always ended up back at the house where Uncle Vince made us the best pizza we ever had."
    Maybe Elk Grove isn't the most exciting place to visit but we like living here and the nieces keep coming back every summer. By the obvious thumbs up I would have to say it's either the pizza or maybe it's their favorite uncle.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pizza in D Minor





        I don't know if what I did is the proper thing to say at a moment when it appeared to me, the intention was to try and intimidate me. It was years ago when Sheri and I had been invited over to a potential clients home for dinner and maybe a drink along the way. I think some people want to meet you to see who they will be doing business with and I suppose, to see if I look like Bigfoot or Charles Manson and can they trust me to paint in their house while they are off to work. That's fair. This was going to be something of a test and I was ready. It wasn't a dress up evening but we dressed casual/nice. Pass or fail?  The couple had ordered pizza to be delivered and possibly were testing me. Should I have sprung to pay for the pizza when it arrived? Remember, they invited us. I didn't buy. Pass or fail? I had a glass of white wine with them before dinner and Sheri did not. Pass or fail? I let the hostess serve up the pizza and sat down to be waited on. Pass or fail? We waited until they dug in with both hands to start eating with our hands.  Pass or fail? Suddenly she jumped up out of her chair and said, "I forgot to put some music on." I knew now, that this had to be a test! Watching someone squirm at your choice of music can be insightful. Intimidation can produce interesting results. She re-entered the dining area and I heard the first few bars and said, "Oh, that's Beethoven's Pastoral 6th Symphony in D minor." while wiping cheese from my face. They stared at me in disbelief. There was silence and a very awkward moment waiting to be pounced on. I quickly had to cover the silence by asking them a question. I blurted out, "Did you buy your copy at Safeway for 99¢?" That's all it took and we all broke out in laughter and the moment was saved. What I hadn't volunteered was, I owned one Classical Music album at the time that I bought at Safeway for 99¢. It was Beethoven's Pastoral 6th Symphony in D minor. The "let's see if we can intimidate him" routine didn't work so they opted for Plan B.  Plan B was,  let's see if they can carry a conversation and have a nice evening. That worked and I got the job.
    It's funny how some people have to test you. I have been on jobs where there were literally stacks of $50 bills sitting on their bureau. Others where they are so paranoid that we might steal their underwear that they keep a very close eye on you the whole time. Other times I make sure I mention a Bachelors Degree ( for what it's worth!) in there or sometimes Catholic School relaxes them and for others it's making them laugh that eases them. They test us too. Offering us beer on the job is a way to find out how disciplined I can be. They will offer us coffee in the morning or even sodas and cookies, sandwiches and snack mix. What's wrong with that? There's always a price to pay...almost always. Some people are just good souls and wish to share. Others have ulterior motives. It's hard to say no to someone while munching on their cookies and sipping their soda when they ask if I wouldn't mind painting their patio furniture since I have the sprayer all set up and ready to go. I have gotten better at reading them though. What might look like an easy task can be exasperating if it doesn't turn out to their approval. How much is this costing me? Much more than a soda and a couple of stale cookies. What I have learned to say is that I can give you 15 minutes of free labor but after that I have to charge you. Suddenly their request gets withdrawn and I'm out of the hot seat.
    I still listen to that album from time to time although it's on a CD now but I always laugh at myself for saying that back then. I think it made us equal for a moment and put us on level ground. The fact that pizza was being served was a perfect choice too. Pizza doesn't intimidate or offend but just makes the moment that much better.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another Breakfast Pizza

    My pants aren't fitting like they used to.  Sheri says I've added an extra inch or so to my waistline. This can't be! I've weighed the same plus 5 pounds since high school. For those of you keeping track, that was 1971 when I graduated. She says it's too much pizza for dinner. I have to disagree, can you ever have too much pizza? Well, I told her I was going to do something about it. Cut down on the pizzas for dinner. The solution I came up with wasn't the kind of solution she was hoping for but marriage is about compromise, right? Why should I give up pizza all together? I agreed that pizza for dinner 3 times a week is a bit much even if I'm not making all the pizzas but trying pizza places whenever we go somewhere.
    This is my plan, I decided to cut down on the pizzas for dinner like she suggested and have pizza for breakfast instead. Problem solved! I told her I need to build on my breakfast pizza recipes and add to them. One of my favorite breakfasts was a Benedict Scramble sold at the long gone Perko's we used to have before being replaced by a Starbucks. The Benedict Scramble was a toasted English muffin with an scrambled egg (can be over easy as well), slice of ham and cheddar cheese and glazed over with Hollandaise sauce. This would be an excellent pizza I thought and decided to give it a try. One dough ball left in the fridge, so I pulled it out Sunday morning and gave it a shot. I Googled up a Hollandaise sauce recipe made in the blender that took 3 eggs. I used the Hollandaise sauce in place of tomato sauce, opened up a vacuum sealed package of Prosciutto and laid on a few strips. Sprinkled over it with mozzarella and provolone cheese cracked a couple of raw eggs into the center then coated it all again with a bit more hollandaise sauce. I baked it at 500º for about 10 to 11 minutes on the pizza stone and did the standard 4 cut making 8 slices.
    I don't know if this is being done already but this was awesome. Sheri's first bite into it and she says we could serve this to guests. So, unless you're spending the night you will have to take my word for it. Benedict Scramble Pizza is a major hit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Have Pizza/Should Travel

    I have had numerous friends ask me to bring a pizza over to their house and cook it for their guests at their house. I am flattered but it really isn't all that easy. I don't have a problem with people enjoying my pizza. What I do have a problem with is making the process portable. Just short of becoming a caterer it would involve a sizable undertaking. The logistics are barely available for myself in a kitchen of my own and that I am familiar with. Next, and I think, most important, is that it doesn't end up being a pizza in a can or in this case, a box with vacuum sealed bags that remind us too much of our childhood. Remember spaghetti in a can? The kids who grew up in the 50's when food exploration and creativity headed south know what I am talking about.
    One of the things that we like to do when we travel is to taste the local vendors foods when in Europe or any large U.S. cities. I can remember the hot dog vendors in downtown Salem, Oregon named Queenies Weenies and Franks Alot. I don't know if they're still there but on a cold day and that steam is blowing down the sidewalk and you get a whiff of those hot dogs it's hard to say no. Sausages and hot dogs seem to be the easiest item to cook and sell on the street as everybody likes a good extra thick sausage steamed or broiled put on a huge french bun with all the goodies. I am no different. When in Berlin or Amsterdam, Munich, Brussels or Copenhagen the temptation is the same but to wash it down with a native beer from that country or better yet, that city is blog worthy. I can remember a time in Edinburgh, Scotland we had walked to the castle at the top of the hill and upon leaving we were getting hungry and thirsty. We asked a local Bobby where a good pub was located nearby. In an accent so heavy that I don't believe Sean Connery would have understood, we headed down the hill in the direction he had pointed. What we thought we heard was Dick and Broodie's turned out to be Deacon Brodie's.  It has become famous over the centuries for the ghosts that are suppose to inhabit it including Deacon Brodie's ghost. Not knowing which ale to order I asked the barkeeper for a smooth dark ale. She poured me a pint that I could only describe as liquid velvet pouring down my throat. This stuff was amazing. Our friends who weren't going to drink until after dinner saw my reaction and bolted for the bar to get a pint. I thought to myself that I must remember this brand as I want to drink this with every meal throughout Europe. Boy, was I naive! It turned out to be a microbrew attainable only at Deacon Brodies in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was major on the WOW factor scale. That's how I want my pizzas to taste. Similar to a micro brewery my pizzas can only travel so far.
Actual mileage may vary
    There is a family up near Auburn that has solved the problem. They show up at local fairs, sporting events and such with their pizza wagon in tow complete with a brick fired Pompeii oven in the back and set up shop to bake authentic home cooked pizza while you stand in line. I haven't yet tried it but from their website it looks like they are doing everything right. Maybe when I get a brick oven built into the back of Sheri's Prius I can start bringing the pizzas to you. So, for now, what I can tell you is to try this dough recipe from Gail. It's an award winning dough that is still my favorite. That pizza wagon isn't going to pull up in front of your house soon so get busy.

Gail's Award Winning Dough Recipe
The following recipe used is from Pizza Therapy
(http://pizzatherapy.com)
Dough Ingredients:
  • 1 pkg. active yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups warm (110-115F) water (microwave for 1:15 minutes)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or flavored oil
  • approximately 5 cups Bread Flour (I use high gluten flour
Directions
  1. In a food processor or mixer with a dough hook, combine yeast, pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup water, allow yeast to proof, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Cover and begin processing slowly adding remaining water. Pulse several times in food processor until dough balls together, or using the dough hook kneed about 5 ( I do mine almost 20 minutes) minutes until dough is shiny and elastic.
  3. Place the dough on a floured work surface adding additional flour if too sticky.
  4. Spray large bowl with oil flavored spray. Add dough and turn the dough a few times to coat with the oil.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise for about 1-2 hours, punch down and allow to rise again. The longer the dough is left to rise, the tangier the flavor of the crust will be.
For cooking the pizza you will need additional flour, and olive oil. This recipes makes 4 pizzas. Of course, you need a pizza & baking stone for best results.
Set oven to 500º or 550º and preheat with stone for 45 minutes to an hour. 


Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Anniversary Pizza?




     I had entered the contest with Santa Margherita Wines from Italy. It looked pretty easy, make a pizza, do a video, and tell everybody how good their wine is with your particular food item. I, of course, chose a Margherita pizza to go with their Santa Margherita Wine and they would say, "How perfect is that!" and make me their official spokesman for their wine and I would travel first to L.A. meet the crew, take Sheri to Chicago and get some experience with the network, go on Oprah, then jet off to Italy and get classically trained in the art of pizza making by the Italians themselves and then make the big decision.

Do I forgo the blog, and painting murals for clients who want a Rembrandt for a garage sale price? 
Do I give up the glamour of painting houses with all the fame that comes with it and the endless parade of autograph seekers and paparazzi or do I submit to their way of life and become the overpaid, under-worked pretty face that pops up every time a bottle of Santa Margherita Wine is uncorked? I look into the camera after taking a sip and say, "Mmmmm, that's good," collect an enormous check and go hang with the beautiful people for the rest of the week until my next celebrity spot. (Hmmm, I may be the most interesting man in the world). I love that TV commercial, sorry.
Well, July 15th is the last day of repeat voting. Yes, everybody could vote as many times as they wanted to or least once each day for every computer that you own. Even still, the numbers just aren't happening and I see the flaw. It wasn't that I had chosen an incorrect pairing with their wine. It was because I wasn't the first to do so and able to post on page one of their website and collect votes from all the lookie-loos who don't click to page two and ultimately to page three where my video sits. I get it. It's a popularity contest and the guy or gal with the video on page one will probably win. It probably doesn't hurt them that they may be the president of their homeowner association and send out a weekly E-newsletter that tells them they have a violation to clear up and can be done so quickly by clicking on this little box under this video and their violation will be eliminated and forgotten about. Heck, if I had thought about it I might have come up with something clever too. Like, for every vote you give me each day it will save ten unfortunate animals threatened by the BP oil spill in our gulf. Tell your friends too that if they click here for the next 30 days something good will happen to them and if they forward this voting box to ten of their friends and ten of their friends etc. 


I suppose that is how the game is played and if I really had a chance to play and win I would have been creative to a fault. So, in retrospect, I have no regrets. I enjoyed reading all the comments from so many of you and your words of encouragement and optimism. The reason I entered it, if you remember, was because Sheri said she wanted to see Chicago. (Shhhh, I think she has already forgotten that's what she had said.) 
    I remember when our 25th anniversary was coming up and I wanted to take her to Italy if I could afford it. As it got nearer I told her it looks like maybe we should go to the Venetian in Las Vegas instead since I can't afford Italy right now. Then unexpectedly, a job cancelled and we decided maybe we'll just go to the Olive Garden and watch a Spaghetti Western at home on TV. August 17th came and I think we ended up getting pizza. It's now 10 years later and we're looking at 35 years being married. I think pizza is a good choice. I'm thinking maybe making her a pizza with the numeral 35 spelled out in pepperoni. I believe anniversary number 20 is power tools, 25 is Silver something, 30 has got to be appliances and 35 is orthopedic devices or something like that. Now if a 35th anniversary pepperoni pizza doesn't say I love you then I don't know what does. Should I make the dough into a heart shape?

    

Monday, July 12, 2010

New York Pizza Review

 Last night I served the genuine New York pizza and got my reviews from a genuine Brooklyn born and raised Jewish woman and genuine heart throb of my friend, Larry.
    First, I served up as an appetizer, one BBQ oven baked Margherita Marinara as a starter. Light and thin, not too filling and cooks before your eyes in about 2 minutes at a high temperature. Garnish it with a few fresh basil leaves and serve hot but in small portions. Next, after we devour that one, the salad is served while we wait for the main course or the pizza that put New York on the map.  Since they are first timers to my pizza I explain to them what they are about to eat. Then I moved back into the house to cook at only 475º on a pizza screen, without a stone, the NY pizza as specified by Francesco Brunaldo. Timing is always critical. So that they can see the pizza before I slide it into the oven, I like to give them a glimpse of what is about to take place. Maybe that's the showman in me but after watching enough of those food channel shows I find it of interest to see what it is supposed to look like before, as well as after it's cooked. This one will cook in about 9-10 minutes so there's time to pour another round of wine and visit a little. I'm nervous that I might blow it and not get a second chance at this. I remove it from the oven and bring it out to the patio hot and steaming with a whiff of baked bread aroma and melted cheese emanating from it. I can tell it's going to be good. My confidence level rises. You can feel it when it's right. Anxiously awaiting her expressions and evaluation I hear her say things that were off the charts. She used words like incredible, amazing, just right and, "It brings back memories of that little place in Manhattan where they served pizza by the slice and we ate their all the time." "Did it hit the mark?" I ask. One by one she dissected it. The crust was soft and chewy and doesn't taste like anything they serve in California. The sauce didn't do a lot for her, right amount and kept simple without a lot of flavors going on and almost lost under the layers of cheeses. That's OK, sauces are not supposed to dominate. For the cheeses, I used Mozzarella and Provolone then some sprinkled blend of Parmesan with Asiago and Romano. Her only suggestion their was maybe more of the hard cheese to accent it. "What's that other salty hard cheese?" she asks. "Prosecco" I say nervously, "No, that's a wine." You're right, Pecorino?""Yes, Pecorino." Like good Jewish friends they thoroughly enjoyed the NY-Italian pork sausage that went in next to the Italian salami and pepperoni. However in my own defense, I did ask ahead of time before serving them any pork products though. "So, what would be your over all evaluation? I don't want gushy I want honesty". She says, "Best pizza in California since I moved here." I ask,"when was that, 3 months ago?" (Sarcasm on my part) She said, "No, 31 years ago." Really? I'm flabbergasted.  I guess this guy Francesco Brunaldo knows what he is talking about. I am more impressed though with the pizza than I am at myself for following his instructions. I think I will keep this pie on my repertoir and she goes on my Christmas Card list. Does it matter if she is Jewish? No, I think they appreciate the thought. I think she has earned a spot at my table.