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!

   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 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 900ยบ 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?