Saturday, December 31, 2011

Zachary's Deep Dish Chicago Style

Smiling faces are severely overrated!
   Over the holidays Sheri & I went out to the Marin Headlands beyond the Golden Gate Bridge with my brother, Greg, his wife, Joani and their two girls. Braving the wind chill and hiking into the coastal hills on a 2.9 mile walk (uphill, both ways) which felt more like 3 miles, we worked up quite an appetite after the obligatory family photo with the ocean in the background and the beautiful sky all around.
   Back into the vehicles and then across the bridge to Oakland and to the corner of  College Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue where Zachary's Chicago Deep Dish Pizza is, we all trucked. It was a Monday night so we figured on easy parking, an easy table, no wait, and a quiet evening enjoying conversation and pizza. Oh, were we surprised to find that we had miscalculated their popularity. This employee owned pizza place was not only jammed with enthusiastic pizza lovers but a waiting line had formed and a list of people waiting to be seated was being taken. Sure it was the Black Monday after Christmas and people were out returning their unwanted Christmas items for gift cards and bonus points, but I doubt anybody was returning an unwanted pizza. I was glad to see that Albert Grande of had both Zachary's of Oakland and Berkeley listed on his site of the best pizzas in California! I couldn't agree with the comment more of what was mentioned, "That you could never get as ripe, red tomatoes in Chicago as the ones on Zachary's Pizza." And to agree with the comment further, "It is the best deep dish pizza I've ever tasted."
   It's always a better idea, I think, to order two medium pizzas for 5 or 6 people than try to get everyone to agree on one large one, especially when you are outnumbered by girls 2 to 1. This way, we guys can order the carnivore platter with the heavy meats. The girls can try the man-food pizzas with all the man-food spicy meats and we men can dabble with the lighter vegetarian pizzas. I have learned that the girls rarely reach over for a thick slice of pizza piled with carbs, protein, oxidants, MSG or whatever, so even though it looks considerate of us guys to offer some to them, we know in effect, that they most likely won't take any so that makes it that much more for us! Yes! I think it's called, manipulating the outcome.
Patrons poster art

   In addition to their great pizza, Zachary's offers an annual art contest where the customers can enter and create a piece of art. The winning piece selected will be framed and hung on the wall of the restaurant. This has been a Zachary's tradition since 1980. The walls are colorfully lined with numerous pieces of customer artwork usually mentioning Zachary's in their work. Sounds sort of like the Blue Moon gig I will be doing in the near future involving the patrons.
   Next time I think I will skip the 2.9 mile walk over at the coast and just go to Zachary's so we won't have to wait in line for a table. Walking is so over rated.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Make Me One with Everything

   I'm feeling this void, this vacuum of not having too much to do this Christmas. The last three out of four Christmases we hosted, with the last being the Danish Christmas Feast. Usually by this time we are elbow deep making dough, stuffing a duck or shopping for groceries, decorating and sending out the Evites. This year is a bit different. We were the guests as my brother and his wife hosted the traditional family Christmas dinner. While it was very nice, with BBQ ribs from the Outback, courtesy of Mom Larsen,  I miss the whole production which almost left me with an empty feeling. I thought to myself, should I design a Christmas pizza? Should I make some Danish Kringle or some of my favorite Deen's beans that always were served at Deen's Christmas party at the paint store I used to buy from? I think pizza is the right answer to fill the void. It reminded me of a short story about the Dalai Lama.  The who? You know, the Dalai Lama from Tibet, master of the spiritual side of life and has an answer for those who are feeling they are lacking something? Anyway, it goes like this: The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza place and says, "Make me one with everything." That's it. I told you it was a short story! I know, you had to read it twice before you got it. Didn't ya?
Make me one with everything
   I'm thinking that before I get a little crazy in the kitchen with the flour and the cheese etc. I should head on over to K Street in Sacramento and see what's cooking over at my favorite pizzaiolo's place, Pizza Rock. Even if there isn't a Christmas themed pizza on his menu I know that something on his menu will inspire me to try and then go home and try to copy.  Heck, maybe I can scout out his location for Blue Moon Beer and follow up with doing one of the Blue Moon campaign gigs at Pizza Rock.
   I just got the contract yesterday to sign and send back to Blue Moon which makes it official that I will be one of many artists selected across the country that will be enticing the patrons in selected drinking establishments to indulge their artistic side and help to create a Blue Moon masterpiece on canvas. They will be sending me to Denver for a brief training and getting my feet wet before I am to set foot in a tavern at Happy Hour and try to pry the patrons away from there i-Phones, Droids and laptops. What a cool concept! Actually making conversation and interacting with other human beings minus any texting, virtual conversations, blogging, GPS,  Facebooking or anything even remotely digital! I wonder if that's possible? Maybe people could do some art together, in person and connect on a reality level while painting the Blue Moon Beer! (click & check out these commercials on Youtube)
   The world is a different place from when we were kids. I can remember the old nuns telling us how easy we have it as kids back in grade school. Because when they were kids, they had to light the gas lamps, chop the firewood, feed the chickens and milk the cows all before breakfast and then walk 6 miles through the snow, uphill, both ways only to come home and resume their chores before doing any homework and then go to bed to start the process all over again the next day.
   Well, I could practically match them in their story telling. As a kid growing up in the 50's and 60's we had it tough too. We actually had to get off the sofa to change the TV channel. Everything then was in B&W too! In addition, we had to wait until Saturday morning to watch cartoons. Can you believe that?! Back then we only had 10 channels and only 3 of them came in clear.
   If Dad wanted to park the car in the garage we had to get out of the car to open the garage door for him and then wait until he was in to close it and lock it from the outside. I'm telling you. Times were tough!
   We didn't have cell phones. We had to go into the kitchen which was the only phone in the house and use a rotary dial. We didn't have speed dial. Our phones didn't hold music or turn into a GPS. If we wanted to take a picture we had to buy film and load it into a camera, preferably where it was dark, then wait for it for 2 weeks while the drugstore developed it into a photo which we had to pay for!!! You want to talk about rough? Yeah, we had it rough.
I think this might be Sister Anastasia? Looks like only 2 feet of snow to me!
   For some reason though, pizza has survived the digital age and we can still get a good pizza down at the corner pizzeria or bake one at home over an undigitalized fire.
    Making a pizza at home or even ordering a pizza out is still the best connection I have to the wood smoke and home cooking from eras gone by. As for the six feet of snow?!? I think not. We were young but not that stupid.

  BTW: I will be putting together a list of people who might be interested in coming out to a place in Sacramento and dipping into the paint and wetting the canvas with me. Have a beer, do a little art and share a few good laughs. Let me know and I'll get the specifics out to you of when & where in 2012. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blue, blue, blue, Blue Moon. Dit di dit dit...

   Out of the blue and into the Blue I received a phone call from a company back East,  Denver to be precise. I know Denver is not in the East but to Californians it might as well be. Anything beyond the Rockies is east to us. Heck, anything beyond Watt Avenue in Sacramento is east. An advertising agency for Blue Moon Handcrafted Beers called me after looking at my portfolio of murals listed with My first reaction was to say, "No thank you, I don't need to be listed in the top 10 search engines around the world at a great savings that will only cost me an arm and a foot instead of an arm and a leg." I, however, will drive up to 50 miles to paint a mural, and unless the pay day is really worth it, I will drive further. Driving to Dubai or Indonesia just seems like a hassle even with a GPS. Instead, I listened to what the caller had to say. Part way through, I asked her what she was selling. "Oh no, we're not selling anything here," she said, "but we are interested in your services." As my brain is trying to switch gears, I hear, "painting murals in a bar" and "Blue Moon Beer," something about getting the bar patrons involved and when I interrupted again to declare that, "You are looking for volunteers!' "Oh no," she says, "we are interested in paying for your services." OK, now I'm ready to listen. I was selected for a variety of reasons: they like my art work, use of color, technique, variety of styles etc. They asked if I would be interested in working with Blue Moon Handcrafted Beer in their advertising campaign involving bar patrons in painting a  3' x 3' canvas with the Blue Moon image. Sounds simple enough. I just have to engage the patrons during Happy Hour and get them excited to pick up a brush with paint on it, apply it to the correct portion of the canvas and not get freaked out when they dip the brush in the nacho cheese dip and salsa then drag that onto the canvas. Heck, The Three Stooges used to do something like that, I seem to recall.
   So after a half hour conference call with this lady and her boss explaining to me what the campaign is all about, if and where I will get any training, what the compensation will be and a few details like that I am feeling very at ease with them. I like the sound of Blue Moon Artfully Crafted Beer. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about naming my next dog Blue Moon Artfully Crafted Beer. Too bad the name is already taken. 
   It appears that they will fly me to either Denver or Chicago for a brief training in February, 2012 all expenses paid, and guide us through the motions of involving and dealing with the patrons.  I suppose they will probably put us in an improbable situation like a disorderly and out-of-control 7th grade classroom or a Republican Presidential Debate to condition us for real life. Either way, it sounds like fun. I hope it really happens.

   It seems to fit perfectly with my personality: engaging people, having fun, beer, painting, laughing, a little traveling to the East and maybe even the Far East (Chicago). I wonder if they speak English there? If so, would I get the chance to venture out of the hotel and find one of Chicago's famous deep dish pizza establishments? In a hypothetical situation, would it be OK to order from a pizza place while on Blue Moon's expense and buy a beer that wasn't Blue Moon to go with my pizza? Maybe I should call the pizza establishment first and check to see if they carry Blue Moon Handcrafted Beer before I order a pizza? What is the policy with big companies? If you owned a McDonald's would you have to eat every meal there? If you sold Chevrolets would you get fired for driving a Toyota? How far does loyalty and respect have to go? What if there were no hypothetical questions? There is so much my parents never taught me. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dead Al Davis meets Barney Fife

   We had gone to a Halloween party in October down in Antioch at a friend's house. Since Al Davis died recently I decided to dress as dead Al Davis with eye sockets blacked out, sun glasses and a pale deadly skin color and a couple of band aids on my forehead while Sheri was a dead zombie-like Raiderette. Having only 2 beers, (Coronas) and topped that off with a few taquitos, pepperoni sticks, a handful of stinky cheese cubes and some chips we left some 3 1/2 hours later. We stopped at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee and drove an hour back on the river road that we always take. The moment I turned off the river road onto I-5 the red lights in my mirror signaled me to pull over. After glancing at the speedometer quickly, which read 67 in a 70 mph zone,  I immediately pulled over. The CHP came up to the passenger window and asked for the registration and my license. About 5 seconds later he said he smelled alcohol. Sheri and I looked at each other in disbelief. I was asked to step out of the car and go through a series of tests to determine if I had been drinking. This was a first for me in some 41 years of driving. He asked me questions such as, "Where are you coming from, where are you headed, do you know where you are now, how many drinks I had had? What brand of beer I had drank?" etc. After each reply he wrote down my answers and mixed up the questions and asked me again to determine if my answers remained the same. I had to point out to him that he was asking me the same questions over again, and he said, he knew.
  Next came the series of drinking tests. I had to watch his finger move from left to right without moving my head. After that I was to close my eyes with my head tilted back and touch my nose with my finger as he called out right hand, left hand, etc. So far, so good! Just like Simon Says! Then the finale: with my feet together, head back, and eyes closed, I had to lift my right foot, toe pointed out and do the Hokey Pokey and shake it all about, (just kidding on the Hokey Pokey part) then hold my toe out while counting 1001, 1002, 1003 out loud. I made it to 1044 and I decided that was far enough. I put my foot down and he asked me how far I had counted. Weren't you listening? Hello? 1044. Do I win something? Is that a record?
   Having passed all the tests, he continues to repeat the same questions again and then asked about my health! Wow, a cop who cares about my health! Not really, he was trying to determine if I was on any prescription drugs. "Any diabetes, injuries, aches and pains?" he asked. "Of course I have aches and pains, I'm 58 years old and work for a living," I calmly replied. I could see right through his questioning and wasn't going to go there. Too bad he didn't know me. Let's see, over the years: broken clavicle, broken scapula, 3 crushed vertabraes, broken neck, broken wrist (twice), broken humerus, ruptured disks, a tree falling on me, broken toes, fingers etc. etc. Do I have any aches and pains? Take your best guess.
   Since his partner wasn't bringing out a shiny new toaster  for me for getting all the answers right, I had to assume there was more. There was. The dreaded breath analyzer. "Blow into this until I tell you to stop," he told me. I did willingly and he looked at it and began putting it away. "What was my score?" I wanted to know. Begrudgingly he said, "Zero." As I read the LED in the dark it wasn't just zero, it was 0.00! Barney Fife was sure he had me for at least a hundredth of a percent. Not so fast there, Barney. That's when I said, "You didn't believe me, did you?" He answered that he didn't. Poor Barney, I'm sure I wasted his time and he didn't get to haul me off.
Al Davis before he was dead!
Me with my prize for most creative costume
  The next day at work I was thinking about all the smart-ass comments I could have made to him that may have earned me a pair of chrome bracelets in the backseat of his car. "Sorry you didn't believe me. Rookie mistake." etc.          I half expected him to profile me during the questioning and ask me what I did for a living. I would've answered, "painter" and he might have replied, "Oh, alcoholic". To which I could've profiled him right back and said, "Cop huh? Oh, wife beater." Had it been some 41 years earlier I probably would have said that. Not tonight though. One o'clock in the morning, dressed like a zombie on the side of I-5 with my zombie wife in the car praying, I said all the right things and kept my mouth shut. We were good to go and home in 5 minutes. I was hungry again and decided that a piece of leftover microwaved pizza and a glass of wine out on the patio was just what I needed. I gotta tell you. Microwaved pizza never tasted so good especially when I think of where I could've ended up had I been drinking and driving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hardtack Pizza Anyone?

   I've heard it over the past few months. Are you still making pizza? Have you been writing your blog? What have you been doing? The answers are, "Yes, I have been making pizza" and "No, I haven't been writing my blogs." Thirdly, I have been engaged in numerous activities but am thinking about the blog regularly.
    Where to start? I guess April of this year I unceremoniously slipped off the pizza radar. Just a brief fill in of my time: We made it back east to Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania where our dear friends, Larry & Andrea from Lancaster, PA picked us up in Baltimore and we drove on down to Culpeper and Fredericksburg, VA to attend the Sesquicentennial (That's the 150th) Anniversary of the Battle of Manassas where the Union got there tails whooped in what was later to be called the great skedaddle. Manassas was the first land battle and the politicians and the socialites with their elegantly dressed ladies came out from Washington some 25 miles away in their buggies in their Sunday best  to see this confederate band of rebels be beaten back and silenced. It didn't happen that way and these civilians who were picnicking near the battlefield were scattered and ran for their lives. We, of course dressed in period costume for the event and were naturally pro-union and were sort of looking forward to skedaddling. (For insurance purposes we weren't allowed to skedaddle).
   While in Culpeper, we ate at a quaint little restaurant called It's About Thyme where I had to ask about the pizza which they told me was cooked next door. The next question I asked was, "From where?" Not Pizza Hut I hoped! No, there sister restaurant was right next door where the pizza oven is used. Whew! I had to order it. Civil War Pizza from a real Civil War town made by real Civil War descendants! It did not disappoint. Baked on a thin crispy crust, a perfect blend of seasonings in the sauce and topped with an excellent quality pepperoni. It was a personal size so I didn't have to share it with the other 6 people at our table. Yes!
   Our friends and we stayed in Fredericksburg the next 3 days while visiting numerous other Civil War sites and even taking in a play about Elvis. Was Elvis in the Civil War? Never mind.
Sheri, myself, Larry & Andrea at the Inn of the Olde Silk Mill in Fredericksburg, VA.
   It had dawned on me prior to leaving on this trip that I should ask our friends if they have any interest in Civil War history being that they live practically in the heart of it. When their honest answer was, "a little," I was surprised and wondered how they couldn't be! My friend Larry asked me in return, "You live in California, do you surf or hang at the beach?" I suppose I should've thought of that as my answer was a somewhat embarrassing "No".  Nevertheless, we sweated in Manassas with record setting 103º heat on top of miserable humidity while watching Stonewall Jackson pounce the Union Army in a lopsided victory. Larry & Andrea even put together their period costumes so we could all blend into the 19th century and root for the Union.
   Sheri and I have become Civil War Re-enactors as of last May and are actual card carrying members of the NCWA. We are civilians and I, being an artist, have assumed the role of a field artist. Sheri, not wanting to become the head of the orphanage, being that she is a teacher, became my assistant and a closet abolitionist handing out propaganda from under her items in a basket that she carries. Some people will ask why I didn't become a soldier in the Union and my answer, other than not wanting to sweat in a wool uniform in 103 degrees, march and take orders is: "I didn't want to march and take orders in the 60's and I still don't want to march and take orders".
   Although we didn't make it to New York to the Big Apple of pizzerias, I did order pizza again in Gettysburg and once again in Baltimore while on this 2 week trip. One might think pizza has been on their menu for the last 150 years as each pizza was different and never disappointing.

   As we go to the local Civil War re-enactments in California we always cook and eat as close to period food as possible. Lots of stew, potatoes, vegetables cooked over an open fire in iron pots with iron utensils, plus bread or cornbread, peach cobbler for dessert and maybe some wine or sarsparilla (spelled 3 different ways BTW) to wash it all down. Since pizza was not yet officially a staple item in the soldiers diets nor did it even exist back in 1863 I am still trying to figure out a way to make a pizza at one of our re-enactments and give it a Civil War era twist over an open fire! Maybe a hardtack crust (Hardtack was commonly supplied by the military to the troops). Side note: Hardtack was a hard flour and water cracker baked and shipped to the troops in the field without preservatives so by the time the hardtack was distributed it always was hard as nails and commonly called by the troops, teeth-dullers, sheet iron and worm castles (since it often had maggots in it). Probably one more reason not to become a soldier in the Union or Confederacy! However, I could top the hardtack with some foraged tomatoes and top that with some curdled milk and beef jerky. Sounds pretty disgusting. Maybe I will have to avoid that idea and just go AWOL to the nearest pizzeria to get my pizza fix. Huzzah for the North, and Huzzah for their pizza!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grocery Outlet & Murals by Vincent

   Work is finally coming in from all directions. Blogging has slowed down in order to accommodate the work load.  
   I just completed a set of murals for the new Grocery Outlet in Davis. Over their wine section, I was asked to paint a Napa autumn vineyard scene and above the other wall a scene of the campus at U.C. Davis in the spring time. Next to that was a logo of the U.C. Davis Aggies and mascot. I worked for two weeks up on the scaffolding while the other workers completed the installation of shelving, freezers, and finally the stocking of the shelves. 
   The Grocery Outlet in Elk Grove has been a great source of cheeses and wines for me. Being that it is an outlet store you never know what they will have each time you shop. I have found some great fresh mozzarellas, goat cheese, feta, Havarti, and Tillamook cheddar in their dairy section along with sliced pepperoni, salami, sausage and Proscuitto in their meat section and not to mention the fresh onions, mushrooms and peppers in the produce section all at great prices. The wines that I purchase are generally from all over the world although I do favor the California wines from Napa, Amador and Lodi. 
    I have been trying to get the owners of the Elk Grove store to have me do a mural for them in their wine tasting loft upstairs but to no avail so when Grocery Outlet called I had assumed that it was my local Elk Grove outlet. Not so! I was surprised to hear the corporate office calling about a new store in Davis being built and their interest in a couple of murals! I think they were impressed that I told them I love their stores and shop there regularly. I did have to admit later that I do not buy their frozen pizzas as I make my own. I think they forgave me because I ended up getting the job.
   Lately we have been hoping to take that trip back East to do some serious pizza tasting at some of the hallmark pizzerias in New York and Connecticut while visiting some long time friends in Lancaster, PA and visiting a few Civil War battlefields in Virginia since that is where my other hobby and interest lie. (See Civil War Pizza blog). 
   The thought of tasting pizza in New York again but this time with a more educated palette excites me and almost scares me. To think that this is the capital of pizza and I have only been doing this as a hobby for a couple of years seems a bit intimidating. I have to think of some of those poor idiots on American Idol that apparently don't have an honest friend in the world who will sit them down and tell them to their face, "Don't do it, you can't sing and you will only embarrass yourself on national TV." Not that I'm going to make pizzas for New Yorkers or anything like that but to come home and and be humiliated by the thought that I thought I had been making great pizza when all along all I might've been doing is making pizzas for Californians who think anything with tomato ketchup on it is good! So far, none of my ketchup loving friends have told me, "Vince, don't do it, New York has the best pizza in the world, you couldn't possibly hope to make a pizza as good as any of theirs. You'll only embarrass yourself." Or could it be, that none of friends have been honest with me? Naaaaaaaahhh! I make great pizza! Just ask me.
Painting above the wines.
Photo by: Davis Enterprise Newpaper

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hot Italian

   Recently we visited another pizzeria in downtown Sacramento called Hot Italian, Pizza and Panini Bar. It was an interesting blend of Italian cycling, both Vespas and bicycles with pizza and panini all decked out in a stark black & white contrast. They featured a large brick fired oven run on gas and some cracker thin artisan pizzas made in one size only. We ordered the Belucci which was a tomato sauce with mozzarella with fennel sausage and dobs of ricotta cheese. Very authentic combination, reasonably priced, well crafted but not overly exciting. However, I did feel inspired to go ride my bike as soon as the weather warms up once again. The cracker thin crust was amazingly thin so I had to go watch them roll out their doughs while asking the pizzaiolo a couple of questions. He actually was hand rolling it to my surprise which was a plus.  Later at home, I watched on TV as some show popped up before me about making pizzas. The place they were visiting was focused on making the thinnest of pizza doughs in the world although I didn't catch the name. When I saw it I said to myself, they must be using a machine to roll it because it was too perfect. I was picturing an old ringer style washer with a hand crank but fortunately they were a bit ahead of me. They used a pasta machine for rolling it wafer thin. I liked their ingenuity. Having never made pasta myself I think I would have thought more about using the old wringer washer if I had been inspired to make pasta or a cracker thin pizza crust in a uniform manner. The story would have undoubtedly have to have been kept secret upon feeding the pizza to anybody or the reactions may have been less than positive.
   It's almost worth thinking about it as I do believe it would work but rummaging through thrift shops would prove fruitless in the 21st century or even a landfill. It does bring back fond memories from childhood though going to the dump with my dad on a Saturday afternoon. While he unloaded the station wagon we boys would search for buried treasures. I remember finding in near perfect condition a discarded Corningware coffee pot. It was complete with no chips or scratches and only a little dirty as it appeared to have been left there quite recently. I scooped up my treasure to bring home to Mom. In those days dishwashers were a luxury so anything in need of sanitizing had to be boiled for a period of time, which of course she did.
   Days later, a neighbor friend of the family was visiting with mom in the kitchen and drinking coffee. I happened to walk through the kitchen at the wrong moment and exclaimed, "Hey mom, you're using the coffee pot I found at the dump!" That, of course, was the last thing she would've wanted me to say but I was quite proud of her for using this freebie that I had scored. By the reaction of the guest you would've thought I poured vinegar in her coffee. Mom was about ready to hit the moon but an explanation to the guest was already over due. I'm not sure that the friend ever came back and chatted over Mom's coffee again but the story lives on. With that lesson still in mind, I think I will steer clear of the wringer washer for rolling out a cracker thin dough. It's a shame one mistimed comment could ruin a great idea.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fibrament D Review

Original new appearance in inset
    It's been nearly a year since I ordered and received the Fibrament D 16 lb. pizza stone that I had to have shipped to Starbucks as my home can't double for a commercial business address. It's thick and heavy and definitely can hold the heat. Anywhere from one to three times a week since April of 2010 I have had the convection oven running at a maximum 550º without a hint of a problem. Most of all, over the past 10 months, it hasn't broken. I had gone through no less than 3 inferior ceramic stones before searching out this one to satisfy my craving for home baked pizza. In that time I have tested and used it well leaving a number of battle scars that just show aging and perfection. For the most part I store it in the oven on the rack and only remove it when I might be baking or roasting something else. You know, one of those non-pizza items. Cleaning it is easy. Just a simple dry brush down to remove the old corn meal and a scraping of any cheese that may have oozed over  and baked on. I never use soap or water on it as it could soak in and cause it to crack while baking.
   The battle scars on it are telling a story. Let me explain. If I was to walk into your house to paint with new painter whites, a shiny new ladder along with buckets, tarps and brushes all spotless and perfect one would quickly and easily come to a conclusion that this might be my first job and my resume as a painter would be shattered. I know I would start to wonder that too if the roles were reversed. The blackened staining on the stone is merely a testament that I have used it often. I suppose it's true of an iron skillet, a messy desk or a painters' hat. I suppose also, by that reasoning, one could jump to the conclusion that I use my head a lot by the lack of hair on top!
   A very wise man once told me, that to do the job correctly that you need the correct tools. I guess you don't need to be Einstein to know that but it proves to be true even when baking pizza. (a good thing to remember Dad, thanks!) Anyway, I have used it for baking calzones and even lately, some sourdough bread, (a close cousin to pizza). If dad had all perfectly clean tools in his garage with glistening chrome, hanging perfectly in corresponding size with traced outlines on an immaculate tool peg board I would have concluded that he was talking in theory and not from practice. That was never the case. Orderly, yes... but with battle scars from countless jobs completed well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pizza Giorno Felice or Cockroaches are Forever

   Valentine's Day has arrived. I've never been one to commit to all the Hallmark holidays and I tend to boycott some of them. However, in today's paper there appeared an article under Strange Stuff that caught my eye. For a $10 donation you can name a giant cockroach at the zoo. I'm not really interested in naming any cockroach, even if it does feed on pizza scraps but I like the slogan they have. I decided to memorize it and save it for future use. I appreciate a good slogan with a catch phrase like this one.
   Sheri told me I don't need to get her anything for Valentine's Day, however I showed her the comic strip Pickles which read something like this: "Earl, do you remember what day today is?" "Yes, I do. If you're not wearing green I get to pinch you." Opal responded by telling him "That's St. Patrick's Day!" and he ended up grumbling about it on the front steps trying to sort out which day was which, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day. Sheri wasn't distracted by the comic strip, so I had to pull out the artillery and I told her I did get you something, a cockroach.  "Chocolates melt, flowers wilt but cockroaches are forever." She wasn't amused until I told her the slogan, then she got a good chuckle out of it.
   I can empathize with Earl. If we were to celebrate National Pizza Week, since it is listed as the second week in February, I don't see how I could end up on the front steps with Earl. According to American Food Holidays, it's a real holiday. Which brings to mind the next set of questions. If this were to really take off, how exactly would we celebrate it? Would we send greeting cards made by Hallmark that would read something like, Roses are red, violets are blue, I'd rather be eating pizza with you. Would FTD be swamped with orders from around the country trying to drop ship thousands of pizzas to everybody from the Pacific to the Atlantic? Could we decorate our homes with pizza ornaments and lights made of plastic? What if we were to dress up as sausages and pepperonis and go door to door after dark to collect a bag full of pizzas by the slice? Instead of trick or treat we might say, "Cheese or hot peppers". I'm thinking this holiday has potential.
   Probably to get it in motion we would want to greet our friends and family with a catch phrase like, Pizza Giorno Felice which would translate to Happy Pizza Day. The response might be, "Vegetarian or carnivore?" This of course would lead into Pizza on Earth like Albert Grande of says on his website.
   Hallmark should be jumping on this one and for a single day we could all speak in a bad Italian accent wishing everybody "Pizza Giorno Felice and Pizza on Earth."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tony's Table

   Saturday night did not disappoint. Along with several friends, we made it to Pizza Rock at the K Street Mall and put our names down to be seated. The place was packed but as we waited to be seated we got to watch the new and young pizzaiolos make their pizzas in a wood fired Pompeii oven near the front door and enjoy the heat emanating from the fires. Tony's Table was off to one side which sat 10 people with reservations. We were led to the back of the huge dining area past the huge mural of Pizza Rock's  Creation by Carlos Lopez and were seated up front just a few feet with a view of the kitchen and the man behind it all, Tony Gemignani.
   Sheri & I had come prepared to meet the master. I had removed Tony's framed menu that hung in our kitchen from Tony's in San Francisco and rolled it up carefully in hopes of getting him to sign it. Also, I had made him an 8 x 10 color glossy of the photo from the most recent blog (Mr. Respect the Craft) to give him as a reminder of our visit. Taped to the back of it was my mural postcard in hopes of him thinking of me the next time a mural might be needed. You know, Murals by Vincent, with a little guerilla marketing!
Click to enlarge

   As I had excused myself to go to the restroom just before sitting down, our friend Dean rushed in to let me know Tony was at our table! Hurriedly I zipped up and scooted out there only to miss him. I felt like Ziggy, When opportunity knocks, I'm in the bathroom. He did return though after dropping off a complimentary side of garlic fried green beans and came over to ask what we thought of them. Being that it was opening night he may have been confused in thinking our table was Tony's Table. We mentioned to him that we were glad he was establishing himself in Sacramento and that we didn't have to drive all the way to San Francisco to enjoy one or more of his pizzas. At that moment I handed him the envelope with the photo and business card...then it occurred to me, he might think this is a summons or papers being served on him! OMG! As quickly as the moment passed he removed the photo and gave it a chuckle. Seizing the moment Sheri and I jumped into the frame and had our picture taken with him. Just then he asked us if we've ever tried his calzone. "No, we hadn't," was our response so he bought us one to give it a try. All I can say is, it was the best calzone I have ever had. Bar none.

   Later as we were diving into his Cal-Italia, his award winning Margherita and a Pesto based pizza called Primavera plus the baked calzone (called the Brooklyn), a roar came up from behind us when one of the pizza acrobats entertained the crowd with his super acrobatic pizza spinning skills. Up in the air, behind his back, under his leg and rolling down across his shoulders to the opposite hand, this dough flew at supersonic speed. What a show! I've seen it on You Tube and TV but to witness it in person and close up was like watching the Blue Angels perform in person.
   Meeting Tony was so cool. I'm not an autograph seeker or a celebrity watcher. I think the last and only autograph I ever collected was from Lt. Carpenter (Bob Hastings) from McHale's Navy when I was about 12 years old but Tony is just a regular guy, down to earth, classy and very friendly. I don't think he even knows what a superstar he is.

The Cal-Italia
   As far as I am concerned, we had the vantage point next to the kitchen and closer to the action than the soon-to-be revered Tony's Table. I can't wait to return with friends and family and have one of his Brooklyn calzones all to myself.
   Hey Tony, you have my business card, give me a call, let's do lunch, and I'm buying!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mr. "Respect the Craft"

    A recent article in the Sacramento Bee told about a new pizza place in town featuring Carlos Lopez (muralist) who I have had the pleasure of meeting, and his latest creation, coincidentally being the Creation of Man featuring Adam and of course, God! It measures 18' x 40' on the ceiling painted 25 feet high using the same ten colors that Michaelangelo used from his palette some 500 years ago on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Carlos however, painted it with a bit of a twist to it. God is handing Adam an electric guitar, hence the name of this massive place called Pizza Rock opening on K Street in downtown Sacramento Jan. 14, 2011.
   On either side of Pizza Rock will be connected to the Dive Bar on the right as you face it and District 30 on the left which will provide music, drink and lounge. Pizza Rock is brought to us by our hero of pizza, Tony Gemignani, multiple world champion pizza tosser, pizza maker and celebrity. Yes, pizza fans, he is coming to Sacramento in a huge way. In addition to being able to turn out 500 pizzas per hour in multiple style ovens, (Yes, you read that right. I said, 500 pizzas an hour!) Tony and other pizza acrobats will dazzle us with pizza tossing skills unknown to mere mortals.
   Mr. Tony (Respect the Craft) Gemignani is bringing his world championship pizza to us! Only VIP's will be attending on opening night so I will have to wait to be dazzled. His list of pizza related accomplishments fill several pages from championships in making the best Margherita pizza (beating the Italians, by the way) to the Triple Crown of pizza-making (which nobody has ever done-not even the Italians!) to 8 time world champion pizza acrobat to the Guiness Book of World Records and his own Pizza School actually sanctioned by the Italians as authentic.
   Recently, he appeared as the Keynote Speaker to the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas speaking to the crowd of media, pizzaiolos and pizza store owners. He hints that Tony's may be moving to other parts of the country as well and to watch for his pizza coming to the frozen food sections at supermarkets near you. Way to go Tony!
  Had I been asked to paint this mural, my interpretation may been slightly different with God handing a pizza to Tony and maybe with a few words of wisdom to the soon-to-be master. 
   Tony is a one man pizza promoting machine that has become a giant in the industry. I'm wondering if God might be on his VIP list for the grand opening of Pizza Rock?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Garlic Supreme

   After nearly two dozen tries with experiments, twists and the occasional tweak, I found out what I should've thought of months ago. Don't give up!
   I started fresh again and decided I wasn't going to let the pros have all the fun making a white garlic pizza sauce. One of many recipes that came close started with a whole white onion and chopped it with grated garlic cloves and said to saute' it. It taste-tested pretty darn good but was very lumpy due to the chopped onions. The twist I put on it was only slightly saute' in butter but don't brown the onion/garlic mixture. Add desired amounts of salt & pepper then dump it in the blender to puree after adding some heavy cream or at least half & half. After it becomes consistently smooth, put it back in the pan to thicken it with a small amount of cornstarch then bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Oh, I could tell my secret but for now I want to test it a few more times before making it public. I think it will rank up there with Round Table's Italian Garlic Supreme pizza.
   A friend, who used to work at a Round Table decades ago, has been given the entire recipe to make and taste-test my formula and procedure. Once he has tried it and approved it I think I will have the secret solved.
   At this point I'm not looking to change their pizza toppings that go on the Garlic Supreme as I can't think of any better combination than what they have put on theirs...except maybe the tomatoes. The tomatoes make for a nice colorful pizza topping to the green onions, small amounts of pepperoni and Italian sausage, but they could be swapped out for anything else that is red, say red chili peppers or red onions. Just not a huge fan of cooked tomatoes other than in a sauce. In keeping that particular topping red it repeats the colors of the Italian flag in a different way than the Margherita pizza was designed to repeat the colors of their flag originally when presented to Queen Margherita.
   If you are a fan of garlic then it might be worth mentioning that garlic has been around for 6000 years and clay models of garlic were even found in King Tut's tomb. It has been revered as a method to repel vampires, and as an aphrodisiac as well. Good or bad, it has a long history in homeopathic remedies as well. Lois Pasteur verified that it has anti-septic qualities, as well as anti-bacterial. It also has the ability to ward off fleas and mosquitoes. My favorite side note is that during the early part of the 20th century some references have been made about garlic as the Bronx Vanilla and Italian perfume! It is possibly the number one healing plant known to man. That alone should qualify it as Garlic Supreme in anybody's book.