Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Baby, if you ever wondered..

Keeping up with current events is awful. I feel that it is still necessary to do even though it is painfully soul crushing. Late at night after everyone goes to bed, I find odd comfort in re-watching episodes of the sitcoms I grew up with on TV. For a long time, MeTV aired episodes of Taxi once a week some time around 3 AM. It's amazing how much of that show I remember. And some of the bits still made me laugh even though I knew the joke was coming.

What does a yellow light mean?
Slow down.
Whhhhaaaaaat doooooeeees a yeeellllow liiiiiight meeeaan?

Gets me every time. I'd argue the Louie DePalma is one of the best sitcom characters of all time. The episodes of Taxi were thrown in with some Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Get Smart. I'd throw one of those in too once every so often. As much as I loved the old Bob Newhart show when he was psychiatrist in Chicago (the theme some is my cell phone ringtone), the episodes don't seem to hold up that well. And then they suddenly stopped showing Taxi reruns.

But what absolutely thrilled me was when I found they were airing episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. Some episodes I remember completely. And others I don't really remember at all. They are currently starting the 4th season and I hope the wrap around and start at the beginning in a few weeks. I remember a lot of WKRP too.

WKRP...more rock, and Les Nessman.

I think Mother Carlson might have been the inspiration for Montgomery Burns. She's fantastic. All the characters are fantastic. I actually stayed in Cincinnati once for a conference. The hotel was across the street from the fountain in the credits. I vaguely remember having the theme song on a 45 too (along with the them from The Greatest American Hero). What's weird is that I even remember some of the names for the credits. I'd guess that's from always watching the credits because the music to the closing theme is great and ends up with a cat's meow. I recently discovered a long running joke with the show I had missed. While the music and tune to the closing song are very memorable, I never picked up the lyrics. It was one of those songs that the words had a tune but were just kind of there. I thought the opening line was something like, "Head to the bartender something something up tonight." Never really gave it much thought. Turns out the lyrics were intentionally gibberish. This is my favorite interpretation of the closing song lyrics.

There are more. Another version uses "whack-a-mole" instead of this version's "wackamo." Anyhow, if you get MeTV they are airing WKRP weeknights at 9:30. It's a nice way to wind down the day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

House Beer

I spent Sunday afternoon pretty much neck deep in a pool. Occasionally I’d get out, drink a little beer (stay hydrated, kids) and then get back in the water. For the most part, I don’t drink beer that often. I like beer. Buried in the basement is some homebrew equipment. I made several homemade cases back in the day. Some were good, some ended up being over carbonated and turned into what I would call a “beer flavored spritzer.” Some beers are delicious. Plus, hot weather and beer go together very well. Unfortunately for me, over time I have kind of aged out of beer. Some beers make me very sleepy sometimes followed by a headache and others go straight for the headache. It’s kind of like being hungover from one beer about 3 hours after I drank it. The curling club has Stella on tap – it’s a decent beer (on tap), but a guaranteed headache for me. I spaced Sunday’s beer drinking well enough to avoid any headache. I was a little sleepy around 7, but that might not have been the beer’s fault.

Even though I don’t drink beer regularly, that doesn’t stop me from having some strong opinions. For example, I’m opposed to fruit in beer. if a beer requires a piece of fruit to be added to it to make it drinkable, it’s a crappy beer in my book. Corona and Blue Moon fall in this category for me. And I don’t get the current sour beer trend. I still like to keep at least a six pack around the house in case a guest would enjoy a beer . I needed a beer that:

1. I thought tasted good
2. Doesn’t give me an instant headache
3. Goes well with pizza
4. Is able to be enjoyed by people that are kind of into beer but
5. Not intimidating to someone that just wanted a decent beer – nothing fancy.
After some trial and error, I have settled on what I call my House Beer. My House Beer is Bass Pale Ale. It’s a 12 pack I can get in a supermarket. It’s good enough for people that are into beer to enjoy, and it’s not a flavor bomb so people that mostly buy Bud or Coors enjoy a bottle of it too.

Anyone else crazy enough to overthink the 12 pack in their basement fridge? If so, I’d like to know what it is. The right beer probably will not bump the long reigning House Beer, but the it might expand my extremely limited beer list.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Lowered Expectations

Anyone remember that MadTV sketch about the video dating company "Lowered Expectations?"

Actually, anyone still here? It's been a few months. 

I happened to be in the area of a recently opened pizza chain and with I figured if I go in with low expectations, I can't really be disappointed. And for the most part I was right.

The chain is Uncle Maddio's Pizza. Until they started to set up shop in the area, I had never heard of them. Where Blaze has been called "The Subway of pizza" meaning you follow you pizza up a line customizing it as you go, I would say this is more like "The Panera of pizza." There's a person taking your order and money, you get a number, and fairly quickly your order is ready. I suppose you could follow your pizza to the oven like Blaze. No one did while I was there.

I chose two pizzas. A plain cheese and The Big Max which is sauce, cheese, pepperoni, bacon, sausage and meatball. Also now that I'm typing it, The Big Max sounds like it is trying to be a play on The Big Mac, but maybe not. At Uncle Maddio's the pizza is hand stretched - but it was more like pulling than the over-the-knuckle dough stretching, an put on a screen. From there it gets topped. Once topped it goes into an air impingement/conveyor belt oven. From my angle it was hard to time a bake. There are a bunch of similar looking pizzas, mostly the same size, all being moved along a conveyor belt. So I was confused if the pizza coming out of the oven was actually the pizza I started timing. I'm going to guess the bake was in the six minute range. They also had bags of All Trumps (a very common pizza shop flour) and when they were opening a bag of shredded cheese I couldn't see any labels so maybe it is their own shredded cheese.

  The Big Max


 Profile of the cheese

Bottom of the cheese

It tastes like chain pizza. Sauce is a little sweet. Bit oily. A lot of salt. Not much flavor in the dough. Not a fan of their meatball. Staff was very friendly and I was given some swag: two beer bottle coolie things, a deck of card and a Stella Artois cutting board that kind of looks like a paddle used to spank Kevin Bacon in Animal House.

After having pizza I don't enjoy there's a bit of a letdown. Sometimes followed by anger. Sometimes that angle lasts a few days. Sometimes longer. It's not rational. I know it's not rational. Anyhow, I left Uncle Maddio's not angry at them. But a few hours later, I was a little angry at them. But maybe not them and more the pizza world in general.

When I see all these chains serving mediocre at best pizza, I feel bad for the generation of kids that are going to think it's good. This is what is served at their birthday parties. When their team has and end of season party, that's the pizza they are eating at the celebration. When I went on that pizza tour with people from the forum, the first stop was a place called Mama's Too. If you have Instagram, follow them because the squares they put out are just beautiful. Within a 5 minute walk of Mama's, there's a Domino's. Papa John's is a 4 minute walk. Unless price for quantity is an issue ($20 will go farther in a chain), I can't imagine picking the chain over Mama's Too. But I'm sure people do. A lot of people really like chain pizza. On the pizza forum, the most viewed thread is the Papa John's clone. So if you like Domino's and Papa John's, I'd say there's a good chance you'll like this.

I'm firing up the oven next weekend for a birthday party. Rain or shine. Don't care, although I'd prefer shine. There will be more pizza.  Looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Epic Pizza Tour

To paraphrase Ghostbusters, when someone asks if you want to blow off work for a pizza tour, you say, "YES!"  

I almost didn't go on this tour. As the data approached, I knew I would regret missing it. My head is still kind of in a blur. It was total pizza sensory overload. Not just binge eating pizza, but the conversation and the people made the entire day unbelievably amazing. 

On Thursday morning, I left the house around 6:30 in the morning to go meet people I had only either met or heard about online. I drove down to the Croton-Harmon Metro-North station, parked (paid for up until 3:00 AM because who knows?) and took the train to the 125th Street-Harlem station. From there, it was about a 15 minute bus ride to the first meet-up point of the day. A place called Mama's TOO! that I had seen popping up in pizza-geek Twitter/Instagram recently. I was a little early so I took a lap around the block. I was surprised to see the original Mama's a block from the spinoff. Not long after my lap, what I thought was a familiar online face showed up. But I was wrong. It was the familiar online face's brother. Oops. It was nice to put voices and faces to screen names I have been seeing on the pizza forum for years. And I've got to tell you, everyone was as nice and great and awesome in person as you could have hoped. So here's the pizza craziness that followed:

A crowd of pizza nerds shuffles into Mama's TOO! about 15 seconds after it opened. For the next 45 minutes we talked with owner and ate pizza. The same dough was used in the round slice pizzas as in the squares, but the squares...holy shit, they were amazing. Style-wise, the square isn’t exactly what I think of when I think Sicilian. Flavor and texture wise. It did remind me of a onetime visit to Emmy Squared (Detroit style). I thought the dough, especially in the square form was delicious. Even the way they had it rolled into a garlic knot was delicious.The owner was kind enough to give us most of the dough recipe. Recreating it is on my to do list.

We spent too much time at Mama’s Too! So Sal and Carmine’s was dropped. We drove over to Sophia. The car ride was fantastic. Aside from getting to know two forum guys a little better, the pizza conversation was great. Flour, sauce, yeast, fermentation textures, cheese, mixing order (the owner of Mama's insists adding the salt late makes a big difference)…and it must have been going on in the other car too because there was a car-to-car phone call about yeast at Mama's TOO!. Birds of a feather were definitely flocking together on Thursday.

Parking was tough around our next stop, Sophia. We tried a slice, a square and a spinach dip slice. Nothing there was bad, it just wasn’t great or memorable. The spinach dip kind of tasted like creamed spinach (I'd argue Seagate frozen creamed spinach if you want to get specific about it).

The spinach dip slice is in the upper left corner of the second photo.

From there we were off to Prince Street for the Spicy Spring. It was greasy delicious. Tons of pepperoni (the sidewalk outside is kind of littered with pepperoni that fell off  earlier slices) and I think the dusting of cheese that partially melts into the cupped pepperoni was great too. One thing to note was that we got two slices and cut them into three pieces each. I’m not sure I’d feel the saw way about the Spicy Spring slice if I ate a whole square myself. I could see the four bites of delicious slowly turning into a salty, grease bomb that haunts you for the rest of the day. Alas, I didn't get a good picture of the spicy spring slice and no one has put one up on the forum yet. So you are currently stuck with a crowd shot.

And we're moving...We headed off to L’industrie and got there a little bit ahead of schedule. A forum member whose screen name is quietdesperation and I took the opportunity to walk over to Best Pizza. We had a regular square and a pickled vegetable slice. They were both good. I thought the kale on pickled vegetable slice was really tasty. I had been to Best Pizza once before and it was alright, this visit was better.

We walked back to L’industrie and joined the tour already in progress. Paulie Gee of Paulie Gee's and the soon to be Paulie Gee's Slice Shop and Mike of Mike's Hot Honey had joined the group. Not a take your breath away slice here. It was a little on the dry side and I thought they had used too much bench flour so there was still a little on the crust. That said about the slices, a table ordered a fresh pizza while we were there and it looked better than what was being served as slices. Perhaps L’industrie is a better whole pie/eat right away place than a slice shop. As I was late to this portion of the tour, I don't really have any good pictures, but the fresh burrata on this slice was beautiful.

Next stop was the Big Ragu. They had a cool oven. It was gas fired with a rotating deck. The deck was spinning faster than I thought a rotating deck would go, but it is fair to say I know nothing about rotating deck ovens. We got the namesake Big Ragu slice. Just before if comes out of the oven some paper is put down on top of a paper plate and it gets a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar. That was a new one for me. The slice was then cut into bite sizes. We had a bunch of plastic forks to eat it. The slice was thick, doughy and I didn’t think it was good. It had overtones of something you get at a fair. Should you find yourself here, try something else.

Then Williamsburg Pizza. I had stopped here once before when a work trip had brought me into the area and their grandma slice was the start of that mini tour. While I was there they were prepping their apple bacon slice and the topping sounded great but I had a few other places I wanted to visit and I was on my own so giving the apple bacon square a try was on my to-do list. I don’t know if the pie had been in the window too long or maybe I’m just wrong about the combination, this was a disappointingly bad slice. As people were getting ready to go Paulie Gee had just gotten his grandma slice. So I got to hang out and talk with Paulie and we split the slice. The grandma slice is still very good and worth getting if you are nearby.

From there, Paulie and I drove to Sam’s to catch up with the group. That was another nice drive/pizza/pizza business discussion. I know where Paulie buys his cheese. He asked me not to tell anyone. I'm not telling. Walking into Sam’s is like stepping back in time. Sam is gone and the place is run by his son Lou who very much enjoys the joke, "Don't call me Son of Sam." I thought the pizza here was very good and just being there made me want to really explore the menu. There were not a lot of people in there and I can’t figure out why. The food looks really good and being inside reminded me of being a kid and walking into an Italian restaurant with my parents in the 70s. I’d very much like to bring a party of 8 or 10 here and try some of everything. Also, Paulie can’t get within a mile of the place without getting clams.

From Sam’s, some of us walked to Lucali, others drove. Walking there we stopped in the Court Pastry Shop. It smelled amazing in there. I was too full of pizza and there was still another stop so I didn't get anything. Quietdeparation had some did-not-buy remorse and headed back for some biscotti while we waited for a table at Lucali. We tried biscotti some after Lucali’s and I don’t think it is an exaggeration when I say that was the best biscotti I ever had. I did not know biscotti could be that good.

So had a little bit of a wait at Lucali but it wasn’t too bad. I’ve waited just as long if not longer outside of Pepe’s or Sally’s in New Haven. My impression of Lucali was that it was a pizza that needed to be eaten promptly and that the crust was kind of on the clock. I’m not sure I00% right about that. I’ve got to say dining with forum Member Jackie Tran (his first name is Chau and the bent spatula inside my propane oven was developed by him and then the forum named it after him - it's call a Chauflector) is amazing. He is very observant and it made me look and consider things I probably wouldn’t have caught on my own. I definitely enjoyed Lucali. Not sure it is 2 hour wait worthy (we didn't wait that long but people have) but I’d be OK with a 20-30 minute wait for the dining experience. I want to get their all beef pepperoni for my pizza. So flavorful. Like Sam’s, Lucali isn’t just the pizza, the space is fun and inviting, there’s a little velvet rope at the entrance, the wood oven is in back with a very open kitchen - it’s an experience. We got two small calzones, the one I had was delicious. The other appeared to be a little under cooked. Fresh basil is served on everything. One thing to note about Lucali is that after a day long pizza eating binge, I didn’t hesitate to take a full slice from each pizza. When we were done with pizza, I think I could have had another slice but the calzones were on the way and while the mind was still thinking about pizza, it was probably for the best to be done.

One of my favorite pictures of the day was up on Paulie Gee's Instagram feed. It feels like it captures the Lucali experience.

After Lucali we split up to head home. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride back to the Croton train station with a member that lives nearby. Even the ride back was enjoyable. Talking about the day, pizza, life family with a new friend. What an amazing day. I’m so glad I was able to join part of this tour. I say part, because it was four days long. It wrapped up earlier this afternoon. The pictures from today look good. I'm waiting to read about it on the forum. It might make a nice little family tour.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Electric City Pizza Tour

Once again, my family willingly followed me along on a pizza themed excursion. This time it was the FussyLittleBlog's slice tour in Schenectady. Five stops. Five slices to judge with the goal of determining the best New York style slice in Schenectady. Now what exactly is a New York Slice? To me, Scott Wiener of Scott's Pizza Tours gave my favorite explanation:

“a New York-style pizza is a large-format pizza. It’s cut into eight even wedge slices. The whole diameter of the pizza is somewhere between 18 and 22 inches, and it’s made with a low-moisture mozzarella, baked in a gas-fueled deck oven at about 550 degrees, for somewhere between seven and ten minutes. When it’s served to the public, it’s available either fresh, or if you’re there ten minutes late, as a reheat slice. And the slice is always larger than the plate upon which it is served. This is a New York slice.”

I'd like to add that the reheating the slice add a crispness to the bottom of the crust. In my mind, the best NY Style slice I've ever had was at Pizza Town USA ironically located in Jersey. Somehow the slice is impossibly thin as well as crispy and tender at the same time. Here's a link to my first visit there. Midway through this tour my youngest daughter Casey was a little confused about slice shops. I explained that they were trying to be like Pizza Town, USA. She said, "Well then they're failing." That's my girl. After our December visit to Pizza Town, she wanted to move closer. I mention this to place this tour on a scale of NY Slices. Two stops on this tour made a decent slice (I'll do the math for you - three did not), but those decent slices aren't on the same level as the best of the best. The "best" Schenectady slice isn't on the same playing field as the "best" NY slices.

On the score sheet was a space for the anticipated winner to see if there was a little bias from the start. I had only been to one of the places so I was flying blind without any expectations. The kids picked expected winner's based only on how much they liked a shop's name. Allison liked Nico's and Casey liked Isopo's. After a first look at our family's score sheets, we were split about which shop was the best. Usually we vote as a block. We discussed not turning in all of our scores to lessen the impact of the family voting block. I think on one soft serve tour we were 20% of the vote. Upon further review of our scores, we technically voted 3-1. But if we were working in pencil some numbers would have gotten adjusted.

We got two cheese slices at every stop. I had a cutting board and pizza cutter to make 4 skinny slices. Prices were all pretty much same, $4.30 to $5.00 for two slices. Here's how the tour broke down. (Note: Some scorers used factions of a point. I blame the Olympics.)

Stop 1: Pizza King

We got here at 11 and the tour kind of slammed them.

My notes: In the rush, the reheat wasn't very long. The slice warmed up but the bottom crust didn't crisp that much. Not a lot of flavor in the crust. There was a good cheese melt. The sauce was on the sweet side. I'd call it a better than average upstate that oddly seemed to get better as it cooled.

Amy: I liked the cheese. Stretchy and tasty.

Allison: Sauce is good, end crust is too doughy, cheese is alright and doesn't come off all at once (which is good).

Casey: Huge slices, great crust.

Stop 2: Isopo's

My notes: Pale and under cooked. No crisp on the reheat. Dough was dense, kind of bready and could use a little salt. The sauce was sweet. Very thin rim didn't rise. Cheese was a little rubbery and would slide off. I think this is a fairly typical slice in the area.

Amy: Not uniform, some bites completely different than the last. Some didn't have sauce. I didn't like the cheese. I liked the crunch in the end crust but the under crust was lacking.

Allison: Sauce was pretty much the same as Pizza King except there is a little more. End crust parts were more doughy while some parts were crunchy. The slice was pretty thin but the under wasn't crunchy and it was a tiny bit soggy. The cheese had a weird taste that I can't place that made it worse than Pizza King.

Casey: Different sized slices, cool name, pizza slices are OK.

Stop 3: Nico's

My notes: Bready, under cooked crust that was soggy and couldn't support its own weight. Not crispy at all. The sauce and cheese combined into one layer but the components of that layer aren't good. I have heard their whole pies are different and better that the slice pies but this slice was not good. I ate half of my half slice.

Amy: Not good. Doughy. All dough.

Allison: There is a small layer of sauce to an extent where you can't really taste it. The cheese tastes weird. The slice is really droopy and the under is not crunchy at all. The end crust is more  consistently crunchy than Isopo's but it is still doughy.

Casey: Under crust is a bit soggy. GIANT slice (bigger than Pizza King). Cheese is weird. Not enough sauce.

Stop 4: Paulie's


My notes: Over sauced, very soggy. Sauce seemed unseasoned then got sweet. Cans of Stanislaus tomatoes were in the trash. It's a great brand. I liked the cheese flavor but it slid all over on top of the sauce. Bready crust that mostly tasted bland. I think it could have used some salt. Smaller slices. Very so-so.

Amy: Too much sauce, crust was tasteless. Soggy.

Allison: The sauce still had some tomato chunks in it making it too tomato-y. There was also a lot of sauce on the slice. Cheese was good but it came off easily maybe because there was so much sauce. The crust looked weird on the bottom and tasted cornmeal-y. The crust was thin but not really thin like the earlier shops. The end crust was also cornmeal-y but it was more consistent than Nico's.

Casey: Slices are smaller than the other stores.

Stop 5: I Love NY (and you will too)

My notes: Crust is brown instead of some of the pale we had been seeing and has a nice crispness. Cheese is good. Cheese and sauce boiled into one layer. Actually had a cheese pull which was the only one I noticed during the tour. The sauce could use a little more seasoning and the slice is salty but in a good way. This was the closest to what I think a NY slice should be, but still not great. There was a little aftertaste to the end crust.

Amy: Crisper and crunchier than others. Ingredients tasted good. I tend to like more cheese. The most consistent of all.

Allison: End crust was really good. It was crunchy and just enough doughy. You couldn't really taste the sauce but it was kind of a seasoning and it made the pizza really good. The pizza was just as thin as Pizza King but it was the crunchier of all of them. The cheese tasted really good and went nicely with the crust and sauce.

Casey: good thin, under crust is crisp

The Rankings:

Nico's - 49
Paulie's - 57
Isopo's - 61
Pizza King - 80
I Love NY - 84.8

Post Game Analysis

The last line on the score sheets is: What was your favorite and why?

Me: I Love NY. I thought it was the closest to my ideal NY style slice. Not in the same league as what is available downstate though.

Amy: I would go with Pizza King because I liked the ratio of the ingredients to the overall slice. I tend to like a little more cheese the I Love NY pizza had but that crust was good is you like crisper pieces. I liked the flavors of Pizza King better.

Allison: I Love NY was my favorite because is had the best flavor overall and the crust was crunchy and consistent.

Casey: My favorite was Pizza King because it had plenty of room to sit and its crust was great. It also had a good amount and flavor of the cheese and sauce.

Amy didn't want to scribble up the whole score sheet to re-balance her scores because technically she scored I Love NY a touch higher than Pizza King. Next tour will have pencils. But if she readjusted her scores, The I Love NY score drops a little and the Pizza King score goes a a bit and you basically have a tie. And in fairness to Pizza King, I think if our slices had spent another 60 seconds re-heating, my scores might be adjusted too.

Based on the slices we got, our family is split between Pizza King and I Love NY as the best in Schenectady. I suppose there are worse things we could argue about. I have no idea how the rest of the tour voted (there was a pretty good turn out), so you will have to watch the FussyLittleBlog for the Official Results.  My guess is that I love New York gets the win with Pizza King close behind. At least that's how I saw it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Super Bowl Sunday

For the most part, I just don't care about football. I do know enough about the game to almost run the recent football category on Jeopardy. The purple people eaters one would have gone by me. If I was forced to pick a team, I think it would be nice for the Bills to be competitive again, but that is probably more because I like Buffalo more than I like football. What we had done in the past was take the kids out to a nicer than usual restaurant (if you go back to 2012, there was illness, a kitchen remodel and store bought pizza shells - not my proudest moment). For those with young kids, it's perfect. The restaurant is happy for the business, the kids get a nicer than Moe's/burger joint/Friendly's/diner type experience and because the place is empty, if your 3 year old gets a little loud, no one is around to care. Now my kids are old enough that I can take them anywhere without worrying about their behavior. Finding them something they'd be willing to eat might be the harder issue. This summer we took a cruise and they tried some things in the main dining room on the boat that they probably wouldn't have tried in a restaurant on land. And the reason for that was the safety net of the buffet upstairs. If they tried something new and hated it, there was always something they would like at the buffet. For the most part, they did well. I only had to have two dinners once or twice. But back to Super Sunday.

The meal this Super Bowl Sunday was very enjoyable. The four of us had a really good time. There was only one flaw in the meal. It was the cheese pizza one of my kids ordered.

If I wasn't a pizza obsessive, none of this would bother me. The pizza wouldn't have detracted anything from the meal. It would have been just a kid's pizza.  No one left the restaurant hungry. The pizza was gone when left, although that is probably because I was going a little overboard tasting the crust. I didn't take a picture because we were out having a good time, I prefer to keep a phone away from the table and I didn't want to announce "pizza freak" to the waitstaff. I didn't realize I'd be thinking about this pizza steadily for a full day and with 20/20 hindsight, I regret not taking the photo. So with all that said and remembering we had a very nice evening, let's start bitching about the pizza.

1. I didn't really check the layout of the kitchen but I believe the pizza is made in a different area than the rest of the menu. I bet if the head chef saw this particular pizza, it would have become a snack for the waitstaff and another pizza would have been made and served. If I pulled that pizza out of my oven, I would not have served it. Hell, just from looking at the shape, I might not have bothered to top it with sauce and cheese. Dough is cheap. I'm guessing there was less than 25 cents worth of ingredients in that dough ball before it was topped. Probably wouldn't have been the end of the world to start over.

2. The bake was completely unbalanced.  The rim of the crust was pale and under cooked. The shape was not round, which can be OK. I'm pretty sure this was meant to be round. And a bigger diameter. If this dough ball was stretched rounder and bigger, the big dough crust rim would have been smaller, less dense and might have properly baked.

3. I liked the sauce.

4. Whoever made the pizza needs to get better at launching a pizza. The peel had to have been coated with a lot of flour to leave that much raw flour on the undercarriage of the pizza. Try a sprinkling of rice flour on the peel instead of that much extra bench flour. .

Well, I feel a little better. The appetizer we had was lovely. Three entrees were nice too. Some shrimp were cooked beautifully. Service was attentive and friendly. If I lived closer, I would want to be a regular customer. I suggested the possibility of having the upcoming family Birthday Dinner here. Unfortunately I think it's just a little too far away from home. But the pizza, that needs some work. Maybe just more experience.

Later this week, my wife and I will have been a couple for 26 years. While she and I were critiquing this pizza at the restaurant she commented that she was surprised how quickly she became a pizza snob.

Back off. She's with me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It really tweaks my melon, again

Once again, I'm going to channel my inner Abe Simpson and publicly whine about a few things:

Major League Baseball is on hiatus
By hiatus, I mean I’m not watching any of it this year. A few years ago, back when I was still exercising regularly, I was on the road for work in Utica. I had just gone for a jog and noticed that there was a baseball game being played at the high school next door to the hotel. I went over and watched a few innings. Yes, a game played at the high school level is not played as well as in the big leagues. But it was more fun to watch. And since my oldest daughter has been playing softball, I’d rather be a part of that than watch a pro game. Have you ever seen a college softball game? That’s more fun to watch than a pro baseball game too. But major league greed is what pushed me over the edge. This off season, it has become painfully clear that there are several teams that just don’t care about a winning season for their fans. I’m not taking about a World Series win, I’m talking about putting a pro team on the field that is worth watching. Something more than a game above 500. Tanking multiple seasons has become an accepted practice and every year is a "rebuilding year." Pro baseball doesn’t deserve its fans.

Veterinarian Bills
Our dog Bailey recently got spayed. Now maybe it’s the vet office we chose, but if the cost of spaying/neutering a dog is this much everywhere, there is no reason to wonder why there are so many orphaned dogs. A lot of people aren’t going to pay that. I’m surprised I paid that. A few years ago, there was a great weekend in Boston with a bunch of college friends. We ate and drank and had a blast. Valet parking was involved. That all-out 3 day weekend was cheaper than the sum of our first 3 vet visits. 

I don’t have a lot of experience with veterinarians, but spaying/neutering is something they should probably do a little closer to cost (which should include payment for their time). We needed to return a few weeks after our first visit for a booster shot. They offered to draw some blood for some tests before the spaying operation. It would be $100 cheaper to do in advance instead of on the day. Yeah, sure. Do that. For comparison, I had some blood work done a few months after getting bitten by a tick.

Blood work place: That will be $1200

Insurance company: We’ll give you $49

Blood work Place: OK

What an absurd scam. I don’t expect the vet to lose money with spaying and neutering. But maybe if they didn’t quadruple up on the cost of the procedure, more people would listen to Bob Barker and “help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Restaurant Apology
We went out to dinner last night. We weren’t rushing, but we had one daughter with us and had to pick the other up so we weren’t planning for a long meal. After placing the order, we waited. After about 15 minutes, the waiter came to top off our water glasses and said the food would be out shortly. About 10 minutes after that, he came back and told us that they lost our ticket and were rushing to fill our order now. He apologized. We said it was OK, it happens. He brought out the food and apologized again. We started eating. A manager came over to check on us and apologized, asked how everything was and told us she was going to comp an entrée. She said there was an emergency in the kitchen, someone had to rush out and the ticket got lost. We accepted her apology. The waiter apologized a few more times. They offered us a free desert which we passed on because we had to get going and they took a $21 entrée off the bill. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say they apologized for the delay 6 or 7 times. It kind of felt like the Monty Python sketch about the dirty fork: “I am the manager. I’ve only just heard." "I want to apologize humbly, deeply and sincerely about the fork.” 

The apologies worked. I don’t have any ill will toward the restaurant and I’d go back. Truth be told, the only apology I really wanted was for making me have to listen to Phil Collins sing Against All Odds while waiting for dinner.

Reviewing the Reviewer
More often than not, when I buy a Sunday Times Union it’s because I need paper for lighting chimneys of charcoal or fires in the wood oven. That’s probably a sad statement about the newspaper business. I haven’t been keeping up with the weekly restaurant reviews but when I get a paper I read the write up. It’s weird how reviews seem to end up in either moderate, silent reader agreement or passionate, loud reader disagreement. Writing style plays a big part in it too. I’m sure the current reviewer is a great person, but I don’t care for her writing style. Aside from occasionally needing a dictionary to understand a sentence, there have been a few “scat” references that I felt were poor choices in a professional restaurant review. From a review of Forged:

The black bean brownie with tofu ganache ($9) certainly pushed me to the edge, with its constipated scat of solid black beans and oats, and dribbly coconut milk “whipped cream” with an empty taste of melted ice.

Maybe it was an attempt at humor that went by me. It’s ok not to like something, but the Times Union restaurant review can make or break a local restaurant. Leave “constipated scat” out of a review. And water. Water is “the empty taste of melted ice.” In this week’s review of the Galleria 7 Market, there was an unnecessary shot at a nearby restaurant. 

Of course, you've already checked out Innovo Kitchen in the corner, either because your curiosity was piqued by its owners' embezzlement imbroglio at their previous place or because you'd heard they were killing it in their new space. 

Yes, Innovo Kitchen had a stand in the Galleria 7 Market, but it's gone now. It is a stand alone restaurant around the corner in the same strip mall. Why even mention Innovo Kitchen at all? I don't think the owner or restaurant have anything to with the place being reviewed. It just seems like an unprovoked, mean spirited jab.

Then in the description of the pizza place in the food court:

Anna's pizzas, cooked to order in three minutes, have an intriguing tangy tomato sauce and soot-blackened bottoms that could use a little crunch ($11).

I suppose a little bit of burnt/charred crust could be considered soot. I tend to think of soot as the particles in smoke that end up lining the chimney from incomplete combustion of the wood. I guess you could argue that delicately charred crust can be delicious, incomplete combustion.
I’ve been to Anna’s once. It’s not my favorite pizza. As my father would say, “It isn’t the worst pizza I ever had.” It is easy to find worse pizza locally. I had a slice for lunch last week and I’m still mad at how bad it was (I should have just turned around and left after getting a look at the slices). Anyhow, the reviewer wished Anna’s crust was a little more crisp. Now, I’ll give you Anna’s isn’t a true Neapolitan pizza, but it is clearly inspired by the style and that style is not crisp. To my completely insane pizza obsessive sensibilities, that’s like saying, “the pizza was alright but I wish it was Chicago Deep Dish instead” or “I ordered the steak but wished it was chicken.”

An Anniversary
One year ago today, according to my brother in law's Facebook timeline (and the end of this post), the first pizzas came out of the wood oven.

Made some good progress on the oven since then. It's snowing now but the forecast calls for 40s on Saturday. Time to fire up the oven and make some pizza. I think I’m going to try to make some bigger pies this time. I’m usually in the 13-14 inch range. I’m going to see if I can bump a few pies up to 16 inches. As I age, it’s amazing what passes for excitement.

Note to Phairhead - I hope you are feeling better soon!