Saturday, December 30, 2023

Ending 2023 on a high note

My wife asked if there was anything I wanted to do over the holiday break. If the weather cooperates, I'd want to make pizza. For the most part, the weather cooperated today. Was a little windier than I like. This temp with no wind is actually nice pizza making weather. Add a good breeze like today and it can get chilly.

Anyhow, I made pizza today. Nothing major. Didn't invite anyone over. No special plans. Just relaxed pizza making. Tried a dough experiment that worked so-so. Like most research, that dough procedure requires more research to be conclusive.

I delivered a few around the neighborhood. A meat lovers to the lady who sometimes lets our dog out during the day. One of my original deliveries across the street was out of town. I texted the relatively new neighbors to see if they were around. It had looked like they were away for a few days. 

They were around and excited for some pizza. I've written about them before. The kids are really cute. How cute? I've put pineapple on pizza for them. That's how cute. Since I had extra dough, I made them two pizzas - a Hawaiian and a pepperoni - and walked them across the street. I got a cute chorus of "Thank you!" from the girls as I left. A few minutes later I got follow up text and one of the girls (she's Kindergarten/1st grade age) paid me a nice compliment.

"How come this pizza is so good!" 

She's invited back.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Intense Milk

My oldest daughter was home this week for spring break from college. She brought home some Intense Milk. It is sold from some dedicated Intense Milk only vending machines and also available in some campus shops. It has been a while since the 4 of us went on a Fussy Little Blog tour and ranked something, so I made up some score cards and we had a tasting. On the ballot:

Vanilla: Weighing in at 490 calories per container.

Strawberry: This lowfat version weighs in at 330 calories per container.

Chocolate: Also lowfat and the lightest at 320 calories per container.

Mint Chip: Eerily green and weighing in at 490 calories per container.

On the plus side, these all have a good amount of calcium.

I went with the tasting order of Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Mint Chip. The idea was to go from mild flavors towards bolder tastes like a wine tasting. I put too much thought into this. Here are some tasting notes:

Jon: Tastes like melted ice cream but a little chalky
Amy: Smooth like melted ice cream
Allison: Tastes like vanilla ice cream, very sweet
Casey: No comment
Low Fat Strawberry
Jon: Looks like pepto, tastes like vanilla with strawberry chemical
Amy: Sweet, has an after taste
Allison: tastes like strawberry milk, i never liked strawberry milk that much
Casey: Elementary school strawberry milk flashbacks
Low Fat Chocolate
Jon: Kind of like melted chocolate soft serve. Little metallic and the end
Amy: Could use more chocolate
Allison: Pretty good, I can seen how it is more chocolate ice cream than just chocolate milk
Casey: Powdered chocolate milk vibe

Mint Chip
Jon: Decent mint chocolate flavor
Amy: Nice flavor
Allison: Tastes like mint chip ice cream. Can I take points off for how atrocious it looks?
Casey: No comment

The report coming back from campus is that Chocolate is the O.G. flavor (that means Original Gangster, mom) and probably the most popular on campus. The scores-

Parents: We had identical scorecards. Strawberry left off the podium, Chocolate taking the bronze. Vanilla with the silver and in a twist that surprised no one more than me, the very green Mint Chip takes home the gold.

Young Adults: They came close to agreeing. Both had Strawberry in last place, Chocolate and Mint Chip in for silver or bronze (Allison preferred Chocolate and Casey gave the edge to Mint Chip), and Vanilla on top of their podium with gold. 

And there you have it. 

Stewart's flavored milks are better.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Am I wrong or is this shop owner?

So this shop is located in the space where another pizza shop used to be. The original shop was here for decades, and about 20 years ago, maybe a little more, built a new, bigger space about a 1/4 mile away. Since then, I thought a few other mostly to-go places (pizzas and others) have been in this space. Maybe it was just this one with different owners. I was unaware the current version of the pizza shop was there.

Bill Dowd has a blog with local events, opening and closings, that kind of stuff. Earlier today I saw that the current tenant of this space has the store up for sale and clicked on the link. They are doing a starter only/"natural" yeast concept. Here's what the owner (with a bachelors in Nutrition Science) said:

"We are huge fans of all things wild and this includes yeast. Pizza Buono uses wild yeast exclusively to leaven our dough. While commercial yeast is often all GMO, single strain yeast that relies on added sugars for its rise, wild yeast feeds on the wheat protein -- aka the gluten -- in the flour, reducing it to a very nutritious, digestible form. Wild yeast culture can be unpredictable and costly, which is why most pizzerias do not use it, but we believe the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. We also use King Arthur Flour exclusively -- no bleach, no bromate, no GMOs."

1. I don't know about ALL commercial yeast, but the one I see most places using is SAF Instant which is labeled as non gmo. I think past version of it had something GMO in the citric acid. So maybe at one time anyhow. Lesaffre (the company that makes SAF Instant) also makes a compressed yeast that is also listed as GMO free.

2. Every yeast I have used will work without added sugar. I haven't put sugar in my pizza dough for years. The times I've used a starter, there was no added sugar either. Yeast doesn't need added sugar. Not for nothing, if you're making booze, you just need to properly cook corn in water and add yeast. If you add sugar, you'll get more alcohol, but you don't need the sugar to get alcohol. No "all grain" whiskey has added sugar.

3. This is the first time I recall hearing yeast ate gluten. Not a food scientist, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Starches/sugars sure, but protein/gluten? Don't think so. No one is adding gluten to wine so the yeast can eat, and the gluten free pizza dough I make without any added sugar literally has no gluten and the yeast makes it rise.

4. Not the first place I've seen the digestibility comment. I personally think it is more about properly fermented dough than strain of yeast, but at least that is open to debate. This seems more anecdotal than test based.

5. Can't argue with unpredictable, expensive and most commercial pizzerias do not rely solely on a starter. So I guess the owner is not completely wrong.

Part of me wants to drive out and try what they are selling, but I'm not sure it is worth the trip. I'm guessing it would make me mad. Probably about 15 minute drive away. Here's the link to the original post

And here's the menu.

I'm guessing it is a broad use of the word Neapolitan. The one undercarriage photo online I found showed they are using screens, you know, like classic Neapolitan wood fired pizza <sarcasm font needed>. For just $259,900, the store can be yours.

 Photo from 2019 taken by Frances L. found on Yelp


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Pizza Memories

After Thanksgiving, I brought my mother back to Connecticut. After I pulled out and started the return trip home I had an idea. The road I take goes pretty close to a restaurant in Stratford. When I was a kid, the people running this place made the pizza that is my personal Pizza Cognition Theory pizza and are really the inspiration to the wood fired oven in the back yard. The obsession started there. The current restaurant is fancier than the original location. Pizzas are only to go which would be fine tonight.

I pulled over, looked up the number on the phone and ordered two pizzas. A cheese and one with bacon. My plan was to pick up the pizzas, then keep driving and stop in a VFW parking lot, eat and then continue on my way home. I got there and paid as the pizzas were coming out of the oven. The tops looked good and had that hypnotic cheese boil going on.

Off I went, basically adding no extra travel time to the trip. Perfect.

Well, the lights were all off at the VFW so I drove right past it in the dark. No worries, there was a gas station a little ways up. I'll eat in the lot there, and then run in for a drink.

The pizzas were so disappointing. Like, crushingly disappointing.

I've had the pizza in the back and considered it kind of a hollow shell of it's past. It was never bad pizza and there were always a few bites that brought back memories of pizzas from long ago. Not this time. The crust had nothing in common with the historic pie. It was under salted and under fermented. The sauce was flat. The flourish of was oregano missing and even the cheese melt was different. And the worst part, was that the bake was completely unbalanced. The top was done but the undercarriage of the crust was blond and missing any browning or char the old pizzas used to have.

I wonder if the new oven isn't as good. I'm tempted to try a pizza from the original location. The photos don't look promising, but you never know. It is a Brazilian-Italian place now. Interesting combo. But I think I'm done trying to relive my pizza memories here. If I return, it will be for something else on the menu....but probably still a pizza to go. There's always a little bit of hope left.

Also, while I'm whining here:

A Margherita pizza is a Margherita pizza. There is no such thing as a Margherita pizza with or without something. Been seeing things like a Margherita pizza with pepperoni or a Margherita pizza without basil. These are no longer Margherita pizzas.

Just like pouring a beer in a wine glass doesn't make it wine, roasting any cut of beef doesn't make that roast Prime Rib.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022


I don't get the upside of putting a sign for a politician in your yard. Is it supposed to change someone's mind as they walk or drive by? Is it just for name recognition? Why?

I've only had a political sign in the yard once. The few times I've been asked to put a sign up, I just say I live at the end of a dead end street. No one but me will see the sign. But the time I put a sign up, one of my neighbors was running, it was his sign, one house over had the opponent's sign and he wanted one of his near the opponent's sign. I avoided the awkwardness and said sure.

I voted for the opponent.

That was some time ago. Years before Trump's Republican party. These days I would have dealt with the awkwardness and said something like, "I suspect it will be a full generation before I even consider voting for you or any other Republican." And based on some political conversations in the time since, I don't think he'd ask again, to spare himself the awkward conversation.

On the Saturday before election day, a different house put up some signs. I already knew they probably leaned right. But there's a level of leaning right and then there's thinking that election conspiracy, anti-LGBTQ, anti women's health Lee Zeldin is a good choice level of leaning right.

I was left with questions.

Why even bother, there isn't much traffic past this driveway and the election is in 3 days?


You know voting for him is a vote against your daughter having decent healthcare in the future, right?

You've got signs for Zeldin and Velella, but skipped Liz Joy. She's too bat shit crazy for you but the other pair are OK? 

The "Don't say gay" bill would lead to a lot of really, really bad, cruel things. You're good with that?

I was disappointed in my neighbors. Maybe I'm over reacting. Sure doesn't feel that way though. On the positive side, Zeldin and Velella both lost. No idea if the signs had any impact on the neighborhood vote, but they didn't work overall.

I get not being thrilled with Hochul. I'm not. The campaign donation followed by a big contract is sketchy at best. The football stadium is stupid. I guess that's her expensive bridge. Hopefully she doesn't name it after her father. Her election bid was one October screw up away from a loss. I saw something on elections recently that made a lot sense. Basically it said elections are like public transportation. You pick the candidate that is going to get you the closest to where you want to go. I don't want to go anywhere with Lee Zeldin.

Saw this from a Canadian election observer. It's got to be tough to watch. It ain't exactly fun being a part of the mess either.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Road Trip to Queens

Not quite a month ago, I had to go on an overnight for work. I'm still leery of being out a lot. Ordering take out and not dining in, masks and all that. So obviously when faced with an overnight trip to Queens, I pulled up map and tried to correlate places I could stay and pizza shops I wanted to try.

The list of pizza places I'm curious about in Queens isn't huge. I'm sure there is more worthwhile pizza than the list. But in no particular order, the places I'd like to try are:

Lucia Pizza, Flushing

Amore Pizza, Flushing

Philomena's, Sunnyside

Louie's Pizza, Elmherst

Brother's Pizza, Flushing

Rizzo's Fine Pizza, Astoria

Margherita, Jamaica

Rosario's, Astoria

Bellucci's Pizzeria, Astoria

There's already another story behind the Bellucci's that I posted about a year ago. The original Bellucci's was opening at the end of Untitled Pizza Movie. But there was a falling out and Andrew Bellucci left and has since reopened another pizza place a few blocks away from the first. Anyhow, the shop currently being run by Andrew Bellucci wasn't open that night and this list of pizza places is pretty spread out. I decided to pick the one I wanted to try the most and get a hotel fairly close with a parking option.

I found a hotel with a parking spot about a mile away from Philomena's. It looked like it would work well. A nice walk there and back plus I was pretty close to where I had to be in the morning. Checked into the hotel, hung out for a bit in the room and set off on my straight shot walk up Queen's Boulevard to Philomena's. The weather was nice and the walk was good. It was nice to be out of the car.

When I got there, I came close to ordering one of everything of the slice offerings and a root beer. While they were reheating, I asked the guy making pizzas if he was Dave. He said he was. I let him know Scott from Boston says, "Hi," Scott is a pizza shop owner in the Boston area and a pizza consultant and incredibly knowledgeable about pizza on the forum and by all accounts incredibly nice. So we briefly talked and then my slices were ready so I headed to a bench outside the shop to eat.

Everything was good. This is pizza made by someone who cares. I think the 2 squares probably could have used a little more top heat during the reheat, but the place is solid. I wouldn't call it destination pizza. If you're nearby, definitely go. I don't think I would be heading out to make a special trip for Philomena's.

With nothing really on the agenda for the rest of the night. I people watched for a little bit to let the 4 slices settle and went in to try some other offerings. I considered ordering a square, but decided that was just too much pizza and picked a small sausage and broccoli rabe pizza to go and was told it would be about 20 minutes. No worries, plenty of time to kill.

A few doors away from Philomena's is a White Castle. I have had microwaved White Castle Sliders but never had the real deal. 

So I walked over there and ordered a slider. It felt like I was the first person in history to have ever ordered a single slider. I had already eaten 4 slices and had just basically ordered 4 more but it still felt weird. 

The White Castle slider tasted like a cross between meatloaf and sloppy Joe. I ate about half of it. I think this might be a thing you had to have growing up to love. It's not for me. Or maybe I ordered wrong. Anyhow, I headed back to Philomena's for my pizza. Once there, I was waiting for my pizza and Dave called me back to where he was working to talk pizza a little more. He told me about his dough and the changes he makes. Right now he is using a poolish and the dough that day was 4 days old. You can definitely taste the poolish. There is kind of a mild, fermented, not quite sourdough flavor in the background of the dough. It was fun talking dough and about the places Dave worked before going out on his own (he started with wood fired pizza).

When my pizza was done, Dave's assistant let him know that he had made the wrong pizza. There is the broccoli rabe and sausage combination, but there is also a vegan combination with a chickpea base and broccoli rabe with garlic. He had made the vegan one. I said it wasn't a problem but he wasn't having that, so he made the sausage/rabe pizza I had ordered and gave me both.

Chickpea with broccoli rabe and garlic

Sausage with broccoli rabe

I went outside and wanted to try the pizzas while they were still hot. They were both good. My only complaint would be that the rough chop on the broccoli rabe was a little too rough and the pieces were uncomfortably lard to eat. The chick pea topping was delicious. Truth be told, the vegan combination was better than the sausage combination. The chickpeas had a coarse grind to them and weren't smooth like a hummus. They were well seasoned and combined with the garlic and broccoli rabe it was my favorite of everything I had tried at Philomena's and before I fell asleep, all the pizza was gone and I didn't really eat the next day.

So Philomena's is good pizza and worth visiting if you are nearby. I still think about that chickpea topping and how I could copy it. But I wouldn't give Philomena's a destination, drive a few hours just to get it, kind of a rating. In fairness, that is an incredibly short list and two of the places making up probably half of the list that comes to mind would also require a time machine.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Winter Pizza Challenge and a confession

The winter pizza challenge was to revisit one of your Signature pizzas. I had made what I call the Fancy Pants Mushroom pizza back in November of 2019. The pizza has a base of creme fraiche (fancy pants sour cream), mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with garlic and a splash of wine. Usually some oregano in there. I've been prepping some topping in the oven during the preheat (a sheet pan of bacon cooks surprisingly quickly and well in there) and I had seen something on roasting mushrooms figured I'd give it a try.

Monday was President's Day so a day off from work. Temps were also in the 40s.  I lit the oven a little after 10. Fun fact - starting a fire in a wood oven with a weed burner is oddly satisfying. It's weird, a stick light feel soulless compared to a match, but the weed burner is fun. Don't need any newspaper.

Anyhow, for this go around of the Fancy Pants Mushroom, I roasted the mushrooms in the oven and added the seasoning and other ingredients later.

The dough was a little under fermented and I didn't like the cheese,

The line at Restaurant Depot was insane and I was only getting cheese so I stopped at Shop Rite for some other toppings and grabbed their house mozzarella. Good news, the cheese was on sale. Bad news, it grated funny, was bland, melted a weird shade of white and will not be purchased again. But I did also pick up some Seabrook Farms creamed spinach. I kind of wonder how that would do on a pizza.

the mushroom were ok, but there is more flavor to them when sauteed. The garlic gets a little softer too. Next time, I think I will try adding the garlic and a splash of wine to the sheet plan when the mushrooms come out of the oven. There should be enough heat left to incorporate them. I supposed I could just slide the pan I use in the oven too. In the end, I'm pretty sure I was the only one nit-picking the dough, cheese, and flavor of the mushrooms. Something, something, own worst critic...

I also tried a new go at the gluten free pizza. I used a blend of gluten free flours, water, yeast, salt and some olive oil. The mixture all combined kind of comes out like spackle. I think an offset spatula would help spread it in a Detroit style pan. So after about 24 hours in the fridge, the dough was spread in the pan, then there was a 4 hour room temp rise. I par baked the dough with just a little bit of cheese around the edges so stop the dough from shrinking. Cooled that off and then topped it just before a final bake. Went half cheese, half mushroom. It came out pretty good. I think this is the gluten free pizza path of the future. I've got 2, dedicated gluten free pans for this.

All in all, that was a good day. So the confession: I've never put pineapple on a pizza. I can't think of a time when I have liked cooked pineapple. Anyhow, when we were meeting the new neighbors, it turns out one of their little kids likes pineapple on pizza. I thought I'd try to make the best pineapple pizza she ever had. The plan was:

1. Take some fresh pineapple (I will not put canned pineapple on a pizza)

2. Glaze/caramelize it with a little brown sugar

3. Make a Hawaiian pizza (even though that topping combination was created in Canada by a Greek immigrant with no ties to Hawaii) with the pineapple and some good, real ham

4. Walk it across the street

5. Sip an adult beverage and think about what I had done

But none of this happened.The neighbors were out of town during the school break and we had the pineapple with dinner on Tuesday night. My pineapple-less streak received a stay. Not sure how long the stay will be. My wife noted that all it took to get me thinking about pineapple on pizza was a little kid making the request. A few adults have brought it up in the past and I kind of pushed it off.

What can I say? I've got a soft spot for little kids that like my pizza. It's not like I'm going to eat pineapple on pizza myself.

Unless it looks and smells really good. 

Then maybe. I doubt it. Probably not. But maybe.