Thursday, October 2, 2014

TOP Round 1: DC's vs. Marissa's

I have no idea if there are still tickets available, but if you are interested in being a pizza judge, follow this link to see if you can still get a now FREE ticket to the AOA Tournament of Pizza Championship.  This is going online a little late. The official results for this pizza battle went up yesterday.

DC’s in Albany
I have a little bit of history with DC’s but only one visit to their shop. I thought their sausage was good, but the overall slice was lacking. But that was then, this is now and we are judging the slice in front of us. Starting with a slice of sausage pizza: The rim of the crust had a nice depth of flavor but the rim was a little bready. There was no char on the pizza, in fact the pizza was a little bit light in color, and the bottom had plenty of screen markings. The sauce had a pasta sauce quality to it and I think it would have been nice on some ziti. It would also work for pizza but there was too much of it here. The cheese pretty much slid on the sauce and the slice couldn’t support its own weight. The sausage was good, although I’d say it was better at my last visit. All the components combined to make a very middle of the road slice.

Sausage Pizza
Crust:2, Sauce:3, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:5 for a total of 13 points.

Moving onto the broccoli slice, I was surprised at how similar this crust was to the sausage pizza. I guess there is something to be said about the consistency of a screen. The only noticeable difference (and it is kind of a big one), was that without the tomato sauce, this slice was able to support its own weight. The cheese and ricotta worked well together, the ricotta was spread out nicely over the slice and I thought there was a nice seasoning to the pie. The broccoli was minced, I’m guessing frozen but without any large pieces there was no frozen broccoli texture. While I think I would prefer florets, minced is probably the way to go if you are using frozen broccoli.

Broccoli Pizza
Crust:3, Sauce:4, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:6 for a total of 16 points.

Marissa’s in Guilderland
I have had pizza from Marissa’s twice. Once was a whole pie to go (after a previous Tournament of Pizza) that was alright, but nothing that made me excited to return to the shop. The other time was a lunchtime visit for a slice when I was in the neighborhood. My takeaway from these two visits was that Marissa’s pizza was significantly better when reheated as a slice. That second cook really helped the crust out. I was looking forward to seeing how their pizza was fresh out of the oven.

Sausage pie first: no screen and some nice color on the bottom of the pie. The rim on my slice was a little pale but there were slices on the pizza that had nice little brown bubbles on the crust. The crust was surprisingly bland by itself but it worked well when combined with the flavors of the sauce and cheese. The sauce had a nice flavor and there was a proper amount of it on the pizza. The sausage was thinly sliced pieces a link sausage. It had a good flavor but was not especially eye pleasing. All in all, I thought the flavors combined nicely to make a good slice.

Sausage Pizza
Crust:4, Sauce:4, Toppings:4, Overall Taste:7 for a total of 19 points.

Marissa’s broccoli pie: The crust was darker on the bottom than it was on the top. There were some bubbles on the rim and the slice had a crisp snap when I folded it to take a bite. The drops of ricotta were well distributed but very plain and not seasoned. The broccoli was minced and very similar to DC’s. There was a lot of garlic on the slice. A lot…of what I’m guessing is purchased minced garlic. With fresh garlic and better ricotta, this could have been a much better slice.

Broccoli Pizza
Crust:4, Sauce:2, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:5 for a total of 14 points.

In the days after this round, I really started second guessing my scores. I still do. This judging is hard. With 20/20 hindsight, I think I gave Marissa’s two points they might not have deserved. The toppings on the sausage pie sausage should have been a 3 and I probably should have given the toppings portion of the broccoli pie a 2. The crust at Marissa’s was bland on its own but I thought worked well with the overall pizza. It would have been nice to have a 3.5 scoring option there. With this 2 point adjustment and the impossible 3.5 scores taken into consideration, my scores for these two shops are even closer at 30 to 29 points with Marissa’s still on top. Based on these four pizzas, that seems right to me. On this night, I think Marissa’s was a little better than DC’s, but not by much. Almost a coin flip. I have spent a lot of time hoping that the other judges also slightly preferred Marissa’s and that these 2 or 3 points don’t impact the outcome of the tournament and luckily they didn’t.

Again, my feeling was that the pizza we sampled at Marissa’s was a little better than DC’s and the scores showed that on my scorecard (33 to 29). Looking at the total scores from all the judges for Marissa’s I gave the sausage pie 19 out of its 74 points (26%) and the broccoli pie 14 out its 60 points (23%). At DC’s I gave the sausage pie 13 of its 57 points (23%) and the broccoli pie 16 of its 67 points (24%). In a completely unscientific way, it would appear that the other judges and I agree on this match up.

Round 1: Albany Wrap Up
In another surprise to me, I liked the broccoli pizza more than the sausage pizza at DC’s. My main take away from the night was how important the marriage of individual components in a pizza is. The Marissa’s crust was a little bland, but got significantly better when combined with the sauce and cheese. I think the quality of the DC’s sausage got pulled down by their sauce. Too bad there isn’t a way to make a Franken-pizza combining the best parts of both shops. It was a very close match up and probably goes back to that “any given pizza” theory. Same pizzas ordered at a different time and the outcome of this round could easily be different.

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