Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March 2021 Monthly Pizza Challenge

The monthly challenge on the Pizza Forum (pizzamaking.com) was "smoked."

Over the holidays, one of my neighbors got a pellet smoker. He's been making some really good stuff in there. We had already been talking about collaborating on a pastrami (pastrami is so damn good) and even discussed a few pizza ideas. So when the challenge came up, I texted him and we made some plans.

First up was going to burnt ends. Since the Detroit style pizza I have been working on only takes about 5 hours from idea to baking in the inside-the-house-oven, it was a prefect match for the absurdly windy March we have been having. I made the dough and he dropped off a bag of smoke brisket burnt end pieces. For that pizza, I've got the dough topped with a colby-jack/mozzarella/muenster cheese blend. I put on 6 jalapeno slices so there would be one in each piece of pizza. When the pizza came out of the oven, I added a barbecue sauce drizzle and depending on the eater, a little pickled red onion I made. Personally, I think red onion really perked it up. Made one for me and another for my neighbor.



A little later in the month, we collaborated on a pulled pork pizza. For that, it looked like the weather was cooperating and I was planning to fire up the wood oven for a zoom birthday party (pizzas were made at 5 locations in New York, Connecticut and Wisconsin, it was a fun time). Well, I was expecting a cup or two of smoked pork. He brought me 6 or 7 pounds. And cole slaw. And buns. This is a rough neighborhood.

I ended up making a pretty similar pizza using a different dough and the wood oven. Little bbq sauce on the dough, no Muenster in this cheese blend just colby-jack and mozzarella, some jalapeno, a post bake bbq sauce drizzle and the pickled onion. This came out pretty good too. Made one for my neighbor (also brought them a cheese) and another pulled pork pizza later for me.




When we were talking a few days later, he told me that just before  I dropped the pizzas off, a family had arrived for a pulled pork dinner. So now they've got 2 pizza boxes there. The dad friend asks, "I thought you made pulled pork. You ordered pizzas too?" 

"Nah, those are from my neighbor."

"But they're in boxes?!?"

"Yeah, He really likes pizza."

I think I liked the burnt end pizza a little more. Both we're really good and I definitely would turn down a slice of either right now. The beef was just more flavorful. We had a nice pulled pork dinner the next night, some with bbq sauce and some with a North Carolina vinegar sauce I threw together. There was enough leftover for me to freeze pizza topping sized portions of the pulled pork for future pizza bakes. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Untitled Pizza Movie

 I've been watching and enjoying the documentary Untitled Pizza Movie.

I first heard about it on the pizza form, because, really everything I hear about is on the pizza forum. I don't get out much (but no one does these days). The movie isn't just about pizza, it is more about life, people, addiction and redemption with a running pizza connection between everything.

One of the threads in the movie follows Andrew Bellucci for about 25 years. I've never spoken directly to Andrew but we have had a few interactions on the pizza forum. Not sure they are enough that he would remember my name, but maybe. The guy is clearly passionate about pizza. It has been such a big part of his. From a start at Two Boots, moving on to Three of Cups and wood fired and then the reopening of Lombardi's with a coal oven. There's a little hiccup in the story line when some earlier fraud/theft caught up to Andrew. All of this happened before I had ever heard of him.

When I first new of Andrew he was on the pizza forum talking pizza. He then went to Kuala Lumpur to open NY style pizza places and introducing the area to a slice. He built a very cool looking multi fuel oven at his place. It was neat to see the oven in the movie after seeing it on the forum. From there, Andrew worked at the Joe's near Times Square (if you want the recipe, it is on the forum) and then went to Michigan to open the Ann Arbor location.

There are ups, there are down and there is the currently ongoing shot at redemption. Back in December, Andrew opened Bellucci's in Astoria. Looks like business is booming. They've run out of dough at least once. And by run out of dough, it isn't that there wasn't dough in the shop. There wasn't enough properly fermented dough and he'd rather close then sell something less than ideal.

The photos of his pizzas look great. One of the topping combinations is a Vodka-Roni. It starts with just cheese and pepperoni on the dough. When the pizza is done, splashes of warm vodka sauce are blotched on Jackson Pollock style. The last time I made pizza, I gave it a shot with my own, quick n easy vodka sauce that doesn't actually have vodka.

I think I've got to get the sauce a little thinner. Even so, this was delicious and I definitely want to try the original. I predict you will see this is more and more places just like Hot Honey went everywhere a few years ago.

Andrew's isn't the only story in the movie. There are also two childhood friends who grew up in the city. In the beginning, they look like they could be out of an old Billy Joel song. Like they might not have been friends with Brenda and Eddie - the popular steadys and the king and queen at the prom, but they knew who they were. It follows their lives as they go from inseparable to distant. One of my favorite moments so far is Leeds talking about a greasy, orange slice in the first episode. "The old orange slice. You remember that slice? It was orange, it was greasy, it was super thin. They handed it to you with both hands. It's a dying thing. I never seem to find that slice. Maybe technically it's not the greatest slice you ever had in your life you know, etcetera, etcetera, but it was an old friend. It was the slice of my childhood." This is basically the pizza cognition theory a full decade before the pizza cognition theory.

For about another week, the Untitled Pizza Movie will be up at Metrograph. It's a $5 monthly membership for access. I haven't watched the extras yet, but most episodes have interviews immediately after the screening. The last episode comes out tonight. The rumor is that the sreies is getting picked up by another distributor (3 letters, starts with H and ends with O is the rumor).

Anyhow, if you get a chance, give Untitled Pizza Movie a shot. I've been enjoying it.

Monday, February 1, 2021

It Really Tweaks My Melon - Health Food Store Edition

It is time for the annual Best Of list from our local paper, The Times Union. Year's ago, Daniel formerly of FussyLittleBlog fought the good fight against the list. There were some pretty weak things in the list back then. Subway was voted best Sandwich shop with Panera in the #2 spot. A Japanese restaurant in the Best Chinese restaurant category, that kind of stuff.

In the past, I've written about about the TU food reviews that I've stopped reading, but I still try to keep up on the food scene comings and goings in the paper's Table Hopping blog and the weekly food section. I typically flip through the food/restaurant portion of the Best Of issue that will be coming out soon. But not this year, I'm done. Out. Not even going to hate read it. Right in to the recycle bin.

The list starts with a nomination period. That system might be a few years old. Every ad in Sunday's paper had a "Nominate Us" thing in it. This isn't about a local survey of businesses people love any more. The Best Of is now just product placement for advertisers. Last night I saw the one that really tweaked my melon. It was for Best Health Food Store. Honest Weight Co-Op versus Trader Joe's, a battle between the local store and a national chain.

I don't consider Honest Weight a health food store. It is a great store and I enjoy shopping there, but it isn't a health food store. I also like Trader Joe's and enjoy shopping there but, no way in hell is Trader Joe's a health food store. If our state's liquor laws were different, the local Trader "Not A Health Food Store" Joe's would have a wine section. Ever hear of Two Buck Chuck?

Simply having some things that would also be found in a health food store does not make you a health food store. You can get vitamins, lots of gluten free stuff and even my preferred brand of lactose free, soy free, gluten free, nut based "mozzarella cheese" for vegan pizzas in Target. Doesn't make Target a health food store. Neither is Walmart, Price Chopper, Hannaford, Wegman's, Whole Foods, Healthy Living Center, Trader Joe's or Honest Weight Co-Op.

What has happened is that the availability of items that typically could only be found in a health food store can be found in lots of places now. Earthly Delights in Schenectady was a health food store. Dean's in Westgate was another. When I first started making gluten free things, you had to go to a health food store or use mail order to get ingredients, That stuff is everywhere now. Sad truth is, we are running out of Health Food Stores. They are going extinct. Both Earthly Delights and Dean's are gone. Online shopping and expansive supermarkets have pretty much eliminated them. 

So, yes, you can get some vitamins and lots of things in a Trader Joe's are organic. It's not a health food store. And yes, you can get those things plus I'd argue even more health food store style things at Honest Weight. It's not a health food store.

If you are going to have a Best Of category for health food stores, might as well actually rank the few remaining real ones. But chances are they never advertise in the Times Union.



(Hi Mom!)