Pizza, Hell Yeah!

29
Oct
3

Recently, had the honor of joining some of Richmond’s A-List food bloggers and their families (Caramelized OpiNIONS, House of Marinara, Whine Me Dine Me…also see Eating Richmond) for a festive night of vale tudo pizza making. Amongst these kitchen Pizzaiolos, I personally felt like a left-handed situational hitting minor leaguer called up by the Yankees Phillies Yankees to play in the World Series. The food toys were on full display: TWO mature pizza stones stacked up in an inferno oven to keep even convection/conduction; a pizza peeler that defied physics (sticky dough ain’t nothing); and the ingredients, oh, the INGREDIENTS…

To the mild annoyance of the host, EVERYONE bought their own olive oil. Made me chuckle. Olive oil is such a personal thing. I totally got it. But that was just the tip of the iceberg…Marinara brought monster shrimp from Yellow Umbrella, cured meat via Belmont Butchery, and a marinated whole garlic invention. SheDrivesaJimmy hooked us up with fresh Mozzarella from a Mennonite farm in rural Virginia, the herbs, and an Irish sipping whiskey (The Knot) that was mysteriously empty by the end. My contribution was imported Italian Water Buffalo mozzarella (via Whole Foods, not a Mennonite Farm) and a homemade San Marzano tomato sauce (see later). Our host provided not only the hospitality and pizza technology but ultra fresh greens courtesy of Victory Farms CSA and his personal garden (Backyard to Table!). He also supplied the majority of the crust dough (using his favorite go-to recipe).  We literally had 40 types of cheeses as part of our recipe arsenal. Just an awesome sight to behold.

Suffice to say, the pizza was great. I’ll let the professional bloggers expound on the details.

What I Learned: Pizza Technique

I want to spend a sec on what I learned about home kitchen pizza making.

First, here was my source material coming in (This is RGL, you know you’re getting links).  For my entry pizza, I wanted a simple classic Neopolitan style:

Sauce

  • I went with 1 can of Cento Organic San Marzano Peeled/Plum (on sale for $3 @ Whole Foods)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • Seasonello Spices by feel (essentially, Sicilian Sea Salt, Rosemary, Garlic, Sage, and Pepper. Bought at 8 1/2)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I use Frantoia via Amazon. Haven’t seen it sold in Richmond. Discovered this green goodness at a modest restaurant (Trattoria Reggiano) inside the Venetian hotel Vegas. It was love at first taste. I have subsequently learned that this is Mario Batali’s favorite as well, so I’m in good company)
  • I have one of those “as seen on tv” Magic Bullets. I primarily mashed the tomatoes, but hit the bullet for a couple of seconds to get the garlic, oil, and spices integrated.  Loved seeing the tiny garlic particles inside the red.
  • Hindsight
    • I actually tried deseeding but that’s too much work. Won’t do it again.
    • Try to dewater as much as possible the tomatoes till you have a chunky flat solid.  Between the cheese and sauce, too much moisture on a pizza is the enemy. I attempted the tomato rinsing technique described in Varsano’s treatise.  Quite frankly, I don’t mind a tinge of tart/bitterness.  Might add a dash of sugar next time for balance.
    • They say you can never have enough salt, but I think I went a little overboard with an additional sprinkling when the sauce was spread on the crust.

Dough

  • There was no freakin way I was doing homemade dough.  I don’t have the tools, and even if I had the tools, it would end up a big sticky mess.  Actually opted to go with fresh dough by Trader Joe’s.
  • As stated, our host supplied most of the dough using the following recipe. (He recently emailed me his notes regarding ideas for future doughmaking: “And, if I were to do something different with it: bigger dough balls  for more chewy crust around the edges (italian: cornicone?).”)
  • Before baking, we spread olive oil along the edges.  Good idea.
  • Hindsight
    • Apparently, some local pizzerias will let you buy their prepared dough (nice tip, Marinara). Usually, a couple of bucks. I will see if my favorite local places have this policy.
    • Varasano spends pages and pages on dough technique, so if I ever feel bold, I would go back to his writings.

Cheese

  • Drying/getting rid of the moisture in the Cheese is essential. Use the paper towel technique and start drying hours before. Don’t feel bashful about squeezing the water out.
  • Hindsight
    • The buffalo mozarrella was ok but nothing spectacular. As some Internet commentators have noted, if they are shipping fresh cheese all the way from the old country, it’s just won’t be the same. Next time, I might go with Tom Leonard’s house cheese.  Whole Foods also had some interesting domestic brands.
    • Instead of slicing, I think I’ll go with the one centimeter cube/chunk technique in the future.

Cooking

  • The (pre-heated) stone is magical. It really gets the pizza crispy for true restaurant replication.
  • According to the maestros, you need to make sure that the stone is pre-heated for at least an hour.  The oven must be at maximum temperature the whole time (500 degrees).  That’s the one edge commercial pizza will always have over the home, much higher Fahrenheits (especially coal and wood).
  • I like the technique of cooking the dough and sauce first then adding cheese for the final minutes. This’ll take some additional experimentation to get the timing right.

Overall, I was very happy with my first foray into advanced home pizza making.  Again, want to thank our host and fellow cooks for guiding me through the whole process but more importantly, the good company!

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The 37th Hour in Richmond…

17
Oct
0

New York Times 36 Hours Richmond is like the cicada invading the town every six years.  Thought it might be an interesting exercise to compare the latest writeup to the one penned back in 2003.

2009 2003
Author: JUSTIN BERGMAN Author: ELIZABETH OLSON
Intro Paragraph: Confederacy reference, check. New South reference, check. Richmond CenterStage reference, check. NO James River reference.
Notes: Hyperlinks included. I like how Bergman calls us out on crappy public transportation. He did more boozing and art gallery visiting compared to Olson.
Intro Paragraph: Confederacy reference, check. New South reference, check. James River reference, check.
Notes: No hyperlinks back in 03.  In regards to the attractions, she followed the tried and true trail. It’s interesting to note that all the bars she visited are now closed. Such is the business.
Hotels

Hotels

  • The Jefferson 101 West Franklin St
  • Omni Richmond 100 South 12th St
  • The West Bocock House 1107 Grove Ave
Attractions/Shopping

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar 500 Tredegar St 2 TIME RECOMMENDATION

Carytown

Jackson Ward

James River 2 TIME RECOMMENDATION

Manchester

Attractions/Shopping

The 17th Street Farmers’ Market 17th and Main

Capitol Square

Civil War Visitors Center 570 Tredegar St

Edgar Allan Poe Museum 1914 East Main St

Museum of the Confederacy 1201 East Clay St

Shockhoe Slip Historic District

  • Glass Roots Gallery 1301 East Cary St CLOSED

James River

  • Richmond Raft 4400 East Main St CLOSED

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 1800 Lakeside Ave

Restaurants

Bars/Nightlife

Restaurants

  • Comfort 200 West Broad St
  • Dining Room at the Berkeley Hotel 1200 East Cary St
  • Perly’s 111 East Grace St
  • Sally Bell’s Kitchen (708 West Grace St

Bars/Nightlife

  • Bogart’s 203 North Lombardy St CLOSED
  • Cabo’s Corner Bistro 2053 West Broad St CLOSED
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Yet today I consider myself the luckiest blogger on the face of this earth.

17
Oct
0

the audience in Richmond are beyond description for rowdyism…treating all the visiting clubs to the vilest abuse.
Delaware Sunday Critic, 1884

A Richmond crowd thinks it their right, if not their duty, to ratify or disapprove the decisions of the umpire; but they ought to nonetheless, always to remember the presence of the ladies.
Richmond Daily Dispatch, 1884

With the announcement of the Flying Squirrels, the Richmond baseball saga has finally…finally ended. Phew. ‘For The Holy Love Of God Please Make It Stop.’ The future is now, so I’m officially closing RGL’s Special Report on the Future of Richmond Baseball.

Been tracking this story since the Braves jilted us for Atlanta Short Pump.  As I said then, Hell hath no fury like a baseball fan scorned. I’m going to settle in with the SF Giants farm at Double AA and boo the shit out of the Greenville Braves when they come into town.  As a baseball fan, elite prospects (for a FULL season) beat washed up Triple AAA injury callup/”I can’t hit curveball, Joboo” any day of the week.  Say it loud, “I am an ULTRA Flying Squirrels Fan!” proud to wear the colors (actually, what are the colors??) and squirrel hat (What are you looking at?).

hats

Tweaks to RGL’s Layout…

4
Oct
1

(Still wrestling with the whole font issue. Some feedback that Courier is hated, but I’m not crazy about Times New Ro, Arial, or Helvetica either. I’ll figure something out at some point.)

So the columns on RGL have been re-organized. Combining “Crime Stories” (previously, Column 4) under the “Hard News” Section (Column 1). Column 4 will now house all the meta-information and reference links:

  • The blog and twitter
  • Direct links to the public Google Readers
  • Locals Guides (slowly working on some new sections)
  • Richmond Media Guide with social media links (RSS, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc).

As for the density of the site, that won’t change. It may be ugly, but my goal has always been to pack as many news stories per pixel as possible. It’s sort of a retro homage to early newspaper design:

paper1

paper2

Richmond Good Life’s Google Reader

3
Oct
1

So people always ask me “how do you keep up with all the Richmond news stories?” Actually, no one asks me that, but if you wanna know, a good Google Reader is a start. I really like how the GOOG reader has evolved over the years, and one of my favorite new enhancement is the ability to make a reader public.  Looking for good RSS? Here are RGL’s public readers:

I’ll also keep links of these readers up on my right navigation blogroll.  I still don’t get Google Wave, but I figure these feeds can be weaved into that at some point.