Foodie adventures of PizzaGirl

Culinary delights of a pizza-loving, travel-seeking, New York-bred Bostonian

Pizza essentials?

Posted by pizzagirl on March 4, 2007

I love reading Food and Wine on the rare occasion I think to pick up a copy, but its editors are definitely targeting a Sub-Zero-fridge-owning-type audience. What they consider “pizza essentials” in their March 2007 issue, I consider kitchen luxuries. In fact, I wouldn’t even think of some of the items on the list, although I may have to start…

Kitchen-tested pizza essentials (page 110)

Williams-Sonoma Peel

  • Best Manufacturing Peel from Williams-Sonoma (won because dough sticks less to wood)

  • Bufalus Buffalo Mozzarella from Whole Foods (won for tangy, salty taste)

  • Fibrament Baking Stone from BakingStone.com (won because stone makes for crispier crust)

  • La Valle San Marzano Tomatoes from LavalleFoodsUSA.com (won for fresh, extra-ripe taste)

  • Tutto Calabria Oregano (dried oregano that tastes better than bottled)

  • Typhoon Pizza Slicer from Typhoonus.com (won because it’s easier to control)

  • Food and Wine has also collected 50+ pizza recipes at foodandwine.com/pizza

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    Posted in Food, Homemade, Pizza | 1 Comment »

    Pizza bagels

    Posted by pizzagirl on March 1, 2007

    Sometimes you have to get creative for lunch. I had the pleasure of enjoying such creativity on Sunday when a couple of bulkie rolls, some pizza sauce, a blend of cheeses and grilled chicken became a nice, little pizza meal.

     The only thing that would have made it better would have been to replace the bulkie rolls with bagels. Not Lender’s bagels — unless you’re looking to celebrate Lender’s 80th anniversary — and definitely not those mini, frozen, premade pizza things. Resorting to those is the ultimate in laziness, no matter what time of day you’re craving a pizza bagel. You just need the above-mentioned ingredients and some nice, fresh, warm bagels… soft in the middle and crusty on the outside… like they make at this amazing bagel shop in Westchester, NY.

    Mmm, bagels….

    Bagel

    Why are all the best bagels and pizzas in New York? Do any of those bagel/pizzamakers ever move? If you’re one of them, please move to Belmont, Mass. — just for now. Thanks!

    Posted in Food, Homemade, Pizza | 2 Comments »

    Cravings of a displaced New Yorker

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 22, 2007

    One of the few responses I get to my Yelp profile is: “I love your tagline!”

    It reads: Forever seeking New York pizza in Boston. It’s nothing clever and nothing you’d expect would insight a response, but it occasionally catches the eye of a displaced New Yorker.

    The reviews I write that get the most feedback from Bostonians also tend to be those about New York restaurants. Talk about I heart New York.

    Earlier this week one half of a Yelp couple wrote: “Your headline caught my eye while I was reviewing my favorite Pizza parlor ever. (Sal’s!!!) I left Westchester for Boston almost 7 years ago and have spent quite a few hours searching for good pizza in Boston.”

    I had to laugh. Everyone who knows Sal’s must have the same reaction. Once you try a slice, you have to love that place… especially its sicilian… with its thick doughy crust… and cheese thoroughly blanketed over the sauce… One bite takes about a minute to get through, simply because it’s unbelievably, mouth-wateringly, must-stop-and-pause-with-every-bite good. And I haven’t even had the pleasure of growing up with Sal’s like some lucky people I know.

    I’m just realizing how pathetically far I am from Sal’s…

    She/he went on to give me several suggestions to aid in my search, from Brighton-area student spots (Pino’s) to Newton gourmet pizza restaurants (Sweet Tomatoes) to Eastie Italian pizza parlors (Santarpio’s) to Southie European-style shops (Picco). The Pino’s reference could actually spark a debate because I’ve been a fan of the neighboring Presto’s extra large pies for some time now… Gotta have your loyalties.

    I haven’t tried the other shops yet, but the reviewer’s last line made me just want to skip the Boston suggestions and spend a day driving to New York and back: “Just so you know a pie (or two) of Sal’s pizza survives the 3-hour.”

    It is that good.

    Sal’s Pizzeria (where pizza dreams are made), 316 Mamaroneck Ave., Mamaroneck, NY 10543, 914-381-2022

    Posted in Boston, Food, New York, Pizza | 2 Comments »

    A move isn’t official…

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 18, 2007

    …until you have an empty pizza box leaning against the wall.

    dom2.jpg

    YAY Dom’s!

    (That Stone Hearth pizza cracker couldn’t take the honors.)

    Posted in Boston, Pizza | Leave a Comment »

    Gourmet pizzas should come with a warning

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 18, 2007

    I moved into a new apartment recently and decided to repay some friends who helped me unpack by buying them dinner from a stone hearth pizza shop in the new hood. I’d noticed it when I drove through the area, so it was already on my list of restaurants to try.

    Not having a menu, I called them up and asked for one large cheese, one small veggie and some chicken fingers. The woman who answered said no problem on the pizzas… and would I like them on wheat or white? Red flag. I thought, wheat is an option? Some places will make you wheat pizzas when begged, but few ever offer it when placing an order. I decided that it’s a good thing and maybe I’ll try the wheat another day.

    Chicken fingers, however, were a no-go. Just salads and other fresh-food options available. This meal wasn’t turning out to be the high-cal feast that the four of us ladies were counting on. But I stuck with the plan and decided to order some bruschetta and another bread-with-various-spreads thing. The woman did a good job describing it over the phone, but I couldn’t find anything like it on the menu.

    When I arrived I noticed the place seemed more like a nice lunch spot than a pizza shop, which probably didn’t do much for my appetite since it was dinner time. The place looks like a woman decorated (not a pizza shop look) and a friendly hostess offered to seat us at a table. I told her we had takeout, and she directed me to the back counter where I was handed two small pizza boxes. I thought one must not be the correct size. But, no, in fact the large pizza is about the size of most pizza shops’ small. This “large” pie only had four slices of very thin crust pizza. And they were four small slices. Meanwhile, the small pizza was actually the same number of slices as the large (but smaller, if that’s possible). Doling out one slice from each pizza gave my guests the equivalent of one normal size slice from just about any other pizza shop.

    The pizzas did taste very fresh, and I may have liked them if I was looking for a light meal, but they were just too small. And I’m not a fan of extra thin crust; it was not much thicker than a pita bread.

    We ate all the pizza and appetizers, plus a bag of nachos and salsa, and then we were beginning to feel full.

    When I heard about the wheat dough option and nonexistent chicken fingers, I guess I should have just known that it was not going to be a good place to feed several hungry people. I would have liked to know, however, that a large pizza is only four small slices. The woman on the phone knew I was not familiar with the menu, but no warning was given. Maybe they think they’re compromising quantity for quality? Who knows… but a quality slice to me is one that’s doughy and cheesy and filling.

    If you are looking for lighter pizza options, you may find this information from the menu appealing: “Stone Hearth Pizza Co. is dedicated to serving authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. Our dough is made with high protein, 100% organic flour; our signature sauce is made with seasonally picked, organic tomatoes; our pizzas are decorated with organic/locally sourced ingredients (where possible) and a special assortment of cheeses.”

    • Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars (May have been higher if I had no expectations going in.)
    • Will I recommend it to friends: Yes, if they want a healthy pizza.
    • Will I return again: Probably for lunch one day.

    Stone Hearth Pizza, 57 Leonard Street, Belmont, MA 02478, 617-484-5550

    Posted in Boston, Food, Pizza, Review | 1 Comment »

    Back to school, again

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 10, 2007

    I graduated eight years ago yet I’ve had more college stories to tell in the past few weeks than I’ve had in… eight years.

    I was at yet another university function, all day, volunteering with the National Ocean Sciences Bowl hosted by M.I.T. The bowl is a quiz-show sort of competition among high schoolers who must test their marine science knowledge. Some of these kids were mind-bogglingly impressive. One girl was able to challenge a quiz question because she remembered the book and chapter in which the correct answer would appear. She got the decision reversed.

    Then you had the other kids who changed their names every time you asked them to buzz in and guessed things like “Labrador Retriever” rather than Labrador Current. They were actually some of my favorites.

    My job was to keep the time — not so easy after five rounds of head-to-head competitions without a lunch break. Good thing we were in the “coolest room!” I think the laid-back atmosphere had something to do with our quiz moderator and rules judge, both college-age funny men who kept the spectactors laughing, the kids relaxed and me awake during breaks.

    When lunch time finally arrived, after more than four hours of quizzing, my friends and I headed to the Forbes Cafe, along with several hundred other contestants and volunteers. The line wasn’t moving. We were starving. We saw kids cutting and wondered if we could find our other friends further up to do the same. Hey, if they were doing it…

    Finally got to the counter to find nothing other than pizza!!! It could have been a four-course meal it looked so good. I grabbed my slice with a side of salad and pasta, and a brownie of course, and we made our way to the table. Our friends saved us seats at the cool table. You revert back so easily when hanging around students.

    At first it was the best pizza I’d ever had. When you haven’t had a slice in over a week, you’re exhausted from working and packing, and you got up at 5:30 am to make it to an Ocean Sciences Bowl, pizza hits the spot.

    But as I finished up my slice, when the hunger started to subside, I noticed some things about my dining-hall meal.

    • It reminded me of cardboard.
    • The cheese pulled off in one bite.
    • The crust was hard.

    The reviewer in me started to resurface and I realized my friends didn’t even finish their slices. Not a good sign for the Forbes Cafe pizza. That said, I’m sure if I was a student at M.I.T. (or a volunteer at an Ocean Sciences Bowl), feeling hungry after a long morning of studying (or timekeeping), I’d be pretty psyched to find any slice (and I was).

    • Overall rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars (Tie with NU)
    • Will I recommend it to friends: Not unless they’re starving students.
    • Will I return again: Not unless I volunteer with another M.I.T.-hosted bowl.

    Forbes Family Cafe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ray and Maria Stata Center, Building 32, 77 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139

    Posted in Boston, Food, Pizza, Review | Leave a Comment »

    Toss your dough

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 7, 2007

    In a not-so-recent attempt to create my own pizza, I decided to honor my heritage and make the sauce from scratch. I tried out a recipe that called for vine-ripe tomatoes, basic Italian seasoning and extra basil (cause I like it). To top it off, I mixed some fresh mozzarella with shredded part-skim cheese. It took me about two hours just to make the sauce, peeling and removing the seeds from each tomato, but it was worth the wait.

    pizza1.jpg

    Funny I say I eat too much Bertucci’s and it’s one of the places I buy pizza dough (other than the grocery store) when I’m too lazy to make my own. The spot in Newton Corner has a refrigerator section where you can get all the ingredients to make your own pizza and pick up some desserts. Very important part of the meal. Now just to master dough tossing, like this guy.

    Dough courtesy of Bertucci’s, 275 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02458, tomatoes “fresh” picked at Shaws, 535 Trapelo Road, Belmont, MA 02478

    Posted in Food, Homemade, Pizza | Leave a Comment »

    Early pizza memories

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 5, 2007

    When I was a small girl and my parents were still together (the dark ages), my mom would often take me to the Fishkill Mall in Dutchess County, New York, to see a movie or wander around or get a giant pie. Back then the mall sported a place called Mama Mia’s, which is sadly long gone now, but it was one of my favorite places to eat as a kid. This is partially because it was fun time with my mom — she would make me laugh by getting the pizza guy to put on a dough-tossing show for us — and partially because the pizzas were huge, bubbled crusts of perfection. I think that was the first place she ever took me where I cleaned my plate. I remember being proud to show her. Little did I know I wouldn’t have much trouble ever finishing a slice of pizza after that.

    Posted in Food, New York, Pizza | Leave a Comment »

    Restaurant week is coming

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 4, 2007

    I look forward to Boston Restaurant Week like I look forward to some vacations. As soon as I caught wind of the American Express promotion allowing card carriers to book reservations before the public, I didn’t miss a beat booking Meritage — a classic RW stop that’s always hard to reserve if you wait till the public release date.

    If you’re on a budget, like just about everyone living in Boston, and you love to try new restaurants like yours truly, you’ve got to take advantage of Restaurant Week. It runs from March 4 through 9. Three-course dinners cost only $33.07 and lunches are $20.07 at some of Boston’s best (and priciest) restaurants. The official list of participating restaurants will be posted on Feb. 6, but if you have that Amex don’t hesitate to book early.

    Winter Restaurant Week

    Posted in Boston, Fine Dining, Food | Leave a Comment »

    Water, water everywhere

    Posted by pizzagirl on February 1, 2007

    I’ve had a major food void this past week. I usually don’t go more than a few days without some sort of slice — whether it’s made from frozen or chain store delivery or fresh-made goodness. But I haven’t had a bite of pizza since the weekend, and I’m not really counting that because it was another Bertucci’s. I’m beginning to forget what non-Bertucci pizzas taste like.

    Speaking of the Tucc, I want to thank the regional director for finding and following through on a complaint I made earlier in this blog. I haven’t been back on a Friday yet, but I look forward to seeing how things are when I am.

    I digress… Part of my pizza dilemma is that I’ve been parched and my body is telling me anything salty won’t solve that problem. I’m also a camel, so I go through spells where I want to down a gallon of water in one shot, only to go back to neglecting the water bottle on my desk the next day… or the water bottle in my car… or the fridgeful in the kitchen. It’s not a good habit. I blame my mother.

    So my meals this week have consisted of salad, sole, oatmeal, veggies, salmon, some pasta, salad again, oatmeal again, baked berries, another salad, a little alcohol, roast beef and an order of french fries. Oh, and water. The fries made me thirsty, though, and now I’m wishing I skipped them given the whole parched predicament.

    I’m also wishing I had some excellent “I found a New York slice!” story to share, but not the case at the moment. Instead I have a mini foodie adventure from earlier in the week. I went to the Met Club in Chestnut Hill, Mass., which I didn’t realize at the time had won both Best of Boston (Boston Magazine) and Boston’s Best (Improper Bostonian) for 2006I don’t typically trust the reviewers of those awards. I worked on Boston Mag’s 1998 BoB (damn, that was almost 10 years ago…) and I could see no rhyme or reason to why one place was picked over another. But, if two pubs like the Met Club…

    I yelped it already, so I won’t go into great detail on the whole trendy steakhouse experience, but I was pleased with my non-steak entree. I don’t crave fish. I order it when I feel I should because it’s good for me and keeps my cholesterol in check (another problem I inherited). I ordered the sole for that very reason — and for the ingredients listed in the description. I wish it was included in the menu on Met Club site, but it’s not, and I’m not in the habit of keeping a food journal on hand. I can tell you the fish was perfectly cooked with sundried tomatoes, raisins and some other unique ingredients, and I actually cleaned my plate. I didn’t need to smother it with rice or mashed — though I love potatoes, I wasn’t in the mood for them that night — and I almost never finish a piece of fish. Either that says a lot about the fish, or my cravings are really out of whack these days.

    If you’re looking for fine dining west of the city, and especially if you’re a fan of red meat, the menu here won’t disappoint. Neither will the cocktail list. I ordered the Pura Vida, made of Sauza Commerativo, Citronage, prickly pear juice and sour, and my friend got the Blood-Orange Cosmo, consisting of orange vodka, Citronage, blood orange juice and lime. The drinks are good, but I like the names even more. The wine list was tempting as well, though very pricey. Be prepared to spend some paycheck.

    Time for another glass of water.

    • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    • Will I recommend it to friends: Yes, depending on how much they want to spend.
    • Will I return again: One day, but only if I want a really nice place to eat close to work.

     The Metropolitan Club: 1210 Boylston Street, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, (617) 731-0600

    Posted in Boston, Fine Dining, Food, Review, Seafood, Steak | 3 Comments »