When I went to college at Emory 3,000 years ago, there used to be a spot in Emory Village called Cedar Tree that sold “pitzas.” It was basically a piece of toasted pita bread topped with pizza-like toppings and the surprising thing was that it was really, really good. A dinner at Cedar Tree was always a treat and when I listen to the Indigo Girls–who, incidentally or maybe not so incidentally went to Emory–their song “Cedar Tree” always makes me think about how good a piece of toasted pita bread with pizza-like toppings can be. Yet, weirdly I’d never attempted it at home until I hit upon a technique that makes so much sense for transforming plain-old-pita bread into something that resembles a pizza crust.
Some food people are real sticklers for words and what they mean. For example: pizza. I consider the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza (developed by Nancy Silverton) to be some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, but there are detractors out there who call it focaccia because it’s so puffy. I’m pretty sure it’s pizza for a few reasons: 1. it’s round; 2. it’s cooked in a wood-burning oven; 3. the name of the restaurant is Pizzeria Mozza.
Still, even I had to raise an eyebrow at the pizza I just made from the cover of this month’s Bon Appetit. The dough is a clever riff on Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread. Though this one you knead, for 12 minutes, and then let it rest–and ferment–overnight in the fridge.
How To Eat Crow (Or: Kristin Puts Me In My Place About Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts and Pizza at Home)
When someone has a target on your head, it can be a scary thing. But ever since I wrote that article “Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party,” Craig’s sister Kristin has been out to get me. She first made herself known in the comments: “Dear Amateur Gourmet,
Allow me to introduce you to two of my close friends I call Chicken Piccata and Chicken Marsala. They are delicious when made properly, and if you think they’ll always be dry, leathery, and inedible then you apparently have not spent enough time eating in Steve Johnson’s kitchen.” (Note: Steve Johnson is Craig and Kristin’s dad.) “I don’t get this vendetta against b-less, sk-less chicken breasts, I think it’s entirely too stringent. They’re the blank canvas of the meat world! (I stole that phrase from another blogger.)”
And so it came to pass that on a recent trip to Bellingham, Washington, Kristin totally and absolutely put me in my place.
If California falls into the ocean some day, and I find myself living back in New York, you might think that Pizzeria Mozza would be the last place I’d miss with Franny’s and Roberta’s and all the other individual pie places (Motorino, Co., etc.) that would fill that gap. You’d be wrong, though, because Mozza is a lot more than a pizza restaurant. As Amateur Gourmet reader (and Raoul in “Phantom of the Opera”) Kyle Barisich said to me recently on Twitter, “I really think Mozza is LA’s finest restaurant.” Can’t say I disagree.
One of the great joys of living in America is that, at any moment, no matter where you are, you can order a pizza. This was a fact well-known to me when I was in high school and college. “Let’s order a pizza,” is a phrase most of us are quite comfortable saying and it wasn’t until very recently that I realized I hadn’t uttered those words in a really long time. But hanging out with my friend John at his new house in Glendale, recently, we were talking about where to go to dinner and suddenly I found myself saying those magic words. Before we knew it, there was a knock on the door and our pizza had arrived.
There are three experiences I forgot to tell you about from my trip to the Pacific Northwest this year. The first experience happened on a morning in West Seattle (I’d written “East Seattle” and then Craig corrected me) with our friends David and Celia and their new baby, Johanna. Early in the morning, before my appointment with a chef at 9 AM, we all had breakfast at The Salvadorean Bakery.
Craig’s sister Kristin, a food-enthusiast, came to visit last week and sampled her way through some of New York’s most celebrated pizza (well, its most celebrated pizza within or around Bleecker Street.) And so she sampled Joe’s on 6th Ave. and Bleecker Street Pizza on 7th Ave. (her favorite) and, on Tuesday night, she joined Craig and me for pizza at John’s, our regular go-to good-old-fashioned coal-oven pizza joint.
I don’t have a fast answer to the question “what’s your favorite restaurant?” (it’s a tie, at this point, between Blue Hill Stone Barns & Prune) but I do have an immediate suggestion when someone is coming to New York for the first time and wants to know where to go: “Cafe Sabarasky,” I almost always say. “It’s one of my favorite places in the city.”