In Our Community Corner: Meet Diana Horst (aka 'dhorst')

Each week we talk to a member of the Serious Eats community. This week we chatted with Dhorst whose name produces more than a thousand search results on our site and hundreds of pictures of beautiful home cooked pizzas. —The Mgmt.

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Name: Diana Horst
Location: Liverpool, NY (a suburb of Syracuse, Go Orange!)
Occupation: I'm a shoes associate at Herb Philipson's, an Army/Navy/Sporting Goods store.
Website: flicker, 37cooks.blogspot.com

So Diana, we already know that you are a gourmet pizzaiola, Do you want to tell us about what else you enjoy cooking in the kitchen?

My guiltiest pleasure is making yeast dough and baking bread. I've been driving my husband, Jeff, nuts with this need to bake bread. I sometimes sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to get some dough going, or I'll get up extra early in the morning and make dough. I'm obsessed with flour and playing around with different bread making techniques. Currently I have around ninety pounds of flour in the house. Adirondack A.P. flour has a beautiful grind that I love working with. DMC just delivered a fifty pound bag of Occident flour that we split. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a fifty pound sack of All Trumps that makes the best bagels. I picked up six pounds of Prairie Gold high protein whole wheat flour at an Amish market, up north a month ago and some semolina and pumpernickel while I was there. There's also some rye flour, KA whole wheat, amaranth flour and rice flour that I've been playing around with in different bread doughs.

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Buttermilk Onion Rye Loaves [Photograph: dhorst]

Tell us about the most memorable bite of food you've ever eaten?

That is a tough one. This past summer, I had some amazing crab cakes with a chipotle aioli and fresh greens at The Restaurant Elderberry Pond Farm in Auburn, NY. They were perfect. The appetizer we had, bruschetta with a dollop of herbed ricotta and a bit of sundried tomato pesto had a terrific balance of flavors and contrasting textures. It's an incredible place.

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Bruschetta from The Restaurant Elderberry Pond Farm [Photograph: dhorst]

What is one of your earliest food memories as a Serious Eater?

Grandpa McAdoo... My grandfather used to be a dairy farmer. When he retired, he would take me with him to get fresh raw milk from one of his fellow farmers in glass bottles. I think my love of cheese comes from my grandfather. He would get me to eat some of the sharpest, funkiest cheeses. It amazed his friends, because I was just a toddler at the time. Limburger was the one cheese that he couldn't get me to try.

Is there something that you've eaten recently that you can't stop thinking about?

Garlic scapes and ramps that I had this past spring have been on my mind, even though the season has passed. I shared some scapes with a good buddy at work. He loved them as much as I did. Well, and then there's the Aleppo addiction.

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Aleppo and Chipotle Chile Brownies with a custom made Chile Horn [Photograph: dhorst]

What is the most disastrous dish you've ever attempted to cook?

Pizza on the gas grill on the stone. The stone was too low to the flames and I burnt the shit out of it. I rarely burn anything--and for pizza not to turn out? Let's just say my family thought the meltdown I had from that was hysterical. Me, I was out of my mind.

What is your least favorite cooking task?

Peeling garlic for SDS (Secret Dipping Sauce) is one thing I'm sick of. I make a huge batch of sauce and it requires one cup of sliced garlic cloves, which means I have to spend a lot of time peeling; there is no crushing the garlic. The cloves must be peeled and nicely sliced. It's one of the beautiful parts of SDS.

The other thing I'm tired of is shaping gnocchi on the back of a fork. I'm just not that good at it, but it is worth the effort. I've been making some amazing gnocchi of late.

Is there anything you can't stand eating?

I can't stand beets or any kind of melon. I really want to like them but the both trigger the gag reflex. So maybe there's a compound in both of them that is just not for me.

What is your favorite aroma in the kitchen?

The smell of yeast bread baking is my favorite aroma in the kitchen. No surprise there, huh? I also love the scent of grapefruit. In fact, I hate food scented shampoos and body washes, but I love my grapefruit scented shampoo. It's light and refreshing and not cloying.

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Garlic, Cheddar, and Chive Bread [Photograph: dhorst]

When people visit the Syracuse area where do you recommend they eat?

Well, my place of course. But if they want to go out to dine in the Syracuse area, I would recommend Pastabilities, The Lemongrass and sister restaurant Elephant Bistro, The Blue Tusk and Dinosaur BBQ. If they want to drive a bit to Auburn, then I would have to
say The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond Farm.

What is your favorite region/city/country to eat at?

I spent some time back in the day in Europe. I loved every minute of it, cuisine wise, but since I've never been to Italy, I think my favorite region to eat at would be Central New York/ The Finger Lakes regions. Crazy? No. We have such wonderful produce, cheese makers and wineries. It's amazing what we have here, and while I like dining out, my true joy comes from being in the kitchen and I love seeing what's out there for me to play with at home.

If you could eat or cook a meal with anyone who would it be?

Writers: Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, and Richard Russo.
Film Makers: Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, and Paul Newman
Cooks: All 37 Cooks that I participate with on the 37 Cooks blog, TXCraig1, the pizza party crew and of course all of the staff at SE!

If you had to give up dairy or bread for the rest of your life, which one would you?

Seriously? That's a loaded question. You're hitting me with my two biggest loves. Okay, so you know about my bread and dough obsession, but cheese, well wow. I've been really into smoking cheese of late and I always am looking for something else new to try. And if you've seen my cheese drawer, well, let's just say it's well stocked. I generally have many different cheeses on hand at any time.

Yeah, yeah, answer the question. Well, I guess I would give up dairy and then ask you to send me to dairy farm hell after I O.D. on bread.

I know that you like to host pizza parties for Serious Eaters up in your neck of the woods. Any great stories you'd care to share about them?

I love that you use the phrase "your neck of the woods." That's a phrase near to my heart since I'm a North Country girl. I grew up very close to Canada (hello, beer runs!), and I love the Adirondacks and that's probably one reason why my husband and I hit it off with DMC, Tupper and Anne Marie and Jack Lewis so well at the Great Tupper Lake Pizza Party.

Fishing holes, hunting and some tall tales among the guys were quite funny and frankly a bit over the top. A tale from Dave Manseau involved crackling beaver tail over a camp fire. Jack Lewis makes some mean cocktails, not to mention some fine wine and some killer beers. Umm, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to mention in mixed company, but a certain cocktail Jack makes with a peanut butter liquor had people demanding "Nut Likkers." Umm, Tup, you know you were involved.

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Foccacia with Ricotta, Tomatoes, and Bourbon Pecan Pesto [Photograph: dhorst]

Other pizza parties have been for Serious Teenage Eaters and their friends. I'm known for making pizza for late night pool parties, often in my pajamas. Hey, there's always time for good pizza. Those teenagers are a part of the, "triple dog dare, ya pepper challenge." Basically these guys would try some of my hot peppers off the vine and bit into them raw. Hot cherry peppers, jalapenos, habaneros; well there were a lot of tears and sweating, along with milk and bread to relieve the heat. Fun kids and now one of them is headed off to the Navy training as a medic. Best wishes, Andrew Lewis.

Which of the many mouths you feed are the Seriousest Eaters of the bunch, and what's their favorite food?

My dear friend Pat, at work who is 60 going on 14, is probably the Seriousest Eaters of the bunch. The man can eat all day long and while he eats a lot of different dishes, he has discerning tastes. Pat is particular about where his food, meat especially, comes from and has turned me on to some great butchers. He's usually off on Thursdays, and on Friday we have to find out how many places and where he stopped at to eat. Usually it's five to seven places. He's got the metabolism and the maturity of a 14 year old.
We swap cheese, bread, sourdough starters, and other foods. He is truly a renaissance man with interests all over the place from cars, guns, beads, fine wood making, holistic remedies, and of course, all things food.

He gave me my prized Aleppo chile powder horn, a beautiful pewter turtle shaped spoon, a horn flour scoop, and wow a cherry handled bread knife, all hand made by the master himself. I love to bring him a Scooby snack for after lunch. I call it, "Feeding the Bear."
Pat's favorite food is pizza, but I would say that a hunk of bread, cheese and some SDS would be second on his list.

What would your last bite on earth be?

At the moment, my last bite would be a slice of great bread, SDS, a wedge of balsamic asiago and a glass of pinot grigio.

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