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Paulie Gees would have given you a combination of authenticity and fun, along with a glimpse inside a world class pizzeria run by an obsessive. I've seen videos of Pizza a Casa, and while the atmosphere is very fun and festive, it's geared more towards the home baker with no real inclination towards truly great pies. Pizza a Casa is more along the lines of a paint your own pottery place, where Paulie would be like getting a glimpse of an actual master potter at work.
It won't be hugely festive, but Giulio Adriani (Forcella) has a school where he teaches aspiring pizzeria owners how to make Neapolitan pizza. Good teachers, as their pizzerias get more successful, have a tendency to get very busy and farm out their training to underlings- underlings that don't always have the same teaching skills. So far, this isn't Giulio. You show up and he's there. I don't know if Giulio does a one day class, but, if he does, I promise you that it won't be basic and your friend will come out of the experience having learned something. If he only does multi day classes, I still think it's a highly worthy investment.
Also, in interests of full disclosure, I train aspiring NY style pizzeria owners via webcam. My training, though, is geared towards the hyper-obsessive, and, while I can promise your friend the best pizza they've ever eaten, it's a lot of hard work getting there, including quite a few hours sourcing hard to find baking materials and ingredients. For the non-obsessive, time with me would probably be one of the worst gifts ever :) For what it's worth, though, I am very competitively priced- not as cheap as a frozen pizza ;), but considerably less costly than any option discussed so far. But, as I said, to get the most of my training, you basically have to be borderline mental- pizza on the brain, 24/7, 365 days a year.
It all breaks down to how much of a foodie/how obsessive/potentially obsessive your friend is. Painting pottery is one thing, but actually being a potter involves a pretty steep learning curve.
Btw, Scott's Pizza Tours are fun and would make a good gift. I believe the bus tour is a bit flexible with it's destinations. I'm not sure he does night tours, but maybe you could get him to swing by Paulies? It wouldn't quite be the 'Paulie Gee Experience,' but it would still be pretty fun.
Adam, I am by no means a bar style expert, but I do know a thing or two about cheese. You're not going to find a lot of cheddar on any style of pizza in the NY area. If you go far South enough on the boardwalk or you go southeast to Trenton, sure, but Star Tavern or Colony, I doubt it. Personally, my money is less on cheddar and more on finding the right motz. Pockmarks are a classic trait of quality motz (and brown specs a classic trait of defective cheese).
Certainly, play around with cheddar, but, if the sharp taste feels the slightest bit foreign to you, I highly suggested a commercial motz. Calabro is almost impossible to find outside CT, but that's my favorite so far. F&A is good and should be available to you locally. Saputo isn't bad either.
Grande will give you pockmarks, but it won't be very flavorful.
I use 'how it's made' as a natural sleeping aid. Between the repetitive machinery and pulsing techno, I'm usually out like a light before the 1/2 hour is up. I prefer the female (Canadian) announcer, though.
If you prove, in the first segment of a video, that you know how to hold pizza so it doesn't droop, you can't pretend to have issues eating droopy pizza later in that same video.
I like Marc Malnati and think he's a great ambassador for Chicago, and I also understand the tongue in cheek nature of the video, but, in order to be funny, humor has to be rooted in some truth, and pretending not to know how to hold a slice when you were just filmed adeptly holding one is pretty silly.
@Kenji, you're always welcome for pizza (seriously), but, while the Blackstone has been proven to be effective at making pizza ranging from good to great, legendary is still an unobtained goal. We've got a friendly little challenge going on at PM- a Craig quality pie on the BS in 18 months. I think there's about 12 months left for that. We'll see :)
I am pretty proud of my NY pies on steel, though. If you ever find yourself in my area (Morristown), drop me a line. Adam's got my contact details.
@Kenji, no rush :) After having been tasked with testing the Blackstone (and documenting the results) myself, I have a better grasp of the amount of work you do.
"This is a site for interested amateurs, beginners, and other folks who want to make pizza occasionally and do it well. "
@Kenji, when it comes to pizza oven modes, wood is, by a very large margin, the obsessive's medium. Making world class pies with a wood oven takes years to master, but, even producing merely passable pies with wood involves a considerable learning curve. There's no doubt it, wood is complicated. If John Q Slice Reader is truly a beginner, wouldn't you want to present him (or her), with the simplest solutions? The ease with which a Blackstone can produce authentic sub-90 second Neapolitan pizza is remarkable. For someone looking for Neapolitan pizza with the least amount of fuss, right now, I don't think one can do better.
I can see how your limited space might be a major barrier to testing the Blackstone. Still, though, the seemingly countless hours you've devoted to testing devices has produced research that's been immensely invaluable to everyone- beginners and obsessives alike. Considering the Blackstone's innate simplicity and your extensive track record of insightful, unbiased and scientifically based product reviews, along with a readership seeking plain and straightforward solutions, I don't think there's anyone better suited to kick the Blackstone's tires than you.
I've got a Blackstone :) If you're willing to cross the Hudson, you're free to come use it. I'll even let you borrow it for a few weeks if you want.
"we want sun-grown and fully ripened tomatoes, and maybe eventually, flour that's grown, milled, and blended to a more exacting specification."
Matt, while I can certainly see small scale farmers stepping up to meet your produce needs, your flour expectations are a very tall order to fill. I expressed concerns about the flour the first time we spoke, and the chapati-suitable low protein flour you encountered seems to bear out those concerns. Microclimates or not, I don't think you've got the climate there, and, even if you did, I'm not entirely you can find anyone with the necessary know how and equipment to produce a flour to your specifications. It's one thing for a farmer to see a need for better basil and produce it. It's something entirely different, though, for a flour miller to find the right wheat and mill it to the proper specs.
Perhaps, if your owner's pockets are as deep as they sound, they could hire one or two of Caputo's farmers and R&D guys to come over and set up an operation. To achieve your goals, I think that's what you'd need. Otherwise, any inclusion of local flour will end up being a compromise, even in small amounts- which I think it sounds like you're trying to avoid.
I don't subscribe to the concept of 'dead' spices. I use cinnamon (both ceylon and cassia) that's 20 years old, and, while it might have lost about 1/10 of it's potency, it's no where near 'dead.' Capsicums will oxidize over time and change flavor (almost like roasting), but you can still get great longevity from dried Chilis if you pack them in glass- at least a year, if not two. Garlic powder evolves as well- again, though, the evolution is not necessarily a bad thing. Garlic powder is generally one of those ingredients that I don't use frequently, though- as I prefer the taste of fresh garlic.
@BostonAdam, I think the logical next step would be to put the oven on a large enough revolving platform so that someone could tend the oven as it was spinning. It should revolve slowly enough to easily hand off the unbaked topped pie (on the peel) and the baked pie (on a plate).
You could also put disco ball fabric on the back of the person tending the oven so the light would continue to refract when it passes by him/her.
@TXCraig1, I stand corrected :)
"and fully capable of performing either function."
I could be wrong about this, but I have a hard time picturing that oven spinning.
"Just be sure to keep your Baking Steel seasoned with oil to prevent rusting over time."
At the temps this is running at (700+) any seasoning will burn off. One can certainly oil the steel between bakes to help prevent rusting, but attempts to create any kind of permanent seasoning will be in vain.
Slightly OT, but I'm really amped about the new caffeine free coke zero. Because diet coke is diet 'new' coke (bleh!) and cf coca cola classic has a corn note from the corn syrup, the new CF coke zero is the only caffeine free version of the classic pre-HFCS coca cola. That brings me way back.
As far as beverages with pizza go, I might grab a microbrew other times of the day, but, with pizza, I can't fight the conditioning of my late teens- almost frozen bud (28ish deg.). That or cf coke zero - before that it was coca cola classic. Those, imo, are the pizza + beverage archetypes.
"...they're easily a worthy counterpart to the best new slice talent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn."
You really think this
is a 'worthy counterpart' to this?
@Robert Mendham, my memory is crystal clear, thanks. Upper East Side, 4 years, Hell's Kitchen, 7 years. Where are you from? Under a rock?
@drunkenchef, I'm from New York, not Disneyland. If New Yorkers were only limited to saying nice things, the place would be like a zen monastery :)
And what aspect of my comment is disrespectful to Ed? Nothing that I said pertained to Ed in the slightest. I can still very much worship at the Ed altar while having issues with the manner in which Rosario Procino is marketing his restaurant.
"leveraging the existing strengths but also elevating the overall experience."
What are they selling, pizza or derivatives? Is this the Olive Garden or a New York pizzeria? Could you ever imagine a sentence like this crossing Chris Bianco's lips? Paulie Gee's? Dom Demarco's? If I had a money guy spewing out that kind of corporate gobbledygook, the partnership would be over in an instant. Investors should be seen, but not heard :)
"This may be the only pizzeria in New York run...by Neapolitan-born and-raised individuals."
Why make such a point of hiring Neapolitans, but then sell neo Neapolitan pizza?
I guess, when the seats are empty, you've got to try to market your restaurant any way you possibly can, but I'd expect more from an ex-owner of Keste.
Whey Low is fructose based. Fructose is far more dangerous than sugar:
Why are you looking for a 'natural' sugar substitute? Is it because you feel that 'natural' is somehow safer than 'man made?' This isn't necessarily true.
There's absolutely no research showing that stevia is any safer than sucralose. I think any study pointing to stevia as a carcinogen is completely off the mark (as does the rest of the scientific community), but, I do think there's a chance that stevia impacts physiology in some manner- perhaps in a positive manner (for some) such as lowering blood pressure or decreasing insulin resistance. Stevia has a history of use in Eastern traditional medicine. It may very well be beneficial, but I don't think it's wise to consume medicine as food. Is there a substantial chance Stevia impacts physiology? No. I think there's a very good chance stevia is perfectly safe- at least some forms of it. The more purified versions- the ones that taste better, could use some additional research, imo.
The bottom line is that every sugar substitute has questions (some more than others), and just because something is 'natural' doesn't guarantee safety. If you want something that tastes like sugar, has no carbs and is 100% guaranteed safe to consume, then, no, that doesn't exist. If, on the other hand, you want something that tastes like sugar, with almost no carbs, that mitigates known risks as far as humanly possible, then you have a few options.
Most sweeteners, when combined, have a synergy- the total sweetening ability is greater than the sum of it's parts. By combining sweeteners, you can use considerably less of each, so that if any of them did present any kind of health risk, you be in far better stead because you'd be consuming so little of it. Also, by combining sweeteners, you get a far better quality of sweetness. Some commercial sweeteners take advantage of this synergy. Truvia, for instance, is erythritol and stevia. None of them go far enough though. It's a numbers game. The more sweeteners you combine, the more synergy, the less overall sweetener is used, the better the quality of sweetening.
Like all sweeteners, I don't inherently trust sucralose, but, when I combine it with other sweeteners and use very small quantities, between the lack of research proving it's dangers and the very small quantities I'm able to use, I sleep well at night. My favorite mix is sucralose, erythritol and an almost microscopic amount of ace k. This doesn't provide the texture of sugar in baked goods, but the taste is spot on. It's indistinguishable from the taste of sugar in every application. Now, ace K has, as far as sweeteners go, more health related questions than others, but, with the dose I'm working with (most likely in the parts per million in baked goods realm), I feel safe.
If you wanted to swap out ace k with a cleaner tasting, purer form of stevia (such as Truvia), or perhaps Lo Han Kuo (another Eastern medicine being used as food), you might get the same quality of flavor, and the blend would be more 'natural,' but, personally, I don't think it would be inherently any safer.
That's to achieve the taste of sugar. To achieve the taste and texture of sugar, then you get into a grayer area in terms of carb impact, since the reigning textural ingredients only partially digest so gauging carb consumption is difficult. They also tend to introduce digestion issues, although I strongly believe that, if introduced to the diet slowly, a digestive tolerance can be established. I'm a big fan of polydextrose, but inulin works just as well, and is a bit more 'natural' (but is also about 5 times the price).
Xylitol offers both sweetness and some texture, but, like polydextrose and inulin, the carb impact isn't fully understood. Like all the 'tols, though, it has the longest history of use and is one of the safest options- but, also, like the 'tols, it may introduce digestive issues/require building a tolerance. The only sugar alcohol that doesn't have digestive issues for most people is erythritol.
"I recused myself from any talk of Paulie Gee's"
@Adam Kuban, I'm sorry, but this whole perceived 'conflict of interest' thing is kind of silly. You're the best pizzeria reviewer the world has ever seen- no one with half a clue would ever, in their wildest imagination, question your impartiality. You've been friends with Paulie for how long? Has that friendship influenced a single one of your reviews? So you're working for him a few hours a week. Who cares? :)
"Wow, for once I'm actually sort of satisfied with one of these lists"
"Special thanks to all of those who helped inform this list: ...Adam Kuban,...Pizzablogger"
My favorite Jamaican meat patty brand, Tower Isles, reformulated their filling last year and went from 15g of protein per serving to 9g. Those cheap bastards lowered the quantity of beef. Saddest day of the last decade for me. I have goals of making homemade patties, but, it's going to take a while. Until then, I'm meat patty free *wiping a tear from my cheek*
Re; non pizza items, with the exception of the occasional zeppole and garlic knot, not only do I refrain from ordering non pizza items, I publicly shame family members ordering pasta by loudly saying "You're ordering pasta in a pizzeria?!"
"Realistically though, some things won’t be local to start, but the game plan is experiment with blending the imported flour with locally grown and milled flour, and laying down an infrastructure to eventually exclusively use the local stuff."
Matt, I hope I'm wrong about this, but I don't think Kenya has the necessary climate to grow wheat with the required protein level for pizza. In addition, 100 days may not give you a good picture of the consistency of the milling, and you should really be the one to tweak the formula if the local flour ends up being inconsistent.
Btw, if you're getting flour by the shipping container, how are you planning on storing it? With the heat in Kenya, you'll probably want to either refrigerate it or freeze it and that's going to take a lot of space.
And, when it comes to Pizza, Paulie is definitely smarter than Yoda. Salumeria Biellese hot soppresSAta purchases he!
Nairobi! That's exciting.
Have you made pizza at elevation before? If you haven't, expect a bit of a learning curve. You're going to need to increase the water, but even increasing the water won't correct for everything. Your oven spring will increase (it's basically like baking in a very slight vacuum) and your rim will crisp up faster. For Neapolitan, neither of these attributes should be all that bad, unless the owners are looking for perfect replicas of Neapolitan pies.
It's just a theory, but I also believe elevation speeds up fermentation as well.
You'll figure it out, but be prepared for things to act a bit differently than they do in CA.
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