It’s the Culture

Why does NY City have the largest concentration of the most famous pizzerias anywhere outside of Italy? Why does NYC have so many fantastic pizzerias, compared to the rest of the country?

I have heard it said over and over, “It’s the water!” as though NYC water had some magical properties to it. But that myth is easy to debunk. If New York’s water were the secret to its great pizza, there would not be great pizza elsewhere, and we all know that is not true. Not only is there great pizza all over the USA (just not in the numbers NY has), but there’s also great pizza everywhere in the world—especially in the pizza capital of the world, Naples.

There are two reasons why NY has so many great pizzerias compared to other parts of the country. Continue reading “It’s the Culture”

Sugar Sugar and More​ Sugar

I’m convinced most Americans are addicted to sugar.

I went to 20 North Broadway Tavern last night with friends. We ordered wings, and one of the sauces we tried was the ‘triple threat’. Apparently, it’s popular and people really like it. But I found it lacking. It’s not a triple threat, it’s a single threat. Ostensibly, heat is one of the three threats, but in actuality, it’s only a threat to your blood sugar levels. It’s all sweet, with no heat.

I’m a big fan and sweet and spicy. But, it must be very spicy, with a hint sweet. I’d put the proper ratio at something like 80% spicy, with 20% sweet.

Continue reading “Sugar Sugar and More​ Sugar”

Random Thoughts on Pizza

I’ve eaten pizza in four of the top ten pizzerias in America. Soon, I’ll be making the trip to NYC to check the fifth and possibly a sixth off that list.

I have plans to spend a weekend in Brooklyn, and a weekend in Boston to eat pizza. I hope to make the trek to New Haven again and explore more of the pizza there. (I have eaten at Pepe’s.)

I’ve driven as far as 2 1/2 hours one way just to eat pizza at a single pizzeria, and then I turned around and came right back.

I’ve eaten at every single Neapolitan style pizza joint within a 2-hour radius of Albany. Every. Single. One.

I’ve eaten at 95% of pizzerias that have a wood oven in the area (that I’m aware of), and at most of the wood-fired pizza trucks. If I discover a pizzeria that has a wood oven and I haven’t been, I usually go immediately.

I’ve eaten pizza at well more than 100 local places and counting.

I just spent a weekend in Buffalo, the primary impetus to go there was to eat the pizza at Jay’s Artisan, a fantastic Neapolitan style pizza joint.

I once talked my wife into spending a weekend in Syracuse to go shopping at its giant mall, but I secretly wanted to go to eat pizza.

I put all of that out there not to toot my own horn, but to list my credentials. My opinions are based on a fair amount of experience. One can disagree with me (and you should!), but my opinions are not born out of ignorance.

Continue reading “Random Thoughts on Pizza”

Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​

I had a good friend who worked at Domino’s Pizza in the mid-’90s. He worked the late shift and was left in charge. On occasion, he’d invite me to hang out with him. I got to spend time behind the counter watching the delivery drivers come and go, watch my buddy make the pizzas, and he’d also let me make my own pizza. I’ll never forget the contraption they used that would apply the cheese pellets (and they were indeed pellets). You’d load the proper amount of cheese into an elevated cone, then slide the pizza under, press the release button, and bam! A perfectly cheesed pizza.

At the time, I ate Domino’s pizza and would order a pie for delivery now and then.

But that was more than 20 years ago, and it wasn’t too long after that I met my wife, who was instrumental in nudging me toward learning to appreciate better food. She loathes Domino’s, and I haven’t eaten it since.

Recently, I decided it was time to revisit the chain. Admittedly, I fell victim to their marketing, and the idea of eating a pizza with a soft doughy crust, that’s sweetly sauced, and with a generous amount of cheese appealed to me.

I may have temporarily lost my mind. Continue reading “Bad Chain Restaurants XIII – Domino’s Deception​”

Death by Cheeseburger VII – Best Burger in NY State

Daniel B., Albany’s Yelp Ambassador, was gracious enough to invite me to participate in a burger tasting. He knows I’m a big fan of the form, and I’d enjoy judging a few burgers. Initially, I was a bit hesitant, but ultimately decided I’d do it, and I’m glad I did. It was a blast. There were four judges in total, and besides Daniel and me, Josh D. the Syracuse Yelp Ambassador, and Yelp Elite Thomas C. also took part in the fun.

But this was no ordinary burger tasting; we’d be judging the “Best Burger in New York” contest, run by the NY Beef Council. It’s a contest they do every year, and the goal is to highlight local beef producers and the businesses that sell their product. That’s great, and a noble cause in my opinion.

The restaurants all happened to be in Central NY, between Utica, and Syracuse, which meant a long day, with lots of driving. Daniel picked me up at 9:30 am, and we didn’t get home until 11 that night (after a little side trip to Utica for pizza). It was indeed a lot of driving and of course, a lot of eating.

Continue reading “Death by Cheeseburger VII – Best Burger in NY State”

Pizza Pilgrimage V – Six Days in the Fridge

Have you seen the video series Upstate Old School Vic Christopher is doing for Two Buttons Deep? In the first episode, he visits O’Scugnizzo’s Pizzeria in Utica. O’Scug’s makes a form of Utica tomato pie, and the place is the second oldest continually operating pizzeria in the US. The video is less than four minutes long. It’s worth a watch.

Barely one week after Vic’s video was posted, Daniel B. and I had some business together in Central NY (more about that at a later date), and after seeing the video, both of us were curious to visit O’Scug’s and experience the pizza.

I was not impressed, and frankly, perplexed as to why O’Scug’s is popular.

Continue reading “Pizza Pilgrimage V – Six Days in the Fridge”

My Favorite Pizza in the 518

Notice the title of this post is not “The Best Pizza in the 518.” “Best” is subjective, and when it comes to pizza, everyone has their favorite style or favorite pizza joint. I’m willing to accept that my favorites are not necessarily the best, but instead, merely those I like most. I’m sure it won’t be hard for anyone to take issue with my favorites, and that’s fine. You are welcome to disagree with me.

With one exception, my favorite pizzas are all cooked in a wood oven. To produce the light, tender, and chared crusts I prefer, requires temps of 800 degrees or higher, temperatures a wood oven has no problem reaching. Wood also imparts some flavor into the crust. Wood oven = more flavor.

So, without further ado, my favorite pizza in the Greater Capital Region:

Continue reading “My Favorite Pizza in the 518”

Schenectady Slices

NY style pizza. It’s a thing. It’s also a particular thing. I think the average pizza eater is confused as to what it is. NY Style pizza is not just round thinner pizza, and I’m probably guilty of making that incorrect assumption in the past as well.

NY slices are another thing altogether. The pizza is cooked ahead of time, then when ordered the triangle is thrown back into the oven to be reheated. The bottom of the pizza crisps up, making for a crunchy crust. Eating a reheated slice is not quite the same as eating one fresh out of the oven.

Having participated in FUSSYlittleBLOG’s Tour de Slice Schenectady, I’ve come to realize that NY style slices don’t get me excited. Not that they aren’t tasty, they are, and their popularity is a testament to that, but given my druthers, they wouldn’t be my first choice.

Continue reading “Schenectady Slices”

Nashville Not Chicken

I adore spicy food. Spicy heat improves so many dishes that it’d take a book the size of the Bible to list them all. Even when used in small amounts to add a little background heat that most palates won’t detect as spicy, it’s an important element in cooking. Then there’s the nasal and sinus-clearing heat of super spicy dishes. I crave that tongue burning pain. It hurts so good! I love spicy food so much that I keep a small vial of cayenne seasoning in the lunch box I take to work at all times. One can never know when something will need a little hit of heat.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that Hattie’s in Saratoga had put Nashville Hot Chicken on their menu. Nashville Hot Chicken is the stuff chili-heads like me dream of, and fried chicken is a great vehicle to deliver high amounts of heat that you’ll later regret eating.

I was disappointed with Hattie’s version of the Southern classic, I was expecting better.

Continue reading “Nashville Not Chicken”