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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marchiano's Bakery (Manayunk) - Tomato Pie

See my previous post on tomato pie as a reference point.

Appears small, rectangular cuts with a layer of vibrant red sauce on top with a scattering of parmesan cheese on top. - 4

The crust is thick, bready, a bit crunchy underneath like the outer shell of a freshly baked Italian loaf. - 4

The sauce is tangy, savory, and chunky with a fresh, acidic bite resonating with olive oil and light herbs. - 3.5

The cheese is really just an accent piece to this delicious, artful bread.  Nothing done wrong here.  - 3.5

Overall, this is one of the go-to tomato pie's in the area.  In my opinion, doesn't top Corropolese but few really do.  You really have to expect a thicker, crunchier crust than the soft bread and sweet topping that makes the Corropolese pie so addictive.  It's a nice change of pace though, and a delicious pie to grab if you're in the area of Umbria Street in Manayunk. - 3.5

Total Score: 3.7/5

Marchiano's website

Marchiano's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday night during Lent - Homemade Rustic (Neapolitan style) Pizza with Beer!

Step by step instructions - per several requests on my method to making a rustic pizza in the "style" of a Neapolitan pie.  To clarify, this is not a true Neapolitan pizza, which adheres to a set of traditional rules
To the left you'll see a hand mixed dough ball that has only been sitting for about 15 minutes.  I started with some filtered, warmed water and some King Arthur Bread Flour.  True Neapolitan pizzas require using a 00 flour, which is of a finer mill and lower protein % than the KA Bread Flour I like to use.
Keeping an unmeasured amount of flour in the bowl, I add the warmed water until it becomes a murky, thick stew of poolish.  I add a pinch of sugar, a few drops of honey, and some dried active yeast. I added a quick grind of sea salt to the opposite side that I've pitched the yeast...yes, keep that salt away from the yeast.  I let it sit for about 20 minutes before I start hand mixing with a spatula.  Yes, I know that it's easier to use a mixer.  I've got a kick-ass KitchenAid, which comes out rarely.  For a job this small, it's just easier for me to not even bring that beast out of it's cage.  I've added more flour until it becomes an actual dough ball.  I move the ball to a mildly greased with olive oil bowl.  I cover with some PAM sprayed plastic wrap to prevent a hard skin from forming on top of the dough.

Off to work! 9 hours later, this is what I've got. A nicely fermented ball that has increased in mass by about 125%. Look at all the tiny CO2 streams that have caused small bubbles at the top of the gluten mass.  For the few drops of honey I added to the initial mix, the aroma is clearly filled with honey.
I've added flour to the top, and punched the dough down.What to do in the meantime, while the dough re-expands? 
Make the sauce.

I use Cento San Marzano D.O.P. Certified Peeled Plum Tomatoes.  I prefer this brand because Cento uses a lined can.  Some of the cheaper San Marzano canned tomatoes use an unlined can, which gives the tomatoes a metallic, bitter flavor.
Why San Marzano Tomatoes?  These tomatoes are grown near Naples, near the rich, volcanic ash soil by Mount Vesuvius.  The soil has a base heavy pH, which leads to a less acidic tomato...or that's how the theory goes, anyhow.

Here is a picture of one of the plum tomatoes out of the can.
A cleaned, & gutted San Marzano with the stems and seeds removed, exposing the viable, fleshy pulp.
As talked about previously, I use the Varasano method of rinsing the tomato pulp.  Now, you'll find a good 5-6 ounces of puree left in the can.  I would advise not using it.  It's bitter and not very tasty.  Taste a piece of the rinsed tomato.  See how flavorful and mildly sweet it is?  Now taste the puree.  Not so hot.  Better off just dumping that extra puree left in the can.
Old school method, here.  Hand crushing the pulp of the tomato flesh in the bowl after they've been rinsed.
Here's the base product of the pizza sauce.  Simple crushed San Marzano plum tomatoes with the stems cut off and most of the seeds removed.
Some people will disagree with what I do here, as breaking from a traditional, simple crushed tomato method.  Whatever.  I like to add a half can of tomato paste, a good bunch of cut basil, some ground sea salt, and about tablespoon of sugar.  That's the way I do it because I like it on the sweeter side.  Some may prefer a more acidic flavor.  Those that do...stay away from the amount of basil and sugar that I use.  Some may not like the addition of paste, either.  I prefer a thicker sauce, hence the paste addition.  Do as your heart and palate desire.
I've dumped the re-risen dough ball on a sheet that's been floured.  This amount of dough will get you two medium sized pies.  I ended up cutting this much in half because I could make one plain pie, and one specialty pie.
After flouring the peel, I've stretched the dough out and given it a few shakes to make sure that I would be able to get the stretched dough off the peel.  Seems good to go!
I've decorated the stretched dough with some of the pizza sauce I've made.  Try to keep the majority of the sauce away from the center, or you'll get a limp, floppy slice nearing the point.  Nobody wants that.  Keep any heaviness towards the outside of the crust with just a thin sauce in the center.
The sauce on the unbaked pie after I've spread the exact same pizza sauce out.  Most pizza parlors will tell you that you should see the pie visibly through the sauce.  I usually go for a more saucy pie, so you'll want to see through some parts of the pie with heavy spots around the unbaked pie.
Almost ready to go.  I've got some large chunks of whole milk mozzarella scattered around the top of the unbaked pizza.  I added a small amount of shredded Locatelli, as well.  I'll give the pie one last lift and a small shake and a short blow underneath to make sure that it's going to move off the peel when I want to slide it onto the hot stone. here's not something you see everyday.  I've prepared my outside grille with a pizza stone and all burners fired on high.  I took this picture after I opened the lid to make sure everything was ready.  Unfortunately, I lost almost 75 degrees in doing so.  We were at almost 700F before I lifted the lid.   No matter...the stone has absorbed the heat.  I didn't have my digital laser thermometer handy but I'd be willing to say that the stone was still radiating at close to 700F.  I've actually had this grille at over 800F before but it's a bit cold out, extremely windy, and there is a light drizzle coming down.  For a true Neapolitan pie, you need a wood fired oven.
Until I get a house without a HMA guideline that I need to adhere to, and I get a small, outdoor hearth oven, I've got to do things this way to get my desired results.  The home oven won't get higher than 550F.  Trust me, I've tried, and tried.  It won't happen.  Most pizza parlours will only cook at 500F, which is ok for a pan pizza but for the style I'm shooting for, it requires high heat.  The outdoor grille is the only hope of generating that much heat.  I've tried the Heston Blumenthal method as outlined on Pizza Hack with less than stellar results, yielding a black bottomed, overly charred pie with sparkly charcoal remnants underneath, not knowing whether or not I was ingesting pieces of the cast iron skillet, or overly carbonized bread.  The cheese tends to run down the side of the skillet and into the broiler once it's melted, also.  The other downside to the that method was the pain in trying to keep the pizza on the small surface of the cast iron skillet, along with the amount of smoke produced out the broiler, resulting in a smoke filled downstairs and an irritating smoke alarm that made me think about ever attempting again, or recommending to anyone else.  BTW - you'll notice the crack in the pizza stone.  Let me tell you...I've cracked a few of these things and chucked a few after doing so.  My personal opinion?  Let it crack.  It'll happen sooner than later with this kind of direct heat, especially if any cheese drips on the stone.  Just push it back together and it'll be fine. 

The finished pie, after less than 3 minutes of cooking on the pizza stone/grille method.  I've got it on a pizza crisper, which allows air flow underneath the cooked pie.  Very little moisture will collect during the "sitting" process with a vented airflow.

As you can see the underside, there are beautiful char marks all around the bottom.  Wow, this one went almost perfectly as planned.  Scary.
An artisanal, rustic style pizza.  Sure, not a perfectly round pie but they usually aren't when using these methods.  It is rustic, after all.  The most important part does it taste?
 The profile view shows an abundance of CO2 pockets left during fermentation and solidified during the high heat cooking.  Delicious pie.  My daughter commented that it was her favorite pizza that I've made so far.  That's always a nice, welcomed sign!

A great pairing to the rustic pizza?
McChouffe beer.

look: 5
smell: 3.5
taste: 4
feel: 3.5
drink: 3.5
Pours a deep chestnut with a four finger light tan head that lasts. Nothing but huge sticky lacing clings all over the glass.
Smell is of lightly roasted malt with a hint of chocolate powder and lots of apple juice esters coming through with perhaps some other fruits(raisin-esque) hidden in the background of this earthy brew.
Taste is good. Belgian La Chouffe yeast is very evident in the taste with some semi sweetness coming through in an earthy taste with some caramel notes, figs, and apple juice being the biggest flavor picked up for some reason.
Mouthfeel is decent. A hint of spice in this slightly malty brew with a dry finish.

The other pie I produced was the same base style, only this one had caramelized onions, mushrooms(crimini, oyster, and shiitake), along with crumbled Spanish Valdeon Blue cheese.  It had a nice earthy aroma and flavor to it.

Again, the underside shows some char marks.  I lost a little bit from the heat transfer once I opened up the lid again.  Probably still closer to 600F.  A nice, crisp crust though.
Hope this was helpful!  Let me know if you have any questions.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TJ's Restaurant & Drinkery - Cask Event... & a ride to Victory Brewing

Great day at TJ's yesterday, 3/6 for their All Cask - All Day Event.  Surprisingly (not really), I ran into another local beer geek, who runs The Brew Lounge site. 
The damage done?:

Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout
look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4.5
feel: 4
drink: 4

Appears a near black with dark brown edges when held to the light. The tan foam leaves scattered bits of lacing around the glass.
Smell is of cocoa, vanilla, Espresso, caramel, and toffee
Taste is of the aromas with more of a coffee flavor that is perfect for a digestif.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, sweet, syrupy, and chewy.

BrewDog Paradox Isle Of Arran

look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4
feel: 4
drink: 3

Appears a dense, opaque crude oil with a dark chestnut toned outer rim. Tiny speckles of lace quickly droop back down into the glass.
Smell is of cocoa, soy sauce, grapes, blueberries, vanilla, flowers, and molasses.
Taste is of the aromas with a juicy, slick oily flavor that screams concord grapes.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, slick, juicy, and warming.

Tröegs Nugget Nectar - (from a past review but it still holds true.  I believe on cask it has more of a skunk weed and "certain" pipe resin aroma)
look: 4.5
smell: 4.5
taste: 5
feel: 4.5
drink: 4.5
Appears a bit of a cloudy copper color with a fluffy white 2 inch head that lasts for a few minutes. Plenty of medium carbonation pumping from the bottom up to the sides of the glass. Lots & lots of lacing for the entire enjoyment.
Smell is truley outstanding! Lots of full hop resin and piney grapefruit coming through backed with a ballsy sweet maltness that doesn't quit.
Taste is excellent! Starts on the front and middle of the tounge with the sweet maltiness but the killer finish is what makes this brew exceptional. It doesn't numb your tastebuds on the back with an overkill of hops. It's well balanced and gives a slight linger which comes back through the sides of your mouth to the tip of your tongue, making you lick your lips in utter delight.
This brew is extremely drinkable as well. After drinking a few other outstanding IPA's on the same night, this one stole the show. I want more and more!

Coronado Brewing Red Devil

look: 4
smell: 4
taste: 3.5
feel: 4
drink: 3.5

Appears a semi transparent redvwith a small off white head that quickly fizzles out into a mild cap. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.

Smell is of dough, sweet malt, ripe fruit, flowers, and toffee covered peanuts.
Taste is of the aromas with a real, fresh dough, malty flavor pulling through.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, sweet, juicy, and mildly bitter.
Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 12 Reserve

look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4
feel: 4
drink: 4

Appears midnight black with a dark mahogany hue around the edges and a small off white head that quickly fades intonation little collar.
Smell is of smoked beef jerky, cocoa, coffee crumb cake, brown sugar, and notes of caramel, & vanilla.
Taste is of the aromas with flavors of port wine, cocoa, and vanilla beans fighting to a bloody, raw donnybrook.
Mouthfeel is chewy, bitey, slick in the finish, and warming.

Stone Ruination (This review is from my past notes but I still feel the same way about this beer.  I love many beers from this brewery but this one is still way too bitter without any balance in any form I've ever had it.  Some people like it that way!)

look: 4
smell: 4
taste: 3
feel: 3
drink: 2.5

Appears a nice transparent orange with a 1 finger foamy white head.
Smell is of a citrusy, resinous hop with a bit of a biscuit, or oyster cracker smell backing it up. Oh boy...I can smell the alcohol on this one too.
Taste is overkill of bitter hops. Lots of floral, citrus hops and wood undertones with the bitterness killing every last tastebud. Don't know if it's me or what but this is like drinking malt licquor. So far, not so good.
Mouthfeel is ok but again, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of balance to all the bitterness that's going on. The alcohol is listed at 7.7%. Seems much more apparent and higher.
Drinkability was very dissapointing.  It was like trying to drink a cognac that wasn't smooth, or balanced. Maybe I'll give one another try but I'll be cautious. I've loved several other IIPA's, including ones with IBU's over 90. Maybe next time.
Heavy Seas - Hang Ten (Review is from my past notes out of a bottle.  This version on cask was a tad odd...heavy notes of cinnamon and ginger outweighed the other aromas and flavors)
look: 3.5
smell: 4
taste: 4
feel: 4
drink: 3.5

Appears a dark amber with a crimson hue, light beige head that slowly fades out. Spotty lacing is left around the glass. Little amounts of CO2 slowly rise.
Smell is of clove, caramel, banana, biscuit, fresh dough, & milk chocolate.
Taste is of doughy, yeasty, cloves, caramel, milk chocolate, and heavy wheat.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, syrupy, brown sugar resonating with doughy yeast leading to a sweet, yeasty, semi-dry finish.

Onward to Victory!...
Victory Brewing Strangeways Golden Ale

look: 3.5
smell: 3.5
taste: 3.5
feel: 3
drink: 4
Appears a transparent pale gold with a small head of white fluff. Small bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of freshly cracked grain, cereal notes, and spicy, wood-like hops.
Taste is of the aromas with more of a bitter yeast, and hop flavor on top of honey drizzled saltines. Very light with a bite.
Mouthfeel is light bodied with crisp carbonation up front leading to a watery, thin finish.
Victory Brewing - Abbey 5
look: 4
smell: 3.5
taste: 3.5
feel: 3.5
drink: 3.5

Appears a transparent amber with some ruby highlights around the edges. The foamy, off-white head slowly fades into a mild cap. Lots of scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of earth notes, along with a touch of caramel, and spicy, herbal hops.
Taste is of the aromas with gentle, delicate flavors of caramel, fresh bread, mild fruit, and spicing. A bit one dimensional but I think they were trying to keep this simple.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, spritzy, and faintly spicy.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bob's Haven Deli (Phoenixville) - Pizza & Cheesesteak

Appears a 16" round pie with freshly melted cheese over the thin layer of tomato sauce.  The dough has risen slightly around the edges of the pie. - 3

The crust is a light gold with a bread-like outer crust and underside.  Tracks on the bottom indicate that this pie has either gone through the conveyer belt style cooker, or a pizza screen.  Admittedly, I wasn't paying attention when I picked the food up.  There are no seats, and there was a crowd in there, so I wanted to get in and out. - 2.5

The sauce is of a tangy, rich, ripe, acidic tomato sauce.  It's decent as it stands but to be perfectly honest, nothing is really jumping out at me to make me think, "Wow, that is super and I can't wait to order it again!" - 2.5

The cheese seems to be a mozzarella blend with a mildly oily, slightly nutty flavor that takes a deep backseat to the mozzarella blandness that pulls ahead. - 2.5

Overall, it's not a bad pizza but there are no characteristics that would put this in the upper echelon of this area's pizza.  The dough is obviously freshly made on premises, and it shows in the flavor with the light, airy, freshly baked, neutral bread flavors.  It just needs something more. - 2.5

Total Score:: 2.6/5

The Cheesesteak

Appears a 12" submarine roll with a semi-bulging amount of thinly sliced meat flowing between the roll.  Looks like a couple pieces may have been overcooked but more on that in just a minute.  Thinly sliced onions strips are found blended and camouflaged in between the steak and flowing streams of white cheese. - 4

The roll...right off the bat, I know it's a good one.  Looks and feels like a Conshy roll, which is always a nice scene in my book.  If it's not one, it's of the same caliber.  Soft with semi-hard outer shell near the edges that holds in all the oil, steak, and cheese. - 4

The meat is of a decent quality steak.  Probably ribeye.  It's got an oil flavor sticking to it that is actually quite addictive.  The kind that you seek after a night of heavy drinking but this sandwich is coming with complete sobriety and I'm enjoying it!  Tender, juicy, with only a few end pieces that have a "crispiness" to it. - 4

The cheese is melted nicely.  It is evenly scattered and melted proportionally in between the meat and onions before flowing to the bottom of the roll. - 4

Overall, this place is a nice find.  It's a bit off the beaten path but if you're in the Phoenixville, or Charlestown area, it's a great place for a takeout cheesesteak.  I remember eating these when I was a kid because they would deliver out to my home, or a friend's place in the Charlestown/Great Valley area.  It's even better than I remember! - 4

Total Score: 4/5

Bob's Website

Bob's Haven Deli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Brew Lounge: Beer Calendar: What To Do in March 2010#links

Bryan K from The Brew Lounge breaks down the beer happenings during the month of March!
The Brew Lounge: Beer Calendar: What To Do in March 2010#links