On the road with PMQ: Join us as we journey from Vegas to Sweden, with a stop in Ohio in between.

The PMQ staff visits New York, Ohio, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Paris and Gothenburg, Sweden.




Five50 Pizza Bar

 

Starting in May 2015, PMQ Pizza Magazine now briefly chronicles our adventures across America in a department called “On the Road.” In this expanded version, we offer more details about staff members’ visits to pizzerias like 800 Degrees, Five50 Pizza Bar, Bluebird Pizzeria and Pizza My Heart:

 

Tracy Morin
Senior Copy Editor

Viva Las Vegas! On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I was keen to check out some cool pizza concepts, and Sin City did not disappoint. The Monte Carlo Resort & Casino outpost of 800 Degrees (800degreespizza.com), now with 10 locations in three states, allows customers to create wood-fired Neapolitan pizza masterpieces with three crusts, four bases and dozens of toppings, while tried-and-true specialty pies, small plates, salads and burrata offer “cheats” for the less-creative. In America's gambling mecca, local ingredients, fast service and customizable fare prove a winning combination.

  

800 Degrees Pizza

Five50 Pizza Bar (http://www.aria.com/dining/restaurants/five50-pizza-bar), the brainchild of James Beard Award-winning chef Shawn McClain at the stunning Aria Resort & Casino, serves up 16” pies that blend Italian tradition with East Coast attitude. Beyond the pizza—which incorporates both basic and outside-the-box toppings (think shishito peppers and crème fraîche)—small plates, salads, sandwiches and a cheese-and-salumi bar offer familiar classics with an upscale slant. Bonus: In addition to a smartly edited cocktail, beer and wine list, liquor-spiked shakes and floats appeal to the (grown-up) kid in everyone.

Five50 Pizza Bar

 

Missy Green Assink
International Correspondent

Winter Fancy Food Show: Flavored Oils and Mad Scientists

  

Missy Green Assink

At the Winter Fancy Food show I found a staggering number of raw, vegan, gluten-free, all-natural, “morally sound” snacks and beverages. But what really stood out was the spectrum of flavors of any given product. Where it may have been normal before to see raspberry balsamic vinegar, now you can choose between some 50 flavors. Infused olive oil, aromatic sprays and colorful, flavored sea salts were huge at the show this year. From peach to chocolate, from lavender to smoked bacon and butter (yes, butter-flavored oil), delightful flavors and smells abounded, and the combinations were positively limitless. 

Spokespeople at every company I spoke with assured me that their oil, vinegars or salts were infused using purely natural methods, though they weren’t at liberty to elaborate on their super-secret methods. According to one Uruguayan company, the technology for their infused oil aroma spray came from their own personal Italian mad scientist who lives in a cave and developed his method of infusing flavor into oil with sound waves. Other ways of infusing, like using heat, compromise the molecular structure of the oil, they claimed.

One might assume that companies which make flavored oil and vinegar could use just any oil or vinegar, but I consistently found that the companies I spoke with emphasized the quality of their oil or vinegar even before adding flavor. “That’s the real secret,” says Brie Thompson from Olivelle. “Use a high-quality base, and the end product will be fantastic.”  

Pons olive oil infused with Tabasco is yet another example of a high-quality olive oil with a new taste profile. Pons has been making extra-virgin olive oil from Catalonia, Spain, since 1945 and only recently got the rights to use Tabasco’s seeds and brand name in their infused oil.  

As consumers continue to demand healthy options, they want more than rabbit food. They want to be intrigued and seduced with new flavors. With the new spectrum of oils, vinegars, salts and aromas on the market, I wonder if today’s chefs are more delightfully intrigued or just utterly overwhelmed. 

 

Bluebird Pizza: Straight Out of Jersey

Missy Green Assink

Owners Fran and Ray Leidy welcomed my husband and me warmly into their new neighborhood pizzeria, Bluebird Pizza, in San Leandro, California. Fran and Ray are originally from New Jersey and brought their fearless Jersey attitude and pizza-making skills with them to the Bay Area. After running a construction company for years, they bought out a closing pizzeria, renovated it and opened it with no restaurant experience at all. Fran says she loves making pizza and used to host plenty of pizza parties at her house. When they saw a pizzeria was closing for renovations, Fran decided to make her move and inquired about purchasing the store. In no time at all she was a proud pizza store owner, designing her store logo in Microsoft Word and printing the menu from her home computer. They have yet to get a walk-in, and they’re still searching for the perfect flour.

Although this little bluebird is just getting off the ground—the store has only been open for a couple of months—Fran says the business is already turning a profit. Compared to the long-established pizza culture in New Jersey, pizza is relatively new to the Golden State—that fact, plus an article in the local paper, has helped to bolster her business. Fran says she gets frequent compliments from customers who aren’t familiar with pizza from the Northeast. Her biggest complaint comes from health-conscious guests who say her pizza’s too greasy. “It’s supposed to be greasy!” she says in a loud Jersey accent. ”It’s pizza!”  If you visit San Leandro, stop by for a slice. Meanwhile, you can speak with Fran in the Think Tank under her username Bluebird.

 

Pizza my Heart: San Jose, CA

  

Missy Green Assink

U.S. Pizza Team member and pie slinger Leah Scurto is the corporate chef for Pizza My Heart (pizzamyheart.com) in San Jose, California. As we visited the Bay Area for the Fancy Foods show, we stopped by the Willow Glenn location on charming Lincoln Avenue. The store promotes a laidback surfer attitude with healthy, local and downright tasty ingredients.

Pizza My Heart opened over three decades ago as a New York style pizza joint with a New York attitude. In 1997, the original owners from Jersey were bought out and Pizza My Heart revamped their customer service and satisfaction. Listening to their customers has paid off.

Consumer demand for healthier products encouraged Leah to head up a lengthy but successful project to eliminate all nitrates and nitrites in Pizza My Heart’s meat products. In addition to keeping the menu fresh and innovative, Leah travels between locations to ensure consistency in their product, one of her biggest challenges.  

During our visit, Leah made us a bounty of delicious pizza—it was far too much for us to eat!—and gave me an awesome tip for loosening your pizza off the peel without overdusting with flour.  Check out the video here!

 

On to Sweden

Finally, I was invited by the Swedish Pizza Federation to Gothenburg to judge and spin dough for the Pizza Grand Prix competition in the middle of one of Sweden’s largest shopping malls. The competition featured 12 pizza makers making a capricciosa pie, (ham and mushroom), their own original creation, and a pizza salad. 

I also stopped by PizzaMaster’s oven factory to see how Sweden’s top selling ovens are put together and some of their unique features that I’ve never seen on pizza ovens. For more info, check out my blog here: http://pizzawithoutborders.pmq.com/2015/02/sweden-reinvents-pizza-competitions-and.html

 

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