Aaaah, Baltimore you have pizza

Unlike up in Maine where it took be the better part of year to find any decent pizza.  I found in Baltimore a small chain called Pasta Mista. I was quite worried as the name left me suspicious.

But, the pie was very good.  Not New York thin crust good, they still need to make it thinner, crisper and use sliced cheese instead of shredded.  But, Jersey good.  Reminded me of the pizza we got almost every Friday night from a place in Colonia called Gennaro’s.

It was thin, with a perfect end crust, about 1/2 inch and the right mix of sauce and cheese.  Cooked well, with a crust that cracked when you folded it (yes, you have to fold it – you want to eat with a fork and knife go to Chicago).

 

Having been their twice and received the same very good tasting slices each time, I am quite happy to have found one refuge in Baltimore.  Though this is in Towson, close enough.

 

 

Thank you Pasta Mista for a great slice and a future of trying you sandwiches (a good chicken parm sounds simple is not and even your pasta on occasion).

 

 

Burning the tea

I like Panara Bread.     

They have good Earl Grey tea, both decaffeinated and fully leaded.

Not a half bad bagel.

Skip the muffins (too much crystal sugar on top – like a candy bar).

Good soups and salads.

But, just like their partners in tea crime, they give you hot water for tea that is 1 degree from being steam.  Gees.

I ask for an inch from the top, not for milk, but to add ice. At-least Panera has a soda machine you can grab ice cubes.

 

Starbucks you just have to sit and wait 15 minutes for it to cool down enough to sip.

You are burning my tea people.  The hot water must soothe the dried tea leaves, seeping into them to make them release their oils and flavors.  Not steam fry the crap out of them.

 

 

You buy these higher priced round tea bags and waste them with the steam treated water.

Turn down the temperature pelease.

Pastrami – the perfect food and hard to find

I have commented before how my last meal is a hot pastrami on rye sandwich, a black cherry soda and steak fries.  So why is it so hard to find really really good pastrami outside of NYC.  Recently, I went to Attman’s in Baltimore.  

Now to be fair, Attman’s is famous for their corned beef and brisket, not their pastrami.  Well, I am sorry that what they state is New York’s Finest Pastrami, I am afraid is just not up to that standard.  The slices were too thick and it tasted microwaved.  Good rye bread though.

So why is pastrami, good real good pastrami so hard to find and a great hot pastrami limited to NYC.

I was first exposed to this perfect food as a child.  First cut pastrami from the deli, warmed in tin foil on a the stove and then put on wonderful rye bread from Vaccaro’s bakery.

At that time I just thought pastrami was a tasty deli meat.  Oh, how wrong I could be.

Years later I was working in NYC and I went into the Carnegie Deli.  I ordered a pastrami sandwich, the waiter recommended the steak fries and on a whim I ordered black cherry soda.  By fate, I created the perfect meal.

What I thought was just a good deli meat was transformed by the Carnegie into a tender, salty, peppery, smoky succulent – – –

Sorry, I started to dream about the sandwich.

When you add the syrupy sweetness of the black cherry soda that is just nirvana in a meal.  The steak fries, well you need big fries to stand up to a big taste like pastrami and well fries are fries.

Add to Carnegie, the Stage, Katz’s and Second Ave deli’s are just the best in the world.

The only two places outside of NYC that offer good (not great) pastrami are Jackie Cooper’s Deli in Edison, NJ which offers the steak fries and the black cherry soda.  In Portland, Me there is Full Belly Deli that does not offer steak fries, so pass on those.

I will keep looking in other cities, but I will have to return to NYC once a year to have the perfect meal in the homeland of the perfect meal.

Pizza, Tomato Pie and whatever that thing they make in Chicago

I would like to talk about pizza.

About Tomato Pie.

Now, some may say – Tomato Pie, what the heck is that.  Wait a second, pizza first.

 

Pizza is defined on Wikipedia as oven-baked, flat, disc-shaped bread.  Flat equals thin crust.  Sometimes hand tossed in that stereotypical throwing of the dough in the air, but that is not necessary for a good thin crust pizza. A good thin crust needs the following –

  1. fresh made dough
  2. fresh sauce from good canned tomatoes, garlic, basil and oregano, salt, pepper and red wine (not too sweet please)
  3. whole milk mozzarella (sliced is preferred over shredded) from a quality source
Then it is not whether it is a coal, wood or gas fired oven.  It is that the heat predominately comes from the bottom (no confection style cooking dear lord, no).  This allows the pizza to cook from the bottom up and crisp the crust without burning the cheese, sauce or crust edges.
The tell tale signs that the cooking method is correct will be dough bubbles.  Those puffed out parts of dough that are crispy little pockets of that heat that was correctly applied.
Best example of this in New York is Lombardi’s.  If you are in New Jersey I recommend Salerno’s in South Plainfield.  In Portland Maine there is Otto’s.
Disagree, well go eat your Papa John’s in ignorance.
Now, let’s go to tomato pie.  Wikipedia defines tomato pie is – tomato pie calls for athick, porous, focaccia-like dough covered with tomato sauce, more like a pizza than a covered pie, then sprinkled with grated romano cheese.
Here I disagree, as I believe a good tomato pie is not focaccia dough, but a pizza dough that is pressed into a short pan (thus pie versus pizza) and is served mainly with sauce and a little grated cheese on top.  You can order it with mozzarella and other topics.  It is baked at a lower temperature than pizza and takes longer (so be prepared to wait).
The focus on the tomato pie is the tomato sauce.  It must be a deeper flavor, fuller sauce than a pizza sauce.  It can have nuances that pizza sauce does not have.  You can have sweet tomato pie sauce or not sweet and still be equally good.
The best tomato pie anywhere is in Robbinsville, NJ – near Trenton and is                     De Lorenzo’s.  If you are in Baltimore Matthews is not bad.
Lastly is what Chicagoan’s call deep dish pizza.  Wikipedia defines it as – buttery crust up to three inches tall at the edge, slightly higher than the large amounts of cheeseand chunky tomato sauce, acting as a large bowl.  
It is in a deep dish.  It is not a pizza.  It is a pot pie.  A tomato/cheese pot pie.  This is not to say this is not tasty and wonderful. It is the name I have issue with when it is clearly not a pizza.
I recommend the sausage deep dish pot pie and you must go to Lou Malnati’s.

Good service at a restaurant

Let me start out by stating that I consider myself a fair cook and for the most part am able to make the dishes I love the most at home.  Be it beef, chicken, fish or vegetables, italian, chinese, american or mexican and so on.

Therefore, when I choose to go out to a restaurant it is partly due to the fact the restaurant serves a food I am desiring, but mainly due to the fact that I do not wish to cook that night or clean up the dishes.  So, the service of the wait staff is critical to the enjoyment of the meal.

I can tell you that it is rare that I am without complaint at a restaurant whether it be a diner or a high end steak house.  Now, I do not apply the same standards to a diner that I would to a high end steakhouse.  I like the homey ahh shucks style of diner wait staff, it is part of the experience.  Along with the attention and sophistication of the wait staff at a high end steakhouse.

However, these are issues that are common across all dining experiences which restaurant owners should take notice and correct.

First and foremost is when the patron is ready to leave, make sure they get their check promptly and have it processed promptly.  For some reason, wait staff once the entries have been cleared from the table forget that this is the critical time that most patrons are deciding on the amount of the tip.  They leave you there begging for the check and then have to hope against all hope that once you leave the check that you will be back in less then 15 minutes to take it.

I suggest that wait staff be trained to give the check to the patron’s and pause, asking how the meal was, is there anything I can refill (water, drinks, and so on) before they dash off to the next table who is just ordering their entrée.

Second, if you state you will be right back with a drink, a refresh of bread or that missing condiment.  Come right back, do not stop by your other tables or disappear into the kitchen for 10 minutes.

Lastly, management help your wait staff out during business times by being on the floor scanning faces and expressions.  You could be a great help by just catching that drink refill or the dirty knife found in the napkin.

If you would just get the check to us promptly that would be a great help.

Grapes and Salami

Yes, you read right.  You see those cold cut platters where some poor caterer had to roll up a couple of hundred slices of salami, ham, turkey and roast beef.  Then carefully place them on a round tray on top of lettuce leaves.  In the middle they normally put a bowl of mayo or mustard. 

Well around the bowl they put grapes as a decorative garnish.  And just like Tom Hanks in You Got Mail, I eat the garnish with some salami slices.

Fill up my plate with usually about half the grapes and about 6 slices of salami.  It is wonderfully sweet and salty.  Just the right balance.  I find I do not need anything to drink either, just the grapes.  I have gotten the look from a guest who wondered what I was doing touching the ‘garnish’.  It is food right.

Now some important things –

The salami has to be hard salami.  Genoa is okay, but I like the extra aging and smoking that the hard salami gets.  Perhaps it is my German genes poking through, as I typically am an Italian food biased, especially versus my make up of Irish and German heritage.  But, the hard is just better tasting, more complex then Genoa.  It is great on bread, but put it on a plate rolled up by some patient and under paid caterer next to some green or red grapes and yum.

Now for the grapes they should be chilled, very fresh.  Most importantly, that same patient caterer should cut the stems to have about 5 to 8 grapes on a batch.  That is most important.  As it prevents me from looking somewhat stupid by lumping a 50 to 60 bunch of grapes on my plate next to my few slices of salami.  Not that I mind taking or eating that many grapes, just it looks unbalanced next to the salami.

So, I have to start adding more salami to balance it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To fit all this on those tiny cocktail plates,I have slipped one of the larger dinner plates from underneath a serving tray or flower arrangement.  They work great.              Though you have to put up with the questions from the other question of where are the larger plates.  Tough luck, they are on their own.

and speaking of popcorn

Of all the snack foods that you can have I would prefer popcorn over all of them.  It is perfect.  A crunchy, often warm experience in your month with saltiness and then butter (or something resembling butter flavor).

Whether at a ballgame, sitting home watching a ballgame or just for anything popcorn is the best snack, for me.

Especially and almost a requirement is at the movies.  Skip the Skittles and Gummy Bears, along with even a soda pop.  Get a nice size bag of popcorn, extra butter and a water will be fine.  You don’t have to eat it all, but something about ordering the small just does not seem right.

1. It is tiny and not very manly

2. It is not the value pick, use the uneaten to feed the birds in your neighbors lawn

3. you might find someone to share it with if you are attending alone – never know

a quick breakdown of popcorn

– Movie theater – it must be fresh popped there and if you ask for extra butter, take extra napkins as those bags leak all the time.

– Microwave – don’t get the movie theater butter corn, yuck.  get the plain and melt your own butter to pour over it.

– Air popped – heathy, until you put the 4 tablespoons of butter you must put on it to have it taste like anything.

– Oil popped – just like movie theater, but hard not to burn it as you get distracted by the wonderful smell that is quickly bad when you burn it.

So, skip the chips and dip and stick to the popcorn.  Yum.