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February

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2005
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PizzaGanza™ 2005, Seattle Edition, tasted on February 6, 2005 — It's becoming a bi-annual tradition that we try to find the best pizza a city has to offer on Debbie's birthday. Two years ago we traveled to New York City to do it right. We toured the city in a limo going from pizza place to pizza place and judging slices in 5 categories: Crust, Sauce, Cheese, Ingredient Balance, and Foldability. Needless to say there was a ruckus over the ill-conceived foldability category with people arguing over its meaning and its relevance as well as some people trying to game the system by using those points to advantage their favored pizza place independent of the foldability of their slices. Having one stupid category that requires us to calculate the results with and without it is now a tradition in its own right. This year it was "holdability" which seems a little more well-defined but probably of as little relevance. One other important tradition that's happened two out of the last three years was also upheld this year - the Patriots won the Superbowl... again!!! OK. Enough gloating. Back to pizza.

We didn't have a limo this year as I wasn't planning on leaving the house and missing the game. So instead we hired taxis to bring us our pizzas as most of the places didn't deliver. This felt decadent but actually worked quite well. The one pizza I brought (before the game started) I placed gently on the heated passenger seat of my car to keep it warm. None of the pizza's were eaten immediately out of the oven, but none of them waited for more than 30 minutes so that felt fair. The basic rules were the same as last time. Cheese pizzas only. Everyone votes in five categories. Debbie's votes count twice as she has some weird intimate relationship with pizza that none of us understand or want to get in the middle of. This time we did make one improvement; of the 12 sets of votes cast, 10 were cast blind. Only Alex and I knew the origin of each pizza as we had to distribute to everyone, but nobody else knew what they were eating. It made Allie crazy to not know, but we held our ground. (BTW, Debbie was able to correctly identify many of the pizzas blind. This amazed me. Allie came pretty close as well.)

Before we get to the results, lets be clear - there's still no world class pizza in Seattle. We're picking from the best of the bunch here and our expectations have been conditioned to be low after living for years in Seattle with its poor pizza population. We picked the list of pizza places based on what we thought were representative of the best in town. A couple of traditionally popular places (like Pudge Brothers) we dismissed as we'd been there and were not impressed. Also Tutta Bella and Post Alley Pizza were closed on Sunday. Not sure how a pizza place is closed on Superbowl Sunday but what the hell do I know.

The pizza came in two waves, first in the 1st quarter, and then in the stressful 3rd quarter which was followed by what was about to be a 10 point Patriot scoring run. First, the losers (not Philadelphia). Stellar Pizza & Ale was recommended by Michael and I had high hopes for this place. Their pizza smelled and looked great, but when we ate it, the sauce was too strong in terms of the herb flavor, and just our of balance with everything else. I'd be inclined to try them again just to see if this was an anomaly. Piecora's was greasy and not good. I always walk by Belltown Pizza on my way to Lampreia and the pizza always smells really good. Unfortunately, this pie didn't live up to its aroma and it had some weird black dust (charcoal?). While Tutta Bella was closed, the other hyper-authentic Neapolitan pizza place in town was open - Via Tribunali. Unlike Debbie I actually prefer a more authentic pizza, but this thing was kind of soggy and not great. To be fair to them, they don't offer delivery. But then again, we did eat the pizza 20 minutes after it left their establishment. Here are the results:

 

Pizza Establishment

w/o Holdability

w/Holdability

A New York Pizza Place (WINNER)

156

192

Stellar Pizza & Ale

121

152

Piecora's

117

145

Belltown Pizza

121

144

Via Tribunali

107

126

Pagliacci (WINNER)

156

187

 

Get all the data from PizzaGanza.

As you can see, A New York Pizza Place (recommended by a friend of Allie's) and local chain Pagliacci took the day. Since the holdability category was under such debate, the only fair thing to do is to count the scores without it - which leave these two pizzerias in a tie. The bottom line for me is this: Seattle is still not a town with fantastic pizza in my opinion. Pagliacci is a very decent local pizza. But for me, if I'm looking for something that tastes like I bought it at a pretty good pizzeria in New York, I'm going to A New York Pizza Place. Nothing comes closer.

 

     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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