Monday, June 29, 2009

Pizza Party

My friend Tyler has been telling me for months about the pizza oven he designed in his backyard. Being that he lives in Culver City and I live in South Pasadena and my least favorite thing in the entire world is traffic, I never went to see it. Recently, after he viewed all of the pizzas I made during the NBA Finals, he challenged me to bring over some Fresh & Easy pizza dough and compete against fresh dough he made and cooked in his pizza oven.

Now, I love the pizzas I make, but I am under no illusions: store-bought dough cooked in my kitchen oven will never, ever be able to compete against fresh dough cooked in the high heat of a wood-burning pizza oven. This would be like Dwight Howard challenging me to a game of one-on-one. Yeah, I can probably shoot free throws better than he can, but the final score of a one-on-one game would be about whatever-number-we-played-to to zero. So I declined the challenge, but said I would certainly be willing to come over and eat some pizza. Sunday night Tyler had a bunch of friends over and cooked up some pizzas.

Long story short, it was a fantastic evening, one of the most fun I have had in a long time. I couldn't stay late, but I stayed long enough to enjoy quite a few pizzas.

Only a tiny sampling of the ingredients that were available.

The first pie to be made was a simple one to get things started: a zesty, homemade red sauce, spicy Italian sausage, and mozzarella. The oven was slightly hotter than it needed to be and the crust got a little bit charred, but this was an excellent pie and it set the bar quite high. Tyler's brother, my good friend Zach, did an excellent job rotating the pie (and the subsequent pies) in the oven to ensure it was the highest quality possible.

A girl standing by me, whose name I did not catch, requested a pizza with prosciutto, pineapple, peppers and mushrooms. This was met with a bit of a laugh (although not by me.) Elizabeth and I shared a slice of this. It was good but not one of our favorites - there was too much going on.While I had my head turned, Tyler threw together a pizza of goat cheese, sauteed leeks and roasted garlic. I have never enjoyed leeks but I have to admit, this pizza was very good. I would not complain if I ate this pizza again. I think using the goat cheese was pure genius; it would not have been good with mozzarella.Tyler made a pizza of spinach, mozzarella, and pancetta. I am not sure if I have ever had pancetta on a pizza before, but I guarantee I will again. This pizza was spectacular. It was Elizabeth's favorite pizza of the evening and my second favorite. My new friend Amy made a pizza of goat cheese, spinach, roasted garlic and squash blossoms. I was not sure if I was going to enjoy this, although I have to admit it was the prettiest-looking pizza I have ever seen in my life. It turns out, I really like squash blossoms. Who'd a thunk it?At one point I asked Tyler which pizza was coming next. "You call it," he said. So I requested my standard roasted garlic and basil. He pulled several cloves of garlic from a pan of about a dozen roasted bulbs, sprinkled them liberally on the pie, and added the basil. Zach took extra special care of this one in the oven, pulling it out at the perfect point. This was the best pizza I have had in a long, long time. It would remain so for approximately 12 minutes.
I suggested some goat cheese and spinach at another point, Tyler cocked his head in my direction, as if he was pondering that. "And some sausage," I said. He smiled, as if he was tremendously proud of my idea, although in retrospect it's possible he was just drunk. He threw that pizza together and it cooked quickly. It was excellent and went perfectly with the sweating bottle of Pacifico in my hand.
Someone got the idea for a meat pizza and Zach and his friend began constructing it with what I can only describe as mastery. It was like watching Jimi Hendrix perform a perfect solo, and I wouldn't have been upset if Zach had just let the thing burn in the oven while he prayed to it. Ok, I would have been slightly upset, as this was one of the best pizzas I have ever had. In addition to basil and mozzarella, it contained pancetta, pepperoni, and sausage. Tyler was angry with himself afterwards that he hadn't put prosciutto on it as well, but I think it was just fine without.
The last pizza of the evening that I tried (who knows what creations they came up with after I left) was the barbecue chicken. This was good, especially with roasted garlic added to the chicken. I have a feeling that if I had eaten this pizza on any other occasion I would be raving about it. But coming after that epic three-meat pizza it fell a little short, which I know is unfair. The Gene Bartow of pizzas.
And, of course, as any good pizza party needs, there was... Korean barbecue. I'm not sure why it was there (are there people who don't eat pizza but eat Korean barbecue?) but I can't complain, because it was absolutely fantastic. It was marinated in the perfect ratio of spices and there was hardly any fat on it. If I had just eaten this and nothing else I would have loved the dinner. As it was, combined with Tyler and Zach's efforts with the pizza, it was the best meal I have had in months.


SuperLarge said...


Zachary said...

Great re-cap. The KBBQ was there b/c Logan was on a low carb diet. But trust me, he LOVES pizza.

JustinM said...

You gotta love Southern California. The white guy is on a low carb diet so he's grilling perfect bulgogi while the two Asian guys are throwing together amazing pizzas and cooking them in the outdoor oven. And we're all drinking Mexican beers.

Zachary said...

Yes, and the Mexican (Tom) wasn't doing any work. Go figure.

Oh, and the mystery girl's name is Gina.

amy t. said...

that looks like an amazing party!

Liz said...

Ok, seriously...when are we doing this again? The pizza was AMAZING!