Sunday, October 31, 2010

Adventure #28 Pizza Paradise

When I texted to Karin that we were going here, I will admit that I called it Paradise Pizza. I will not make the same mistake again!

Pizza Paradise, located off of Metric near the ACC Northridge campus, is a local carry-out and delivery spot - no tables to speak of here! I didn't know this when I led Karin here, and we had to hustle our order back to her house before it cooled too much. When we got there, here's what we found:

We had ordered a Greek pie: Kalmata olives, banana peppers, red onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, and Italian seasonings. We also threw in an order of Paradise Sticks, their specialty breadsticks.

The first thing I have to say about this pizza is about the crust. I'm normally a fan of pan-style and deep-dish pies, and this was no exception - the crust was thick and chewy. However, it didn't measure up to some of my other favorites in the genre - maybe the seasoning on the crust or the topping to crust ratio? For the record, Karin is a big fan of the seasoning on the crust and didn't seem to have the same issues I had.

The rest of the pie was above average - nice tomatoey Marinara sauce without excess spices, just the right amount of Kalmata olives (not enough to overpower the pie), and a good seasoning blend to give it a little flavor to compete with the olives and banana peppers.

The only thing that may throw people off is the feta cheese - Karin found it slightly off-putting, but I didn't notice until she said something. (Funny how that goes!)

As for the breadsticks - the marinara is delicous, as is the garlic/spice mixture that goes on top of them. I think they're a little bready (no pun, seriously), but they are tasty and will put a major dent in your hunger.

- Ian

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventure #27 - The Onion

There came a time last week when I was having a terrible day. I NEEDED pizza (and the added benefit of excellent companionship didn't hurt either). We decided to go down to The Onion downtown. The Onion is a special place. The motto on its website is "The best pizza you'll never remember eating." I'm here to tell you that it's worth the time and effort to go downtown sober and order a pie.* But don't worry, if you are drunk and stumble in for a slice (get the whole pie! You won't regret it!), your drunken buddy won't steal the parmesan shaker because it's duct taped to the counter (because The Onion is to pizza joints what Cheers** is to bars).

Ian and I disagreed about where exactly this pizza fell on a scale of deliciousness. We agreed that the cheese was fantastic. He felt that the sauce, while deliciously tangy, was a little too sweet. I am okay with sweet sauce and was definitely happy with the quantity of sauce (they were generous), so the biggest issue with the pizza for me was that the crust felt a little underdone. I am a pizza optimist though and would like to think that experimenting with special instructions such as "light sauce" or "well done" (or perhaps catching the pizzaiola in a different mood) might yield a heavenly pizza.

Regarding toppings, we settled on "The Italian" specialty which has pepperoni, sausage, black olives, mushrooms, and garlic (Yes, the above picture looks like a drunkard took it. Perhaps I was channeling my surroundings without realizing it). I had a hard time tasting the garlic through the rest of the ingredients, but I was ok with that despite the fact that I'm a huge garlic fan. The sausage was tasty, the pepperoni was greasy, and the black olives and mushrooms rounded out the pizza well.

I suppose it is worth repeating that despite the small problems with the pizza, I will definitely be recommending it as good downtown pizza.


*When talking about downtown pizzerias, I think it's important to point out, as a caution, the difference between getting a slice of pizza and getting a whole pie and that a slice of pizza can't be used to predict the quality of a pie and a pie can't be used to predict the quality of a slice. When I say slice, I mean walking into a joint (or up to a cart), seeing the displayed pizzas, picking one out, and having them heat it. The pizzas that are used for slices are par-cooked (which is why they look rather disgusting as compared to fully cooked pies) so that when they reheat them they don't get over-cooked. The consistency of a slice is inevitably either drier or soggier than what you might get if you order a pie.

**Every city in the world has a dive bar named Cheers right?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Adventure #26 - Red House Pizzeria

It's a cool crisp autumn evening. You want to sit outside, drink some cocktails, and eat some pizza. While you're at it, it would be nice if you could get some people-watching in. Where do you go?

It's red, it's a a house, it's a pizzeria.

Red House Pizzeria, on Manor Road in between Vivo and El Chile, is your new hipster hangout-cum-pizza joint. Not as divey as Jack's, not as refined as House, Red House provides smaller pies with hearty toppings and a delicate, balanced crust. While they only have a limited number of specialty pies, don't be afraid to throw some toppings together on your own. Karin and I figured this one out by way of a happy accident.

We weren't going to learn much about anything other than pepperoni, having ordered the Double Pepperoni, consisting of cheese, pepperoni and . . . more pepperoni!

What came out was pepperoni and sausage. We didn't have to point this out to our cute tattoo-sleeved waitress -- she admitted the kitchen mistake right off the bat, and offered to have our original pizza made for us. We told her that we would roll with it in true Adventurer style. This paid off double - we got to taste some awesome sausage AND had our waitress return to tell us she would be bringing us out a double pepperoni pie before we left. WIN!

Ok, I'll finally talk about the pizza. DOUBLE PIE EVALUATION!

Not only did I sneak a piece of the 2x pepperoni, but I ended up eating my share of this pie within 10 minutes of getting home.

Here's my eval of the Double Pepperoni:

Pepperoni - greasy, thick, meaty.
Crust - light, slightly soggy in the middle due to grease, perfectly chewy with crispness on the edges
Cheese - tasty and just a little stretchy.
Sauce - just plain good

Sausage and pepperoni:

The only difference between the two pies is the subtraction of a few pepperonis and addition of some freaking awesome sausage. Characteristics of the sausage: moist, spicy, sweet, awesome.

Our waitress let us know that all toppings are prepared/cooked in-house and we believe it.

This place is legit.

- Ian

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adventure #25 - Return to Eastside Pies

After adventuring to 24 different pizza joints it's becoming clear that there are a few places that deserve 2nd visits; these are places that Ian and I find ourselves returning to on our own, bringing guests to, and recommending, sometimes after only one visit ourselves. Eastside Pies is one of those places. The first time, we were impressed with the pizza overall but the sausage was a little bland. On return visits Ian swears that the sausage was flavorful, making the pizza delicious. I'm a sucker for a menu with creative names (there's a pizza called the Moon Dingo), so when we decided to revisit somewhere, Eastside Pies was a natural choice.

Before I talk about the pizza, I want to spend a moment on the service. When we arrived there was a couple of people in line ahead of us but the place wasn't packed. The kitchen seemed hectic, but that's not unusual for packing five or six guys into a little space and a busy night. After ordering we went to sit on the patio (the only seating area) to wait for our garlic knots (more rolls than knots) which were promised to us as soon as they came out of the oven since Ian was famished. Slices kept coming out of the window and even though we knew that people had ordered after us we figured that our knots would be out any minute. Eventually a to-go order came out that had knots as well. We thought they might be ours, but when we went to inquire at the window they had not only lost our order, but had completely forgotten that we'd ordered at all. Two different guys came out to apologize (and they upgraded our pizza from the 14 to the 18 inch), but it doesn't change the fact that we waited 30-40 minutes when it should have been 15-20. The whole thing made me a bit grumpy and less able to enjoy the pizza when it finally did come out, so some of the enjoyment of the pizza that you'll read shortly was gleaned from my experience reheating the slices the next day.*

We got the Homer, a pizza topped with meatballs, roasted red peppers, onions, and habanero peppers (allegedly). Here's the breakdown:
-Crust: still good, very thin, didn't hold up as well in the 18 inch size as it did in the 14 inch.
-Sauce: still delicious, adds flavor to the pizza and made what little edge there was tasty
-Meatballs: these were amazing, I never want to have a pizza there again that doesn't have meatballs on it. They were spicy and worked well on a pizza.
-Roasted red peppers & onions: they were there, no surprises
-Habanero peppers: MIA. The window-dude said that he personally put them on the pizza and that perhaps they weren't as spicy because of when they were picked.

Overall, I wanted so badly to like this place as much as everyone else seems to and I can't say that I necessarily dislike it. For me, it's still in a limbo-land of pizza places that I'll need to visit again to pass judgment on.

*For having a very thin crust the slices reheat surprisingly well. The crust holds together and doesn't get soggy even though it is soft and floppy. The sauce didn't create a weird slimy layer that I've found some other reheated pizzas have.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Adventure #24 - Garlic Breath

Where do you turn when you're absolutely starving? Do you seek perfection from a gourmet Margherita? No. Do you go to the local pizza smörgåsbord buffet and load up? Ugh, I hope not.

Here's what you do - you speed your way up I-35 to Garlic Breath in Round Rock. There were 4 of us. We were starving. This called for something serious. Bring in the Taco Pizza.

Refried beans, salsa (these served as the base), beef, black olives, Doritos. We also had jalapeños placed on this pie.

*watches all those who are reading this at 3am in their underwear start to grab their car keys before realizing that the restaurant is closed*

Now, don't let me characterize this all as only food for the starved or stoned. By all accounts, this is a competent pizzeria. The crust was sturdy enough to hold the thick beans and heavy toppings, but was also flavorful. The beans were just the right consistency, and the toppings were all in proportion. My only complaint about this pie is that the ground beef was plain and slightly flavorless. Would this have changed if we chose steak or chicken? I'm not sure, but maybe you should try if you're up in Round Rock.

P.S. - We also had some cheesy garlic bread as an appetizer. I loved the size of these - they were like buttery, cheesy, crispy morsels.

- Ian