Monday, July 25, 2016

The People vs. Pinthouse Pizza

Majority Opinion from Chief Pizza Justice Karin:

The first time I went to Pinthouse Pizza on Burnet, I was not a fan (Adventure #55: Pinthouse Pizza). It was overcrowded and noisy (you may notice I have a problem with restaurants who get so noisy that I have to yell in order to have a conversation with my tablemates). On top of that, the pizza just wasn't that great.

Yes, I took this picture before I knew I was going to be adventuring again. Old habits die hard!

Now I'm a whole-hearted convert. They have a new(er) location at Ben White and Lamar and I can't pin it down exactly, but the pizza has improved. Maybe a new dough recipe? a new topping philosophy? Either way, I know that whatever pizza I get there is going to be amazing. Let's take the case of a BBQ chicken pizza. Normally, this would not be a pizza I would ever eat. BBQ sauce does not belong on a pizza. Chicken doesn't belong on a pizza. BUT, I've come to trust Pinthouse so much, that when it was their monthly special last month, I ordered it. I didn't like it, but if there was ever to be a BBQ chicken pizza that I liked, it would have been that one. It had a great balance of sweet and acidic and the chicken was neither over-cooked nor drowned out.

The Houdini

On this adventure, we went with this month's "Off the Map Pie" (and hopefully something they'll bring back), the Houdini. It is a pizza that goes in the category of "best things I've ever put in my mouth". Up there with a salami white cheddar with an egg on it from House Pizzeria or the Detroiter from Via 313. It has to be tasted to be believed.

Sliced zuchini are the base of the texture for this pizza, then the big dollops of ricotta provide bites of sweet creaminess. Along with the cheese and crust you might expect to fall into an umami coma, but the olive oil on this pizza is actually a lemon emulsion and it wakes the whole pie up. Topping it off is fresh basil, exactly the right herbal note.

I'll admit that this adventure wasn't my first Houdini, I've had three this month and I'll have at least one more before the month's out.

The Cannonball

For our 2nd pie we decided on The Cannonball, aka the meat parade. Every other meat parade should take note. Ham and pepperoni for variant pork flavor, sausage for chewiness, bacon for crunch, with cheese to hold the whole thing together.

I've actually never had The Cannonball before (I don't usually go for the meat parade on my own), but it was everything I could have wanted. Every bite was a meaty party in my mouth and the crust holds up surprisingly well to the onslaught.

Speaking of crust, Pinthouse has an amazing delivery-style crust. It's light enough to be an effective topping delivery system, but flavorful and chewy around the edges. Perfect for dipping in whatever sauce you have laying around from your appetizer or enjoying with just the soaked-in grease of the pizza.

El Queso doesn't look like much, but looks are deceiving.

Pizza wasn't the only new thing we tried. We took advantage of our indulgent mood and tried El Queso (and salsa). The menu lists it as "ale queso" and I'm not sure what that means, but it was certainly less salty and more ?meaty? than other queso I've had.

Our final indulgence was a beer. I tried Lil Sebastian at the recommendation of the bartender. I am always happy when I can walk up to a bar, explain what kind of beer I'm looking for, and the bartender has a recommendation. In this case, I wanted something yeasty, wheaty, and leaning more toward sweet than bitter. Lil Sebastian is Pinthouse's in-house Belgian-style and it hit every one of those notes.

Overall, I can't recommend Pinthouse enough.

Pizza Justice Kevin, concurring:

I write separately to point out the difficulty of a subtle pizza. Like so many of the foods we go out of our way for, a subtle pizza has not only flavor, but rarity to recommend it. I very much enjoyed the Cannonball, which didn't wear any meat without good cause. The Houdini, however, is creative in a way that is seen rarely, and which works even more rarely. The flavors are subtle while being interesting, and the landmines of ricotta provided a sweetness that blended neatly.

I would also emphasize the queso - it's certainly more savory than other queso I've had, and the flavor has more depth. I found the different flavor works a little more naturally as a counterpoint to the saltiness of a tortilla chip. I'd also note that the salsa, though less surprising, was excellent. Fresh, with a bite.

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