San Diego Pretty Sweet….

   I’m terrible at blogging, I fully admit.  I keep forgetting.  But I remembered now!  That’s whats most important right!?  Well, Nicole and I are in San Diego and it’s been awesome.  San Diego is way better than San Fran.  Last year we went to San Fran, it was nice……beautiful scenery, great weather, begging, 20 year old homless, etc…….San Diego?  Great weather, beautiful scenery, great beer, great food.   San Diego wins.   Nicole and I have enjoyed our time here.  I love Buffalo, but man, after this winter, San Diego was like heaven.  Nicole couldn’t even drink…..shes a trooper.  I’m not going to lie.   The main reason I wanted to go to San Diego was to drink amazing beer…and that, I did.  As I type this, I haven’t even gotten to Stone yet!
Let me start with this……the staple of the west coast, is that you cannot get good pizza.  I was proven wrong.  I fully admit.  Chicago and New York are kings for pizza, and from everything I have experienced and from everything I have heard, there is shit for pizza on the West.  I was proven wrong this weekend, and pleasantly impressed!  Woodstock’s Pizza on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach is tasty!  Delicious Pizza and top notch beer.  One thing I noticed while in San Diego….every place you go that is able to serve alcohol, has great beer.   We have come a long way in Buffalo with our craft beer scene, but there are still too many places that have a predominant menu of Bud, Coors, Molson, and Sam Adams.

Lets Get back to Woodstock’s.  I ordered the BBQ chicken pizza with a pint of freaking Union jack from Firestone Walker.

I’m a pizza snob.  One might even call me “a dick”.  Whatever, I’ve worked pizza since legal working age, so I know it.  Woodstock’s is as good as you’re going to get not being from NY or Chicago.

     My stepfather and I went out one night after the ladies were asleep in search of a beer oasis.  We found it at the Taproom.  Let me start by saying, that if you are on the West Coast, you should be constantly searching for Russian River’s Pliny The Elder.  I won’t even go into detail about it….if you are into craft beer….do some research. Needless to say, we were lucky enough to run into a freshly tapped barrel which they get only once a week, and gets kicked in a little more than a day.  It’s easily a top 5 IPA of all time.  I had one of those, along with Russian River’s “Blind Pig” which is an IPA, and then Stone’s Ruination on Cask.   The Ruination on Cask was like liquid gold.  If you don’t appreciate cask beer, then you can’t say you are a fan of beer.  With a cask beer, you taste beer in its purest form. If you think of it as just “flat beer”, than you failed to grab the pebble from the master’s hand.  You fu*king failed to capture a fly in the chop sticks and sure as shit didn’t perform the crane kick from a stoop.  The Ruination Cask was sick, and was the best beer I had while in San Diego (so far, I have yet to reach Stone!).

Are you kidding?

Ruination on Cask

Pliney

This trip has been sweet so far.  I’ll have more updates as they come.  I can’t wait till Stone!

Travel Log: First full day of our Chicago Trip

   Yesterday was totally ruined for us with that air plane ordeal.  It had to have been one of the worst airline experiences ever, but on the plus side, I’m glad it was discovered and that we didn’t die.  There was a pressure leak in first engine and it was leaking fluids.  They told us that it would be a half hour wait…..4 different times…..every half our…which equals 2 hours.  This wait would not have been too bad had they not all packed us onto the airplane first.  I could have gotten some food, maybe a beer, and dealt with the delay. But no.  We were just sitting on the airplane the entire time.  Nicole read an entire book, while I made it through a majority of my book:

A pretty decent read if you find David  Byrne  interesting.  Otherwise you will find it insanely  pretentious and you won’t make it through more than a few pages (like Nicole).  I have enjoyed most of it so far.

    We arrived in Chicago around 8-ish and there was no way we were going to make our dinner reservations at a roof top place for dinner.  I was already annoyed.  We arrived at our hotel room shortly after getting off the Rosemont exit on the Blue line.  We are staying at the Hyatt right around the corner from the subway station, and I honestly can’t believe how nice the hotel is.  It looks like its from the future and there’s a sushi bar with fire places.  It’s one of the more unique hotels I’ve stayed at.  
    We dropped off our things and we immediately took off to get downtown.  This day was terrible so there was only one way to deal with that.  Pizza.
We had read awesome things about this place when researching pizza in Chicago.  I’ve had Chicago style pizza in past trips here, mainly ordering to a hotel room from a local mom & pop place, and it was really great.  This was my fist time going to one of the more “famous” pizza destinations.  We were able to sit right down when we arrived and we ordered the “The Malnati Classic” Pizza.  Nicole is right.  If you go somewhere that has a great reputation, and they have a menu item that they point out as being the best thing they make, just order that.  The pizza takes 30 minutes to cook, its something that’s just understood.  These pizzas take time.  The Malnati Classic is made with lean sausage, extra cheese, vine-ripened tomato sauce, on a butter crust.  It was really good.  I figured it was just going to be pieces of sausage. No. It was like a gigantic sheet of sausage that covered the whole top of the pizza. The one thing I noticed from the other Chicago style pizza that I had eaten years back, was that it was not as thick (cheese wise).  Not that I needed more cheese (I need to diet as soon as this trip ends).  The pizza was really good.  I consider myself an expert on pizza, and have a history making all types from the many pizzeria jobs I’ve had and my continued pizza making at home.  I give this place a solid 8 out of 10.  Very good.

    It’s supposed to rain all tomorrow so we are going to be doing most of our outdoor things today.  I’ll be bringing the SLR for some better pictures.

I’m back!

    Things have been crazy heading into the Thanksgiving weekend.  With orders coming in and family visiting, it was impossible to stay current on here.  The holiday has come and gone, so I now have a little time to ramble.  I have some pics from the family gathering we had here the day before Thanksgiving.  It was our first little party we’ve had since owning the house and it turned out great.

Our dog Ric (left) loves hanging out with my parents dog.
I made two pizzas for the gathering, a Buffalo Chicken pizza and a Mediterranean Pizza.

This is the Mediterranean pizza.  I had to remove the tomatoes to get it onto the stone because it was too heavy and I was short on corn meal.

Once I had it on the stone, I was able to complete the toppings.

The Buffalo Chicken pizza was my favorite.  Fresh crumbly blue, cooked chicken, and fresh mixed wing sauce, this is always a favorite.

Ric and I both decided to wear Holiday sweaters, only he wasn’t excited…

I posted this even though its blurry just so you can see my new Holiday sweater.

Vera Pizzeria is Magnificent.

    Over the summer, Nicole and I went with my family to San Francisco to visit my sister.  My favorite place that we visited while vacationing there was called The Alembic Bar.  What made this place special was that they made top notch old school cocktails, and they did them correctly.  You didn’t have some “Joe Schmoe” bartender with average skills behind the bar, you had a true professional.  One of my favorite drinks is a Sazerac, a drink that up until now was impossible to get here in the city of Buffalo.  I say “up until now” because that has finally changed.  “Vera Pizzeria” has brought old school cocktails and impressive pizza to the Elmwood Avenue area.
    We arrived to the restaurant at about 7:30.  It was a full house, but nothing so uncomfortable that we couldn’t wait.  We were given a wait time of about 20 minutes.  That was no problem for me because I was focused on getting to that bar.  The cocktail list was impressive offering a wide variety of drinks and a variety of different whiskey.  I didn’t see the Sazerac and was starting to get bummed out, but we decided to ask just for the hell of it.  The bartender (who all wear vests and sport mustaches) confidently said he made them and was almost excited to do so.  He had all of the essential ingredients including the Sazerac Rye Whiskey and the Peychaud’s Bitters.  He made a generous sized cocktail (almost doubled the size of the Sazerac I had in San Francisco) with one big ice cube in the glass.  It was perfection, and all while giving  me the history of the drink.  I couldn’t have been more happy.

Earning my trust before making the Sazerac with a few key ingredients.  P.s. I tipped more than one dollar, contrary to what that stray bill on the bar makes it seem like.
Splendid.

   We were seated a bit earlier than the estimated time and pleasantly, we had great seat by the window.  While we waited, instead of the standard bread basket being placed on our table, we were happily surprised with a bowl of Greek olives.  

The Sazerac makes another appearance.  Clearly I’m obsessed.

The selection of pizza was fantastic.  With all of the pizza competition in the area, you really have to be one step ahead and offer something truly special.  Vera Pizzeria did just that.  It was difficult to choose, so Nicole, our friend Kristina, and I each ordered a different pizza so that we could try them all.  Nicole ordered the Porchetta Pizza which was red wine braised pork shoulder, oil cured olives, fresh herbs, and Fontina cheese.  This pizza was superb.  The pork was cooked perfectly, so incredibly tender and juicy.  I was jealous of her dish.

Porchetta

Kristina ordered the House Made Sausage Pizza which was a San Marzano Tomato Sauce with house made Italian sausage, Fennel, and shaved Parmesan.  It was fresh, very tasty, and slowly grew increasingly spicy with every bite.

House Made Sausage

I ordered the Fig Jam and Prosciutto pizza which consisted of Bosc Pears, Arugula, Truffle Oil, Fig Jam and Prosciutto.  It was the perfect blend of flavors ending with the sweet, but not overly so, flavors of the Fig Jam.  It was different and exciting.

Fig Jam and Prosciutto

This was exactly was Buffalo was missing and now we have it.  Top notch pizza, classic cocktails made by professionals, and a great atmosphere – “Vera Pizzeria”  is a class act.  Bravo.

Vera Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Welcome New Readers! A Caprese Pizza!

    Hello to all my new readers!  The amount of readers has greatly increased over the past few weeks so before I get started on today’s post, I want to re-introduce myself.  My name is Aaron and I am the owner/operator of The Super Sweet Shirt Co. which is an online T-shirt and Baby Clothes company that I run here in Buffalo, NY.  You can see my things at supersweetshirts.com. I don’t use this blog to promote products, unless I’m doing a demo on the creative process for a new design.  I mainly write beer reviews, wine reviews, restaurant reviews for Buffalo and other cities that I travel to, recipes for things that I cook, and home repair projects.  This Monday we will be closing on our house so there will be plenty of things to write about and things that I can share.  So if any of these things interest you, bookmark this page.  Let’s get started with tonight’s dinner:  “Caprese Tofu Pizza”.

    Here is what you will need:

A Pizza Stone
Balsamic Vinegar
Roma Tomatoes
Mozzarella Cheese
Tofu (optional)
Minced Garlic
Olive Oil 
Pizza Dough
Basil
Ground Pepper
Corn Meal
    Sprinkle some corn meal onto your surface.  Take your dough that you have and depending on how large it comes in size, cut it accordingly.  If the dough sticks to your surface, then use more corn meal, it should not stick or become difficult to work with on your surface.  Here in Buffalo, Wegmans has amazing pizza dough but each package comes with a large quantity, so for this pizza I cut it in half.  With any dough, you want to roll it, whether in your hand or with a pin.  This squeezes out any air bubbles in the dough so that you won’t have any undesirable, gigantic bubbles on your pizza while its in the oven.  After you get the air out of the dough, you want to pound it out.

If you don’t have a pizza background, you can use a rolling pin.  After you pound your dough out, preheat the oven, with the stone in it, at 475 degrees.  We want to get that stone hot so that the bottom of the pizza gets nice and stiff. That way we don’t have a soggy pizza.  Pizzas with a decent amount of tomatoes or with greasy things like pepperoni can create a lot of liquid while cooking and if the pizza doesn’t stiffen up, it will get sloppy.  Transfer your dough that you pounded out onto your pizza spatula, or something else that you can easily transfer a pizza with ingredients on it.  You’ll slide this onto the stone after the ingredients have been put into place.  Make sure you have a generous amount of corn meal on the spatula especially if your pizza is going to be heavy.  This will allow the pizza to slide off the spatula and onto the stone without sticking.  This takes some practice so if its your first time, use a lot of corn meal. 

(Glass of wine optional)

After you corn meal your spatula, place your dough on it and spread olive oil over the top until it is coated nicely.  Make sure you leave a ring around the pizza that doesn’t have olive oil on it which would be your crust.  Sprinkle minced garlic all over the oiled area.  The amount is up to you, we love garlic so we went heavy.  I didn’t put a specific amount for any of the ingredients because I believe that it should be up to the person cooking and what they would prefer.   Take your Roma tomatoes, slice them up, and place them around the pizza until the entire area is covered.  The next part is clearly optional.  My girlfriend was in the mood for a little more substance when we were making this so we added cubed pieces of precooked tofu.  We then covered the pizza with fresh slices of mozzarella cheese, a sprinkle of ground pepper, some basil, and a drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar.

Take your pizza and slide it onto the stone in the oven, close the door, and lower the temp to 450 degrees.  The pizza will take about 10 minutes to cook.  You can tell when its done when the cheese is nice and melted and the crust is a golden brown.  Remember, you don’t want to use too much dough at the temperature we are cooking at or else the pizza will look done, but the dough will be “doughy” on the inside.  Enjoy!

Check back tomorrow for a review of Saigon Bangkok on Elmwood Ave in Buffalo NY, a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant that has been around for a while but have never had a chance to get to until this weekend.  Also check out below as I captured a video of the party scene at our grocery store.  If you are not familiar with Wegmans, it is unlike any grocery store in the world.  The one near us jams out ridiculous music in the cafe portion of the store.  The guys behind Nicole were having a blast during lunch! Cheers!

                                                                                              
     

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