Tag Archives: Pizza

The SliceMan Finisheth

Hi World, it’s ILTTAG’s first post of a brand new, fluffy, sweet-smelling year.  Hope the first half of January has been kind to you and yours. On a blog where the whole idea is to look at the little things which make this world a better place to hang out what is good enough to lead with?  Well, it’s early enough in the month of January that resolutions are still a relevant subject matter. Most of us will be at hat point where we are testing out our New Year’s Resolutions, if indeed you were brave or crazy enough to make any.  To be honest…if you’ve still kept yours by the time I’ll likely be done with this post (I’m guessing mid to end of January) then well done, sir or madame! I salute your willpower.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Today’s entry celebrates both my love of pizza, my love of NYC, and the tenacity of a dedicated blogger.

172. Sliceharvester.com  www.sliceharvester.com

The gist is this: a pizza lover and native New Yorker does a top to bottom appraisal of EVERY by-the-slice pizza joint in Manhattan…and the island is lousy with them. If you consider ALL of NYC’s boroughs you actually get past the thousand mark). I only discovered this blog recently because Huffingtonpost reported that he–the author– had finished his gastronomic odyssey.  What a wonderful idea, eh?  Just when you think there is nothing new under the sun, somebody finds a novel approach. And what perseverance! I envy his willpower…and his geographical location. What this blog says to me is that you CAN see things through…you just have to choose more awesome and delicious goals.

Better, more delicious goal-setting

This guy writes in a style which is very more-ish.  He also knows a lot about music…so if you dig on indie rock you’ll probably enjoy reading it on more than one level. I think he’s ALMOST a hipster but he comes across as earnest enough to pass my instantaneous and totally unwarranted judgment.  I mean, I think you can be someone who appreciates kitsch and pop references and mom jokes and still NOT be a hipster douchebag.  Plus, here’s his criticism of someone’s ‘smug’ attitude on a blog he was reading a pizza article from: “I am now 100% certain that whoever is involved with this blog is a total boneroni and needs to get run through a cycle in the douchewasher. I am seriously so pissed.”  So, this guy, who mostly remains anonymous throughout his blogs…but is reported to be Colin Hagendorf…checks out, I reckon. Here’s a big old news article celebrating his reaching of the finish line:  WSJ

I like Mr. Slice Harvester because I can relate. In an early post, he mentions he’s got a band, two jobs (including one where he waits tables at a diner–I was in restaurants for ages!), several side projects AND he was running his blog and printing a zine. Well, shut my mouth next time I gripe about not having enough down time between my day job, my sketch troupe, my stand-up gigs, my wife-being, and my blog-writing to play Arkham City. But, I think an important point to take from his success is also to make your side projects FUN. It’s bad enough working to make a living. But, if you want to exercise your creative impulses too, make sure you’re having a good time.

Immediately, upon starting to read this blog, I had questions.  How does one realistically plan out a task that involves that much chewing and metro-card use, I wondered.  Well, I found that Mr. Harvester started at the northernmost tip of Manhattan and then gradually worked his way down both the east and west sides. Usually, he had one day of the week dedicated to pizza eating.  In fact, he ate 7-9 pieces a day once a week on average.  He also changed up the friends he met every week–which I’m sure helped to keep it interesting and fun. I’m curious about whether or not other foods were consumed that day or if did a sort of Man VS Food style approach of water only…maybe even consumed the day before.

Anyway, back to the SUBJECT contained within the pages of sliceharvester. Pizza.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about pizza in this blog.  See here: Pizza Boy and here: Artichoke  I love it. Pizza is always the answer to the question: If you could only ever eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza is delicious, potentially nutritous, the ideal fix for a meal at teenage slumber parties.  It’s just fun!  What other meal gets its own game? (Ok…mabye besides Hamburger Time).  The commercial jingle for this has been in my head all week.

Whilst I am enjoying my daily journey through the backlogs of his blog, it is horribly painful in some ways too.  Each blog post has at least one centerfold of a pic. They are literally mouth-watering these pics..this photographic journalism…this pizza porn.  Even when the review is a bad one, the pictures still look pretty damn good.  Here is a sample. I should mention that this isn’t my pic and is property of sliceharvester.  Speaking of which…a LOT of the pics I swipe to decorate this blog aren’t mine.  I need to sort that out. Do I need to credit photogs or what?  Who  knows this info? What if no credit is listed? Does it matter at all that I make zero cash money from this blog? Help me Google, you’re my only hope.  Anyway, here’s the pictorial equivalent of my own personal longing:

Gah!

I can sympathize with the onus for this quest as I am oft-praising NYC-style pizza and bemoaning the fact that it only seems to exist in NYC.   Though there are some US cities where locally owned pizzerias (non chain) can create a reasonable facsimile to that crispy yet chewy, zesty-saucy, melty-cheesy perfect slice…I have yet to see anything close to resembling the stuff in the UK. I swear, the good people of Manchester must find me to be the most annoyingly patriotic chump.

How shit is this? I live near a take-away that is actually called ‘By the Slice’. By. The. Slice. These humps DO NOT SELL PIZZA BY THE SLICE. They sell terrible terrible terrible whole pizzas…often ordered by the locals with the abomination of tuna and sweet corn as toppings (this is common in England–if you can find it a can, you can dump it on your pizza). Furthermore, they’re  more of a burger shop and fried chicken joint anyway. Sliceharvester has opinions about joints that spread themselves too thin like that.  If you are putting burgers on your menu, you are NOT giving your pizza enough attention. Anything further removed than a calzone at a pizza house is not a good sign.  Anyway, this joint, By The Slice, is a cruel tease.

Recently, I read a glowing review of the place on yelp.com.  The reviewer actually called it the most NYC-like pizza in Manchester.  So, I ordered one.  Here’s what it looked like:

Here it is...

The only thing that reminds me of home about this pizza is the little plastic dollhouse table that they have stuck in the middle of it.

The pizza took over an hour to come–let me remind you, this place is a block away from me–, it was lukewarm, had too much cheese and  not enough sauce, and a spongey moist crust. Heartbreaking.

The only purpose that I can think of for this pizza is if someone had to force feed you something of caloric value because you had so much to drink that you blacked out…they saw that you were barfing even in your black-out state and that you needed something to line your stomach and hence prevent your death. Only then…and if administered in the smallest does possible.

I’m currently reading these blog posts in order and haven’t come across some of my fave shops yet. (I mostly hung out in lower Manhattan when I lived there and I’m only at the Upper East Side part of his journey right now.)  So, I’m hoping we have a mutual appreciation of both Artichoke and Pizza Mercato. I’m curious how much we overlap in what makes a good slice.  We shall see.  At any rate, next time I pay New York a visit, I will hit the travelogue of sliceharvester up again. Maybe I’ll try somewhere new.

In non-pizza related news.  I just HATE HATE HATE people who kick my seat in the movie theatre. I hate it so much I started a FaceBook page. If you don’t like that either–getting kicked repeatedly when you’re trying to watch the latest Pixar film…or chatty morons, or people who leave their phones on…or who smell really bad…or any other level of ill-mannered movie-going behaviour, join up! You are welcome here… https://www.facebook.com/pages/Society-Against-Chair-Kickers-SACK/262865050442950

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Fine Artichoke

Pizza must be the most perfect food ever devised.  It can satisfy vegans, omnivores, and big fat slobs alike.   It has the potential to capture as many or as few of the food groups as you wish…depending on the toppings you order.  It combines multiple textures in each bite.  It can be enjoyed hot or cold and I could eat it at any point in the day.  It’s even OK when it’s not great.  But, when it’s good it is divine.  It is truly the ambrosia of street-food.  100% of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can’t be wrong.

Splinter better get in there if he wants a piece.

That is why pizza is today’s great thing:

140.  Pizza

Though I’m writing in a sort of general sense about the theme of pizza, a very deep well indeed, the reason that I feel so sparked to do this today specifically is because I just uploaded some pictures from my recent trip to NYC onto my Facebook page.  In that collection was a pic of a slice I had from a hole in the wall called Artichoke on 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Ave.  It was the best piece of pizza I’ve ever had in my life, I believe, and even thinking about it now floods my mouth with saliva.  Disgusting, digestion-prepping saliva.  Before I go into mouth-drenching depth about what this slice was like, let’s discuss OTHER types of pizza that are out there.

First, let’s talk about chain restaurant pizza.  You’ve got Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, Papa John’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and Pizza Hut to name a few.  Now, I’m not one of those haters that’s gonna  proclaim all of these joints as awful.  They serve a need, I suppose.  Their efforts may not be the result of a loving hand, but as I mentioned earlier, even pizza that’s just OK is a treat.  Out of all these national and international pizza-shillers, I’d actually say that I’m most a fan of the HUT!  This is, of course, because it is probably one of the worst of the chain pizzas, fat and calorie-wise.  The magic is in their pan pizza formula– which essentially creates a deep fat fried pizza, since it’s being cooked not simply on an oven tray but in a pan with larded sides.  Superb and deadly.

One thing that used to annoy me about the Personal Pan Pizza, however, is that they would tuck the pepperoni under the cheese.  It is my opinion, that the pepperoni should be on TOP of the cheese, allowing the heat to curl the sulfite-riddled pork disc up to a crispy, penny-sized topping.  If it’s left to its own devices UNDER the cheese, it will never achieve this beautiful second life.

Pizza Hut leaves its mark wherever it lives.  Not just because it increases the average local person’s BMI, but because if a branch should ever go out of business and become say–a used book store…or a burrito joint–it will NEVER stop looking like a Pizza Hut.  Its unique structure–its husk– is the shell husk for hermit-crab business to crawl into.

It's an H & R Block now!

On the other hand, they can’t really compete with the unique deliciousness on offer from locally owned pizzerias.  By ordering from the local joints, you’re also supporting family businesses…I’d like a large pizza with green peppers, jalapenos, and self-righteousness.

Most of the local places near where I grew up in Erie offered a sort of puffy-crusted, stodgy great-lakes style pie.  I imagine that this is what MOST pizzas are like across America, allowing for some taste-variations with types of topping, differences in ingredients used, sauce-to-cheese ratio, how local water supply can taint the flavour of the crust, etc…  Personal favourites of mine in Erie included Barbados, who also made top quality subs, and Mr. Pizza—purveyer of square pizzas with pepperoni so perfectly crisped that you couldn’t help but pick them off to eat first.

Then, there are the famous regional styles of pizza.

Chicago has the scrumptious deep-dish style to its name.   It is so artery-clogging that, delicious as it is, I think I could only eat it if I planned on making that my SOLE meal of the day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but…like KFC’s double down, there’s never any good excuse to eat it.  The guilt would far outweigh the pleasure.  And very few food items could make me feel that way.

The best city for pizza, according to me and my highly informed mozzarella-bloated gut, is New York.  Now, you could pretty much walk into any old hole-in-the-wall and walk out with a satisfying slice of thin, al-dente crusted, grease-pool-laden pizza.  Pizza has never been so easy.  I soooo wish the UK had a NYC-style ‘by the slice’ place.  Alas, it’s all kebabs when you’re drunk and hungry.

Whilst there’s not much chance of you getting a bad slice in NY, there are a few categorizeable varieties:

A.)  Rays–This is your bog-standard slice.  I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, of course.  I mean that it’s this:  The norm…

B.)  Pastsy’s style–Anything that’s sold as coal/brick/or wood-burning oven.  Typically, these places are less ‘by the slice’ establishments and more ‘order a whole pizza with your family’ places.  The notable difference is in the change to the crust.  The ‘burning’ method…whichever it is that they use…typically adds a smokey flavor to the dough and crisps it up a bit more.  Usually, the finished product is a bit thinner too…

C.)  Novelty slices–I can think of a couple of establishments in the city that dare to be different.  Two Boots cooks up pizzas influenced by ‘two boot’ destinations–boot-shaped Louisiana and boot-shaped Italy.  It’s hits the Cajun angle fairly well and has fun specialty pies that are all named after films/movie characters.  (The Mr. Pink has chicken on it, I believe).  Two Boots.  Another angle that seems to be cropping up a bit more is the ‘Pizza Truck’.  NYC has some of the best mobile food vendors in the world.  It’s not all just stale pretzels and lukewarm hot dogs.  If you ever walk by a food cart in the city and notice a long line, it’s worth hopping into the queue.  I grabbed a slice of pizza from this particular vehicle when I was visiting my friend Nikki down by Wall Street.  It was surprisingly awesome.  It was saucey, with a sharp parmesan finish.  Delish:  Grandma\’s Pizza Truck

Well, imagine if all three of those varieties came together in one glorious slice.  What’s that?  You can’t because you don’t want to be disappointed by yet another unachievable dream?  Well, you’re wrong.  It CAN be done.  It HAS been done.  Here’s where we circle back to talking about Artichoke on 14th Street:

Like a kid in some kind of store...

Don't mind my grease-blotting napkin...

On my recent visit, I was lucky enough to be asked to read at a supercool event, Sideshow:  The Queer Literary Carnival Sideshow .  I really have to thank the amazingly talented Cheryl B. and Sinclair Sexmith.  First of all, they put me on the show:  It was super fun, I met some excellent people, and it made me feel smart.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they invited me to take part in their post-show ritual of a visit to Artichoke.  Without them, I may have ended my summer sojourn to NYC without going or even knowing about its existence.  I don’t want to live in the alternate reality where that might have happened.

Artichoke is the best of all three varieties because:

A.  It has a by-the-slice mentality like Rays…complete with orange grease pools on each slice.  But, it uses sauce a bit more liberally than most Rays-style joints.  I like that.  I’m a fan of the sauce.

B.  It’s smoky-crusted like Patsy’s.  It had a delightfully singed but still somewhat chewy consistency.  Plus, just look at that beautiful basil, will ya?

C. It has its own novelty slice (the Artichoke-style looks like it uses artichoke dip INSTEAD of tomato sauce…it’s very popular).  But, it doesn’t spend all of it’s energy trying to be weird or different.  It’s confident and brassy like Debbie Harry.  Not trying too hard, like Ke$ha.

Artichoke's Sicilian style...

Artichoke is slightly more expensive by the slice (by about a buck), but you get what you pay for.  Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s highly recommended.  Probably the best thing to come out of Staten Island (where it originated), in a long time.  Artichoke

Finally, and back to the general theme of pizza, it’s what I miss most (foodily-speaking) about The States.  When people ask, “Gee, Kate, you’ve been over in England a long-ass time, what do you miss most about home?”,  I normally shout desperately ‘pizza’ before I can even say ‘family and friends’ (even though I  miss them most).  At least they can get on a plane and come over though.  Pizza would never get through security.

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