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Friday, October 14, 2016

Papa Roni's, Pavilion

Another road trip report here, from Pavilion, NY, which is about 35 miles SW of downtown Rochester, in Genesee County, at the crossroads of Routes 19 and 63. (And Pavilion itself pretty much consists of a crossroads.)
I'm into local history, and a little digging revealed that Pavilion was named after a hotel in Saratoga, NY. That seems a trifle odd to me, but I guess it must've been some hotel.
Like any good, small town, Pavilion has its pizzeria, Papa Roni's. I stopped a few weeks ago and picked up a couple of pepperoni slices.
The crust was thin, with a medium-brown, screen-marked bottom. It was firm, but not crisp. I'd call this crust "serviceable," in the sense that it sufficed as a base for the toppings, but in itself it was frankly nothing special. The cornicione was narrow and crunchy.
And the toppings were pretty good. These slices were relatively heavy on the sauce, which was tomatoey and a bit sweet. The cheese had melted into a uniform layer, and it straddled the line between chewy and gooey. The thin slices of pepperoni were fine, if unremarkable.
PapaRoni's offers small, large and sheet pizzas, with 18 toppings to choose from, and six specialty pizzas. They also do wings (10 sauces), subs, sandwiches, wraps, and fryer food, plus a Friday fish fry.
So my take on this pizza? OK crust. A little too flabby for my taste, but it had no significant defects.  The toppings were tasty and well balanced. The cheese was good but not great, and the overall combination of crust, cheese, sauce and pepperoni made for a decent slice. I enjoyed eating these, which is the bottom line. So I'd say these slices were more than the sum of their parts. A better crust, either more breadlike or more crisp, would make a big improvement, in my opinion, but these were good enough to warrant a stop in, if you're passing by.

PapaRoni's, 11090 S Lake Rd, Pavilion, New York

(585) 584-3170

Sun. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Meisner's Deli, Attica

In my various wanderings, I stopped a few weeks ago at Meisner's Deli in Attica to pick up a couple of slices of pizza. I was in the area, and it was highly rated, from the reviews that I'd read.
Meisner's is a typical small-town deli, which is a lot different from what a resident of New York City would consider a deli. It's part grocery store, part pizza/wing/sub shop, with a modest selection of cheeses and cold cuts.
And these slices were pretty typical for this kind of place as well. The crust was uniformly brown underneath, not oily, but without much backbone. They were medium thick, but with a substantially thicker, wide cornicione. Some bread-like flavor, but my overall impression was that this was a fast-rising dough that hadn't developed much flavor or complexity.
The sauce was moderately applied, and had a sweet/salty flavor. The generous layer of mozzarella cheese had melted and congealed into a uniform blanket. A scattering of thin pepperoni slices rounded things out.
Meisner's offers pizza in 12- and 16-inch sizes, 17 toppings, and three specialty pizzas (white, taco and chicken finger). They also do burgers, hot and cold subs, wraps, salads, sides, wings and several desserts. Check out the menu here
Nothing to complain about here, all in all, but these particular slices were nothing special either. I wouldn't go out of my way to get this pizza, but I admit to having some fondness for this style. Every small town and village should have at least one pizzeria, and for Attica, Meisner's fills that niche. It's about what you would expect it to be, nothing more, nothing less.

Meisner's Deli & Sub, 231 Main St., Attica

(585) 591-0840

Mon. - Sat. 9 a.m. - 9:30 p.m., Sun. 1 - 6 p.m.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review: The Ultimate Wood-Fired Oven Book

We've all got our mental lists of things to do. Some are chores: this week I've gotta mow the lawn, go to the dry cleaner, etc. Some are things we want, and actually plan, to do:  going to an upcoming event, perhaps, or trying that new pizza place that just opened up. And of course, there's the bucket list:  "If I live long enough, someday I will ___."
And then there's another list, that I'll call the fantasy list. It's the list of things you'd like to do, but that deep down you know you almost certainly never will.
I, for example, have a fantasy of someday visiting the Faroe Islands. (It would take too long to explain here.) I'm pretty sure I never will, but that doesn't stop me from daydreaming about it.
And that's more or less how I feel about a home wood-fired oven. I'd like to have one. Love one, in fact. But deep down, I know I don't have the combination of the means, desire and know-how to get it done.
But that doesn't mean I don't like thinking about it. That's why it's a fantasy. And who knows? Things could change. Maybe I'll finally get on Jeopardy!, win enough to pay off the mortgage and send our daughter to college, and still have enough left over to pay somebody to build me a state-of-the-art wood-fired oven, while I'm off hiking across the Faroes.
So I was happy to accept a review copy of the second edition of The Ultimate Wood-Fired Oven Book, from Schiffer Publishing. In its 144 pages, author Anna Carpenter addresses what you need to know about designing, building and using an outdoor wood-fired oven. It's got enough practical advice to guide you through the entire process, and enough eye candy to keep you amused, even if all you want to do is fantasize about what your dream oven might look like, someday.
The book is lavishly illustrated, with lots of full-color photographs. But those photos are accompanied by enough text to make this a useful guide to actually constructing a wood-fired oven.
Let's start with the text. The book is logically organized, starting with the anatomy of a wood-fired oven, and progressing through planning, materials, building and using your oven, as well as a chapter on tools and accessories that you'll want to keep handy once you start cooking.
Naturally, I zeroed in on the pizza recipe. Keeping in mind that this is not a cookbook, it's fine, as far as it goes. The dough recipe calls for a short two-hour rise (better to plan ahead and refrigerate the dough overnight) but it's good enough, as a basic quick recipe. And the instructions on baking the pizza are useful, but if you've taken the trouble to build a wood-fired oven, you'll want to learn more about mastering the art of wood-fired pizza.
One thing I found interesting is that the pizza recipe calls for applying fresh mozzarella in cubes, rather than round slices. I guess the idea is that the oven will be so hot that the cubes will quickly liquefy and spread out. I'll try that next time I make pizza.
As useful as the text is, the photos are the best feature of the book. They are varied enough to give the reader good ideas about how to place, design and build a wood-fired oven. Where I live right now, the spot I've picked out for my fantasy oven is right underneath a tree, which concerned me, but the photos in the book indicate that it might be very doable. (So there goes one of my excuses for not having built an oven yet.)
There are also photos and hand-drawn illustrations of the construction process, as well as cross-section diagrams of different types of wood-fired ovens. The latter include detailed specs identifying the particular components and their placement.
Even the photos that don't have any direct relevance to my situation, I found fun to look at. They run the gamut from relatively modest ovens, in a variety of settings, to behemoths worthy of a Roman emperor (speaking of which, there are some photos at the beginning of the book of an excavated oven in Pompeii, Italy, that show how little has changed in the basic design of wood-fired ovens over the past 2000 years).
If you're seriously considering installing a wood-fired oven at home, you'll want this book. I'm sure you'll want to consult some additional resources, too, but for its combination of how-to advice and inspiration, this volume is hard to beat. It might even get you to move "wood-fired oven" from your fantasy list to your bucket list.