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Friday, July 24, 2015

Fiamma Update

If I seem to post about certain places over and over again, it's not necessarily that I'm running out of pizzerias, it's just that I keep returning to certain places, because I like them, and that I've got something new, I hope, to say about them.
Fiamma is one such place. I had lunch there recently with two friends.
I got a "San Daniele," topped with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, prosciutto, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and balsamic cream.
I tend to lean toward minimalism where pizza is concerned, but I'm not a purist. I understand that in the Italian tradition, pizza is a base, the same way that pasta or rice is a base, for other toppings.
That said, I'm still not a fan of overloaded American pizza. Just dumping a bunch of toppings onto a crust does not make for good pizza, in my opinion, although I know there are those (including my daughter, whose default pizza is the "meat lover's") who will disagree with me.
But this pie, despite all its toppings, was not an exercise in gluttony. There's a reason that Fiamma's pies, like those in Italy, come with a knife and fork and a pizza cutter. You treat it as a main dish. And this was a well-balanced dish, with classic Italian flavors over Fiamma's excellent crust.
One reason I like going to pizzerias with my friends, besides the pleasure of their company, is that I get to try three pizzas. One friend got a diavola, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy soppressata, basil, and spicy olive oil, and the other got a capricciosa, with tomato sauce, parma cotto, mixed mushrooms, mixed olives, mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
As much as I liked my San Daniele, I think I would've traded it for theirs. I love good olives, and I love spicy food, so both pies were right up my alley (although I will never love mushrooms, so I'd probably ask to have those left off if I ordered a capricciosa).
It may be needless to say, but all the pizzas had an excellent crust - blackened but not burnt, crisp but chewy. Thin in the middle, thick along the edge, this crust could stand on its own, with no toppings at all.
I had a moment to chat with Giuseppe, the proprietor. Work continues on Fiamma's new location in the city, at the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Russell St. It sounded as if they had hit a few minor snags, physically, which is typical, I think, so look for them to open later this summer or this fall.
In the meantime, get to Fiamma at its original location in Gates. It's world-class pizza.

Fiamma, 1308 Buffalo Road


585-270-4683


info@fiammarochester.com

Lunch
Mon-Sat - 11:45am-2:00pm

Dinner
Mon - Thurs 4:30pm-9pm
Fri - Sat 4:30pm-10pm
Sun 4:00pm-8pm

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Vegan Everyday

I'm not a vegan by any means -- you can have my chicken wing when you pry it from my cold, dead hand -- but in my household, we do try to incorporate vegetables and grains into our meals, and occasionally we eat what amount to vegan meals. I do enjoy it, now and then. If the day before I ate a 16-ounce steak, or a half rack of ribs for dinner, my body often tells me to go meatless the next day.
In other words, you don't have to be a full-time vegan to be interested in vegan recipes. So I was glad to accept a review copy of Vegan Everyday, written by Douglas McNish and published by Robert Rose.
At 576 pages, this is a hefty book. It starts with a brief but useful summary of  a "vegan gluten-free pantry." The recommended pantry includes no foods made with genetically modified organisms ("GMO").
There are 500 recipes here. organized into a dozen categories. So if you're looking for vegan recipes, this is about as comprehensive a volume as you're going to find.
Personally, I don't agree with, but am not surprised by, the book's recommendation that you avoid GMO foods. I think the GMO phobia is a left-wing version of the right-wing's denial of climate change; in other words, a stubborn refusal to accept what scientists tell us, which is that GMO foods, in general, are safe to eat. But I know that many vegans will never accept that, so I get it. (But if you want to read about an example of this, read this NY Times article.)
I'm a little more puzzled by the emphasis on avoiding gluten as part of a vegan diet. It's not animal based, and though I know some people can't tolerate it, most of us can. Humans have eaten wheat-based foods for thousands of years, mostly with no significant adverse effects. And there is substantial evidence that going gluten-free can have adverse effects, if you go about it willy-nilly.
Having said all that, I liked the book. Its not a treatise on veganism, but a cookbook, pure and simple. The book is broken down into chapters covering breakfast foods, soups, snacks, pasta, beans and grains, drinks, and more. Individual recipes average about a single page each, with some more complex recipes, like "tempeh croquettes with vegetables and rice," stretching to two full pages. Instructions are clear, and useful tips accompany each recipe. The recipe for peanut sesame soba noodles, for instance, includes information about what soba noodles are, and advice on how best to use and prepare fresh gingerroot and cilantro.
Naturally, I looked for pizza-related recipes. I found one for pizza with a crust made from chickpea flour (which I had never heard of), and another for pizza rolls using a gluten-free flour blend. 
The book is not fully illustrated, but there are two sections of full-page, full-color photographs. The index is well detailed.
I don't plan to go vegan anytime soon, and I don't think I'll ever be a fan of tofu or mushrooms. But if I can add some variety to my diet, in a healthful way, I'm all for it. Moroccan-style collard greens? Sweet potato, ginger and coconut soup? Sauteed vegetables with a three-chile blend? All sound good to me. So while, as a confirmed omnivore, I don't plan to try all, or maybe even most of the recipes in this book, there's enough here to keep me busy in the kitchen for some time. If you or anyone you know is a vegan, or considering veganism, this would be a useful volume to have around.

Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes, by Douglas McNish
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Robert Rose (May 15, 2015)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pizzeria Favo, Monroe Ave., PIttsford


Pizzeria Favo opened last month in Pittsford Colony Plaza, on the northeast side of Monroe Avenue, across from Pittsford Plaza.

Favo is among the first local examples of what I'm guessing is an emergent trend, or actually a combination of two trends: fast-casual pizzerias that use a gas flame, to mimic wood-fired pizza.
That sounds like something I would dislike, just on grounds of principle. But ultimately the end product is what counts, and this was good pizza.
At Favo, you order at the counter, and in a few minutes you pick it up a little further down the line. There you'll see the Italian-made oven, which utilizes a gas flame and a rotating deck.
My Margherita came up quickly, in just a few minutes. It displayed a somewhat unevenly baked edge, with some charring, and not-quite-charred blistering along the other. The underside was firm, but not crackly crisp (that's not a criticism, just a description). The bottom was slightly dusted with either corn meal or semolina; whatever it was, there was too little of it, and it was too finely ground, for me to identify it.
One issue I have with some places these days, using open flames, is that the edge gets charred, but the underside remains pale. It's easy enough to get some blackened blistering along the edge, if you expose the edge of the pie to a flame for a few seconds. It creates a nice appearance, but with a thin-crust pizza baked in a high-temperature oven, I'd like to see some "leopard spotting" on the bottom as well.
The crust here was browned underneath, but not spotted. I don't want to make too much over some sort of pizza-snobbish criteria ("charred - check"; "spotted - check"), but I'll confess to being mildly irritated about a crust that's blackened along the edge, but not underneath. It seems to be done more for appearance's sake than anything else.
Having said all that, this crust was enjoyable. It lacked the toasty, slightly smoky notes of a great wood-fired crust, but it was bready, a bit chewy, and thin but not paper thin.
The toppings were good as well, both on my and my companion's pies. On my Margherita, a thin layer of tomato sauce was layered with slices of fresh tomato, melted rounds of fresh mozzarella, and a smattering of torn basil. One of my companions found the sauce a bit metallic; I thought it was acidic, in a tomatoey way, but maybe that's just a case of us coming up with two different adjectives for the same thing. But it was not a sweet sauce.

My friends both liked their pies. The pepperoni pie was a well balanced take on an American standard. My other friend's Paesano was very tasty, with a light layer of tomato sauce, topped with processed mozzarella, sliced sausage, mushrooms and tender, sweet grilled onions.
We got there relatively early, right around noon, and initally had the place almost to ourselves, though the crowd started to pick up quickly shortly thereafter. Service was efficient, and the manager seemed to be on top of things, making sure that everything ran smoothly.
Favo's website doesn't seem to be fully up yet, although I did find an image of their menu on Yelp. They offer seven "classic" pizzas, and six "specialty" pizzas (I'm not quite sure how some of them ended up in one category or the other), and a very reasonably priced "build your own" option, which includes a choice of sauce, crust ("traditional" or "ancient grains"), cheese, meat, and unlimited veggie toppings for $8.95. They also offer gluten-free crust for an additional $2.50. There are a few salads on the menu, as well as self-serve gelato.
Pizzeria Favo's menu states that they are "inspired by the spirit and traditions of classic brick-oven pizzerias from Naples, Italy to New York City." That's probably a good way to put it. This is an Americanized, neo-Neapolitan pizza, suited to the fast-casual format and at a relatively low price. For what they're doing here, I'd say they're doing a good job.
To grade, or not to grade? With new places, I often hold off on assigning grades. But having sampled three pies, and given its standardized procedures (which presumably result in some consistency), I feel safe in giving Pizzeria Favo a B. I can't say it's among the very best I've tried in our area, but I was pretty pleased with it, as were my companions, so I do think it's worth checking out.

Pizzeria Favo, 3400 Monroe Ave. (Pittsford Colony, opposite Pittsford Plaza)
(585) 310-7383

11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily

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