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Friday, April 10, 2015

Five 50º, Dewey Ave.

Over the course of writing this blog, I've written a few posts about Checker Flag, a now-defunct pizzeria at 1481 Dewey Avenue in Rochester, at the corner of Ridgeway. Checker Flag was best known for its dollar slices, which weren't bad, for the price.
Now comes Five50º, named, I assume, after the oven temperature. As the full name -- Five50º Pizza and Chicken -- implies, it's not just, or even primarily, a pizzeria. Five50º serves a range of items, many of them fried.
There's nothing particularly remarkable about Five50º, but it gives me occasion to say a few words about - what shall I call them? - inner-city pizzerias.
This particular neighborhood is on the lower end of the income scale. And I've learned through experience that the pizza in economically poorer neighborhoods tends not to be as good as in more affluent areas. Its main virtues are that it's fast, cheap and hot. 
Having said all that, the slice I got recently at Five50º was not bad. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.
Just inside the front door is a heated display case, containing an array of items to go, many of which consisted of fried chicken parts, of one sort or another. And pizza, available by the slice.
I got a pepperoni slice. It was reasonably good, and for two bucks, I had no major complaints. The crust was thin-to-medium thick, and while the bottom was more brown than charred, it was firm, and wasn't oily or soggy. The well-formed edge was reasonably bready, and not just a throwaway "pizza bone."
As a whole, the slice was decent, with a blanket of well-melted, gooey cheese, a proportionate layer of slightly sweet tomato sauce, and thin-sliced pepperoni. All in all, it was one of the better-made examples of the kind of pizza you get at these to-go places. I don't mean to damn it with faint praise, but it was a reasonably good slice.
As I said, Five50º offers a range of items. Pizza comes in medium, large and sheet sizes, either red or white. They have seven meat toppings and seven vegetable toppings. They also do calzones, burgers, wings (seven sauces), hot and cold subs, fried chicken, and a few sides, as well as freshly baked cookies, and cheesecake.
As far as a rating's concerned, I think it's fair to say that this slice was, overall, of average quality. Nothing I'd go out of my way for, but it was OK, with a well-baked crust, nicely melted cheese, rounded out by a proportionate layer of sauce and decent pepperoni. So I'll give it a C.

Five50º Pizza and Chicken, 1481 Dewey Ave. (at Ridgeway)
254-2550, 254-2522

Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Indian Lay's Potato Chips

As I have before, I start this post with a disclaimer. This blog is about Rochester-area pizza. But now and then there's a food-related topic that I want to relate, that takes too much space to fit on my Facebook page. So here's one of them.
A few weeks ago, I stopped into Spice Bazaar on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. I love going into these kinds of ethnic markets because you see so many unusual foods, many of which are completely unfamiliar, if not unidentifiable, to most of us.
I had just come from dinner with my wife at Raj Mahal next door. We were on a tight schedule, due to a child-sitter's curfew, so I didn't have as much time as I would've liked to explore the shelves, which were filled with things I'd never seen before. Most had English-language labels, but that didn't help much. The names were unknown to me, and I had no idea what one would typically do with them. I did some quick searches on my phone, and was intrigued by much of what I learned about the fresh fruits, dried spices and prepared ingredient mixtures. My wife and I, both sated from our meal, agreed that we'd be back with some recipes in hand.
On our way out, my eye did catch one item that is nearly universal: Lay's potato chips. I'm a sucker for new and unusual chip flavors, and when I saw "Spanish Tomato Tango," "Football Favourites Apple Chilli," and "India's Magic Masala," how could I resist? So I grabbed a bag of each.
I'm aware of the view that somewhere deep in Frito-Lay's labs (Frito-Lay being part of PepsiCo, which for all I know is one of the corporations that secretly run the world), teams of scientists and flavor experts, sworn to secrecy, are at work, like 21st-century alchemists, coming up with combinations of chemicals that will addict us to their products. Or more benignly, they're just trying to tailor their products to what particular markets want.
What I got from these was, I think these would work in the American market, at least as a limited release.
The Tomato Tango was aptly named, as it was tomatoey and tangy. Flavor memories last a long time, and they distinctly brought back to mind SpaghettiOs. Now I happen to like SpaghettiOs, so I considered that a good thing.
The Apple Chilli was, both conceptually and in fact, the oddest of the bunch. From a very cursory internet search, I gather that this is a British or Indian combo used in chutneys, which are those relish-like mixtures that Americans have never quite caught onto. For these chips, think apple cider vinegar, crossed with dried chiles, and some sugar. Very odd, to an American palate, but Frito Lay doesn't typically push the envelope too far, and so these were relatively mild, if very interesting. I don't know why they're "football favourites"; maybe apple-chilli chutney is a favored snack of "football" fans in India, like wings in the US?
My third bag of chips, the Magic Masala, was, I think, my favorite. It most nearly captured the complexity of Indian food, with a spice mixture that defied simple description. The chips weren't spicy-hot, but they were spicy. Somewhere in there, I think, was some cumin and black pepper, but beyond that the spices mixed into an amalgam of flavor, the separate threads of which I could not unravel. That was appropriate, since garam masala is a less-well-known, but equally complex, cousin to curry powder. (I'm speaking here, of course, of this country; I'm sure that native Indians are well familiar with both.)
This was a quick foray into the world of food items available at Spice Bazaar. And as I said, I intend to go back, perhaps on a mid-afternoon when I can spend some time getting educated by the owner or staff. If you're at all adventurous, foodwise, you should check it out.

Spice Bazaar, 364 Jefferson Rd. (across from Southtown plaza)
Rochester, NY 14623
phone 585 292 5939

Hours open
Monday 11am to 9pm
Tuesday 11am to 9pm
Wednesday 11am to 9pm
Thursday 11am to 9pm
Friday 11am to 9pm
Saturday 10am to 9pm
Sunday 9:30am to 9pm

Friday, March 27, 2015

Akron, Part II: Tony's Pizza Shop

As I explained in my recent post on PizzaBella, Akron (NY, not Ohio) is blessed with two pizzerias within a block of each other. I don't often have occasion to travel to Akron, so once I was there, there was no way that I was going to pass up the chance to try both PizzaBella and its neighbor, Tony's Pizza Shop.
According to their website, Tony's has been in business, under the same family ownership, since 1957, which I think would put it among WNY's oldest pizzerias, especially family-owned pizzerias. So for that alone, I was looking forward to Tony's.
And my hopes were justified. I got a pepperoni slice, which was cut from a pie that had just come out of the oven, so it was steaming hot.
A pizza really needs a few minutes to set, so the cheese on this one was a little sloppy. But that's a good sign, as it means that the cheese truly melted in the oven - it didn't just separate into oil and milk solids, the way that fake cheese does.
Apart from that, it was a very good slice of pizza. The crust was thin to medium in thickness, but the slice had a substantial heft, thanks to the cheese and sauce. This was a saucy slice, but the sauce wasn't excessive, and the slice overall was well balanced.
The sauce had a medium consistency, neither watery nor thick, and a tomatoey flavor. The underside was very lightly dusted with corn meal. It was browned, with a few darker areas, and not quite charred. It was not quite crackly, but it was crisp. The edge was thick and bready, with a slightly chewy texture.
Perhaps befitting its old-time nature, Tony's pizza menu is relatively basic:  three sizes (small, large, and "party"), twelve toppings, and no specialty pizzas, although they do offer "double dough" and deep dish pizza. They also do calzones, wings, subs, salads, fish fry, spaghetti and ravioli, chicken parm, and various fried sides. There are a few tables available, in an informal, basic hometown pizza-shop setting.
Akron being some ways outside the immediate Rochester area, I didn't rate Tony's competitor, nor will I give Tony's a letter grade. But I'd describe it as a very good example of traditional Western New York pizza: a little thick, nice and bready, with plenty of gooey cheese, and ample sauce. And very tasty. In short, just about what you would expect, or want, from a family-owned pizzeria that's been around for nearly 60 years.
I wasn't there at the prettiest time of year, but I found Akron to be an attractive little town. Since it's about a mile north of Route 5, which is likewise about a mile north of the Thruway, I don't think I'd ever had occasion to visit it before. But if anybody from Akron is reading this, I will tell you that you should consider yourself lucky to have two very good pizzerias within a block of each other, in the center of town. Not only are they good, they offer contrasting styles of pizza: thin, NY style pizza at PizzaBella, and thicker, more traditional WNY pizza at Tony's. If I lived there, I honestly think I'd go back and forth, literally, between them, without ever settling on a clear favorite.

Tony's Pizza Shop, 36 Main St., Akron
(716) 542-2431

Sun. & Mon. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.

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