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Friday, August 30, 2013

Product Review: Cow Wow Milk

I don't eat a lot of cold cereal these days, but I did, as a kid, and my favorite part of every bowl was drinking the sugar- and flavoring-infused milk at the bottom of the bowl. If only all milk tasted that way!
Well, your milk now can. I recently received a review sample of Cow Wow Cereal Milk. This organic (!) low-fat milk comes in two flavors, Fruity Trudy and Chocolate Chip Cathy (those being the names of the cow mascots). I was recently given a review sample of the Chocolate Chip Cathy, and yeah, it does kind of taste like the milk at the bottom of the bowl after you've polished off a healthy serving of your favorite chocolate-flavored cereal.
I don't quite get the chocolate "chip" angle, as opposed to just chocolate, but it's tasty. It's got a mild chocolate flavor, not intense or overly sweet, but pleasant. And the cool thing is, it comes in little 8.5-ounce cartons (like juice packs) that don't have to be refrigerated.
I haven't tried the Fruity Trudy, but I'd like to, as fruity cereals were among my favorites when I was growing up. The package also states that Cow Wow is available in "Marsha Mallow," "Cinny Minny," "Peanut Butter Bessie," and "Honey Beatrice" flavors, although those don't seem to be mentioned on their website.
Again from the website, Cow Wow seems to be available for now mostly on the west coast. But look for it in a store near you soon. If you'd like an organic, all-natural alternative to sugary fruit juice drinks for your kid's lunch, or just miss that pleasure of drinking up a half-bowlful of cereal-sweetened milk, this may be for you.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Flour City Bread Company Mobile Oven

I had known for some time that Flour City Bread Co. had a mobile, wood-burning pizza oven, but I never knew when or where I could find it. Then, thanks to a comment on my Facebook page, I discovered Food About Town, which led me to learn that Flour City has been appearing at the Brighton Farmers Market on Sundays.
So first chance I got, I got over to the BFM, and got me a pie. I ordered a Margherita, which I almost always do, given the chance.
Now before I get to the pizza, let me explain that if you're not familiar with Flour City Bread, you should be. They're at the Public Market, and their bread is outstanding. I love the old-school, established bakeries, but Flour City makes some of the best bread you'll find around Rochester. So I had high expectations for their pizza.
And they were met, mostly. This pizza had a lot going for it. But it wasn't quite A-level.
My initial focus is always on the crust, and it was especially so with this one, given my high regard for Flour City's bread. And this was a very good crust, with good flavor. With far too many pizzas, the crust has almost no flavor, but with the right ingredients and handling, including a long, cool rise, dough can develop a subtle yet unmistakable flavor, and this one had that. The interior also displayed some nice bubbling, indicative of a good rise, especially along the edge. The cornicione was medium thick and about an inch wide, and well complemented the thin center of the pie.
The interior of the crust was very chewy, almost tough. My guess is that the dough was made from high-gluten flour. I liked it - it was like good, chewy bread - but that goes to the balance you have to strike with pizza. High gluten levels will give you a physically strong dough, often very bubbly if made with enough water, but it also makes for a chewier dough.
Where this pie ran into problems was in the execution. It was overly blackened on one side. I don't mean to be a stickler for detail, but this pie was truly burned along one side, and tasted burned along that edge. The oven had a blazing wood fire inside, so I think this pie just needed a little closer attention and frequent turning while cooking.
Underneath, the crust did display some attractive char spots, as well as a light dusting of flour, some of which appeared to me to be semolina. I've found semolina to be a good choice to keep a crust from sticking to the peel, as it doesn't lend that raw-flour taste you get with regular flour, but it also doesn't burn like, and isn't as gritty as corn meal.
On top, the fresh mozzarella was very nicely melted, lending a creamy texture to contrast with the crust. The tomato sauce was thinly applied, and some of its moisture had evaporated in the oven, but as far as it went, it had a pleasant, bright flavor. The basil was rather scant, though, with just a few scattered, wilted shreds here and there.
This was a good pizza, and I'm glad I was finally able to try it. As expected, the crust was flavorful and displayed all the signs of a good, slow, cool rise, which helps develop flavor and texture in bread dough. The best pizzas, to me, have crusts that are reminiscent of good bread, as this one did.
But I'm afraid the execution fell a little short. Flour City makes great bread, and this had the makings of a great pizza, but this particular pie was "only" a very good pizza. I like a charred crust, but at some point you cross the line from charring to burnt, and this was burnt, as well as unevenly baked. I also would've liked a little more tomato and basil, but the main issue was the burnt crust.
Despite those flaws, a very good pie, and I'll give it a B. And I'll certainly try it again.
B
Flour City Bread Company
957-3096
Bakery open at 52 Rochester Public Market, Thu. 7 a.m. - 2 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Mobile oven currently appearing at Brighton Farmers Market, Sun. 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charcoal Corral, Perry

Over the weekend, I stopped at Charcoal Corral near Silver Lake. I've driven by this place, a little south of Perry off Route 39, many times and always wondered what it was all about.
Well, what it is, is an 18-hole mini-golf course, a fast-food restaurant and pizzeria, an ice cream parlor, a game arcade, and a drive-in theater. And on Friday and Saturday nights, they have giant inflatables for the kids.
Now obviously that's not going to appeal to everybody. But for a couple with a 10-year-old, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, it was a nice enough way to spend a couple of hours.
We started off with a round of mini-golf, and though I'm no connoisseur, their course was one of the better ones I've played on. If you never play mini golf, you may be wondering how one can one be better than another, but what I mean is that the holes were well maintained, with some interesting angles - not just a bunch of 2x4 boxes - and the grounds were attractive, by mini-golf standards, with an Old West theme, running water, and real flowers. It's not Oak Hill, but it's nice. 
Following the golf game (I won) we headed indoors for lunch. My wife and daughter ordered from the grill counter, while I made a beeline for the pizzeria, which is in a separate room.
I had three slice choices, cheese, pepperoni, and the pizza of the week, chicken-bacon-ranch. I went with a slice of pepperoni.
It was, not surprisingly, basic convenience-store-style pizza. I did see the counter guy stretching the dough by hand, so this wasn't a prebaked shell, but it wasn't particularly good.
The bottom was a little oily to the touch, with a pancake-like bottom. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great. The interior was OK, with some rising evident, but the crust was pretty much just a base for the toppings.
And the toppings weren't all that good either. Very basic tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella that had melted in place rather than spread together, suggesting that it wasn't the greatest cheese to begin with. The pepperoni was decent, thin sliced and medium spicy, and the whole thing was dusted with dried herbs.
Charcoal Corral does have a surprisingly lengthy menu, with subs, grilled items, salads, and wings. And the adjoining ice cream parlor has a lot of flavors of Perry's ice cream, including, on this occasion, the rarely-seen Fireball. I wasn't in the mood for ice cream, so I passed it up, but it's good, if you like hot cinnamon.
Before I wrap up, let me say that I wouldn't go out of my way to review a place like this, but this is a blog, after all, which means I post about pizza I've tried lately. And since I stopped here, and had pizza, I'm posting about it.
I did like Charcoal Corral generally. It's a nice spot for a family outing, or for a bite to eat - my daughter's sub and my wife's salad were both pretty good, the ice cream was fine, and like the golf course, the indoor areas were clean and well maintained. But the pizza rates a D, I'm afraid. Good enough to finish, but that's about it.
Charcoal Corral and Silver Lake Drive-In Theater, 7037 Chapman Ave., Perry, NY
585-237-3040 (Drive-In 585-237-3372)
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. till midnight

Friday, August 23, 2013

Papa Gig's Food Truck

I swear, I saw this coming.
Food trucks, that is. I remember reading about them, in the New York Times, I think, a few years ago, and how they were popping up everywhere from New York to Austin to San Francisco. I thought that, like a lot of trends, this one's coming to Rochester, probably in a year or two. And that a smart person, who was so inclined, would get into the game right then and there, to get ahead of the curve. I wasn't that person, but I did see it coming.
Well, now the trend is here, big time. And it includes pizza.
We've got Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza & Catering, which, according to their Facebook page, moves around quite a bit, well into the Greater Rochester area and into the Finger Lakes. From my discussion with the owner, its chief purpose, originally at least, has been to advertise his wood-fired oven sales and installations. So you may find it around Rochester some days, or you may not.
And we've now got Papa Gig's, Rochester's "Italian Kitchen on Wheels."  As I was on foot downtown the other day, I passed by Papa Gig's truck, and noticed tomato pie on the menu. Though a sign emphatically insisted that tomato pie "is not pizza!," I figured it was close enough to check out. 
As I've reported before, tomato pie is "commonly associated with the Utica, NY and Trenton, NJ/Philadelphia areas. It's basically a thick, pan-baked pizza covered with tomato sauce and Romano cheese." And while I mean no disrespect to Papa Gig, as far as I'm concerned, yes, it's pizza.
But I'm not here to argue semantics. However you want to classify it, here's my review of Papa Gig's tomato pie.
These slices were square-cut from a rectangular, pan-baked pie. The crust was thick but light and airy, almost like a pizza version of angel food cake. The underside was very light in color, with just a little browning.
Up top, the slice was coated with a heavy layer of distinctly sweet tomato sauce, sprinkled with some dried herbs and powdery grated cheese (Romano, I'd say).
And that's about it. I could launch into a dissertation about the roots of this style of pizza (or whatever you want to call it). It has antecedents in Italy and locally, even aside from its Utica connections. And at the same time it's new, for this area, in a retro kind of way.
I couldn't fault this slice of tomato pie, but I wasn't sure how much I liked it, either. I don't necessarily want a heavy layer of mozzarella on all my pizza, but I could've done with a bit more grated cheese, to add some tanginess and to counterbalance the sweet sauce. And though I'd rather have a light and airy pan-baked crust than an oil-infused, dense, heavy, fried crust, for me this crust could've used a bit more oomph.
But I don't think I'm qualified to judge a Utica-style tomato pie, so I won't grade this. Maybe this is exactly what it's supposed to be. Again, it's not even claimed to be pizza.
And the fact is, I did like it. At a dollar a slice, I have no complaints, and if I'm passing by and hungry, I'd get one again. Maybe even two.
Oh, and Papa Gig? If you want to add some mozzarella to your pies sometime, or do whatever else you need to, in order to make them true pizzas in your eyes, I'd be glad to try those too. Just a thought.
Papa Gig's food truck
(585) 748-7562
Check website for dates and locations

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Latina Food Service

(Note: this is a paid advertisement.)


Lucca, Victor, Revisited

Lucca Wood-Fired Bistro on Urbanspoon
It's been a long time since I last reported on Lucca in Victor. This wood-fired pizzeria has been around since early 2009, although I believe the ownership has changed since my December 2009 review.
As I did then, I ordered a small Margherita to go. I thought about getting it to eat on Lucca's front porch/patio, but I wanted to get home, so I changed my mind and got it to go.
The pizza that I got confirmed that it was a good idea to do an update on Lucca, because it was different from the one I had before. Most noticeably, this one had no tomato sauce, but used only sliced tomatoes. It was also considerably thicker than last time, and used shredded basil rather than basil leaves.
That's a lot of changes, so let's start with the crust and work from the bottom up. I was surprised, and a littl disappointed, to see a considerable amount of corn meal on the bottom of this pie. Corn meal does help keep a pizza from sticking to the peel, and I use it myself, sometimes, but it's a tricky thing. For one, it burns easily, and second, it can add a grittiness to a pizza that's not very appealing. And this pizza did suffer somewhat in both respects, as it had a bottom sootiness that detracted from the overall experience.
Corn meal can also add a bit of crunch to a crust, but not here. This medium-thick crust was pretty soft underneath, and more brown than charred. It wasn't unpleasant, in that respect, just not crisp.
And now we're getting into matters of personal preference. With most pizzas (there are exceptions, which I won't get into here), I like a crust that's crackly-crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside. But I've had good pizzas that range from stiff as a board to knife-and-fork floppy. Still, when I get a wood-fired pizza, I'm looking for something to distinguish it from pizza baked in a conventional gas or electric oven, and I didn't find much of that here.
Up top, things started with a base of melted, smooth mozzarella, which was fine, as far as things went, but bland and not very noticeable. No real complaints though.
The tomatoes were decent, but ... they weren't great. A Margherita always has tomatoes in some form. It could be fresh sliced tomatoes, as here, a cooked sauce, or something in between, like crushed tomatoes with some herbs, that cook down a bit in the oven. But if you're going to go with fresh sliced tomatoes, they'd better be good. And these were just OK. I've had better. They just didn't have a lot of flavor.
The third component of the Margherita trinity (based on the Italian flag) is the green basil. There wasn't much of that here. A sprinkling of shredded basil added some aroma, but not much flavor. A few leaves of fresh basil added at or near the end of the baking process would've boosted the flavor quotient and made for a more visually appealing pie as well.
I also picked up a hint of garlic - could've been garlic powder - and some background saltiness in this pie. And the thickish cornicione, though not crisp, was pleasantly breadlike and chewy.
This wasn't a bad pizza, all in all. Individually, most of the things I've picked out here are minor. But cumulatively, they took it down from what it could've and should've been. It was of average overall quality for this area, and so it gets a C from me.
Lucca Wood-Fire Bistro, 90 West Main Street, Victor, NY 14564
585-924-9009
Tue. - Thu. 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sat. noon - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 7 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pizza King, Dansville

In February 2012, I did a post about a place that I discovered in Belmont, Billy G's. You can read the full story at that post, but it turned out that there was a connection between Billy G's, The Pizza Stop, Joe's Brooklyn Pizza, Giovanni's and Pizza King in Hornell, and Pizza King in Wellsville. All of which make great New York style pizza, thanks in large part to the tutelage of Giovanni's owner, Bill Giovanniello.
Anyway - earlier this year, Billy G's moved to Dansville, and reopened as Pizza King. (I'm told that his former location in Belmont is now a non-pizza restaurant.) I'm down that way from time to time, so I made a mental note to stop in.
Which I did recently, following a hike here. And though I'm sad for the people of Belmont, their loss is Dansville's gain, as Pizza King is serving up some very fine pizza.
There are only so many ways to describe a good slice of NY style pizza, so I may find myself repeating what I've said about many of the places mentioned above, but we're talking here about a thin crust, crisp on the bottom, pliable enough to fold, and with a nice chew on the inside. The bottom wasn't quite charred, but was a medium brown, and dry to the touch.
As for the the toppings, the cheese was just slightly on the thick side, but not enough to throw things out of balance. It was processed mozzarella, nicely melted into a uniform coat. The sauce was reminiscent of slices I've had in the City, marked by a balance of sweetness, saltiness, and herbs, with a bright tomatoey flavor underneath it all.
Thin-sliced pepperoni lay atop it all. The pepperoni and cheese exuded a bit of grease, but not overly so, and about what I would expect from a NY style pepperoni slice. (Within reason, a little oiliness on top can actually enhance the sensory experience, as fat helps transmit flavor to your tongue. It's oil on the bottom that I dislike, and these had a nice, dry underside.)
My one quibble with these slices is the application of the toppings - the pepperoni was unevenly distributed toward the outer edge, while the area nearer the tips (i.e. the center of the pie from which they came) were devoid of pepperoni. And to really nitpick, the sauce and cheese at a couple of spots extended out all the way to, and even slightly beyond, the outer edge of the crust. But that's a matter of esthetics more than anything else.
You can see Pizza King's menu here, so I won't recite it all. I will note that their slices start at a very reasonable $1.65 (plus tax), and that they maintain what I understand to be the most widely agreed-upon distinction between calzones and strombolis, which is that the former contain ricotta in addition to mozzarella, and are served with sauce on the side, while the latter have sauce inside, but no ricotta. They also do wings and tacos.
As for these slices, I'm giving them an A-minus. I've mostly stayed away lately from pluses and minuses, but I think it's appropriate here. These were excellent slices, deserving of better than a B, but I've gotta knock off a style point or two for the uneven distribution of pepperoni, and the slight overhang of the cheese along the outer lip. Pretty inconsequential matters, yes, and they didn't detract from from my overall enjoyment of these slices, but enough to keep them from attaining absolute perfection.
Make no mistake, though, if I'm in the Dansville area, I'm stopping at Pizza King. I'll probably stop at Dansville's other pizzerias sometime for an update, as well. But Pizza King is on my go-to list.
Pizza King, 160 Main St., Dansville
585-335-8700

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Winner Is ...

Sean, who left a comment on August 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM, is the winner of the $30 gift card to Joe's Brooklyn Pizza.
Just to explain, I assign a number to each comment, then enter the number of comments on random.org to choose a winner. Subsequent comments by the same person get ignored, so each person gets one number.
Sean, please email me at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com with your mailing address so I can get your card out to you.
Thanks to all for participating. This was the biggest response to date. I'll have more to come. If there's anyplace in particular you'd like me to hit up for a gift card giveaway, let me know in the comments section and I'll see what I can do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mangia, Allegany, NY

I occasionally get down to the Southern Tier, where I grew up, and wherever I go, I'm on the lookout for pizza. The village of Allegany, in Cattaraugus County, is pretty far afield for a Rochester pizza blog, but in the absence of a Southern Tier pizza blog, I'll offer an occasional review of pizzas from that part of the state.
Allegany is something of a college town, as it's right next door to St. Bonaventure University. That usually bodes well for pizza, especially in upstate New York, where you'll find a lot of students from the NYC area. So I wasn't surprised to find a pizzeria in Allegany serving "real NY pizza" (according to their logo).
Mangia, on Main St. (and yeah, pretty much all the businesses in Allegany are on Main St.), is a small place, with just a few tables by the front window. I got a couple of cheese slices around midday.
They weren't bad, but if I had gotten these in New York City, I would've been disappointed. They were thin, but the underside was a mottled brown, not particularly crisp, and had a bit of oven soot stuck to it. The mozzarella was OK, but a bit bland. It had been melted enough to liquefy but not enough to develop much flavor. The sauce was a basic red tomato sauce, good enough but not particularly memorable.
The components were well balanced, and with a bit of tweaking these could've been very good slices. As it was, they were just kind of, meh.
Mangia has a fairly extensive menu, with 18 specialty pizzas, calzones and strombolis, wings, tacos, subs, sandwiches and wraps, salads and sides. And they're open late, as any college town pizzeria should be.
I had no major complaints about these slices, really, but I can't say they lived up to their billing of "real NY pizza." Again, a little more attention to detail, and these could've been the real item. But I can only give them a C.
Mangia, 65 W. Main St., Allegany, NY
(716) 373-2754
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 3 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 1 a.m.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Giveaway: $30 Gift Card for Joe's Brooklyn Pizza

Regular readers of this blog will know that I hold Joe's Brooklyn Pizza in high esteem. This Henrietta pizzeria produces excellent New York style pies, from thin crust to Sicilian. So it's with pleasure that I am able to give away to one lucky person a $30 gift card to Joe's.
As you can see from Joe's menu, a $30 gift card will present you with some choices:  basic NY style, Sicilian or specialty pizza, and maybe some wings? And maybe you'll have room left over for some garlic knots.
But's that's up to the winner. To be eligible, simply leave a comment on this blog post, with some identifying information, and whatever comments you'd like to add.
If you win, I need a way to get the card to the right person, so at some point I will need your postal address. If your profile includes an email address, that's good enough for now, or send me an email at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com, either with your mailing address or just to let me know how to contact you if you do win. And don't worry, I won't pass on your email address or any other information; in fact I'll delete it once the contest ends.
I'll pick a winner, randomly, a week from today, Friday, August 9, around noon. Check back next Friday afternoon to see who won.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ken's Pizza Corner, Brighton (Revisited)


I am continuing to ferret out the Rochester area's last remaining untried (by me) pizzerias, but as that list shrinks, it's a good time to revisit some places that I haven't been to in a while.
And one thing I try to do is get to places that readers have asked or urged me to revisit. One such is Ken's Pizza Corner in Brighton. I reported on it in December 2011, and I liked it well enough, giving it a B-minus, but some time ago a reader opined that Ken's deserved even better, so I went back.
I picked up two cheese slices. Apart from the thick, doughy cornicione, they were very thin, with a medium-brown underside that was crosshatched by screen marks.
The crust wasn't exactly crisp, but it wasn't bad. It was dry to the touch, and had some interior breadiness.
(Pizza screens are supposed to help the crust get crisp, but I wonder if they don't prevent crusts from developing natural "fault lines." You know, when you get a slice of pizza that's been baked directly on the oven deck, it often tends to crack along certain lines, at least on the surface. I don't know if I've ever seen a screen-baked pizza do that. Not often, certainly. For some people that might be a good thing, but I like some surface crackling.)
The aforementioned cornicione - the puffy part along the edge - was also pretty good. It wasn't a throwaway, like some, but pleasantly bready, chewy and tasty, with some nice big air holes inside. But it was quite thick and fairly wide for such an otherwise thin slice.
The slices were relatively saucy, though not overly so. The sauce was flavorful but "medium" in terms of the basic parameters of salty/sweet/tomatoey.
Some tanginess was supplied by the cheese. It was pretty uniformly added, with some pockets of sauce poking through, and had a bit of lactic bite. This could've been a blend of mozzarella and a slightly sharper cheese, maybe some Provolone, or maybe there was just some Romano in there.
These were some pretty good slices of pizza. Nothing that blew me away, but well made, with no significant flaws. Definitely worth a stop, and it rates a solid "B."
Ken's Pizza Corner, 1860 Monroe Ave., Brighton 14618
271-5860
11 a.m. - midnight daily

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