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Friday, July 26, 2013

Sylvio's, Charlotte

Back in 2009, not that long after I started this blog, I posted a review of Sylvio's, a pizzeria on Scottsville Road. I gave their "monster" slice a B-, which in retrospect seems perhaps a bit generous, but that's what I thought they deserved at the time.
Sylvio's has a second location, on Alpha Street in Charlotte, and I stopped in there recently to pick up a slice.
All they had at the time were pepperoni slices, which I was told had just come out of the oven, so I got one of those. They weren't piping hot, but they did seem reasonably fresh.
This was not as "monstrous" as the slice I got at the Scottsville Road location. But it was also cheaper, at 2 bucks a slice.
The crust was thin, with a bottom that was crosshatched with screen marks. It was medium brown in hue, and reasonably crisp.  The narrow but thicker edge was pleasantly crackly on the outside, with some interior breadiness.
The slice was topped with a fairly sweet tomato sauce, and a uniform layer of melted, slightly browned mozzarella. The thin-sliced pepperoni was all right but unremarkable. I also noticed, and could just taste, a smattering of dried herbs.
You can see Sylvio's menu here, so I won't go into detail about their offerings, but it's well summed up by one line on the menu:   "burgers, plates, fish fry, slices, pizza, wings, subs, salad, wraps."  In other words, it's a pretty basic, but well rounded pizza/wing joint menu. Pizzawise, they offer sixteen toppings, and eight specialty pizzas, in four sizes, from small to sheets.
This slice wasn't bad. I have to go back to the word "basic," because that's what it was. It was a basic mozzarella and pepperoni slice.  No complaints, but I'd say it was about average for this area, so it rates a C from me.
Sylvio's Pizzeria, 1 Alpha St., Rochester (Charlotte) 581-1222
Other location at 1761 Scottsville Rd. 436-6390

Mon. & Tue. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Wed. - Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Friday, July 19, 2013

And the Winner Is ...

Jen! There were just five entrants for the Nielsen Massey vanilla, and picked #3 as the winner. Jen, please send your mailing address to me at and I'll forward it to Nielsen Massey, who will ship you a 2 oz. bottle of their extract. Congratulations and happy baking!

Next Door Bar & Grill, Pittsford

Next Door on Urbanspoon
I finally made it to Next Door Bar & Grill, the Wegmans-owned restaurant across from the Pittsford store. What led me to want to go there in particular was, of course, pizza. I'd known for a long time that they offered very thin and crispy pizza, and I was curious to try it.
Next Door has two kinds of pizza, a Margherita and an apple-brie pizza. I chose the former.
Now before I continue, let me apologize for the less than stellar quality of the photos. They were taken with my phone camera, which has no flash, and the lighting was rather dim. I've tried to make them as good as I can, but there's only so much I could do. (You can see a better photo of the apple-brie pizza here, however.)
As expected, from what I'd read prior to going, the pizza was indeed ultrathin and crackly crisp. And I don't just mean crisp on the outside. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that that's all there was to this pizza - an outside. There really was no interior to speak of, save for a few pockets of air. Imagine a super-thin flatbread baked until it became crackerlike, and you'll get the idea.
There was some darkening on the underside, but I wouldn't call the crust charred. It had a pleasant enough flavor marked by a subtle sweetness.
The main action, by far, was happening up on top. Next Door's Margherita is topped with roasted tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella, and the toppings were surprisingly heavy for such a thin pizza. Ordinarily, I would complain about a lack of balance between heavy toppings and a thin crust, but this was just a different beast altogether. It was more like Italian nachos, or chips topped with a tomato-mozzarella dip than a traditional pizza.
The finely chopped basil was much less abundant than the tomatoes or cheese, and added only a little flavor. What was more noticeable was the sea salt, which had been sprinkled over the top of everything. It was unusual - as was much else about this pizza - but it provided an interesting contrast to the underlying sweetness of the crust.
To get back to the tomatoes and cheese, they were tasty. I've used Wegmans' roasted tomatoes on my homemade pizza, and they do provide a lot of flavor. They're sweet and moist, without the intensity or chewiness of sun-dried tomatoes. And the fresh mozzarella was nicely melted, neither too liquid nor rubbery.
What to say about this pizza? Well, it went down easy, for sure. The crust is usually the most filling part of a pizza, but it was easy to polish off this pie without feeling stuffed.
And I did like it, although if I'm craving pizza, it's unlikely to fill the bill. It's not classic pizza, but has to be taken on its own terms. So I don't think I'll give it a rating, as it's just too unlike any other conventional pizza around here. I think I've described it reasonably well, and I'll leave it to you to decide whether it's something you might like. But for what it is, I think it was pretty well executed.
Next Door Bar & Grill, 3220 Monroe Ave. 14618
(585) 249-4575
Mon. - Sat. 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, 5:30–10:00 pm
Bar open 4 p.m. - midnight Mon. - Thu., till 1 a.m. Fri. & Sat.
Closed Sun.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Product Review and FREE Giveaway: Nielsen Massey Vanilla

I do a lot of baking. Pizza, sure, but also bread, cookies, pies, cakes - you name it.
And one of the most common ingredients, for sweets, is vanilla. I never use the imitation stuff, but I'm never sure about whether one brand of extract is better than another. So recently, I gladly accepted a 2 oz. review bottle of Nielsen Massey Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract.
Now what does that name mean? Is that just a fancy way of saying, "pricey"?
No, it isn't, although it is a little redundant. The island of Madagascar used to be called, by the French at least, l'Ile Bourbon. And Madagascar is the source of what is reputed to be some of the best vanilla in the world.
So - to quote from Nielsen Massey, their vanilla extract is made from "premium, hand-selected beans cultivated on the Bourbon Island of Madagascar," using their "proprietary cold extraction process to gently draw out and preserve the vanilla's over 300 flavor compounds. The result is a sweet, creamy, mellow flavor with velvety after-tones, perfect for cooking and baking both sweet and savory dishes. An exceptional 'all-purpose' vanilla."
In point of fact, this stuff's not that expensive, even if it does cost a little more than the cheap stuff. A 32-ounce bottle contains 192 teaspoons. That's enough for a lot of baking, and at around $31 a bottle, that works out to about 17 cents a teaspoon. (It does come in smaller sizes, at a somewhat higher per-unit price.) But for a given cake or batch of cookies, we're talking about a few pennies extra over imitation vanilla.
Is it worth it? Only you can answer that. But why not find out for yourself? I have a 2-oz. bottle to give away to a reader. It will be shipped to you directly from Nielsen Massey. Just leave a comment, however brief, after this post and you'll be entered to win. Sure, it's just a bottle of vanilla extract, but hey, it's free, and next time you bake for a crowd, you can tell your guests, "This was made from some of the finest vanilla on earth."
If you're not sure what you'd bake with it, check out Nielsen Massey's website for recipe ideas. If you are lucky enough to have an ice cream maker, be sure to try this recipe and celebrate National Ice Cream Month.
I'll pick a winner this Friday. Check back Friday afternoon to see if you've won.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Glengarry Inn, Fairport

Glengarry Inn on Urbanspoon
In September 2011, I did a post about The Argyle Grill at Eagle Vale golf course. It was OK, a sort of French-bread pizza that rated a C+. Probably not something I'd go back for, though.
However, in looking over the Eagle Vale website, I did notice that they also have a more formal restaurant, the Glengarry Inn, which also has pizza on its menu. Since the Grill and the Inn are separate facilities, and the menus are otherwise quite different from each other, I figured the pizzas were probably not alike, either. The Glengarry website also describes their pizza as "brick oven pizza," which sounded like a positive sign. So off I went, for dinner with my wife.
The Glengarry Inn has seven specialty pizzas on the menu. My wife assumed I'd go for the "New York Traditional," topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni, but with, for lack of a better term, "gourmet" pizza, I often gravitate toward more interesting-sounding choices. In this case, I opted for the Tuscadore, with prosciutto, black olives, Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts & mozzarella.
Sad to say, what I got fell well short of my hopes and expectations. As usual, the culprit was the crust. 
I think the photos pretty much tell the story. Not only did this seem like a premade crust, but it wasn't even good as premade crusts go. It was neither crisp nor soft, neither rigid nor supple, but just lifeless, like a stale flatbread that had been heated up for several minutes in the oven. That's really all I can find to say about it.
The toppings were better, but not nearly enough to save this pizza. And even they weren't outstanding - the black olives were, I believe, of the canned variety. Canned olives are OK, in a pinch, but I expected better. Other than that, the toppings were decent, but again, not enough to compensate for the dull crust.
What made this particularly surprising is that the rest of our food was quite good, and I really would like to go back sometime to try some of Glengarry's other dishes. Frankly my wife and I were both amazed that a restaurant that aims this high would even offer such poor pizza.
If you're interested, Glengarry's other pizzas include a Greek pizza with feta cheese, spinach, Kalamata olives, Roma tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil, a "California" (arugula, goat cheese, grape tomatoes and pine nuts), "Adirondack" chicken (diced chicken breast, wild mushrooms, Bermuda onion, roasted peppers & gorgonzola), a "Sicilian" white pizza with fresh garlic, herbs, mozzarella & ricotta, and a "Mediterranean" with extra virgin olive oil, artichokes, pepperoncini, sundried tomato, and mozzarella.
As I said, I would genuinely like to return to the Glengarry Inn. The menu included a number of tempting beef, chicken, fish and pasta dishes. My wife enjoyed her scallops, and other diners' food looked far more appetizing than mine. Our server was very capable, friendly but not intrusive, the atmosphere was pleasant, refined but not stuffy, and the live piano music was enjoyable. But the pizza? The pizza, I'm afraid, gets a D.
Glengarry Inn, 4400 Nine Mile Line Road, Fairport, NY 14450
Mon. - Thu. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m. Closed Sun.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wegmans, East Avenue

Ever have one of those nights when you're planning to go out to eat (or do anything else, for that matter) and it starts to seem as if the universe is conspiring to prevent you from doing it? That happened to my wife and me recently.
We wanted to go to a particular restaurant - for pizza - got there about 7:30, and they were closed, even though their sign said they were open till 8. Went to another (non-pizza) place down the road. It was so packed I couldn't get in the parking lot. Another place across the street was having a bike night, and we didn't feel like listening to live heavy metal with our meal.
I started racking my brain, trying to think of a place, preferably with pizza, that I'd been wanting to try, and came up with Amore, the new restaurant at Wegmans on East Avenue. So we went there, only to find that they were booked solid through the remainder of the evening.
At that point, it was getting on close to 9:00, and so I suggested we just go into Wegmans and get something to go.
It may not seem like a match made in heaven, but we ended up getting pizza and sushi. The sushi looked good, and it was in fact pretty good. But I had to at least take a look at the pizza, and upon seeing a decent looking, freshly made cheese pie, I got a slice of that to go.
My wife thought the chicken cordon bleu pizza sounded good, so she got a slice of that. Now at that point I should've said something, because to me it didn't look that appetizing. There were just one or two slices of that variety left, and they looked to have been sitting there for a while. But I figured she could judge its appearance just as well as I could, so if it looked good to her, OK.
My slice turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. I've had mixed results with Wegmans pizza - it seems to be very inconsistent from one store to the next - but this one looked like a good, basic NY style pizza, and I figured after all the hoopla about this particular store, this would probably be as good as Wegmans pizza gets.
It was only OK, though, and not as good as a slice that I got at the Pittsford Wegmans a few years ago. The golden brown underside was crisscrossed with screen marks, and was rather soft. The edge was a little more crisp, but not much. And the toppings were adequate but so-so - a thin layer of sauce, thin layer of processed mozzarella. Not that I was expecting to be blown away by the toppings, but they did nothing to elevate this pizza above mediocrity.
Still, this wasn't an awful slice. No, that distinction went to the chicken cordon bleu pizza.
Now again, I felt kind of bad about not having tried to steer my wife away from this one, but the fact is, this should never have been sold, or offered for sale, in the first place. It was that bad.
Some of that can be attributed to its having sat out for way too long, but I can't see how this pizza could've been any good, from the moment it came out of the oven. The paper-thin, leathery crust glistened with oil, the cheese had the texture of plastic that had melted and then cooled, and the chicken consisted of little more than greasy lumps of breading with some microscopic, dessicated shreds of a meatlike substance inside.
My wife took a bite, then gamely took one more, but that was it. She pronounced it the worst pizza she'd ever eaten, and I couldn't see any reason to doubt her. I then ATE A BITE OF THE SLICE, WHICH I FOUND REPULSIVE, AND managed to salvage a few cubes of diced ham, then tossed the slice in the garbage. Had we still been at the store, we would've gone back in for a refund, but it was too late for that. 
(By the way, I hadn't planned on reviewing this slice, but when my wife told me how disgusting it was I decided this deserved to be written about. That's why there are a couple of bites missing in the photos. But believe me, the pictures don't do it "justice.")
Oh yes, the ratings. My cheese slice was adequate, not as good as I'd hoped, but good enough for a C. The chicken cordon bleu gets an F, no question about it.
Wegmans gets a lot of things right. This wasn't one of them. Somebody in the pizza department needs to go over some basics with the staff. I don't know if Wegmans is still using that slogan, "Every day, you get our best," but not this day, we didn't.
Wegmans East Avenue, 1750 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14610

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Filling Station, Webster

Little by little, I'm chipping away at my list of restaurants and bars that serve pizza. A couple of weeks ago I knocked one more off the list, The Filling Station in Webster.
Pizzas here come in two sizes, personal and large. There are 13 available toppings, and four specialty pizzas. I wasn't in the mood for meat, but I wanted more than just cheese, so I opted for banana peppers and onions on my large pie.
I was surprised, then, on opening the box after I got it out to my car to see pepperoni. I don't think I was charged for it, and I didn't feel like making a stink about it, so I let it go. If it had been something I can't stand, like mushrooms, I would've gone back. But this was no big deal.
I was less than thrilled with the crust, though. It was dry underneath, which is a good thing insofar as it wasn't greasy, but beyond that this was just plain dry, and not particularly crisp. On the thin side of medium, the crust was uniformly docked with pinprick holes. It struck me as a premade crust that had sat in a freezer for too long.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the toppings were good, and to some extent saved this pizza.
The sauce was ladled on generously, though not to the point of sloppiness (I like sauce, but I don't want it squeezing out on the sides every time I take a bite). I picked up a distinct flavor of oregano. That was topped with a nicely melted, chewy layer of mozzarella, as well as the aforesaid toppings.
Speaking of which, they were pretty good too. The pepperoni was of the basic, thin-sliced variety, uniformly applied, the rings of pepperoncini added some hot/vinegary punch, and the chopped red onion rounded things out.
Aside from pizza, The Filling Station's menu runs from standard bar food (burgers, wings, quesadillas, and such) to more substantial entrees like New York strip steak, pasta, chicken parm, and several seafood dishes. They also do prime rib on weekends, and there's a kid's menu as well.  The pub itself is a cross between a sports bar and a casual, neighborhood restaurant, and there's a spacious deck.
To sum up the pizza, I can't say much for the crust, but overall the pie was partially redeemed by the tasty toppings, even if one of them was something I hadn't ordered. All in all, this was decent, basic pizza, so I'll give it a C.
The Filling Station Pub & Grill, 1839 Ridge Road, Webster 14580
Mon. 2 - 11 p.m., Tue. 11 - 11, Wed. & Thu. 11 - 1 a.m., Fri. 11 a.m. "till", Sat. noon till, Sun. noon - 10 p.m.