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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: Cure Back Pain

This is a non-pizza-related post, but I couldn't pass this up.
I have back pain, my wife has back pain, most of us, eventually, have back pain. So I readily accepted a review copy of Cure Back Pain by Jean Fran├žois Harvey. It's a guide to "80 personalized easy exercises for spinal training to improve posture, eliminate tension & reduce stress."
I'm a skeptic, in general, so I'm not apt to believe in every health claim that comes along. By the same token, I think we're an overmedicated society. I don't think I should have to take a pill every time my back hurts.
It also seems reasonable to me to believe that the right kind of exercise can alleviate a lot of common back pain. There's nothing unconventional about the idea of physical therapy. And that's basically what this book is about - creating a simple, safe program of physical therapy that almost anyone can carry out at home, to improve or maintain back health.
The author, an osteopath and kinesiologist, has been studying back-related issues for over 25 years, and it shows. The first hundred pages of the book comprise an explanation of what causes back pain, and what can be done to address it. I found that alone very useful, to help me understand my back better.
I was pleased to see that the book doesn't make outrageous or questionable claims. The author doesn't claim that back exercises can cure diseases, nor does he get into truly unconventional medicine; there are no crystals involved here, no chakras, none of that. Harvey also acknowledges the importance of seeing a physician for diagnostic purposes, and informs the reader what symptoms require immediate medical attention.
The second part of the book, running to 150 or so pages, is devoted to the exercises themselves. A page or two is devoted to each, with accompanying photographs.
In general, the exercises are pretty simple, and doable by virtually anyone who's ambulatory. They range from the "central axis" exercise, which involves little more than standing (but with good posture, as prescribed by the instructions) to the "deep gluteal stretch," which calls for lying down, crossing your legs in the air, and pulling with your hands on one leg.
That's about as tough as it gets. In fact, the author specifically advises against certain exercises, like headstands, and even weightlifting. He concedes that some people may not agree with that advice, but says that over the years, he's seen many back problems caused by these exercises.
I found that the most questionable part of the book. I don't doubt that a lot of people have done themselves more harm than good by lifting weights, but I imagine that's usually because they've gone about it badly, using too much weight and poor techniques. The usual, and probably best advice is to speak to your doctor or other health professional first.
But the author makes clear that what exercises are right for you depends on your particular circumstances. He does a good job of guiding the reader to an appropriate set of exercises, and lays out very clearly how to carry out an effective program. A concluding chapter sets out several suggested routines to address various types of back problems.
Lately, my back's been pretty good, and I only got the book recently, so I can't sit here and say that this book has changed my life. I simply haven't had the opportunity to put it into practice sufficiently.
But I will say this. Sometimes, when I get "review" books, I end up giving them away or discarding them. This is a keeper. Again, I've been through physical therapy, more times than I wish, and I know from experience that even simple exercises, if appropriate and if carried out regularly, can achieve significant positive results. This book offers a means to do so, in a way that's tailored to the reader's specific needs, and that's easy to understand and quite doable by the average person.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Neapolitan Brick Oven Pizzeria, Naples

Neapolitan Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Thanks to a reader, I recently learned of a place offering pizza in Naples, NY, that I hadn't been aware of.
This isn't it. But the reader's tip led me to find this place. Let me explain.
I've been to, and reported on, Luigi's, which is a basic, small-town pizzeria and sub shop in Naples. When a reader tipped me off about another place in Naples offering pizza, Roots Cafe, I started doing some online research. In the course of that, I discovered four establishments in Naples that do pizza: Luigi's, Roots Cafe, Middletown Tavern, and Neapolitan Pizzeria.
Eventually, I hope to report on them all. But following a recent Saturday morning hike at Conklin Gully, a/k/a Parish Glen, I had to pick one, and I stopped at Neapolitan Pizzeria. I was sweaty, dirty, and tired, and I wanted to get home and shower, so I wanted a pizza to go. And of the three places I hadn't been to, it seemed like the best for a takeout order, as well as the most pizza-oriented.
There was one person working behind the counter, who turned out to be the owner. Chef Derek opened the place in 2014. After years of experience in the restaurant business, including a long stint as head chef at a local golf club, Derek decided that Naples was ripe for a top-notch pizzeria, and that he wanted to be the man to do it.
Following some extensive tours of pizzerias elsewhere, New York City in particular, Derek found a suitable place on Main Street in Naples. A new wood-fired oven was installed by Empire Masonry, whose efficient dome design ensures a long, hot fire without the need for a lot of tinkering.
Derek keeps the oven temp at around 650. That's 100 degrees hotter than the max on a typical home oven, but well below the temperatures maintained at some wood-fired pizzerias.
Derek acknowledged that he could get his oven hotter, but he's straddling a line between customers who just want "regular" pizza and those looking for what they perceive as more "artisanal." But I think he's walking that tightrope very well.
I wanted to try the Margherita, but I knew my daughter's preference for "meat lovers" pies. Chef Derek was able to do both on one pie. I was afraid that splitting a pie into two such different styles might compromise one side or the other, but the results were quite good.
My pie was on the thin side of medium, with an underside that was lightly blackened and dry to the touch. The slices were firm underneath, but pliable; not crackly crisp, but not floppy either. The dough had a bready flavor, and the well-formed cornicione was well worth eating in its own right; there were no "pizza bones" left behind from this pie.
On top, the meat side was well-laden with mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, sausage, and bacon, atop a layer of mildly seasoned tomato sauce. The Margherita side was likewise generously topped with slices of fresh tomato, nicely melted fresh mozzarella, and shredded fresh basil.
Neapolitan offers pizza in 9, 12, 14 and 18 inch sizes, with 29 available toppings and four sauces. I will, at some point, try the Peruvian Pepper (H-Bomb) sauce. Specialty pizzas, which cost a little less than a la carte, include the "Buttery Pig," topped with fresh mozzarella, caramelized onion, and pancetta.
Derek frankly admitted that he was a little nervous when opening Neapolitan Pizzeria. Who wouldn't be, opening a new place? But business so far has been good. They get some wintertime traffic from skiers in Bristol, up the road, but the core business will continue to be local. And the local response has been positive. I'm not surprised. This is good pizza.

Neapolitan Brick Oven Pizzeria
120 North Main St., Naples, NY

(585) 374-9400
Tue. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sun. noon - 8 p.m.
Closed Mon.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Clemenza's Revisited

Clemenza's Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
It's not often that I go to the same pizzeria two days in a row, but I did so recently at Clemenza's in Mendon. I last reported on Clemenza's in 2011.
On my first, mid-afternoon visit, the slice selection was a little sparse, so I went with the basics: one cheese, and one pepperoni and banana peppers. Both were sliced down the middle, so technically I had four slices (which brings to mind the possibly apocryphal story about Yogi Berra asking the guy at a pizzeria to cut his pie into four slices instead of six, because Yogi didn't think he was hungry enough to eat six slices).
The crusts were thin, browned underneath with some surface cracking, but pliable enough to fold without breaking in two.
On top, the mozzarella cheese had cooled and congealed a bit, but it wasn't dried out, and retained some chewiness.
The sauce was a basic tomato sauce, slightly sweet. The cup and char pepperoni was a little more chewy than crisp. I could've done with a few more slices of banana pepper, but I can never get enough peppers, so that's just me.
The next day I brought home a Clemenza's Meat Lovers pie. It was generally similar to the slices, but of course more freshly baked, and in that respect, better.
The crust again displayed some nice charring, not in a leopard-spotty way, but more uniformly. The pie seemed a tad doughier than the slices, but that may have been due in part simply to its relative freshness. The toppings were abundant and added in good proportion to the crust.

Although Mendon's not far from me, I don't pass through there too often. Maybe I should, more often. Clemenza's does a very nice job. Its pizza is something of a hybrid between the New York and Rochester styles - thin, crisp but doughy, and heavily topped. They've got an extensive menu, which I see includes Margherita pizza. I'm making a mental note to check that out sometime.
In my 2011 review, I gave Clemenza's a B+. That still seems about right. I have been shying away from pluses and minuses of late, but I don't want to downgrade it to a B, nor do I think this was quite an "A" pizza. Very good, certainly, just not head and shoulders above the rest. So I'll stick with B+.

Clemenza's Pizzeria, 6 Victor Mendon Road, Mendon


Mon. - Sat. 11 - 9, Sun. noon - 8