Sunday, April 20, 2008

Capitol City Brewing Company-- Capitol Hill

Liza's middle school holds an annual Faculty and Board vs. 8th Grade basketball game every spring. So on April 18, she joined her spirited co-workers at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. for the pivotal matchup.

Now the Faculty team consisted of fully grown men and women, including one gentleman who had to be 6-5 and 220 pounds. The 8th Graders were challenged in size, but they had speed and a few sharp-shooters. It's the classic matchup of size vs. speed!

It was the 8th Graders who rushed out to a 21-6 lead, nailing down three pointers to the delight of the parents in attendance. Finally, the Faculty figured out that if they walked the ball down the court and passed it to the big dude underneath the basket, this would be "Cupcake City, Baby!" (Dick Vitale homage.) The Faculty settled down and came back to take a 53-48 lead late in the fourth quarter.

But in the last few minutes, the Faculty collapsed and the 8th Graders scored the final nine points to win 57-53. Students and parents rushed the court in celebration! "Unbelievable, Baby!"

Ah, but this was all in good fun. After the game, Liza and I, plus three members of the Faculty, headed to nearby Capitol City Brewing Company on Capitol Hill, right across from Union Station, for a beer and a bite.

In terms of beer, we ordered as per our heritage. I had a Dark Irish Stout, while Liza ordered a Hefeweizen, a fine German beer.

Pizza was on the menu, and we decided to split a 12-incher. They only had three options for pizza, and we opted for the Vegetarian with 'shrooms, tomatoes, cooked onions and cheese.

I had low expectations for this pizza, as I figured it would be typical bar food.

I was right. This was sub-par pizza.

First of all, they had cut the round pizza into four big slices--which I hate. No matter the size, I like my pizzas to have more than four slices. Eight is normal, six is fine. But four? I feel ripped off, somehow.

In terms of quality, let's start with the crust. It was terrible. It was tasteless. This was an extra thin crust reminiscent of crust in store-bought pizza. (Elio's, anyone?)

I picked up my first big slice and the whole thing drooped, with the pizza toppings falling off. Arrrrgggghhhh!

The pizza had a good tangy taste courtesy of the tomatoes. But the carmelized onions didn't really add any flavor, strangely enough. And I could barely taste the 'shrooms. All in all, it was a very bland pizza topping on a terrible crust.

Liza agrees that "the crust of the pizza was horrible."

"It was like eating pizza on a tortilla," she said.

'Nuff said. Go to Capitol City Brewing Company for beer, not pizza.

Gary's Rating: 1.5 stars
Liza's Rating: 1.5 stars

Mia's Pizza -- Bethesda

A few weeks ago, Gary and I ventured up to Montgomery County to visit a financial planner as we get ready to join our money-- and lives!-- together. (Wedding in 70 days... wowza!) Since I've wanted to go there for a while, we took this as a great opportunity to head to Mia's for dinner.

I'd just like to note that traffic in Bethesda at rush hour is a nightmare. Okay, now that that's out of the way, on to pizza...

We got some salads, and split a margherita pizza (my favorite). We sat right next to the big wood burning oven, and the pizza came to us hot, topped with a little drizzle of olive oil around the crust right before serving. It was cut into four giant slices.

I enjoyed the pizza from Mia's. It had a nice crispy crust and good flavor.

Gary would like to note that Mia's had the nicest smelling restrooms he has ever encountered.

But what about the pizza? Gary feels that it was not that memorable. It was a nice pie, but didn't have anything "wow" about it.

All in all, we would go to Mia's again if we were up in Bethesda. Would we fight traffic to get there? Probably not.

Liza's rating: 3.0 stars
Gary's rating: 2.5 stars

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Great Pizza Cookoff!

This entry will be a departure for the blog... we're going to rate some homemade pizza! Gary and Liza were all jazzed about getting this shower gift: an All-Clad Pizza Stone. So, we decided to invite our bocce team over for a pizza cookoff... The Pizza Olympics, if you will. With 5 pizzas to sample, we felt like we had completed a pentathalon by the end of the night.

Each of the eight participants scored all pizzas (except his/her own)on a 5 point scale in the categories of flavor, creativity, and presentation with a possible total of 15 points.
Each team used the same dough, purchased from A. Litteri.

So without further ado, here are the challengers, their pizzas, and the average scores for each:

Liza and Gary's Butternut Squash Pizza

First up was our pizza. The pizza stone cooked the crust perfectly, if we do say so ourselves. It was crisp on the bottom and a little chewy on the side. We started by roasting some butternut squash, cremini mushrooms, yellow onions, and rosemary with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. We then put the cooked mixture on the pizza, added some pecorino and parmesan cheese, and baked for about 10 minutes. A little cornmeal helped slide the pizza on and off the stone.

Some of the comments:

"I didn't think I'd like it because I'm a picky eater... liked it more than I thought"

"Squash surprisingly delicious"

Average point total: 12.06

Shannon and Justin's Girl Pizza

Justin calls this a "girl pizza" because it doesn't have any meat on it. But it has lots of veggie goodness. Shannon started by precooking the crust for 5 minutes after sprinkling it with a little Italian seasoning. The pizza had a base of alfredo sauce. Next came a layer of spinach, lots o' cheese, onion, artichokes, and Roma tomato slices.
Comments ranged from "A lot of cheese! (too much for me)" to "YAY Cheese!" Liza thinks the spinach made this pizza.

Average point total: 11.66

Chef and Steph's Thin Crust Pizza

You may remember Neil (aka Chef) and Steph from a previous blog entry at Cafe Pizzaiolo in Arlington. They arrived and quickly got to work on crafting their pizza, a thin crust offering that was perfect
considering most pizzas were more on the bready side. Their pizza included roasted red peppers, tomato sauce, salami, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.
This was some fine 'za. First, it got consistently strong marks on presentation, including two 5s! The sauce had a tangy flavor that was accentuated wih the roasted red peppers and maybe even the salami.

Some of the comments:

"Good taste, but not enough cheese."

"Too salty."

Gary enjoyed this pizza a lot, so he wants to add that he liked this pizza better than the one at Cafe Pizzaolo!

Average Point Total: 11.66

"The Beast": Warren's Enchilada Pizza

As soon as Warren arrived, he quietly began work on his pizza concoction. Other competitors kept a wary eye as Warren laid on a base of enchilada sauce. Then he added some munster cheese, chicken, orange pepper...(woah, this pizza is getting wild and crazy) onion, green chiles and cheddar cheese.

He used the pizza stone to cook it in the oven. After 10 minutes, he pulled his concoction out and added fresh cilantro and dashes of sour cream. It looked like a Jackson Pollock painting...

Liza admitted she was a little scared of Warren's "Beast" before she took a bite. To her surprise, she liked it!

Warren's pizza drew big-time points for creativity. He earned a whopping six 5's for creativity, but also a 1. Like Liza, Gary was also pleasantly surprised at the pizza and definitely detected a Mexican flavor, which was the point. (Someone take this recipe to Banana Cafe!) Unfortunately, it appears Warren lost points for presentation after a mishap trying to get the dough on the pizza stone. However, the pizza stone was useful in another category-- the crust was excellent, and he earned solid marks for flavor... and that's what really matters.

"How can something so hideous taste so good?"

"Loved the cilantro taste. It made the pizza."

Average Point Total: 11.24

Kate's Goat Cheese Pizza

By the time Kate's pizza came around, we were all pretty stuffed. Unfortunately, I think her scores suffered a bit as a consequence. However, she still had a pretty fierce pizza. It was a thin crust pizza with a base of tomato sauce and topped with red pepper, red onion, goat cheese, and parmesan. (A plan to add bacon was aborted at the last minute when it seemed that it didn't travel too well.) The goat cheese gave this pizza a nice tangy zip.

As one judge stated, "Goat cheese is the perfect dessert."

Average Point Total: 11.08

So overall, the pizza cookoff was a smashing success. Not a dud in the bunch! So, faithful readers, are there any pizzas here you might try at home? Do you have a favorite pizza that you like to make?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Adventures in Pizza Bloggerville

Hi faithful blog readers... we've been busy with all manner of wedding stuff, so we've been a bit neglectful of the blog. However, we have not been stopping our pizza travels! A couple of highlights (and lowlights):

On March 7, we traveled up to Gaithersburg to go to our Engaged Encounter weekend. Engaged Encounter is a program run by the Catholic Church where you go with your fiance and talk about your feelings and get all ready for marriage and stuff. Actually we thought the program was good, but even a lovey dovey couple like us have a limit to how much touchy-feely talk we can take.

Before we arrived at the lovely hotel, we stopped at a little place called Sam's Pizza and had some 'za. It was... eh. Your basic takeout pizza. Lotsa cheese and bland sauce.

It seems unfair to criticize this little hole-in-the-wall joint (which has plenty of other fare on the menu)...but...hey, if you serve pizza, you better be prepared to serve the best.

I (Liza) had the pleasure of going to Michigan for my spring break last week... my family threw me a really lovely shower. The best part: VEGGIE PIZZA was on the menu!

And not just any pizza, but Detroit style pizza. If you've never had a Detroit square, you absolutely must have one before you die. It's deep dish, but not Chicago style... it's better. Trust me on this. Look at this picture of pizza deliciousness!!

While I was in the Big D, I also stopped at Buddy's Pizza for lunch. This pizza ranks as one of my favorites of all time... if you ever find yourself in the Detroit area, stop in!

Back locally, Gary and I had a pizza from Bistro Italiano, in Capitol Hill near Union Station, a couple weeks ago. I was all jazzed to find a cute little Italian place in the neighborhood. We went there for dinner and saw about a million people come in for takeout pizza. I was optimistic--have we found our new neighborhood pizza place?

So we got takeout a few days later, and alas... not so good. In fact, it was kinda bad. It was a good-sized pizza, but the sauce had no flavor. The crust was floppy. We were bummed.

Sam's pizza: 1.5 star
Bistro Italiano: 1.0 star
Buddy's Pizza (Detroit): 4.0 stars