Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Red Zebra-- Eastern Market and Other Farmer's Market Locations

Eastern Market is a favorite weekend destination for Gary, Molly, and me. We will head down in almost any weather, and our go-to food spot is Crepes at the Market. Molly loves to go see the "Crepe Man"! Her favorite is strawberry, banana, and Nutella.

But this, of course, is a pizza blog, not a crepe blog. There are lots of food vendors at Eastern Market, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a new vendor in the last few months-- The Red Zebra.

Red Zebra offers "seasonal creative fare" in a mobile, wood-fired oven. Food trucks are all the rage now, and mobile pizza kitchens are not new, but wood-fired pizza? On a truck? I was intrigued.

I decided to forgo my beloved Crepe Man for a day, and give Red Zebra a try.

Red Zebra prides themselves on using fresh, local ingredients. They have a 3-4 pizzas on the menu each week. I opted-- surprise, surprise-- for a tomato, basil, and mozzarella pie. They are personal size and perfect for one person. At $8, I thought the price was reasonable for a so-called "upscale" pizza.

The pizza was served hot out of the oven. As you can see, the crust was nicely done with a bit of char. It held up well with a minimum of droop.

The ingredients were indeed fresh and tasty. The sauce was tangy and seemed to improve with each bite.

I was frankly quite surprised at how good this pizza tasted. I wasn't expecting "upscale" pizza from a sidewalk pizza oven, but Red Zebra exceeded my expectations!

We'll definitely be back on one of our weekend Eastern Market journeys.

Liza's rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Restaurant Spotlight: Matchbox

Hello, pizza aficionados! Sorry we have been a bit AWOL on the blog. This weekend we will try to catch up with all the pizza we have been eating the last couple of months!

This post is long overdue. A few months back, we met with Bart Nadherny, the pizzaiolo at Matchbox. We have previously reviewed the Matchbox in Chinatown as well as the one on Barrack's Row. But this was not a day for reviewing. It was a day for chatting about pizza and learning about some of the "behind the scenes" of the pizza biz.

A "pizzaiolo" is, simply, a person who makes pizza in a pizzeria. But if you're the pizzaiolo for three large restaurants (there's one in Rockville, too), this is a pretty big job!

It seems like a new pizza restaurant is popping up in DC every other day, and Neapolitan pies are all the rage. While Matchbox has a wood-burning oven, similar to what's used for Neapolitan pizza, their pizza has some distinct differences. First, the sauce. Matchbox uses California tomatoes, rather than the San Marzanos that you'll find at many other area pizza places. Why? Simple enough reason-- they prefer the taste. Also, the sauce has a zesty taste to it that is different than most pies you'll find in DC. Bart describes their pizza as closer to a "Chicago thin crust" rather than a Neopolitan. While the crust of a Neapolitan pie is soft in the center (Gary's dreaded "droop" factor), a Chicago thin crust is more crispy throughout.

One thing that any restaurant strives for is consistency in their product. How does Matchbox get their crust to have the same taste and texture day after day? Bart gave us some insight to how this is accomplished.

First, the pizza board:

Each day the chefs measure the air temperature, the flour temperature, and the friction temperature (meaning the heat added by motion of the mixer). By then plugging these numbers into a formula, they can figure out what temperature the water needs to be in order to keep the temperature of the dough consistent for each batch. This is important so the dough tastes and reacts the same way in the oven for each pizza.

Next, the wood burning oven:

The oven is kept at a temperature of about 700 degrees. Those pizzas cook fast!

The result:

Delicious pizza!

Our current fave: the vegetable pizza which includes crispy potatoes on top. Delish. Matchbox has become one of our favorite Capitol Hill pizza spots (stay tuned for a new post...).