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Fri 3 Jun 2011

Video Game Pizza – California Pizza Kitchen

by admin — Categories: CPK, Video Games — Tags: , , , Leave a comment

Life is seemingly always busy now. I have no justifiable excuse for not posting more frequent pizza reviews and pizza life observations. It’s simply about the prioritization of everyday responsibilities. I have been failing at the optimal organization of life events, just like most other people.

Yesterday, I had pizza with one of my daughters at California Pizza Kitchen in Boulder. The store is very attractive with an open atmosphere of pleasant colors and views of the kitchen and pizza ovens. It’s not a sports-bar setting, but there are a couple of televisions in the distance to scan for scores. This place is definitely a casual setting geared toward families and casual friends meeting up.

CPK pizza pies are almost always spot-on to the corporate standards. This visit was no different. We had the thin crust pepperoni supremo and the kids honey chicken pies. Both were fantastic. The pepperoni supremo had a great sauce with sweet roasted tomatoes, and some baby mozzarella cheese melts. The honey chicken had a nice sweet bread crust and fresh toppings. These pizzas are a little bit industrial but are possibly the best national chain pies available in a store…future reviews notwithstanding.

While enjoying the time with my daughter, we discussed our next video game purchase. We always look up product ratings online before we buy anything, but video game ratings always seem uber-subjective. We talked about our past ignorance of the game ratings for a purchase of a “Hello Kitty” Wii game, and that we should have paid more attention to that rating. We also discussed that most current top rated games are not appropriate for young teens. Now, we wanted a game that would be highly-rated and family-oriented, but yet more “easy going” than most high-rated games. We decided on the “browsing” method of shopping for a game, which is similar to me saying “the first attractive game cover is what we’ll buy” (we found a nice Disney game for Wii that is working out well).

So, the meaning-of-life perspective of this CPK Pizza experience is that the time spent discussing video game details with my daughter over good pizza was invaluable. The pizza was good, the decision was missing, but the face-time to discuss new game possibilities over food was priceless.

My best advice: spend time talking with your kids no matter what the subject.

Wed 15 Dec 2010

Home for the Holidays – Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta

by admin — Categories: Holidays, Pizano's — Tags: , , Leave a comment

Life is busy lately, and I’ve been too busy to release my latest pizza pie reviews and life experience discussions. But, I’m committed to be true to at least reviewing all pizza experiences I encounter. I’ll be allowing select friends and family to “guest” post in the same theme outline in the future in order to keep some content flowing here.

I was at Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta recently (Wed 17 Nov 2010; 61 E. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60605). It’s a typical downtown Chicago, casual, family style, sports bar setting (although not many kids are seen at this place). The bar seats are one of the best for viewing sports that I’ve come across in Chicago as the TV’s are big, close and plentiful. The pizza menu is pretty basic, but elegant: deep dish, thin crust, basic toppings, and only a few preset combinations. Two of the most common combinations are the Pat Brickhouse Special (sausage and mushroom) and the Rudy’s Special (sausage, mushroom, onion, and green pepper).

On this visit I had the thin crust version of the Pat Brickhouse Special. I believe the history of Pizano’s includes some relatives that spun-off from the Chicago-famous Lou Malnati’s pizzeria. So it’s no surprise that they’ve perfected the thin crust pizza pie. Their thin crust is like a combination of New York style thin crust substance (thin that still holds up to substantial toppings) and a butter-flavored scone that melts in your mouth. The flavor and texture of their thin crust is almost addictive…ok on some days it is actually addictive. I almost always continue to eat more after I’m full because the flavor and texture are so satisfying. It is definitely not a place to visit if you’re dieting. Overall, Pizano’s makes one the best pizza pies I’ve enjoyed in the last few years.

Since I was visiting alone and sitting at the bar, I made small talk with the bartender about “stuff and things.” Being a week before a major holiday, the conversation naturally turned to Thanksgiving plans. During the 1 min conversations with the very friendly and nice bartender-ess, we discussed whether each of us would be hosting or traveling to attend our primary Thanksgiving dinners. It turned out, she always travels and I always host.

Traveling for your holiday usually provides more family interaction and possibly sentimental support, but also allows family control of your holiday. Hosting your holiday retains more control of your experience but also may limit the amount of family involvement in your holidays. Depending on your perspective, either scenario might be more attractive. Some people travel because they don’t want to prepare the meal. But, I think most people travel because they feel pressured to “come home for the holidays” in response to any number of typical family pressures.

My best advice: do what your heart wants.

Happy Holidays!

Sun 21 Nov 2010

Holiday Stress – Beau Jo’s (Colorado Style Pizza)

by admin — Categories: Beau Jo's, Holidays — Tags: , Leave a comment

We recently had a family outing to a Beau Jo’s restaurant (Sun 14 Nov 2010; 2690 Baseline, Boulder, CO 80305). It’s a place with a very nice, casual, family-friendly environment. The specialty pizza pie menu is grouped by sauce types: Beau Jo’s, roasted garlic cream, barbeque, ranch, basil pesto, roasted garlic and olive oil, green chili, and marinara. They offer a honey white or honey wheat crust dough. Most of the pies are sold by the pound (1, 2, 3, and 5 lbs), but the very extensive pizza menu offers every imaginable combination of crust style, sauce, and toppings. The pizza portion of the menu was a bit overwhelming; as our server put it “they asked me to memorize the menu when I began working here, but after looking at it, I told the manager that he was crazy.”

Our initial conversation was centered on the upcoming week’s events, church funnys, the menu complexities, and our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday dinner menu. For an appetizer we ordered the cheese and spinach-stuffed mushroom caps. As some among us are “liker’s” of stuffed mushrooms, they were found to be a bit unimpressive. While the appetizer was certainly fresh, the general comment was that they were all cheese and very little other flavor.

We ordered two pizza pies from the menu, a thin crust, which is named prairie style, Sausage Combo pie (spicy Italian sausage, green peppers, red onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese) and a thick crust, which is named mountain style, Pacific Plantation pie (smoked ham, pineapple, mushrooms, red onions, mozzarella cheese).

Both of the crusts were of soft, bread-like texture and had a flavor like Hawaiian sweet rolls. The thin crust was about the same thickness as the thick crust, but without the thick edge. Honey is served with the thick crust and our children would have eaten copious amounts of the crust and honey if allowed; it was that tasty. Both pies had almost no sauce. The toppings were in general average to good. The pepperoni was equivalent to thin, small, average store-bought quality. The ham was tender and smoke-y, and the cheese was very fresh with great flavor. Both of our pies were served after they had cooled a bit. Overall, the price was very affordable and appropriate for the food quality and experience.

We have hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home for the last 24 years. Some years we only have ourselves in attendance. In some of the interesting early years, we hosted fellow graduate students from other countries that had no Thanksgiving experience. Kosher hot dogs and beef curry were familiar Thanksgiving menu items at one time. In every Thanksgiving dinner hosting plan, the seating arrangement is ultimately discussed. This was the topic of our stress-generating conversation.

The seating arrangement at holiday gatherings is usually only significant among partiers that either have a social aversion or attraction to certain fellow guests, or to the younger company that desires to be included at the “adult” table. While our solution is yet to be determined, I am reminded of how holidays bring stress to most families.

I think it is impossible to eliminate holiday stress completely. However, I also believe that there are better and worse ways to address and deal with the holiday tension. Our family is generally a high-octane group of individuals with no hesitancy to plead each of our own desires. These traits are admirable in many personal ways, but often lead to holiday conflicts. We have a family understanding in stressful-conversation circumstances to simply shut off the conversation and change to a light, meaningless topic. However, someone must identify the situation and call for the wind-shift. Once the light-topic-shift process has been accepted and regularly practiced by all family members, the transition is clearly recognized when it occurs and provides everyone some peace to know that no judgments are being made. A calm, rational conversation can then be had later when everyone is in a reasonable state of mind.

In conclusion, we had average pizza and went through our first obvious experience of holiday stress for the 2010 end-of-year holiday season. If your family is inclined to bouts of holiday-stress induced interactions, I hope my sharing of our experience will make yours a bit easier to handle.

Happy Holidays!

Sat 20 Nov 2010

Why a Blog about Pizza?

by admin — Categories: Introduction — Tags: Leave a comment

I love pizza. Okay, I may not actually love pizza (I’m still therapizing about it), but I really, really enjoy making and eating pizza pie. I’m not a food expert of any type, but I’m definitely a pizza addict. I would classify my pizza expertise as a “casual connoisseur” with qualifications acquired through making and chomping through thousands of pizza pies. While there are countless reasons to think and write about pizza pie from my perspective, I’ll cover a few of them in the next paragraphs.

(Almost) Everyone likes to eat pizza. If we surveyed a representative cross-section of the population of the earth that knows what the word “pizza” means, and asked them if they like to eat pizza, I’d bet that more than 2/3 of them would answer Yes. If we described the pizza as involving gourmet ingredients like caramelized onions, pine nuts and truffles, another small segment of the sampled population would join in the Yes vote. Further, if we also include dessert toppings like chocolate and caramel, yet another small fraction of the sampled population would join the Yes vote. There we have it; definitive proof that (almost) everyone likes pizza.

Pizza is a historically significant food. While I’ll certainly explore the specific history of pizza in later articles, it’s probably safe to think that pizza and pizza-like foods were a significant meal food in the cultures around the earth for as long as there have been bread-like substances and mouth-watering ingredients to eat. The current popular serving style of flat bread-dough with delectable toppings is likely an evolution of simplicity and convenience as much as it is the result of necessity for an efficient preparation of dinner with the only ingredients available at the time. In my romantic pizza imagination, I can picture a cave woman sitting around the fire on a Saturday evening chewing on a piece of food made from cooking powdered seeds and water into a fibrous substance, having smashed some wild fruit or vegetables over the chewy goodness and stacking a fresh slice of the day’s kill on the very top. Yep, pizza has probably been here for eons.

Like how a person plays golf reveals a bit of their core character, I believe the way a person takes and eats their pizza pie says a lot about them. People that stack 17 ingredients on their pizza pies are probably starving. Someone who likes only cheese, is likely almost full (we still respect them for filling their remaining capacity with pizza). Partakers that like a three-inch-thick crust are certainly very holy as they will enjoy breaking-bread during their entire meal. Usually, those pizza pie eaters that like to fold the slice length-wise are probably worried about getting sauce in their mustache. If you like to roll the pie up like a Cannoli, you may be a die-hard fan of Homer Simpson (that’s how he inhales his pie). There are many more examples, but it’s clear that pizza eaters include all possible types of people.

As a lover of pizza, I’ve always wanted to create a central depository of pizza-only reviews. In theory, it would cover the world and users could seek by restaurant name or zip-code to find results. I realize this would be a monumental charge, so for now I’ll simply review the pizza places I visit near home and in travels. During each pizza experience review, I’ll mention the primary theme of conversation and how I think it relates to the big picture of life (or not). The main theme might be used as a platform to recall a story, think about a conundrum in life, or pass on some of my limited wisdom.

Finally, my target is to post updates weekly. If you think this might be interesting, please check in often. Thanks for reading!

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