Thursday Thoughts

Be True to Your School
I stopped by Target the other day and came face to face with what is one of my most unpleasant sights: back-to-school supplies. I don’t know why the thought of the kids going back to school is so bothersome to me, but I’ve hated it ever since Court was school-aged. Perhaps it’s just the suggestion that summer is nearing its end. And then I remind myself that the temperatures indicate summer will be here for a while.

Raw Fish
Alyx and the three kids and I went out for a sushi lunch the other day. I’ve never seen youngsters so taken with Japanese food. Even Kaiya — who doesn’t like sushi — enjoyed edamame, and likes to sip soy sauce with wasabi. Seriously. No fish. Just the soy sauce with wasabi. Mylee loved her seafood salad, and both she and Cole ate most of my salmon roll and my salmon nigiri…..

No Arm Wresting
The other day I had my annual physical, and got a clean bill of health (though no magical solutions for periodic bowel obstructions — drat). I got a vaccine for pneumonia and thought nothing of it until later that afternoon, when I realized the muscle in my arm was so sore I could barely lift my arm. I’ve never had that happen to me before. I’m happy to say that it was much better the next day and even better the next. And it’s undoubtedly better than getting pneumonia!

Pizza Pie
Our favorite Denver pizza place has an online site customers are supposed to use to order their food for pickup. I fight with it nearly every time I use it. Sometimes it just tells me no customer orders will be taken until the next day, which I know isn’t true. So the other night I placed an online order. When I went to pick it up, the server at the counter said (in the manner of those radio announcers who talk rapid fire to tell you there product might kill you), “Here’s your medium thin crust with sausage and no cheese.” Say what? Bill likes sausage pizza. But I could come home with pepperoni or ground beef or even ham and he would take it like a man. But no cheese? No go. I told them there was no need to start over. They could simply put cheese over the pizza and put it in the oven for a few minutes. I literally heard the cook and the server fighting when they took it out of the oven. “This will be way over cooked and they won’t like it,” he said in a stage whisper. Try me, I thought. She brought it out and tentatively opened the box. Bingo. Sold. We like our pizzas crisp.

Ciao.

Can You Eat Too Much Fiber?

Delicious pizza despite the ensuing issues.

Delicious pizza despite the ensuing issues.

The other night Bill and Jen and I decided to go out for pizza. By time we got to our favorite pizza place in the East Valley, it was past 6, so there was a long wait – about an hour and 15 minutes.  We patiently waited, and finally were seated at a table.

We ordered our standard pizza – a large thin-crust with sausage and capicola. As I have mentioned countless times, Bill LOVES pizza. He would tell you that his favorite pizza – the one against which all pizzas are measured – is from Fox’s Restaurant and Pub, several of which are located on the south side of Chicago. The pizza is thin-crusted, the sausage is delicious, and best of all, it is cut it in little squares .

As an aside, I recently learned that the reason the pizzas on the south side of Chicago are cut in squares is that the steel workers would have to grab a quick lunch at noon, and so they would come into their favorite pizzeria and the small squares on the pizzas sitting on the bar were easy to grab and eat. No mess.

Anyhoo, as a nod to good health, we also ordered a Caesar salad to split among us. We were famished because of the long wait. The salad came, and Jen served it up amongst us, leaving some on the original plate. We all ate the salad with great relish.

Bill finished first and took a bit more. When my plate was empty, I began nibbling off the original plate. At one point, I went to grab what looked to me in the dim light like a piece of lettuce from the white end of the Romaine lettuce. Bill grabbed my hand and said, “Don’t eat that. It’s a tissue.”

“Excuse me?” I said. “What did you say?”

“That’s a Kleenex in the salad,” he said.

“ARE YOU BEING SERIOUS?” I asked (and you can tell I was animated from the capital letters).

“Yes Kris,” he said. “I’m afraid I am. There is a Kleenex in our salad.”

There aren’t enough W’s in ewwwwww to express our disgust.

We called our server over.

“There’s a tissue in our salad,” Jen told her. The server was justifiably surprised.

“Well, that’s not good,” she said, and grabbed the salad bowl. “I’ll be right back.”

She wasn’t right back, but her manager was.  What I’m going to tell you she said to us is the absolute truth. I promise you.

“I’m very sorry about the tissue in your salad,” she said. “We checked the kitchen, and there are no tissues kept in the kitchen, so I don’t know how this could have happened. We also checked the tissue, and it appears to be clean.”

Whaaaaaaaaaaat?

“We are very sorry about this incident, and we won’t charge you for the salad,” she said.

Seriously. She agreed to not charge us for the salad IN WHICH THERE WAS A TISSUE.

Bill, Jen, and I are nice people. In fact, my whole family consists of nice people. I think every single one of our kids has worked in food service at some point or another. We know that stuff happens. So, we nodded stupidly, and she left our table.

The server brought us our pizza (which was absolutely delicious and did not have a tissue) and we ate it. But you could tell that the incident weighed on all of our minds.

I began thinking about the tissue in the salad. It seemed to me (and still does) that there should be kind of a checklist located somewhere in the kitchen of a restaurant that reads something like this….

Compensation for Food Issues

Hair in your food………..Free dessert
Food Not Prepared the Way You Asked…………Bring new meal
Drinks Dropped by Server onto Your Lap…………….Free drink
Tissue in Your Salad……….You Don’t Have to Pay For Any Single Solitary Part of Your Meal Not Now Not Ever

Doesn’t it seem like that to you?

So at the end of the meal, the server came to our table and asked, “Will this be one check or two?”

Now if you look up the word coward in the dictionary, you will see my face. I go out of my way to not cause anyone any problems. But I was on my very last nerve.

So I said, “Miss, here’s the thing. I’m 61 years old, and I’ve never even found a hair in my food. But tonight I found a Kleenex tissue in my salad. I think we don’t have any check at all. Don’t you think so?.”

The server looked like a deer in the headlights. She quickly ran away, and came back to tell us we were good to go.

Boom.

But here’s my question to you, my good Readers. What would you do in this situation? Has anything like this ever happened to you and what did you do?

Guest Post: Pizza Day

I think I have indicated in the past that my brother David wholeheartedly believes that I am making a grave error by having Friday be a day that I review a book. Instead, he insists Friday is Pizza Day and I should therefore be reviewing pizza restaurants instead of books on Fridays. In fact, I have made it perfectly clear that I — a pizza lover married to a pizza lover — have nothing against pizza or Pizza Day. I often eat pizza on Fridays. I just enjoy my book reviews.

Not to be dissuaded, he called in reserves — his middle daughter — my niece and namesake — Jessika Kristine. You would think being named after me would make her a bit more understanding, but apparently love for pizza knows no bounds. 

Therefore, I acquiesced and am giving her her day in court, so to speak. Food Court, at any rate.

Jessie is an environmental engineering student at the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

I must admit, she makes a compelling argument…..

Pizza Day

By Jessie Gloor

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The weekend started off not unlike any other: me working on some project with some grand plans of maybe drinking too much. And then I got a call from my dad that would change the course of my life forever. Okay, maybe not my life, but certainly my weekend. And maybe not forever. Maybe just for the weekend.

“Do you think that Friday is Pizza Day?” he asked me. “Definitely,” I said. “It’s a fact. The Aquabats wrote an entire song about it.”

jessies band

…and they are totally trustworthy people.

Before I get any more in to this, you should know that this question was inspired by the fact that my aunt typically reserves her Friday blog posts for book reviews. Crazy, right? Who wants to read books when there’s so much pizza to be had in the world? My father suggested that she should, at the absolute minimum, also review a pizza place and stick that at the very end of her blog post. Is that too much to ask? A shout out to pizza? After everything pizza has done for her?

But how could I get her to throw out whatever book she was reading and replace it with a hot, glorious slice of pizza? My aunt is, after all, a well-educated pizza skeptic who would need some serious convincing.

I set out to navigate the dangerous waters that are the Bashas’ grocery store (which is where I work) to collect some hard data.

jessies scientific documentation

This was super-serious stuff, guys.

This highly organized and completely scientific tally sheet that was definitely not written on a piece of receipt paper represents the amount of frozen pizzas bought on Friday compared to Saturday.

Personally, I visualize things best when they are presented to me graphically, so here you go.

bar graph

Figure 1: Friday is definitely Pizza Day.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to mathematically prove my thesis that Friday is indeed Pizza Day. Please view my findings below.

jessies calculations

And this isn’t COMPLETELY made up, either.

If you’d like, you can take a moment to imagine a montage of me spending hours after hours on the math, frustrated, falling asleep at my desk, and a concerned friend trying to get me to eat something, probably pizza. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

As my final thought, I would like to offer a one-paragraph review of my favorite pizza place as a template for my aunt (who is surely persuaded by now). Ahem. Deep breath, here it goes:

My favorite day to ride my bike to school is Friday. It’s my favorite day because I allow myself the detour that takes me in front of Fratelli’s Pizza. The smell is in the air. Oh yes, they are firing up the stone-deck oven. I’ll see you later, Fratelli’s pizza, I say with a thumbs up. Thankfully, the only class I have on Fridays is fluid mechanics, and we always, ALWAYS have a quiz. I spend hours studying extra hard for these quizzes so I can finish and get out of Dodge with enough time to make it back to the pizza place right when it opens for lunch. Fratelli Fridays, that’s what my climbing partner and I call our weekly gatherings here. Fratelli’s has a “slice of the week” each week. Past weeks include “The Dude” which is ranch, chicken, bacon, and kettle chips, or “The Elmo”, tomato, zucchini, garlic, and feta cheese. My personal favorite is The Flagstaff, under which the description reads: “the hippies keep ordering this, so we put it on the menu!” Basil pesto, sun dried tomato, mozzarella, artichoke heart, ricotta, and garlic.” I’m going to go ahead and leave it at that. I could go on about the atmosphere of the place, the friendliness and good-humor of the staff, and maybe throw in a slightly irritated comment about how the food never seems to come out fast enough. But then I would follow it with the observation that good food rarely does. I’d rather leave the audience with the thought of a hot slice of The Flagstaff. Leave em’ with their stomachs rumbling and their mouths watering, that’s what I always say.

Old School

My husband and I like to watch the Food Network television show Restaurant Impossible. In this show, Chef Robert Irvine goes into a failing restaurant and in two days and with $10,000, transforms it into a new, improved eatery with a hip interior and a slick, cool new menu. We are then to assume that the restaurant goes on to be successful, though we never know that for sure.

The thing that amuses both Bill and me is that at the end, all of the restaurants look basically the same, and the menus are pretty much interchangeable. Oh, there might be a few differences if the themes are different – Italian, Greek, hamburger joint, etc. But in the end, most of the restaurants are very much the same. We recently had the occasion to dine at Irvine’s Nosh restaurant on Hilton Head Island, and yes, you guessed it, it looks just like the restaurants on the program. Funny.

I thought about this recently when Bill and I went for pizza at one of our favorite Denver-area dining spots, Bonnie Brae Tavern. Bonnie Brae has been in business for 75 years, and I have been eating pizza there for almost 35 years. In that time, the menu hasn’t really changed much and the pizzas are just as delicious now as they were the first time I ate there. Yummy crust and fresh, delicious ingredients, but nothing fancy. No fancy white sauces, no clams, not an arugula leaf to be found.

Likewise, the décor is about the same as it has been for at least the 35 years I have been eating there. I’m sure the turquoise leather has been replaced a time or two, but it nevertheless, remains turquoise leather. The wall is lined with beer neon signs with the cords exposed as they snake over to the plugs. It feels like home. (Not that I have beer neon signs in my kitchen, but you know what I mean.)

I contrasted this to another restaurant where I ate today with a niece who is visiting from LA. Sassafras American Grill is in the beautifully gentrified Highlands area of Denver, and the restaurant is located in a lovingly and beautifully remodeled old Victorian home. While not the fresh, contemporary look typical of, say, Robert Irvine’s restaurants, it still is beautifully hip (and quite delicious, I might add). The Cajun-flavored offerings are absolutely yummy.

Still, Bill and I are definitely old-school. As such, I feel very much at home sitting on the turquoise leather seating that makes Bonnie Brae a favorite. Oh, that and the crunchy crusts on the scrumptious pizzas!

Speaking of pizza, here is how I make a grilled pizza that tastes almost like the pizzas we got in Italy.

Preheat your grill while you prepare your ingredients. Divide pie crust into individual portions and roll it out as thin as you can. I generally buy my crusts at Whole Foods, but you can certainly make your own.

While your grill is getting hot, warm some olive oil in a pan, and throw in a crushed garlic clove. Let the oils from the garlic flavor the olive oil, and then brush the olive oil on both sides of your individual crusts.

Put your ingredients in bowls and take them with you out to the grill, along with the crusts. I recommend very simple ingredients. Maybe you will want to brush a little tomato sauce on the crust after it has cooked on one side. Perhaps you will put on a little cheese. You can add some garlic or maybe a little prosciutto or few slices of pepperoni.

Once your grill is preheated, carefully place the crusts (on which you have brushed some garlic-infused oil) directly onto the grill rack. One web site recommends that you put your crust on a piece of aluminum foil that you have floured and slide it from the foil onto the grill. I have generally just used my hands. However you do it, this is probably the trickiest part. But you can do it!

At this point, don’t walk away from the grill. Keep your eyes open as you watch the crust begin to bubble. It really only takes a minute or so. Once the bottom of the crust has gotten a little charred, turn the crust over using tongs. Brush more oil onto the crust, and quickly put on your ingredients. Close the lid and let the pizzas cook and the cheese melt (if you used cheese) for a few more minutes – probably no more than five. Keep your eye on the pie. Delicious.