Monday, July 28, 2014

Pizza Dojo: Pizza Boat vs. Bread and Salt

I love a good competition, especially when it involves food.  Well lucky for me, I got to experience a deliciously epic battle when Pizza Boat went “dough to dough” against Bread and Salt for the bragging rights of best pizza on Friday.  Armed with 100 pies each, who would claim victory at the Pizza Dojo? 

With ideal weather conditions and social media abuzz, there was already a healthy line forming as the wood-burning oven fired up the first pie at 6pm.  Those classy gents at Bar Marco were the gracious hosts and perhaps partial culprits in encouraging the second round of this pizza war.  (Pizza Boat vs. Bread and Salt had resulted in a draw back in March.)  Bar Marco is generally a fun hang but with the opening of their courtyard (aka the cocktail garden…or at least that’s what I’m calling it) it was the ideal locale for this feud to go down. 

When looking over the two menus, each had a clear standout.  For Bread and Salt, it was the Mast’Nicola which consisted of lardo from Cure, pecorino, and basil.  If you’ve got something from Cure, I need to put it in my mouth.  Pizza Boat’s obvious pick was the RickRoll’D, featuring tomato, mozzarella, goat cheese, mustard greens, red onions, and lamb sausage.  Pizza Boat was definitely going with the more is…well, more idea.

As we waited for our pies, I sipped on one of Giuseppe’s creations and pondered over which pizza I would like best. In one corner of the ring was Pizza Boat with Jeff Ryan and Matt Watson.  They’re known to set up their trailer-mounted oven next to Bar Marco on the weekends.  In the opposing corner was Bread and Salt’s Rick Easton who is preparing his new storefront in Bloomfield.  In the meantime, he’s been popping up temporarily as well.  You can see him at The Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. on 8/18 for example.  As each pizza was served to those around us, my anxious appetite was growing. 

At long last our name was called.  The first pie we tried was from Bread and Salt (the one with the lardo).  At first bite I was completely smitten with the crust.  It was delicate, yet chewy and had some awesome charring.  The lardo was nicely crispy and blackened a bit as well.  Unfortunately, I found the pie a tad too salty.  With the natural saltiness of lardo, I was surprised to see that additional course salt had been sprinkled on top.  As we finished up our final slice, Pizza Boat (mmmm…lamb sausage) was given their turn.  The layers of flavor in this pie were off the charts.  The contrasting bitterness of the mustard greens and the sweetness of the tomatoes was an especially thoughtful addition.   When I reached the crust, however, I wishing for more of those delicate pockets of air that Bread and Salt had created.

Bread and Salt's Mast'Nicola (lardo from Cure, pecorino, and basil)
Pizza Boat's RickRoll'd (tomato, mozzarella, goat cheese, mustard greens, red onions, and lamb)
So who wins?  Well, technically, Pizza Boat was the winner…they sold out of pies first.  For me, it was a draw.  I’m actually wishing that these talented guys had spent less time karate chopping each other’s dough balls and would’ve worked on a collaborative menu.  Can you imagine a Bread and Salt crust topped with the creative flavor medleys the dudes from Pizza Boat are thinking up?  A gal can dream can’t she?  Until that pizza pie utopia comes to fruition, I’ll happily patron both of these businesses.   

I give Pizza Boat: 4/5 forks

I give Bread and Salt: 4/5 forks

Bread and Salt (coming soon)
330 Pearl Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Look for them next to Bar Marco in the Strip on the weekends.

Pizza Boat on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brooklyn Brewery’s “Dinner on the Farm” Mash Event at Blackberry Meadows Farm

I’m a lover of all things local, especially when it comes to our booming brewery scene.  That said, I’ll abuse my liver with delicious craft beer from a variety of respectable breweries.  A prime example of this is Brooklyn Brewery. Incredibly lucky for us, they chose Pittsburgh (just one of 12 cities selected in ‘Merica and Europe) as one of their Mash tour stops.  What is The Mash you ask?  The Brooklyn Brewery Mash is a weeklong event in which Brooklyn collaborates with local bars, chefs, comedians, musicians, and more.  While we attended several stellar events, the highlight of The Mash and the focus of my latest ravings was Dinner on the Farm (a roaming dinner orchestrated by Monica Walch), which was hosted by Blackberry Meadows Farm.

There is something magical about driving out of the hustle ‘n bustle of the city to a farm like Blackberry Meadows for dinner.  Even more so knowing that Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson and his city lovin’ friends Chef Justin Severino of Cure and Chef Mike Poiarkoff of Vinegar Hill House (Brooklyn, NY) were leaving their brick and mortar eateries behind and preparing an outdoor feast for you on an 85-acre organic vegetable farm.

After parking in a field, we unloaded plates, chairs, and a vase of flowers (self arranged, thank you).  “Why are you bringing your own stuff?” you inquire.  Well, unlike other farm dinners I’ve attended, the focus was less about “stuff” and more about the actual farm and the idea of eating a delicious communal meal paired with cold Brooklyn Brews.  As a result, the cost of this event was quite affordable, allowing everyone from young professionals to families of six to attend (children were free).  The trade was needing to bring necessary items/utensils to allow for dining and lounging.  With friends in tow, we chose to divide and conquer, each of us agreeing to bring various items, including our own table.  Others opted to bring blankets and go the picnic route.

Our collaborative effort looked pretty darn beautiful.
With our table set, we filled our Mason jars with either the perennial fav’ Brooklyn Lager or the seasonally perfect Summer Ale.  Since there were no IPAs on tap (no Brooklyn Blast) I went with the lager.  I’m pleased to say, this brew with delightfully refreshing and still offered up some mild bitterness.  It was a great beer to imbibe upon while scarfing down an obscene volume of “small plate” action.  In addition to local delicacies like mushroom pate and an assortment of cheese provided by Wild Purveyors, Chef Serverino brought Cure’s infamous charcuterie spread to the farm.  The amount of cured meats and rabbit terrine (terrine=fancy chilled meat loaf, often featuring game meat…thanks Frenchies) I stuffed in to my endless pit of a stomach was worth the price of admission alone, folks. 
Brent Mangan pouring cold, delicious Brooklyn brews.
Rabbit terrine getting sliced for the charcuterie board.

Charcuterie...I want more.
Thankfully, we were given a food timeout and as we toured the farm.  We wandered from the green house to the barn and encountered a few cows and chickens along the way.  This was a wonderful way to meet the farmers of Blackberry Meadows and learn about their CSA program and farmers market locales.  By the end of the tour, it was evident that Blackberry Meadows is the product of hardworking hands and hearts. 

Inside the greenhouse.
Cutest cow ever?
I was happy to have some additional downtime between the tour and dinner.  It allowed us time to enjoy the sounds of a local band Union Rye, get our next round of Brooklyn brews, and…maybe play some Cards Against Humanity.  (Don’t worry; we were an appropriate distance away from small children.)

Local band Union Rye
After a short time, the main event started arriving on large banquet tables, family-style.  There was a bounty of farm greens including perfectly charred ramps and pepperoncini peppers.  The roasted potatoes and chicken were enriched with flavor thanks to Blackberry Meadows’ wood-fired oven.  Everything was simply prepared, yet expertly executed by three brilliant chefs, allowing the freshness of each ingredient to shine through with each bite.  

Trio of food geniuses: Chef Mike Poiarkoff (left), Chef Andrew Gerson (center), Chef Justin Severino (right)

Pepperoncini topped with freshly grated cheese.
Ramps and other fresh greens.
The other end of the table: the protein and the starch.
The tranquility of the farm encouraged each diner to eat at a leisurely pace while chatting with friends new and old.  There was also plenty of time and food to indulge on a second helping…if you didn’t load your plate to gluttonous proportions like I did on the first trip.  I was completely stuffed to the brim when the last course made its grand entrance.  Spare dessert stomachs really do come in handy!  But really, who could resist a savory cornmeal based olive oil cake, topped with the sweet tartness of strawberry-rhubarb compote, and the herbalicious flavors of sorrel whipped cream?  Not me…in fact, I played my glutton card yet again when I took two pieces of cake and created my own makeshift version of strawberry shortcake. 

Dessert before...
Dessert after I got all Martha Stewart...olive oil cake with strawberry-rhubarb compote and sorrel whipped cream.
Once plates were cleared from blankets and tables alike, most people stayed and enjoyed the gorgeous evening air.  When we finally decided to head out (being the last guests left and all), I decided on two things: 1.) Brooklyn Brewery Mash is maybe one of the best PR events of all time.  Sure, Brooklyn got me there, but when I left I was singing praises for all involved.  2.) Dinner on the Farm was so much fun.  I strongly encourage you to keep your eye out for future dates. 

Thanks to all involved for making such a wonderful event possible, especially Blackberry Meadows Farm for being such welcoming hosts.  See you at the next farmers market. 

I give Brooklyn Brewery's “Dinner of the Farm” (Blackberry Meadows Farm): 5/5 forks
7115 Ridge Rd
Natrona Heights, PA 15065

For CSA information call or email:

Click here for Dinner on the Farm info.

Did you miss The Brooklyn Brewery Mash in PGH?  Here are the remaining tour dates:

LONDON, UK: July 27 - August 2

TWIN CITIES: August 10 - 16

PHILADELPHIA, PA:  September 28 - October 4

BOSTON, MA: October 12 – 18

MIAMI, FL: October 26 - November 1

AUSTIN, TX: November 16 – 22

 Blackberry Meadows Farm on Urbanspoon