Salt Intolerance

Do human taste buds and flavor tolerances change as human beings age?  Or are they just putting more salt — much, much more salt — into some foods these days?

I’m guessing it’s a little bit of both.  

I’ve definitely changed my application of salt to food as the years have gone by.  I used to reflexively salt things like cheeseburgers, steaks, eggs, and corn on the cob, but have long since stopped doing that.  These days, I rarely put salt on anything.  I’m a big fan of black pepper, and I like to apply seasonings like paprika and cayenne to give food an extra flavor kick.  But salt has moved to the back of the seasoning cabinet.

But I think it’s also true that many restaurants simply are a lot more liberal with their salting.  I’ve had to edit my list of restaurant foods because some orders are simply too salty to be enjoyed.  I’ve long since stopped getting carryout Chinese, because most places have so much sodium in their General Tso’s chicken that you kind of wonder whether the General was some kind of pathetic salt addict.  And McDonald’s fries are also at the verboten end of the salt spectrum.  Lately some pizzas also seem to be edging toward the forbidden zone.

Sometimes it’s just too tempting to try that piece of pizza, but I always end up deeply regretting it.  I find myself drinking glass after glass of water to make up for the salt intake, and I wake up at night feeling like every ounce of moisture has been sucked out of my body and you could use a straight razor to shave salt crystals off my tongue.  And then I vow that another food item must go onto the roster of banned items.  

This summer the GV Jogger generously got me a great t-shirt that says “Stay Salty.”  It refers to my personality, not my taste buds.

The Random Carryout Tour

All this working from home has made me very hungry tonight. Starving, in fact. And thirsty, too.

Just because the restaurants are closed at present doesn’t mean you can’t get some high-quality food in Cbus. It just means that carry out is the ticket. Tonight Kish and I visited JT’s Pizza, up on 161, where I got a sausage, onion and meatball pizza and Kish opted for a chicken salad. I think JT’s makes the best pizza in town, and their sausage, onion and meatball pie is great. I got the 14-incher so I will have some cold pizza available for lunch tomorrow, but after having a few bites I’m not sure I won’t just polish it off tonight.

And if you go to JT’s Grab n Go, just across the street, you can buy something to wet your whistle, too. JTGNG has a wide selection of fine wines, beer, and other items to tide you over during your stay-at-home period.

So get out of the house and support your local restaurants, already! And if you go to JT’s, tell my nephews Joe and Danny that Uncle Bob sent you.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XXXVII

Yesterday the Soprano Litigator and I went across the street to Due Amici for lunch.  Due is one of the cornerstone restaurants in the food corridor that makes Gay Street the coolest street in downtown Columbus.  It’s a more high-end lunch spot than some of its Gay Street brethren and, come cocktail hour and dinner time, is a place to see and be seen.

I normally don’t have pizza for lunch, but yesterday pizza sounded like just what the doctor ordered.  I opted for the sausage and onion pizza, whereas the Soprano Litigator went with the veal meatball and pasta — which also looked very tasty, indeed.  When my pizza came, it was great, with a flavorful sauce, big chunks of sausage that had a snap when you bit into them, and a golden brown, crunchy crust.  I attacked it with gusto (and with knife and fork, incidentally, so as to avoid unsightly spotting on my suit, white shirt, and tie).

But here’s the thing:  the pizza is just too big for lunch.  Even for someone who is hungry, as I was, a pie with eight pieces is a lot.  Long after the SL had finished her meal I was still carving away at the remaining pieces until my plate was empty.  I suppose I could have asked for a to-go box, but I don’t like lugging them around.  In my view, when you order lunch you should receive a meal that is reasonably consumable by one reasonably hungry person over the noon hour.  In short, careful portion control is key.  Due’s pizza stretches the outer boundaries and is geared more to someone with the appetite of a truck driver rather than one of a nearby office worker.  Perhaps the name Due Amici — “two friends” in Italian — means the portions are intended to be shared.

Due isn’t alone in this.  How often have you gone to a restaurant and received a plate that is groaning with two much food — typically, an oversized mound of french fries to accompany an already sizable cheeseburger?  Even those of us who proudly boast of being charter members of the Clean Plate Club can’t possibly down so much food.  We leave some on the plate and then feel guilty about it, knowing the food will be wasted.  It’s an area where I think the great restaurants in Columbus could become even better.

The Golden Age Of Pizza

I’m in Boise for work. Last night I felt like pizza for dinner, so I asked the desk clerk for a recommendation. She raved about the pizza at The Wylder, and particularly the Honey Badger. The Wylder had the advantage of being only a block away from my hotel on a rainy night, so my choice was an easy one.

The Wylder offers lots of interesting pizza options, but I felt I needed to go with the clerk’s enthusiastic endorsement– and I’m very glad I did. The Honey Badger is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. It’s a white pizza that starts with a crunchy sourdough crust and is topped with fennel Italian sausage, caramelized onion, ricotta cheese, and some kind of chili-infused honey and garlic oil. Taking a bite results in a flavor explosion in your mouth, and the combination of tastes and textures is incredible.

As I sat, happily munching away on slice after slice, I reflected on the development of pizza cuisine in my lifetime. My first pizza was a red sauce mozzarella cheese pizza, where the sauce probably came out of a can and the crust and cheese had zero flavor. Over the intervening years pizza has moved from a convenience food to a chance for chefs to strut their culinary skills with great concoctions like the Honey Badger.

I think we’re living in the Golden Age of Pizza.

The Detroiter At Buddy’s

Last night we had dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, a Detroit institution for decades and also home to rectangular, “Detroit-style” pizza.  Russell and I split a “Detroiter” — pizza loaded with meats and cheeses, with the cheese placed on top to maximize the meaty flavor and avoid charring the pepperoni.  

The Detroiter was fantastic.  That should come as no surprise, because Buddy’s is frequently identified as one of the very best pizza establishments in the U.S. of A.  The crust was perfection itself — light and crunchy, without the doughy gumminess you find in many “deep dish” pizzas — and the cheese on top approach really does enhance the flavor.  We also enjoyed a pitcher of Buddy’s beer, a very refreshing lager with hints of citrus that went well with the pizza.

I’m pretty sure there will be another trip to Buddy’s in my future.

Arch City Tavern

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Richard, Russell, and Julianne were all in town yesterday, and we decided to celebrate the happy homecoming by heading down to the Short North and having lunch in the first interesting place we found.  We ended up in the Arch City Tavern — so named because Columbus used to be called the arch city because it featured lots of arched lights over its main streets — and that was a happy occasion, too.

It was about noon, so there were two crucial lunch decisions to be made.  First, heavy or light?  It was a hot day out, so I went for a choice on the lighter side, with an arugula, fig, prosciutto, and goat cheese pizza.  It was excellent, and had a particularly delectable and crunchy crust — which any pizza aficionado knows is a crucial element of the entire pizza experience.  So far, I was one for one.

Second, beer or no beer.  It was a holiday, sure, but noon is pretty early for me.  I took a chance and ordered a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale.  It was so good I promptly had another.  It had an excellent tart taste that went well with the hot weather, and it really held its own against the goat cheese.  So, I was two for two — or perhaps three for three, since I had two of the beers.

I’m going to be on the lookout for places that sell the Monk’s Cafe by the six pack.

Giving Pizza A Bad Name

1024x1024Richard has a good story in the San Antonio Express-News about a cheap scam that is plaguing San Antonio hotels.  It involves people sneaking into the establishments, slipping fliers for local pizza under the doors of hotel guest rooms, and then when hungry and unsuspecting visitors order a pie, they frequently get inedible crap.  Richard did some digging, found some people who were victimized by the scheme, and even got to try one of the awful pizzas — which look terrible — in the process.

Only a real crook would make a scam out of pizza.  Why, that’s unAmerican!

JT’s Grand Reopening

If you’re in the Columbus area today, you should stop by and join us at the grand reopening celebration at JT’s Pizza & Pub.

The work to reconfigure the place into something with more of a sports/brew pub atmosphere has been completed, and today the new business officially reopens with food and drink specials.

The drink specials include $1.50 for bottles of domestic beer and $3.00 for bottles of craft beers, $3.00 craft beer drafts,  $2.00 well drinks, and $3.00 for selected specialty shots.  The food specials include $10.00 for large 1 topping pizzas — and I can attest from personal experience that the pizzas are great — and half price appetizers.  There also will be some prize giveaways during the day.

JT’s would be a good place to grab a brew, enjoy some grub, and watch the excellent sheet of college football games today that culminates in the Buckeyes’ game tonight against Minnesota.  In doing so, you not only would be getting some good chow in a fun and festive atmosphere, you’d also be supporting a locally owned business run by an young entrepreneur — who also happens to be my nephew.  We all should be interested in supporting the jobs creators in our communities!

JT’s is located at 390 W. Dublin Granville Road, and the grand reopening runs from 2 p.m. until midnight.  We’ll probably be there this afternoon.  Hope to see you there!

JT’s Pizza And Pub

UJ and I have written before about JT’s Pizza, our nephew Joe Hartnett’s business up in the north Columbus area, on Route 161.  It serves great pizza and, in UJ’s view, the best Philly cheese steak sandwich you can get anywhere in the Midwest.

Now JT’s Pizza has acquired the former Bier Stube North bar located right next door and will become JT’s Pizza and Pub, offering both great food and drinks and, from time to time, live entertainment in the location at 2832 West Dublin-Granville Road.  Renovations of the interior and exterior of the building have begun, and the goal is to give the new business more of a neighborhood sports bar vibe and better integrate the backyard and patio into the operation.  A “rebranding and relaunch” of the new business is set for November 7.

Our Dad ran a business, and he would be proud of what Joe has done with JT’s Pizza.  It takes some courage to start a business — statistics tell us that a lot of new start-ups fail within the first year — but Joe has produced tasty products, focused on customer service, paid attention to the bottom line, and grown the business from a shop that prepared pizzas for the bar next door’s patrons to an operation that now offers an extensive menu and has lots of carry-out and delivery customers in addition to providing the food service at the Bier Stube North.  Buying the Bier Stube North and consolidating the operations is a big next step, but it’s also a logical one.  And it all starts with pretty darned good pizza.

So here’s a tip of the cap to JT’s Pizza and Pub and its owner Joe Hartnett, one of those small business owners who take risks, create jobs, and help our economy grow.  If you find yourself in north Columbus with a hankering for a pizza, a Philly cheese steak sub, or a cold adult beverage, stop by JT’s Pizza and Pub, won’t you?

Mellow Mushroom Moves In

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They’ve just finished a new building project in the Market Street area of New Albany, a short walk from our home. A Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers shop is moving in and will be opening soon.

For years, Eagles Pizza has dominated the New Albany dine-in pizza market, without any real competition for the crown. Now there will be competition. Does anyone know if Mellow Mushroom makes a good pie?

Friday Night Pizza

Driving home from the airport tonight, the road was clogged with pizza delivery vehicles.  Jet’s Pizza, Donatos, Papa John’s . . . the pizza armada was out in full force, brutishly hogging the thoroughfares and (literally) feeding America’s insatiable appetite for that boxed, lukewarm combination of crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings.

IMG_3482It seems like Friday night is the biggest night for pizza delivery, in Columbus at least, and the “fun facts” section of pizzadelivery.com supports that hypothesis.  It states that half of all the pizzas sold in American are sold on Friday and Saturday night.  (Super Sunday is the biggest pizza delivery night of the year, of course, but that’s a Super Special Occasion.)

Why is delivery pizza so popular on Friday night?  I’m guessing that most of that pizza is eaten by families.  Mom and Dad are exhausted by the time Friday night rolls around, the idea of fixing some kind of sit-down meal is anathema, and pizza at least allows the family to do something together.  Mix in sleepovers, football games, and the other activities that command the activities of kids these days and you end up with a night where a food option that people can slam down on the go makes sense.

I’d also bet that Saturday morning is the biggest time for consumption of cold pizza.

Forking Good Pizza

The citizens of New York City are a passionate, opinionated bunch. So, it is not a surprise that they reacted with outrage and ridicule when their new mayor, Bill de Blasio, was shown on TV eating pizza with a knife and fork.

That’s right — a knife and fork. De Blasio went to a well-known Staten Island pizzeria for a sit-down meal, started strong by ordering a sausage and smoked mozzarella pie, and then botched it by carving up his slice with a knife and spearing each piece with a fork. New Yorkers went bonkers, and the media wondered aloud whether de Blasio had lost some of his street cred as a result. For a guy who has presented himself as a two-fisted fighter for the little guy, eating pizza with a knife and fork seems awfully . . . prissy. It’s the sort of thing your great-aunt Gertrude might do with a look of stern disapproval on her face.

De Blasio defended his blunder by saying that in his “ancestral homeland” — his mother is Italian — people eat pizza with a knife and fork. Please! Everyone knows that pizza in its modern form is an American invention, and the American way of eating it is to grab a slice by hand and gobble it down. You end up with fingers that are covered in a greasy orange glaze, a mound of wadded napkins also stained orange, and a contented look on your face for having enjoyed the complete pizza experience. Eating pizza with a knife and fork is not only vaguely insulting, it also misses out on half the fun.

Good Lord! Does de Blasio use a knife and fork to eat a New York dirty water hot dog, or a doughnut? Imagine a Chicago pol using utensils to eat a dripping Italian beef sandwich, or the mayor of the City of Brotherly Love using a fork to finish off a Philly cheesesteak, or Memphis’ mayor using a knife and fork to eat a mound of ribs. It’s unthinkable!

We’ve already established that politicians should never be photographed eating a corn dog. De Blasio’s experience shows that they need to apply similar thoughtfulness when they sit down to enjoy a meal of classic American comfort food.

Outrage Anyone ?

As part of a House/Senate Compromise bill to avoid a government shutdown efforts by the Obama administration to take unhealthy foods out of school lunch programs by limiting starches and increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains was thwarted by heavy lobbying from food companies that make frozen pizzas, the salt industry and potatoes growers. It looks as though pizza and french fries two of the biggest culprits of poor diet will remain on the menu.

Conservatives argued that the federal government shouldn’t be telling children what to eat and the regulation changes would be too costly. Having been a medical underwriter for a major insurance company for most of my career I can’t tell you the number of medical records I read where the doctor pointed to poor diet as a major reason some children have medical issues and are obese.

Besides, a child is most likely still going to get their french fries and pizza when they aren’t a school so why make it available when they are in school. Too costly – this is a preventative effort – what about the medical costs the child will most likely incur later in life which will lead to higher healthcare costs.

Here’s a short video I was able to find on the internet that points out some of the major medical issues confronting children. It from a summit on childhood obesity at the University of Maryland.

Mission Readiness a group of retired military generals opposed the changes to keep pizza and french fries on lunch menus citing poor nutrition in schools as a national security issue with obesity in young adults being the leading reason of disqualification for military service.

It never ceases to amaze me that 9% of the country think Congress is doing a good job – well I am not one of them. A group of baboons are called a Congress – yep that I can agree with !

Bier Stube Pizza (aka Joe’s Place)

Looking to get some good pizza in northwest Columbus — and at a place where you can drink an adult beverage, watch an NCAA game, and shoot some pool or throw some darts?  If so, I suggest Bier Stube/Bier Stube Pizza, located at 2390 West Dublin-Granville Road on the stretch of 161 between Rt. 315 and Sawmill Road.

In the interests of full disclosure, I need to note that my nephew, Joe Hartnett, runs the pizza joint.  Family connection or not, Joe makes a damn good pie.  The crust is crisp and not too thick, and the sauce is tangy and sweet.  What I really like, however, are the meat toppings.  The sausage is especially good, served in large, spicy chunks that seem to snap between your teeth.  Equally important, as the photo of the sausage and pepperoni pizza above suggests, at Bier Stube Pizza they don’t scrimp on the toppings.

The signature pizza is the “Big Al,” named for Joe’s Dad; it is a man-sized meal that is loaded with toppings.  And while you are waiting for your fresh-baked pizza to emerge piping hot from the oven you can sample some pretty good bar food, too — like cheesy bread and fried mushrooms.  They all go down well with a cold one.

Bier Stube Pizza is a neighborhood place with neighborhood prices.  You’ll get your money’s worth, and if you give it a shot you’ll be supporting a budding local businessman and entrepreneur who takes a lot of pride in his product.  Why not try it the next time you have a taste for a well-made pizza?

Pizza

We had delivery pizza for dinnera new nights ago.  Unfortunately, they screwed up the order.  Instead of Italian sausage and onion, which is my pizza of choice, they delivered a pizza with sausage and banana peppers.  What a choke!  Is there any lamer pizza topping than banana peppers?  Even when you peel them off, they leave a kind of flourescent residue and a lingering aftertaste.

I don’t mind pepperoni pizza or even plain cheese pizza, but I think some of the new pizza contrivances are just messing with a timeless classic.  Dessert pizza?  Please!  Pizza with no sauce, or no cheese?  Heresy!  Pizza with mozzarella cheese injected into every open space in the crust?  A sacrilegious desecration of the crust, which as any pizza lover knows is one of the most important parts of the pizza!  Breakfast pizza?  Who needs it!  Any college student will tell you that one of the best breakfasts you can have is cold sausage pizza with a glass of cold milk.

For my money, the best sausage and onion pizza is Columbus is made by Tommy’s Pizza on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington.  I understand that others hold out for Rotolo’s Pizza in Grandview, or Rubino’s in Bexley, but I relish Tommy’s combination of thin, crispy crust, sharply seasoned, almost crunchy Italian sausage, and excellent sauce and cheese, all served piping hot.  We live on the other side of town so I don’t get over to Tommy’s as often as I would like, but when I do it never disappoints.