Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Boots Pizza - Echo Park, Ca

For reasons that are entirely arbitrary I grant fancy-pants pizza much more leniency than fancy-pants hamburgers. I suppose the one un-arbitrary reason is that even the fanciest of pantsed 1-2 person pizzas top out in price at around $14, as opposed to burgers that can top $20 for what is, at best, a hearty appetizer. Plus, pizza has always existed in the whambamthankyoumaam variety and the classier forkandknife variety, as opposed to the hamburger which had been a filling fast food and diner standard up until, oh, about 1999 (to pick a wholly arbitrary date).

I judge pizza against two standards. The Lanesplitter Standard and the Pizzeria Delfina standard.

The Lanesplitter Standard: Inexpensive, generously topped thin-crust pizza in a dive-y environment with plentiful modestly-priced booze available.

The Pizzeria Delfina Standard: Moderate-to-expensive, thoughtfully topped with premium ingredients on a thin, lightly scorched crust baked at high-temperatures.

Two Boots, the recent NYC transplant to Echo Park, compares favorably against the Lanesplitter Standard but it's a bit more ambitious than Lanesplitter and a bit more expensive (and served no beer), so overall my impression was mixed.

I had two slices. I opted for the more unusual selections. First was a "Bird" slice--buffalo chicken, blue cheese, scallions, jalapenos, on a white pizza. This was a pretty good slice, though not very spicy. I would've liked more scallion and jalapeno and less blue cheese which hid itself in stinky pockets throughout the pizza. The second slice, Bayou Beast, with crawfish, andouille, and jalapenos, was a disappointment. Sparsely topped, it just tasted kinda salty.

And that was my general complaint: the pizzas were salty as hell. And not because the components were particularly salty--the crust, sauce, cheese, everything was loaded with cheap-tasting salt. Fine for a pepperoni slice from some dive, but when I'm eating crawfish and andouille on a pizza I want to taste crawfish and andouille.

My secondary complaint: the pizza was soggy. This is my frequent complaint with Lanesplitter too, but whenever I get a slice from Lanesplitter it's usually pretty crisp (as opposed to a pie which is always soggy in the middle). At Two Boots, even the slices were soggy at the ends. Lame.

My tertiary complaint: the pizza is too lightly topped. With inexpensive pizza, you can forgive the shortcomings in sauce and crust because there's a heap of tasty toppings. Not so at Two Boots. If you're not going to load up on toppings, your sauce and cheese had better shine, but Two Boots' sauce and cheese is serviceable at best.

Still, it's the most interesting pizza I've had in LA and the prices are still pretty good, even if they're a few cents more expensive then some of my old favorites. I'll give it a go on a regular basis--and they deliver to my neighborhood. Bonus.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The All-Time Greatest Thing of All Time

So Chowhound, the grande dame of foodie message boards, is home to the closest approximation of reasoned dialogue in the internet food world. Part of that is because Chowhound aggressively moderates its message boards to keep discussion on topic, cordial, and as objective as possible. Food professionals are not allowed to comment on their own establishments or directly about a rival, flamers and fucktards are kept at bay, and purely malicious comments are deleted.

But if you're a regular Chowhound reader, you'll often catch choice gems in the brief window before they're deleted that will make your day. Sort of like when you find a Wikipedia article that reads "Bob Dole likes golden showers" before it refreshes with the truth that Bob Dole merely tolerates golden showers when Liddy insists.

A chef friend of mine sent me this screenshot from Chowhound (click for full size):

As a bit of background, Mark Malicki, the angry respondent, is the chef-owner of the St. Rose Cafe in Santa Rosa, the target of the poster's vitriol. And you know what? Good for him. The guy who wrote this post is clearly a high-functioning moron who won't ever be coming back and anybody who would be upset with Chef Malicki for his comment shouldn't be going to his restaurant anyway.

And now a guy like me who'd never heard of this place before will make a point to visit the St. Rose Cafe the next time I'm in Santa Rosa. You gotta support the cause, you know?

Plus I'm intrigued by this "bag of dicks" he has on his menu. Never heard of that before. I think it's Greek.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Had the chicken fajita pita at Jack in the Box today, desperate for food but with very little time. That's one of the best fast food items for the urban hobo. Spicy, whole grains, and a decent amount of veggies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Well, at least he doesn't have hands any more....

Molecular Gastronomy gone horribly awry....


But at least this happened in Germany. They have the technology. They can rebuild him.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Future of Wine?

I'm tired of wine. Let me explain. I'm tired of the wine regions that people care about. Napa, Sonoma, all of France, most of Spain, northern Italy, and lets throw in Paso Robles just for kicks.

So where then do we look for the next great wine region that we can plunder and and force into over-price-itude?

Old World: The re-emergent Eastern European wine scene is of interest.... Slovenia was quickly ravished by nearby Italian winemakers, but further down the Adriatic coast in Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia have some great white wines at great prices. Red wine is still tricky for this region, but we'll see how that develops.

A good spot for red wine is Portugal. Just like Spain fifteen years ago, Portugal is seeing a new generation of winemakers taking over and modernizing the process, creating wines with a little less funk, a bit more stability, and a bit more approachability from a new world palate. Check out wines from Alentejo for an easy point of entry.

New World: I'm still not sold on Australia. I think they make some decent wine but it's all ripe, straightforward stuff until you get into the ultra-premium range. New Zealand is worth a watch, but their varietal selections are limited. South Africa makes some very cool wines and price points seem to be coming down in recent years. Some of my favorite Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon comes out of South Africa.

In South America, there is some quality coming out of Argentina but you have to sift through the acres of cheap swill that represents the bulk of Argentine imports. Uruguayan Tannat is stellar, but it's a tough sell. I like Chile for its price point.

Which brings me to the United States. In California, I encourage you to stock up on Mendocino County wines before the prices get prohibitive. Lake County is producing some nice inexpensive stuff and the Sierra Foothills is underappreciated for its quality. We'll see some more emerging AVAs from the Central Valley producing wines of quality, akin to what we've seen from Lodi AVA and Clarksburg AVA. I dislike Washington and Oregon's nice but expensive. I'm very intrigued about what's coming out of Arizona and think that's a region to watch. I'm underfamiliar with New York wine, but I like Caberner Franc. I also like wines from Western Virginia and North Carolina, but it's expensive to get the wine out here and production is still too small for real value.

In conclusion? Mendocino, Sierra Foothills, Croatia, Portugal, and Arizona.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cookbooks About Actually Cooking

So I'm reading Mark Kurlansky's new book, The Food of a Younger Land. It's not actually his book, he's more of the annotator/editor. Sort of like how Flavor Flav doesn't really write Public Enemy songs, he just adds his two cents here and there and wears a clock.

The book is a printing of the scrapped Depression-era WPA project called America Eats. Like the immensely successful WPA guidebooks that were published in the 1930s, America Eats would offer insights into regional cuisine and, just as much, regional food culture. State projects submitted notes and essays to one of six regional headquarters who then compiled the information into guides like "The South Eats" and "The Northwest Eats." Unfortunately, flagging interest in the WPA during the waning days of the Depression combined with disparate regional funding slowed the project and World War II put a decisive end to the program entirely.

Kurlansky makes no attempt to recreate what the theoretical guide book would be. He simply presents the article he's selected with short introductions. He lets the vintage writing from the late 1930s speak for itself.

It's an engaging read because it reflects how recipes should be written. The recipes aren't quite as haphazard and whimsical as 19th century cook books (where a "good joint of mutton" was a common ingredient), but they do require an active engagement with the cooking process and the local culture behind the recipe.

Cookbooks now are about measuring ingredients, aseembling, setting timers, and walking away. Even as recently as the 1930s where clocks and timers were rather common, recipes required vigilance, advising you to "cook until done" or "cook until bright green." Sure there are some specific measurements, but there are also directives like "cover with water, add more if needed" and "if you want spicier, add more Tabasco."

Now we treat cooking as a sort of paint-by-numbers rote exercise instead of a fluid act of creation. This is why we can never make something "like Grandma used to make it." Sure Grandma followed recipes, but she wasn't a slave to them.

The best contemporary cookbooks for real cooking I've found are How To Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman who, despite his recent late-to-the-game Locavore transformation, still does a good job of integrating food, culture, and history into his recipes.

And if you haven't read Kurlansky's Salt or Cod, you really must. They're indispensable food history books.

HFF out.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Let's take this literally....

So this website is called Horny For Food. Sometimes I write about the interrelationship between food and sex. I like the blurry boundary that exists between the two. It's interesting.

So let's take food and sex literally. I am now about to do Google Image searches for several different food items. I'll let you know how many results (not pages, results) deep I need to go before a pornographic photo pops up. SafeSearch is definitely off.

1. Cucumber: 26 (16 if you count the picture of a very penis-shaped sea cucumber)
2. Banana: 57
3. Watermelon: 489
4. Sausage: 43
5. Cheese: 586 (actually a photo of a topless Mischa Barton highlighting her cellulite, but I'm counting it)
6. Donut: 110
7. Mayonnaise: 97
8. Pepper: 285
9. Melon: 12 (and not what you're expecting. Try the search yourself)
10. Pie: 55
11. Hamburger: 343
12. Manwich: 60
13. Tortilla: 736
14. Roast Beef: 62
15. Gravy: 675
16. Taco: 199 (I'm actually surprised how far I had to go for that)

Well that wasted some time.