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Papa Murphy’s, Lincoln City, OR, May 13, 2018

Ah, Papa Murphy’s, a port in a storm, refuge of the weary, and purveyor of bake-at-home pies! We have a love-hate relationship with Papa Murphy’s. Ric says, “It’s not Italian, but it’s tasty.”

Now-and-then we need a quick, fuss-free meal in front of the TV. This product is perfect for eating on the couch while watching a movie.

 

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Papa Murphy’s is rather sterile, but it’s fun to watch them make your pizza.

For those unaware, Papa Murphy’s makes pizza you take home to bake. In 12-15 minutes you have a hot, fresh pizza for home consumption. They do not have ovens on-site nor a place to dine; Just unbaked pizzas to go, as well as salads, cookie dough, and soda. You walk in the door and 5 minutes later you wl out with a pizza. It won’t win any awards compared to pizza in Italy, but we’ve had worse. It’s better than frozen pizza and far better than Gallucci’s but not nearly as good as Hearth and Table or the Cafe on Hawk Creek. It is even better than the pizza at Cascade in the Val Gardena.

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Our pizza master adds sauce to a pre-made crust. We like the thin crust as it comes out nice and crispy.

 

My Italian friends would probably be shocked at this product. But then, I have seen good Italian pizzas as takeaway and I cannot imagine the result is palatable. Pizza gets cold and soggy very fast in Italy. Maybe they reheat it? At least Papa M’s is hot.

 

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A raft of decent mozzarella is added. Not fresh mozzarella, but it bakes up nice and gooey. 

 

This is not a frequent occurrence for us. Since Hearth and Table just reopened (so we want to give them some time to shake off the newness) and who knows when The Cafe on Hawk Creek will reopen, this is our best alternative to making pizza a casa

 

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Fresh veggies and sausage complete our selection. At Papa Murphy’s one can get almost anything on a pizza, including many ingredients one would not find in Italy. I have to say. BBQ chicken pizza does not seem like a good idea but to each his own. 

 

I am assigning it 8 points. 2 for taste/quality (all fresh ingredients), 3 for ambiance (at home), and 3 for service as the young people at Papa M’s are always so pleasant. A large pizza was $16.50. Hard to beat, but all-in-all, I’d rather be sitting at Da Remo.

 

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The finished product, just out of the oven! I moved the olives over to Ric’s half. 

 

 

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Pizza a casa, Lincoln City, 2018

Since of late great pizza near us is harder to come by than an honest politician, we have been experimenting with pizza at home. For our first trial, in January, we had a new pizza stone and armed with the NY Times dough recipe, we invited our neighbors over and prepared the dough two days in advance. With the pressure of onlookers, I had trouble working with the dough so the pies were shaped like the state of Maine (or maybe Germany). Not pretty. We ate them with gusto and declared the crust worthy and the traditional pizza ingredient choices excellent.

Sorry, no pictures. I was too engrossed in the process and probably swilling wine

After-the-fact, I discovered my 48-hour-refrigerator-rise dough was supposed to be “proofed” for a couple of hours at room temp to make the dough workable. Duh!

Proofed dough – relaxed and ready for pounding and stretching.

Moving on, we tried again. Ric wanted pizza for his birthday in March, so I made the dough two days in advance and dutifully took it out to proof about 2 hours early. It was far easier to work with. I found a delightful video on YouTube about proofing, pounding, and stretching and I followed the steps easily enough. Not quite round, but not an irregular mess either. I slid the dough onto the pizza peel, which was dusted with flour as the video recommended. Ugh! The flour did not work! The pizza stuck miserably to the peel. (In January, I had used cornmeal with good success in the sliding-off-the-peel department.) We ended up folding the pizza calzone-style and dumped it unceremoniously onto parchment to bake. This was a sausage/roasted red pepper/sundried tomato combo with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Tasty, but ugly and too much flour on the crust due to the mishandling.

Shaping the pizza. So far, so good.

 

Stretching is the hard part. No need for flipping it in the air. Do it carefully on the knuckles.

 

Now on the pizza peel, we add the toppings: tomato sauce, sausage, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella.

 

Here’s where I got into trouble. The pizza would not slide off the peel onto the nice 450-degree stone.

 

We resorted to folding it ala calzone-style and flopping it onto parchment, then onto a baking sheet.

We did eat it, troopers that we are.

Pizza #2 came out better: smoked salmon, gorgonzola, and rocket with mozzarella, no tomato. I used cornmeal on the pizza peel which allowed it to slide nicely, although I still need to work on getting the dough even. The center was thin, the edges a bit too Neapolitan (thick) for me, and far from round. The crust did not brown well, as we only cranked the oven to 4500 Fahrenheit to avoid smoke detectors blaring.

Pizza number two with smoked salmon and gorgonzola. The peel is treated with cornmeal and slid easily onto the stone.

 

Finished product. Not exactly round, and a bit pale. The oven needs to be hotter, but my it was tasty!

Committed to trying again, I followed the advice of my Norwegian blogger friend Krumkaker and made pizza a taglio.

Success! Sound the trumpets!

As promised by Krumkaker, the dough was easy to work with. I did watch Gabriel Bonci’s video over-and-over to get my technique down and it paid off. I did not overwork the dough and there were air bubbles in my crust as desired. This is a bready type of pizza, with a base similar to the pizze one gets in a bakery in Rome: a focaccia-like base that is often simply spread with crushed tomatoes. Or as true pizza a taglio, it can be topped with any toppings one desires.

The Bonci-style dough I learned from Krumkaker is much softer, or morbido, and easy to work with.

 

Fits perfectly in my well-oiled baking sheet.

For our toppings, we had broccolo languishing in the freezer and used some spicy, American-style Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano, along with Pomi brand Italian crushed tomatoes and a bit of oregano. We learned a long time ago you do not need to cook a sauce. Simple is best.

Adding cheese. I had already baked the crust with the tomato sauce on it for 5 minutes. See how happy I am with the outcome so far?

 

And now the tasty bits: broccolo, aka Romanesco, spicy sausage, a little grated pecorino.

 

A little side-story on the broccolo. Our favorite pasta is orecchiette con salsiccia e broccolo. Orecchiette are the little-ear pasta and you would know broccolo as Romanesco. The salsiccia is, of course, Italian sausage, and there are also a few anchovies, some white wine, and fennel. Simply delish! We have only seen Romanesco once since we’ve lived on the Oregon coast and that was a tired-looking head at Fred Meyer in Newport. We asked at our local small-town store, Kenny’s Beachside, and the produce manager said he’d see if he could get it and let me know. He brought in a dozen (I suppose a case full) and I felt obligated to buy two though I only needed one. At $7.99 a head (triple what I would pay in Rome!) I was not about to waste any, so I used one for the pasta then separate the florets on the second head, parboiled, and froze them. Voila! We had some available for the pizza.

We dared to crank the oven up to 4800 Fahrenheit and baked the crust with only the tomato on it for five minutes, then another 12-15 minutes once we’d added the toppings. The base of the crust was firm and slightly chewy. I was not thrilled with the broccolo texture as it got mushy from freezing and baking. It would probably have been better baked raw on the pizza for 15 minutes at that temperature. All-in-all, a satisfying pizza evening with enough leftover for breakfast.

E’ voila!

Next time we will try sausage with caramelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes along with fresh mozzarella and the tomato base. I also want to try the thin-crust variety I struggled with in my first efforts now that I understand proofing and the importance of cornmeal. And that I can get the oven a bit hotter without setting off alarms. Neither type will replace our local favorites at Hearth & Table or The Café on Hawk Creek, but it will be fun to master the skills.

Pizza making does make rather a mess of the kitchen. Organizing one’s mise en place is essential, as is a trusty clean-up partner.

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Rusty Truck Brewing Co., Lincoln City, OR, April 7, 2018

Sadly, the variety of pizza available to us these days does not support our weekly habit. We have continued to enjoy Hearth and Table as well as The Café on Hawk Creek. However, much to our chagrin, they are both closed temporarily.

Rusty Truck Brewing

The pizza oven at Rusty Truck. No wood, but hot!

Hearth and Table has promised to keep its menu as it relocates to the old Lincoln City bowling alley where it will re-emerge as Olde Line Lanes & Kitchen. Yes, there will be bowling. We love the pizza but are worried about the noise level. Reopening in May, possibly. We will review the new incarnation as soon as it reopens. Such nice people there, too.

The Café on Hawk Creek is tied with Hearth and Table for our pizza affections. Sometime shortly after our last visit in January, they embarked on a major remodeling and expansion. They had to put in a new foundation and are greatly expanding the seating capacity. Luckily, the wood-fired oven is part of the new plan. No idea when they will reopen. “Spring,” they say, so it could be June.

Rusty Truck Brewing

My favorite view at dinner. Rusty Truck brews their own craft beers. Cin cin!

We’ve tried making pizza at home and a blog on that will be along soon, but in the meantime, we returned to Rusty Truck Brewing. We had pizza there last August, right before we went to Europe, and I wanted to have a second visit before we passed judgment.

The Rusty Truck is first and foremost a brewery with a baker’s dozen of beers on tap. There is a full pub-type menu with entrees and sandwiches, but the key to our interest is pizza made in a decent, if not wood-fired, pizza oven.

Rusty Truck

My pizza, the Road Hog: pepperoni, sausage, veggies. Nicely done.

We had the good fortune to sit right above the pizza station where we were delighted to watch the pizzaiola at his craft. He knew how to handle the dough and deftly managed an enormous pizza peel as he shuffled the pies in-and-out of the oven.

The pizzas are small, with a crust that is thick by Italian standards, but tasty and chewy. Ingredients are top notch, although some of the varieties are odd by Italian standards. The “Meat Lovers” pizza includes grilled chicken, for example, and there are two more of the eight offerings that include chicken in a starring role. Not my kind of thing.

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Ric’s choice, the Meat Lovers pizza with five types of meat.

I will say the fresh ingredients are top quality, the mozzarella is gooey and stretchy, the sauce flavorful. And even though a pie is only 8-inches (smaller than the average Roman pizza) I could not eat my entire pizza. Luckily leftover pizza is welcomed on my breakfast plate.

The beers are very good, too. While one can find their beer in more than 80 locations in Oregon, it is nice to have a pint at the source.

We tried a non-pizza dinner at the Rusty Truck one evening in February. We went on a Wednesday and found a very quiet scene with seating only in the bar. In winter they serve pizza only on Friday and Saturday when the tourists hit town, so we settled for Steamer Clams (me) and Cavatappi-Crusted Mac & Cheese for Ric. My clams tasted off so I rejected them after eating very few and shared Ric’s M&C, which I would classify as merely OK. The server did knock 50% off my clams (should have been 100% IMO), but I would not order them again. I can do better at home. We will try to discipline ourselves to go have lunch and try something other than pizza. After all, in Italy, pizza is only for dinner!

Rusty Truck

Nice outdoor deck for summer dining.

Pizza Quality: 2  Quality ingredients, an especially good crust and some creative toppings using chicken, if you like that sort of thing. J Can’t give it a 3 because Hearth & Table and The Café on Hawk Creek are far superior. And then there’s chicken which just does not belong on pizza.

Service: 3  Caring, friendly, but not annoyingly so. Pizzas come out fast.

Ambiance: 3   I’m giving Rusty Truck a 3 because it is a cute space, on the large size but with good separation of dining areas and nice outdoor space as well. It can be noisy when children are present. Best to dine after 19:00 to avoid the rug rats. Or sit in the bar.

Rusty Truck Brewing

The Rusty Truck is a large presence on Highway 101 in the Taft area. Indoor and outdoor seating, weather permitting. The brewery is onsite, too.

Total Points: 8

Returnability: Go-to Place  fine if you are in the area.

 

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Pizzeria Back to Basics, Haarlem, The Netherlands, September 7, 2017

Ahhhh, Italian pizza at last! What? In The Netherlands? You betcha! Francesco moved from Napoli to Haarlem 30 years ago. Today he dishes out the most Italian pizza we’ve had since we left Roma.

Cute little cafe on a quiet pedestrian street in Haarlem. The owner (and his cat) live upstairs.

I have to thank Rick Steves for the suggestion as Back to Basics made the cut for his guidebook. We sauntered in on a cool but dry Friday night, finding a cozy cafe reminiscent of so many in Italy. Francesco was making pizza in his wood-fired oven right there, greeting patrons, chatting with the locals. He was amazed to hear me speak Italian and I enjoyed getting the chance to try out a few sentences. It has been a long time since I had the opportunity to chat in Italian.

Francesco works the dough in a blur. He turns out amazing pies from his tiny oven.

The pizza is Neopolitan style, with a thicker border and softer crust. It was delicious!  With fresh Italian mozzarella and the finest Italian meats, it tasted, well, like Italy! Even the wine list was all Italian and we were able to pair our pizza with a favorite negroamaro. To add insult to injury, Francesco also offers housemade gelato, so naturally, we had to indulge. Like a couple of five-year-olds, we stuffed ourselves with pizza and ice cream. Imagine this was all in The Netherlands! We cannot wait for Italy!!!

A few table outdoors and a perfectly lovely cafe, great service in three languages, cute little wood-fired oven = 9 points on the OWP scale. The only thing better might have been if they had arancini.

My choice: Salami and mozzarella. Simple and authentic!

Ric’s pie, another Italian favorite, salsiccia (sausage) and broccoletti.

Francesco’s daughter waits tables. Other than a German couple who left as we arrived, the crowd was local.

We are still eating pizza in the U.S. but not quite weekly as there just are not enough choices near us. And the pizzas are all huge and heavy.  Coming soon, though, another Lincoln City pizzeria to write up: The Rusty Truck. We will also have more from the road during our Grand Tour, which I am writing about over at Good Day Rome.

 

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Sorella, Newport, OR, July 26, 2017

Sorella, in the historic Nye Beach area of Newport, OR.

Sometimes the first pizza we have at a new-to-us restaurant does not thrill. We visited Sorella with high hopes a couple of months ago but found the pizza, while tasty, to be overly salty. I was ready to write it off as not-so-worthy; however, we were impressed by the overall menu and rather than judge on one pizza, we vowed to return before committing our impressions to the blog.

Ric’s choice, an amazing pizza capricciosa with oil cured artichokes, prosciutto, mushrooms.

Last night was the night. With the heavy tourist season upon us, we can no longer count on pizza Fridays or dining-out Saturdays, as has been our tradition. It’s just too damned busy along the coast. So we dine mid-week now.

Sorella was busy but not slammed this foggy Wednesday evening. Yes, foggy. Like San Francisco, the Oregon coast can become foggy in a moment as hot valley air collides with cold ocean breezes. But I digress…. We were able to claim a table right away even at 19:00.

To start, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and the usual insalata Caprese condiments.

There is a fine list of wines by the glass and excellent local brews on tap. I chose a hard-to-find Nebbiolo while Ric quaffed an IPA. Perusing the menu with every intention of ordering a pasta or secondi, we were once again drawn to the pizza. In a what-the-hell moment, we both ordered pies in order to give them another chance to wow us. I am so glad we did.

Local art, Sorella, Nye Beach. Sadly, no polpo on the menu, though.

The pizza was not as salty this time. The flavors of the excellent toppings shown through, with even the sweet subtlety of peperonata complementing the flavorful sausage and peppery arugula on my sausage pizza. The crust is flavorful in itself, not merely a conveyance for toppings. This, dear readers, is a major difference in excellent pizza versus run-of-the-mill: do you like the crust on its own?

Warm, wood walls, colorful local art.

I have to make one criticism: the dinner menu, on second look, did not appeal to us. The pasta preparations just did not strike us as truly Italian. They seemed too complex versus the simplicity we like in Italy. There is cream in the tagliatelle con vongole, for example, and thus I was driven to eat pizza. The antipasto menu is intriguing so perhaps we will return and just dine off that sheet.

The sausage pizza is so much more! I love arugula on pizza. More pizzerias need to do it.

It is a cute restaurant, not-quite cozy but pleasant, with well-spaced tables and fun artwork. The noise level is low, service is efficient and pleasant, and while the pizzas are sized for individual consumption they will happily box the leftovers for you.

We give an OWP 8 to Sorella, and kudos to them for making The Oregonian’s list of 20 must-visit Oregon coast restaurants!

Italian Food: Need I say more?

 

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Cafe on Hawk Creek, Neskowin, OR, June 20, 2017

Oh dear, I see I have not blogged about pizza in a very long time! Not to say we haven’t eaten it. We’ve been back to Hearth and Table where we learned our lesson and only ordered a regular sized pie. We’ve caved to convenience and had Papa Murphy’s which, as Ric says, is not pizza but it’s good. We are not eating it weekly, however. It’s just such a darn heavy dish in the U.S!

Proposal Rock guards the entrance to Hawk Creek. The vast Pacific stretches beyond.

We did enhance our experience at the Cafe on Hawk Creek (see prior post here) with a pre-pizza walk on the beach.

For those not acquainted with the Oregon Coast, the “beach” is not the same animal you find in say California or Florida. Sure, there is sand, but the water is cold and even going barefoot is to risk hypothermia in June. We chose Tuesday as our off-day from going to the gym. Warm temperatures inland caused fog to hug the coastline, but that did not deter early-in-the-season vacationers. Kids still played in the sand and couple walked dogs. The weather was dry (that is, no rain) and moderate, in the low 60s. Perfect for not working up a sweat but getting in a good aerobic walk. Nothing like working off the pizza before you eat it.

A lone hiker heads north into the fog on the beach at Neskowin. You can walk 4 miles north from Hawk Creek before you are forced inland.

Oregonians are not deterred by fog on the beach.

My hiking buddy along the creek.

View of the Cafe from across the creek.

Since we were able to eat on the lovely deck, I can push this rating to a rare OWP “10,” a bonus point for seasonal ambiance.

So we combined our love of hiking with our love of pizza. Not a bad thing on a Tuesday in June. Beats working.

Lovely garden.

Not a lot of outdoor diners today.

For me, a Widmer Hefeweizen. Summer in a glass.

A simple pie of Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, onions, and spinach. Practically health food.

 

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The Cafe on Hawk Creek, Neskowin, OR, April 1 and 22, 2017

I shouldn’t write about The Cafe on Hawk Creek. It’s too busy already. We may not even be able to get a table come high tourist season. Although once the rains pass, perhaps some evenings will be warm enough to enjoy their generous deck.

An architectural style completely at home, nestled into tiny Neskowin.

This is a find on the Oregon Coast. I had been to Hawk Creek a couple of time back in 2005-2006 when our son was moving to Lincoln City to take a chef job. I remembered enjoying the pizza, but that was before our Italian adventure and neither Ric nor I were pizza snobs aficionados at the time. Rediscovering Hawk Creek over a couple of visits, I know it is going to be in the regular rotation not only for pizza but for the overall excellent menu.

Authentic wood-fired brick oven manned by two pizzaioli.

A 15-minute drive through coastal woodlands brings us to Neskowin faster than we used to walk Rossini in Rome. We went to Hawk Creek twice this month. Early in the month we waltzed in at 18:30 and were immediately shown a table. Last Saturday we arrive a few minutes before 19:00 and had a 30-minute wait. The wait was very entertaining as we had a great view of the pizzaioli making pies as fast as they could. The lesson (at least on Saturday night): come early. Or late. There are no reservations for smaller parties. Or you can take your pizza to go but to us, that is an inauthentic experience.

Pizza! Here the “Deluxe” with 3 types of meat and several veggie items on board. We worked out way through half…. The rest was Sunday breakfast.

The pizza is robust. American in size (enormous) and topping choices, it is Italian-ish in that the sauce is housemade and the crust is chewy yet tender, slightly charred from the wood-fired brick oven. We ordered a large Deluxe (Salami, pepperoni, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black olives and Italian sausage) but could barely eat half. The leftovers made a fine breakfast on Sunday.

On our second visit, we promised ourselves we would not order pizza but would try something from the dinner menu. Unfortunately, the menu on their website does not include the half-dozen dinner selections which included salmon, halibut, and scallops. Our selections were scallops and salmon, each not only prepared perfectly but served with a creative veg and scrumptious potatoes.  This is something I really appreciate about Northwest cuisine. No boring steamed asparagus, but rather braised-to-a-state-of-caramelized Brussels sprouts with sweet bits of butternut squash. The starch accompanying Ric’s scallops were pesto mashed potatoes. A salad was included, selection of ultra-fresh greens, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes capped with slivered hazelnuts.

Ric hoists a local brew.

Hawk Creek has an impressive selection of beers on tap and an equally impressive wine list. There are a few by-the-glass options.

We can’t wait to try their breakfast, but the pizza is calling to me for a sooner-rather-than-later encounter.

Pizza Quality: 3  Fresh dough made daily, housemade sauce, fresh mozzarella, great produce and a wood-fired oven combine to make an excellent pie. I am not big on creative pizza toppings preferring a more Italian approach, but there are some interesting combos for those more adventurous than me.

My roasted salmon with berry reduction accompanied by almost-caramelized veg and lovely mashed potatoes. Served on an alder plank, of course. (It’s a thing in the PNW.)

Service: 3  Despite the busyness, the comings-and-goings of people picking up pies, and the no reservations system, Hawk Creek servers are never harried, always polite, and give an excellent estimate on how long you’ll have to wait. The electronic buzzer they give you while you wait has a range of over a mile, so it’s OK to walk around a bit.

Ambiance: 3   Cute and cozy in a pleasant and almost rural setting (Neskowin is very small). Mostly four-tops but they can serve larger groups with creative rearrangement. There are a few seats at the bar and the deck will be grand in summer.

Total Points: 9

Returnability:  The Best! Go out-of-your-way to eat here. If you are on the Central Oregon Coast, make the trek to Neskowin!

Ric’s choice, seared scallops with the lovely veg and a new-to-us twist, pesto mashed potatoes.

When we were served honey with our pizza, the owner explained it was to use on the crust “for dessert.”

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