Showing posts with label pizza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pizza. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Chicago, 2008 - The Tasty, Windy City Part One

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Passionate Eater of San Francisco, and for a short while of New Orleans, recently went to Chicago on an exhaustive hunt for Chicago's favorite foods: hot dogs, deep dish pizza and Italian beef dip sandwiches. I recommended a few places to her that I had tried out myself. She reminded me that I was long overdue on my posting as well – one year ago! During that time, I was overwhelmed with work and how I was going to propose to my then-girlfriend-now-wife, Jeni, and just never got around to it. And I also owe the tasty experience to a Chicago-based eating-machine from the future named Erik M. – he runs a site called LTH Forum.

So in May, after scouring the streets of New York for good food within two days, I was on my way to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. With nothing more than a laptop, duffle bag and a well-endowed list of Chicago's finest eateries, I headed in town with freshly cracked knuckles and an empty stomach. I was in Chicago for a shoot and had a few hours to spare before meeting up with my colleagues. 3 hours... hmm. I think I can do 3 places. I headed out by foot towards some places that Erik had listed near my hotel on the North Side of town.

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As I walked around, the first thing I thought of was how clean and quiet Chicago was. Streets were swept and even the buildings looked like they just had their Brazilian waxings. It was 11 am and the people had to be tucked into their cubicles. I barely saw any taxis go by! I couldn't complain though because just one week before, it was an offspring-terminating 40 something degrees. According to the people at the hotel, it was a blessing to wear cargo shorts and be oot and aboot.

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First on the list was one of three favorite eats of Chicago – pizza. New York pizza vs. Chicago pizza... a constant feud that will go on till the day we die. To be honest with you, the thought of a deep dish pizza PADDED with god knows how many ounces of cheese stops me in my tracks. But it's Chicago, I HAD to try it. Since it was in the area, I went to try Lou Malnati's, a family-owned chain restaurant. I walked in to find quite a few people on their lunch break – most of them at the bar putting down beers. I didn't know what to get so I had the bartender suggest a pizza. Sausage pizza it is! Twenty minutes later, I was still drinking my beer and I didn't have any food. 10 minutes later, I ordered another beer still with no food. Man, this thing better be delicious! I felt like I could run some errands and the pizza would STILL not be ready.

Finally, after 50 minutes, I received my first Chicago-style deep dish pizza. The bartender brought out a steaming black pan with some tongs and set it down. I was taken aback - dough rising on the sides with a chunky, molten-lava tomato sauce. But where was the sausage? Where was the cheese? There seemed to be some hide & seek going on because I didn't see any sausage or cheese. Like a surgeon, I took my knife and started to cut my own slice when I finally saw a piece of sausage. But the weird thing was that it wasn't just a lump, I noticed that it was a LAYER OF SAUSAGE. Whoa. I proceeded with the operation and unveiled cheese underneath the meat. I had no idea that the layers were completely rearranged. I think the best way to describe deep dish pizza is a confused pizza that sort of confused me. I really didn't get it because it was just too much of everything. Too much sauce, too much cheese, too much sausage, too much time. Everything tasted fine and all, but I just couldn't handle more than one slice. Give me chapulines and huitlacoche from Oaxaca, horse sashimi from Japan or snake alcohol from Taiwan instead. I looked over at a man and woman on their third slice and asked for the check. I'm glad I tried it though.

Next, it was time for the second Chicago-favorite, Italian Beef Dip sandwiches. If you're a pedestrian in another city, I suggest reducing the amount of Mapquesting you do because you're bound to attract attention. No one was there to tell me that, as I befriended a young man. Not by choice. I was headed to Mr. Beef for some sandwiches and he decided to join me without an Evite.

Friend: "Hey man, where you going?"
Me: "Mr. Beef."
Friend: "Oh yeah, you should try Portillo's, it's better."
Me: "Okay, I'll do that next."
Friend: "I'll take you there. I'm going that way too."
Me: "Uh okay, sure."
Friend: "Hey, you born here?"
Me: "Yes, why?"
Friend: "Your English is pretty good."
Me: "Thank you."

Normally, I'd be offended, but the ball was in this guy's court. I'm a stranger to the streets of Chicago and walking with my new 6'2" friend. So he goes on and on about how he knows Chicago and pointed out buildings to the left and to the right... blah blah blah. After about 10 minutes of walking, I started to see Mr. Beef at the end of the street. Ok, almost there. Just keep tuning him out. Right when we got to Mr. Beef, his whole demeanor changed. He was no longer the jovial tour guide of Chicago. He told me he had just gotten out of jail not too long ago and was in need of money to get a driver's license. His new threads and jewelry definitely didn't say that though. But I thought I'd help him out anyway.

Friend: "C'mon man. Just a few bucks."
Me: "I have no cash.
Friend: "How you going to eat then?"
Me: "Oh I have enough money to eat. I came here to Chicago just to eat."
Friend: "There's an ATM inside."
Me: "Nope, I can give you half of my Mr. Beef sandwich?"

You should've seen the look on his face – sheer disappointment. He turned around and started walking away. The only thing I could feel was relief but at the same time, concern. Wait a minute... does that mean Mr. Beef sucks???

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According to any Chicagoan, there's only one way you should order an IBDS... with hot & sweet peppers and a dip in the pool of au jus. I watched the cook grab a loaf of bread and pull the beef out of a steaming pan. He then carefully tossed in a few chili peppers and wrapped up my sandwich. I unraveled the hot sandwich... smell of sweet bell peppers and beef. And... it wasn't bad... just a bit dry and sparse on the meat. I asked the cook for a small cup of juice and dumped it on the sandwich liberally. There we go. Now it was tasty.

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One slice of pizza and a somewhat tasty sandwich, still some room in the oven. So I went to try the other IBDS place that was recommended, Al's #1 Italian Beef. From the outside you wouldn't think much of it but the constant in & out of customers is promising. I was greeted by a nice young man and looking at me, he knew I wasn't from here. At least he wasn't so blunt.

Al's: "You visiting from out of town?"
Me: "Yeah. Here to try what I hear is one of Chicago's best."
Al's: "Well welcome to Chicago. You're in the right place."
Me: "What do I get?"
Al's: "Beef with sweet & hot peppers, dipped."
Me: "There we go."
Al's: "You'll need some fries, too."
Me: "Sounds good."

Contrary to Mr. Beef, there was actually action here. Big sandwich, big fries and big drink – Chicago people going to town without going out of town. I watched the Chicago sandwich routine in action once more. But this time, the guy took it to the next level. After adding the meat and hot & sweet peppers, he grabbed the sandwich with a pair of tongs and baptized my very own sandwich in the holy goodness that is beef juice. It was a beautiful ritual that only a pig like me would appreciate. My sandwich was drenched. I unraveled the parchment paper and grabbed that soggy sandwich. One bite in, and I now understood why Chicagoans stood so proudly behind that juicy sandwich. I don't care much for The Hat or Philipe's and easily put Al's ahead of them all. Next time I go back, I'll definitely do a comparison like Passionate Eater, who passionately gobbled through hot dogs, IBDS and pizza. Finishing the sandwich off, I looked at my wet hands sprinkled with chili seeds and beef crumbs. The guy that took my order looked at me and didn't need to ask whether I enjoyed it or not. He knew.

I walked back and twice I did U-turns back towards Al's but changed my mind because my hotel room didn't have a fridge to store IBDS. Damn. I promised my stomach that I would treat him once more to a tasty IBDS before I left. He said 'you better'.

Thanks for reading. Part Two coming next.

Check out Passionate Eater's posting on Italian Beef Dip Sandwiches, deep dish pizzas and also an old school posting on the first time meeting her and her husband.

Eat Drink Style A Fall Soiree - Man vs. the Wood Fire Beast

Fall Decor

We all have our fears, whether or not we're willing to admit them. But we're all human beings, and it's one of the many things that sets us apart. I've got a whole list of them. For example, I loathe the glaucoma machine at the optometrist's office. You know the one that blows AIR into your eye at like 528 mph. It takes me a good 4 minutes per eye and I wish I was a pirate or cyclops so I'd only have to endure the suffering for 4 minutes total. Another thing I fear is anything in tiny dot patterns. Blackheads, blueberry pies and bad 80s polka dot clothing. I'm not sure why but I think it might have to do with this cartoon I've watched before... where this character had 18 eyes on his face... all blinking at different times. Weird I know. And finally... my apparent condition of bakephobia. I've talked about it in my pizza posting a few weeks back and just can't get myself to appreciate baking because of the necessary precision and limitations set by recipes. I own about 30 cookbooks and because of my short attention span, rarely follow all the directions in them. I use cookbooks merely for the ingredient listing and I adjust accordingly to my own tastes. I also leave out measurements in my cooking posts because not everyone out there trying the recipe will like it. Some may want it spicier, sweeter or saltier. And you can't please everyone, especially when it comes to catering.

I baked a few weeks back, and I can honestly say that baking is an uncharted sea for me to navigate through. I want to learn how to bake. There is an inherent art and beauty behind the combination of eggs, flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Every country in the world has some sort of baked food, with bread being the most basic form of sustenance. In the wonderful book, Sauces, the author talks about the usage of bread as dinnerware. Wood and metal plates were just too expensive to mak during the 13th century in Europe, thus came the idea of bread bowls and flatbread. Not only would you not have to hold 300 degree stew in your own lap or hands, you could eat it afterwards! Genius. Imagine if we had to eat paper plates. This book by the way isn't entirely about making sauces, but explains how food has come to be over time. It's awesome. Did you know that Europeans actually used a form of fish sauce back then?

I started working with a group of nice people that run an event planning group called Fresh Events Company. Through a friend, we were brought together for this fall-themed party in Hollywood Hills. The client requested pizza made with their wood fire oven. It's tough enough dealing with an oven in a gig because you have to parcook food for holding, now I have to battle a monster: a wood fire oven.

Setting up a wood fire oven is similar to building a campfire. You set one large log in the oven as a 'backstop' and rest smaller pieces of wood on it, making sure that air is allowed to ventilate under the wood. You can't do more than two big pieces at a time otherwise the wood to fire ratio is knocked off balance and you're left with a slower temperature increase. It's hard to explain and I found myself scratching my head and swearing as I tried it out before the event. The client and I met again on another weekend before the event to practice the wood fire oven. In about four hours, we reached the temperature of 600 degrees. It's not the internal temperature of the oven that needs to be 600 degrees, it's the bricks that form the oven floor that need to be heated. I smiled when I saw the glowing embers of what was once wood. In the four hours it took, I had to come back every 15-20 minutes and feed it some more... much like a baby that wants to keep eating. Once you reach 600 degrees, the next goal is to make as much floor space as possible. Using a long metal spatula, we pushed all the coals to the left side, including the large backstop log. The client than grabbed a wet towel and wrapped it around the spatula and 'wiped' down the oven floor. It's ok if you get a little bit of ash on the bottom of the pizza, it only makes it look more rustic.

I quickly ran into the kitchen and pulled out my pizza dough from the fridge. Threw some flour on the counter top, rubbed my hands together like a gymnast, without the tights of course, and started massaging the ball of dough. After making a disc shape, I did a few rotations using my knuckles to stretch it. This takes skill because if you pull too hard, you'll tear the dough. No no no. For rookies, the rolling pin is still the best. I used my asian style rolling pin, which is smaller than the standard rolling pin, but without the handles. The smaller ones are used for making dumpling skins. Once the dough was as thin as it could be, I carefully laid the dough on a wooden pizza paddle with some flour beneath it. Flour works better than cornmeal in the case of the wood fire oven because it has a higher cooking temperature. If you're making pizza in a conventional oven, cornmeal on a pizza stone will be fine. I then added olive oil (vs. using tomato sauce), two kinds of cheese (a container of four cheese and mozzarella) and the appropriate accoutrements – the client requested portobello mushroom, white truffle oil and thyme. I carefully held the paddle and handed it to the client. He carefully guided the paddle into the oven mouth as if he was feeding a big monster. As soon as he pulled the paddle from beneath the pizza, I heard the most beautiful sound ever: the searing of fresh dough on hot oven bricks. 30 seconds later, the left hemisphere of the pizza was already bubbling... as high as 1.5 inches. The edge of the crust slowly blistering with dark spots. Another 30 seconds later, we used the spatula to rotate the pizza so that we could cook the other side. For a total of 2 minutes in the oven, something extraordinary comes out of the oven. He pulled out the pizza and set it on a table. I almost shed a tear because it was so beautiful. The cheese was bubbling quietly and the crust so fluffy and 'pillowy'. We all took a slice of pizza and sank our teeths in for that familiar and nostalgic food we've all grown up with. As I ate, I watched for the client's reaction and they loved it. I felt so much better doing a practice run and knew things would work out nicely on the day of the event.

Fall Decor

This catering event was very different than many others I've worked. For the first time, I was working with an event planning group. Not only did it mean that there would be decorations and invitations being taken care of, I had people to take care of the front of the house, meaning the wait/bar staff. It is HARD working the kitchen AND front of the house. I could focus more on cooking the food vs. running around like a lunatic.

Although it rained the night before, the dampness had evaporated and left a nice waft of cold air. I couldn't imagine cooking during the heatwave we had two months ago. Many of the decorations used by Fresh Events had orange, brown and yellow leaves, which were really nice.

Fall Decor

Woodfire Oven

And there she is, the wood fire beast. Inside the cavity, there's about 3 sq. feet of space, not very big. That's why it's important to slowly burn wood vs. stuffing it. Four hours to get it going, 2-3 minutes to cook your food. As it sounds, it's a lot of work, but the results do not lie.

Woodfire Oven

A close-up of the wood fire oven. Here, it's at about 425 degrees. By the time you're ready to cook, you shouldn't have any flames at all.

Wood Fire Oven

I gave this thing more attention on that day than I do with J. She wasn't happy with me, but she was very happy about the pizza.

Scallop, Shrimp & Avocado Ceviche

Scallop, Shrimp & Avocado Ceviche
I love love love ceviche and was dying to serve some food on white spoons. Whenever you can get the client to interact with the food, versus picking it up with greasy fingers and napkin, you whet their appetite. I "cooked" 32-40 size shrimp with baby scallops in lime juice for about 4 hours. Any longer, you may risk the chance of having no taste whatsoever. I added tiny-brunoised cuts of red bell pepper for color, green jalapenos for spice and put a small wedge of avocado and cilantro leaf on top. For some additional flavor, I added one of my favorite ingredients, smoked paprika. Client loved this.

Bacon Wrapped Dates with Parmesan & Goat Cheese

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Parmesan/Goat Cheese
AOC and my friend Immaeatchu have made me love this appetizer more and more. The combination of sweet dates, goat/Parmesan cheese and salinity from the crispy bacon make it one hot kid on the block. There are two main types of dates out there: medjools and deglet noors. If you're going to use medjools, you might want to cut them in half lengthwise because they are huge. Dates may not appeal to everyone because they've got that sticky chew. I prefer deglet noors because you can pop them in one bite and are actually very easy to work with. There are recipes that call for goat cheese or Parmesan, why not bring the best of both worlds and do a 50/50 ratio? You can use a toothpick or skewer (put 7-8 of them on one stick) to secure the bacon if you're worried about them falling apart. Bake for 5 mins on one side at 400, then flip over and bake for another 7-10 mins until bacon is somewhat crispy... just don't burn the bacon. I saw guests take 2-3 at a time, popping them like they were tater-tots.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
Everyone loves bacon and everyone loves prosciutto. For this dish, I cut the asparagus into 7" lengths and bundles of three using the prosciutto as 'tape'. Lightly spray some olive oil on the bundles and add a TINY bit of salt only on the asparagus. Fresh black pepper and lemon juice for a kick. These were very fun to eat.

Portobello & White Truffle Oil Pizza

Portobello & White Truffle Oil Pizza
And finally, the product of four hours of constant nurturing, arguing and making up: the portobello mushroom, white truffle oil and thyme pizza. These came out beautiully and guests kept requesting more and more truffle oil. Whoa, too rich.

By the end of the night, everyone had so much to eat, including my staff. It's too easy to get pizza'd out, but it was the crust that we kept coming back to. So soft and pillowy.

Great clients, excited guests, wonderful event planning group, loving gf and sister, loyal friends and one angry, tempermental 600 degree oven. That's the best way to sum up one of the smoothest events I've ever worked. Thank you to the McK's, Fresh Events, staff and to you for reading.

Eat Drink Style Pizza Party for My Nephew & Pizza Snob Friends

Taylor's First Pizza

As a kid growing up, I looked forward to Sundays when the Times would be delivered to our doorstep. I'd get up and run to the door and grab the heap of freshly ink-pressed paper and toss it onto the living room floor. I would then grab scissors and hastily cut the bra and thong off the newspaper with two quick snips. And on my hands and knees, I would quickly shuffle through the stack like a college intern in a file cabinet on a busy day. There it was. Exactly what I was looking for.

No, it wasn't the comics.

Coupons. Pizza coupons.

During that time, the powerhouse pizza companies were Domino's, Pizza Hut and Little Caesar's and were constantly offering deals with soda, an extra pie for X amount of dollars or some weird culinary invention. But it was Little Caesar's who kept it real. For $15, you could get TWO pizzas with TWO toppings, while the other two offered ONE pizza for nearly the same price. Coming from a frugal, Chinese family, we'd be lucky to even get the $15 deal. Domino's and Pizza Hut was for the rich... and plus, they make such damn greasy food. I still refuse to eat that stuff to this day. But Little Caesar's? Yes please! Anyway, it was easier to push a cow off the road than it was to convince my parents to buy us pizza. They just didn't see the point of bread, cheese and sauce cut into triangles? Why? For $15, they could get a whole roasted duck at the Sam Woo bbq zoo. They could buy 7 of those face-sun visors if they made them back then. Thank god they didn't. Sometimes, we'd get those cardboard-like pizzas that came wrapped and stacked on top of each other. One look at it and you knew that it wasn't going to be very good.

My sister and I devised a plan to obtain more pizzas... simply by being on our best behavior. We showed homework, cleaned the house up every chance we could and blew MAJOR smoke up their asses. Most of the time, we failed. But for every 15 tries, we got our pizza. And it was heaven. For some reason, my story wasn't far off from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. We weren't very wealthy but we had hopes and dreams... of getting pizza. I still remember what it was like holding $15 buck in my pocket and happily crossing the street. The all-too-familiar sign with the cartoon Greek guy would widen my eyes. I could see the oompa-loompas walking back n' forth behind the counter processing goodness. A smile cracked on my face and wielding that fabulous coupon that would grant me access into delicious cheesiness. If you remember, Little Caesar's used to package their double goodness on a cardboard and large white 'envelope'... much like Charlie's winning ticket in the chocolate bar. A simple tear in the 'envelope', and wafts of goodness seaped into your nose. Those days are long gone. Now Little Caesars pack their pizzas in boxes and are selling two types of pizzas for $5 each. You've seen their human billboards... spinning and tossing their signs on the corner of the street. Definitely not the same.

I still love pizza to this day, but really, who doesn't? My favorites being Fat Slice in Norcal, Abbot's in Venice Beach and Greco's on the corner of Hollywood & Cahuenga. And for a frozen brand, I absolutely love the 5 for $5 Jeno's pizza – my official poor-college-guy staple, amongst Del Taco and Sriracha-sauce hot dogs. But the more you cook, the more you stray away from eating out and I definitely can't eat the pizza from Domino's and Pizza Hut. The sight of that greasy bread and orange puddle of oil laying on top... man. It's inevitable that you'll try making your own pizza.

Finally, after a long hiatus, I got called for a catering gig that requires making pizza in a woodfire oven. I freaked because (1) I cannot stand baking and (2) how the hell do I work a woodfire oven. Why do I hate baking? Because it basically requires a lot of patience, standing around and precise measurements. Once you've done exactly what the book tells you to do, you loiter in the kitchen area. I prefer cooking savory food because it triggers the human senses and requires full attention. I see it as a high maintenace girl that needs love, care, attention, gifts, massages and affection. If something's not right, she'll react and blow up. Such is the case with sauces that break... meat that is overcooked. Very temperamental but I love it.

J and I borrowed her mom's Kitchen Aid mixer and one look at that thing ensures that your food will be good. Tokyoastrogirl sent me a link to a recipe by Heidi of 101 Cookbook's, who now has her first published cookbook. (Congrats to her on a huge achievement – she deserves it). I decided to throw a pizzafest slash practice for the catering event, and to celebrate my nephew's first birthday. Since he has four beaver teeth coming out, he'd be able to eat his first pizza. I tried out the recipe Heidi used and man, this was some GOOD pizza dough. My mom, who never let us have pizza, loved the bread. J called me 30 mins after she tried it, and asked that I save some dough for her. I myself hate eating pizza crust, but couldn't resist. So far so good. The best way to find out if this pizza was really good was to call on my friends ME & EP. These two are pizza snobs slash whores. They eat pizza once a week. They've DRIVEN to the famous Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix TWICE, where people wait for 2 hours in line to get in to this spot. I've seen the photos of their pizza and wow, amazing. If you like the pizza at Batali & Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza, you'll like Pizzeria Bianco because the head chef, Chef Matt Molina, was trained in that same restaurant.

Australia-looking Pizza

These hairy arms are not mine. They belong to my friend ME. Here ME is rolling the dough out for our first pizza. A great dinner party to have is a pizza party, where you buy a bunch of pizza toppings and let everyone make his own pizza. I watched as he rolled the dough, and he looked very happy. Almost with that perverted, sexual offender look. Don't worry if your dough starts to look like Australia like it does in the photo, simply roll it back into a ball and start over. It's a good thing also to roll a few times because you want air to get in there to add some puffiness to the pizza.

Baby Cheese Pizza

Baby Cheese Pizza
For the birthday boy, my sister and I made him a 6" pizza with delicious marinara and mozzarella cheese on it. We then sliced the pizza into 1/2" x 1/2" cubes and laid them out on his baby chair (pictured above). He went to town on it and gobbled it up in about 7 minutes. This pizza reminded me of larger Bagel Bites and was very very fun to make.

Pepperoni Pizza

ME's Double Pepperoni Pizza
First ME laid out 5-6 pepperoni slices on the cheese. I looked at him with a puzzled look. C'mon man, I thought you were a pizza whore... double down on it! He pretty much covered the whole pizza up w/ pepperoni... not a chance for the bread to see the light of day. A classic, delicious pizza!

Marguerite Pizza

My Sister's Marguerite Pizza
She likes simple food and this pizza is a classic representation of food that doesn't need to be complicated. The Italians first devised this pizza as a way to promot patriotism. A marguerite consists of only red sauce, white cheese and green basil... the 3 colors in the Italian flag. I cut the slices of tomato rather thin because 10 minutes in the oven really doesn't cook the tomato fully. Everyone loved this.

Sausage & Zuccini Pizza

Spinach & Fontina Sausage with Zuccini and Red Onions
My favorite pizza has to be a veggie pizza, but the consensus insisted on adding sausage to this pizza. You can use any kind of sausage, it'll taste perfectly fine. I did a quick sauté with the zuccini and added garlic and smoked paprika. This combination was very good.

Portobello & White Truffle Oil Pizza

Portobello & White Truffle Oil Pizza
I made this for the client and she absolutely loved it. I quickly sautéed the portobello mushrooms in garlic and thyme and added it to the pizza. After it came out, I lightly drizzled some fantastic White Truffle oil. If you plan to buy White Truffle oil, try to fork out the money for a pure bottle of truffle oil, not the truffle-infused olive oil crap you see at Trader Joe's. If you don't use it quickly enough, the oil goes bad and tastes nasty. For many this was the 2nd favorite.

Heirloom, Basil & Burrata Cheese Pizza

Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil & Burrata Cheese Pizza
I think for this election, I'm not voting for Hillary, Obama nor Edwards, I'm voting for Burrata Cheese for President. This stuff is stellar. Tokyoastrogirl gave me the idea for this and I really have to say THANK YOU. The combination of sweet, juicy heirlooms, fragrant basil and soft & milky burrata is heavenly. After I baked the pizza, I dropped globs of the burrata cheese (it comes in a water-filled tub, in some sort of 'casing') all over. I watched as it melted slightly on the surface. Beauty. This was everyone's favorite and definitely mine.

A note to those that wanna try out the pizza recipe. With exception to the Baby Cheese and Pepperoni pizzas, I simply used olive oil on the dough as a 'sauce' base. I'm not much of a tomato sauce person, so I refrained from using it – and it turned out wonderful. Always salt and pepper the pizza after you've added your toppings. You can even add some more olive oil on top of the pizza before you bake it. Pizzas were baked for about 12 minutes, at 450 degrees without a baking stone. I've heard a baking stone does wonders, so I'll try that next.

Here's the link to Heidi's tasty recipe again. Happy belated to my little nephew, you rock. And thanks to everyone for reading.