Happy New Year!
I’m reluctant to use the term best of in regards to my personal choices so I’m going to opt for current favorites. When it comes to matters of taste I have a hard time accepting a declaration of this is the best. I do think it’s interesting to see a year in review when it comes to pizza and/or beer and I typically post my favorite new discoveries of a particular year. This year I spent a lot more time brewing my own beer and getting to know my wood fire pizza oven rather than going out on beer and pizza adventures so I didn’t have the kinds of monumental discoveries I usually do. Because of this I reflected on the tried and true favorites that are a regular part of my life or that I had an experience with and never forgot. I also thought about what’s ahead and what I want to experience, so in addition to my current five favorite pizzas and beers I’ve also included a pizza and beer bucket list. In regards to a beer bucket list; with all the breweries popping up all over the country one can get excellent examples of just about any style without having to travel too far or having beers shipped, but it wasn’t that long ago when that wasn’t the case. I remember loading up my luggage with beers after a trip to Dogfish Head in 2006 but now there are very few places I could go to that I would feel the need to go through the hassle of packing beers. This is a great development as I’m a huge fan of supporting the locals but it does tend to diminish the significance of beer centric destinations. So for the beer bucket list I’ve included a couple of beers that I haven’t taken the opportunity to try as well as some destinations I’d like to get to.
As I’ve indicated I’m not declaring anything the best, just the current reigning champs at beerandpizza.org. If you have any opinions on the Top 5 Lists or the Bucket Lists, please leave a comment.
The lists are in order.
Top 5 – Pizza
Perfectly made wood fire pizza. When I went here I was on the fence about putting a wood fire oven in my backyard. After eating this pizza the decision was made, I knew I had to try and make similar pizza. I went there just as it was opening on a Sunday morning and we were the second group of people to arrive but according to the pizzaiolo that I spoke with there is a line out the door every night so if you go, plan to go during off hours or wait. It’s located within walking distance of Farmer’s Market so you can accomplish a lot on one trip.
Dominicks – Oxnard CA
This place is off the mainstream pizza grid but worth checking out if you’re ever in transit along the 101 going through Ventura County. I’ve been stopping in here for almost 30 years and consider the pizza to be unique and memorable. The crust is flaky, almost like a dough you would expect from a dessert pie. As my pizza education has progressed I often think that Dominicks will lose its significance in my life at some point but it hasn’t happened yet. I still find it very satisfying.
I’ve read in various forums that some people consider Serious Pie overhyped celebrity chef pizza. I disagree and think it’s fantastic and for me it strikes up images of Italian grandmothers and centuries past. I go to Seattle often and have been visiting a lot of the pizza joints (of which there are many excellent ones to choose from) but at some point I’m going back to Serious Pie. The memory has had a significant lingering affect.
As you may have already guessed, there isn’t a pattern to my pizza lust. I love it all and Chicago style has a special place in my heart. I’ve been to several of the Chicago’s deep dish pizzerias and so far Gino’s East is the only one I’ve been to twice and if I return to Chicago I suspect I will go again.
Caoiti Pizza Café
Caoti Pizza Café – Studio City CA
I think Ed LaDou was a visionary and in Caoiti Pizza Café he created an epic and unique pizzeria. I had the opportunity to interview his wife Carrie for California Beer & Pizza and she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Since Ed passed away she has done a tremendous job of taking over the restaurant and her vision has led to a menu that goes well beyond pizza, but the pizza is still why I go there. I think Caoti defines California-style pizza. The toppings are imaginative and the crust is a delicious golden brown. I love going there.
Pizza Bucket List
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Delfina – San Francisco
I was supposed to go to both of these places last weekend but due to a series of weird scheduling mishaps it didn’t happen. I was deeply disappointed but I’ll get back there and it will happen.
Pizzeria Bianco – Phoenix
I imagine this is on every pizza lover’s bucket list. Since American Pie by Peter Reinhart came out in 2003 this has been the most highly coveted pizza destination in the world.
Apizza Scholls – Portland
I get to Portland every now and then so I don’t have an excuse for not going to Apizza Schools yet. They have a tremendous reputation and I will definitely get there at some point. My problem is that with all the great craft beer pubs in Portland I usually end up settling in wherever I end up.
Fongs – Des Moines IA
If I ever find myself in Des Moines I am definitely going to Fongs and having their Crab Rangoon pizza. I saw this place featured on TV and it looks kitschy but it also seems like too much fun to pass up.
Sallys’, Frank Pepe, and Modern Apizza – New Haven
A lot has been written about New Haven pizza and it’s a must visit on the road to pizza nirvana and a necessary step in one’s pizza education. California Beer & Pizza contributor Albert Grande is a huge fan and we had an interview with filmmaker Gorman Bechard who is in the process of creating a documentary on New Haven Pizza (Pizza, A Love Story). I grew up about 90 miles north of New Haven and head back home from time to time and making the detour to New Haven has become a priority. I may even be able to pull it off in February 2014!
Top 5 Beers
Plant to Pint – Port Brewing
I’ve only had this beer once but I’ve never forgotten it. I had it at their Carlsbad location and if I’m remembering correctly you have to go to one of the Pizza Port locations, after the hop harvest, and drink it there (no bottles or growlers and it’s only available for a short period of time). From the first sip to the last I was overwhelmed with the sense of what a difference fresh hops make and the experience inspired me to start growing my own hops. I’m looking forward to the day when I have it again. In a California Beer & Pizza interview with Paige Reilly, she answered the what’s your favorite beer and pizza combination question by saying “The Pizza Port pizza with the Plant to Pint was an amazing pizza & beer experience for sure?” I am in complete agreement.