Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Through the Redwood Forest

Hope everyone is having a wonderful start to your week!

I thought I’d take a quick break from finishing all those pizza posts and bring some more non food photos from our road trip. One of my absolute favorite parts of the drive was the redwood trees. We drove on Avenue of the Giants highway on our way up the coast and it was so incredibly beautiful. It’s crazy how huge some of those trees are, not only wide but tall!

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Since I’m all nerdy like that … some fun facts about the redwoods:
  • California used to be home to over two million acres of redwoods but after a lot of logging since 1850, only 4%, or 85,000 acres of that old growth is still standing.
  • A large redwood can hold approximately 34,000 pounds of water.
  • Currently, the largest redwood tree discovered, named Hyperion, is 378.1 feet tall and is in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
  • Redwoods can grow up to 22 feet in diameter and their bark is as thick as 12 inches which helps protect the trees.
  • Coastal redwoods survive to be over 2,000 years old and average probably 500 to 700 years.
  • Despite how tall they are, redwood tree roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep.
And now some more pictures!

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Una Pizza Napoletana

Once again, time for some more pizza! If you’re just tuning in, feel free to visit this page to see what The Great Neapolitan Pizza Quest is all about!

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I think one of the main highlights for Erik was the anticipation of going to Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco because of the following it has. It’s somewhat of an enigma, and yet it seems like wherever we go and mention Neapolitan pizza, people ask, did you go to Una Pizza Napoletana?

The owner, Anthony Mangieri, originally from New Jersey, opened Una sometime ago in Manhattan, developed a large following there, and then moved his business to the bay area, where he currently resides. If you’ve ever read or seen anything about Anthony, you’ll know right away this guy is serious about pizza. It seems like many people either love him or hate him, but as Erik says, he’s just a typical New Yorker who’s passionate about what he does.

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Una is famous for their limited, high priced menu based around tradition that typically baulks at any changes or substitutions. At Una Pizza Neapolitana, you will find zero salads, zero appetizers, and zero desserts. Also, if you go during the week, you will find zero pizzas with meat; something not many places can get away with, yet Anthony seems to have found his niche.

As you can see below, the menu simply has six pizzas, all $20 or higher, and drinks. That’s it.

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The d├ęcor is ultra minimalistic, simple, and revolves completely around the pizza oven and pizza itself. Besides a couple servers, Anthony is a one man show, making all the pizzas himself each day.

We actually quite like the simplicity of style and the menu. It's very to the point, and completely focused on the art of Anthony's pizza making.

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Per usual, we got the Marinara and Margherita pizzas and they were cooked in about 77 seconds.

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The Quick Stats (erik’s notes)

Oven:
Stefano Ferrara

Cook Time:
  About 77 seconds

Dough:
Una’s dough had a very big rise, crazy amounts of crust. Was denser than a cake yeast based pizza. It appears that he definitely uses a poolish.

Taste: Here’s the truth. It’s one of those things when you follow somebody for so long, you read and listen to so much about them, you form such a high expectation. To say we were let down was far from the truth, but it did not live up to what we expected, and perhaps nothing could have. The bufala was very tough, the sauce was dense in some places and very sparse in others, and it’s the first time I’ve had to salt a pizza. But how could we complain about the Godfather of Neapolitan pizza in America? Really, he has earned the right to do whatever he wants (and at $20 a pie, the right to charge whatever he wants). That being said, we couldn’t complain about our pizzas. He’s in there every day by himself doing what he loves, and doing very well at that. If we lived nearby, we would still eat there, I’m positive on a very regular basis. It was just really not what we expected, and in a league completely of its own.

Una Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon


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Friday, July 27, 2012

Del Popolo

On with the pizza journey! If you’re just tuning in, please visit this page for more details.

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One pizza stop that we’ve been excited to experience is Del Popolo, “a mobile pizzeria committed to creating rustic Neapolitan-inspired pizza using ingredients sourced from small, generational producers”.

They certainly take the popular term “food truck” to a completely different level! It was created using a 20 foot shipping container with one side completely carved out with glass doors. It cost about $180,000 and weighs about 14 tons. As you may be able to see from the photos, the pizza oven and prep station are above street level, and the person taking orders is at street level. 

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They write their menu for each day on the window, which is simply several pies and a few drinks, and once your order is placed, your pizza is prepped and put into the beautiful wood fired oven. I love the wall of glass doors and how it enables customers to see their pizzas being fired.

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We caught up with Del Popolo at the SoMa StrEat Food Park for lunch, and split the margherita pizza. Despite how full of pizza we were becoming on our trip, we really enjoyed this pie! It had a really beautiful char and cooked in approximately 82 seconds. Delicious!

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The Quick Stats (erik’s notes)

Oven: Stefano Ferrara

Cook Time:  About 82 seconds

Dough: Dough preparation is unknown. From the consistency, I would assume a warm rise for 8 or more hours and I believe they use a high quality local flour.

Taste: We both missed the bufala, as their margherita is served with Fior di Latte but the taste was still very good. The pizza was seasoned very well and had a nice char and was very light and fluffy.

Best food truck in the world?? We think so!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

A-16

A little over 6,000 miles later,  we’re back in Kansas City! We were welcomed home to 106 degree weather outside, a dead battery in our thermostat, and a 98 degree house inside. Oh, how fun, ha.

I have a lot of catching up to do on posts, and now that we’re home I’ll be able to knock them out better than on the road. So without further ado … the pizza journey continues at A-16 in San Francisco.
 
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A-16
 
After a morning full of whale watching in Monterey Bay, we pulled in the San Francisco tired and hungry! (I seem to say this in every post? I guess that’s what driving every day will do to a person!)

Once we settled into our hotel, we started planning out our San Francisco pizza itinerary, and were so happy to discover A-16 was just a block away from where we were staying.Yes, please!

A16

So we took a leisurely (and quick!) walk to dinner. They were pretty busy when we arrived, and we happily sat at the available bar seats right in front of the pizza oven. It’s always our favorite seat!

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Our pizza cooked in a little over two minutes, and as at all of our pizza stops, we got the margherita and marinara pies. The only difference is A-16 does not have a bufala mozzarella option, so we had to stick with regular Fior di Latte.

Margherita: tomato, mozzarella, grana padano, basil, olive oil
Marinara: tomato, oregano, garlic, olive oil

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The Quick Stats (erik’s notes)

Oven: Unknown
 
Cook time: 2 minutes, 13 seconds. 

Dough:  The dough is mixed in a 80 quart Hobart mixer.  The dough is then cold proofed 48 hours.  After that, the dough is taken out and proofed another 24 hours at ambient temperatures. Word on the street is that A-16 also uses oil in their dough recipe. They use exclusively Caputo blue flour.
 
Taste:   The crust was somewhat more dense and under risen than others, most likely due to the oil, cold rise or possibly the mixer. We also really missed the bufala mozzarella, but the end result was very Neapolitan and certainly on par with many other delicious pizzas we’ve had on our trip!
 
A16 on Urbanspoon

A wonderful way to begin our stay in San Francisco!
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Whale Watching Tour

Well, we’ve reached the near end of our road trip that started on July 4th! We began our trek back to Kansas City, but have to stop in Nebraska at my parents to pick up Erik’s new ride. Not surprisingly, I still have a lot to blog about, as we’ve done so many things these past few weeks.  One of the highlights for me was whale watching!

Whale Watching

I’ve always wanted to see a whale in its natural habitat. I remember distinctly one day in kindergarten when my teacher told us whales were as long as the back end of our classroom all the way out to the end of the playground and I thought it was CRAZY. Ha, I think that’s what first sparked my interest.

After Googling a good place to go on a whale watching tour, Monterey Bay came up. So on the way to San Francisco, we stayed in Monterey a night and booked a whale watching tour with the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center.

I loved it! We got to see the following:
  • Many different  birds
  • Moon Jellyfish
  • Sea Lions
  • 10 Humpback Whales
  • 2 Blue Whales
  • 100 Risso Dolphins
  • 100 Northern Right-Whale Dolphins
  • 1 Elephant Seal
  • 1 Mola Mola
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Our tour lasted about 4 hours, beginning at 9 a.m. At one point at the end of our tour, we were surrounded  by hundreds of dolphins, with multiple whales coming up to blow.
 
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My thoughts?
  • I loved it, and would definitely go on another whale watching tour!
  • We (obviously) went in July and it was very chilly! Even though they do tell you to dress warm, I only had a thin hoodie on with another thin jacket and was cold. On hindsight, I would have worn gloves, a thicker sweatshirt or coat, and had a hat to cover my ears.
  • Our morning tour was about $50 a ticket, with Monterey Bay Whale Watch and lasted about four hours. The staff on our boat were great;  very knowledgeable, and you could tell they all very much cared about the whales and were really in it to observe the marine life and to educate each tour. They’re great about not hurrying, and will even linger if you are around a lot of whale activity.
In summary, I was very happy with our experience, would certainly recommend Monterey Bay Whale Watch for tours!  Tomorrow is another day on the road for us, but for now a little resting before bed with some Whale Wars. (How appropriate, right? Ha).
 
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