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#1 ExtraMSG

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 02:41 AM

This round table discussion with Ken Forkish of Ken's Artisan Bakery, Brian Spangler of Apizza Scholls, and Cathy Whims of Nostrana will begin at 2pm on Monday, April 17th.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#2 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:09 PM

Are we ready?
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#3 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:13 PM

Guess not.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#4 ExtraMSG

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:15 PM

I think we're just waiting for Cathy, but why don't I go ahead and get us started....

I'm wondering if the three of you have eaten each other's pizzas and what you enjoyed about them, or how you see yours as different (though not necessarily better)? You all have similar philosophies -- a belief in quality ingredients used to create soulful pizzas with time-honored techniques -- yet, still, the three pies are different. (Though certainly not as different as, say, one from Lou Malnati's in Chicago.)

Feel free to ask each other questions, of course, I'm just here to try to push things along if I can.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#5 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:23 PM

I have yet to eat Ken's pizza as I am waiting for him to get an oven that will get hotter. Not fair to judge yet as you need a hearth temp of at least 700 to get good results and if he is going to to small 12" pizzas, 800-900 would be ideal.

I have had Cathy's pizza, but I am eager to get back and try it again as the oven management should have improved. Cathy's pizza was very good, but the oven was not as hot as it should have been on my visit.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#6 kforkish

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:24 PM

I think we're just waiting for Cathy, but why don't I go ahead and get us started....

I'm wondering if the three of you have eaten each other's pizzas and what you enjoyed about them, or how you see yours as different (though not necessarily better)? You all have similar philosophies -- a belief in quality ingredients used to create soulful pizzas with time-honored techniques -- yet, still, the three pies are different. (Though certainly not as different as, say, one from Lou Malnati's in Chicago.)

Feel free to ask each other questions, of course, I'm just here to try to push things along if I can.


It's been about a year since I've had Brian's pizza. I'm planning to return in the next week or two. As a matter of fact I went with Cathy! So it's been too long for me to comment with any precision of memory, but I can say that I liked it a lot, and that I think Brian set the bar for the rest of us. I particularly like the char on his crust.

Brian - how would you characterize your approach to char on your crust? Do you go for char all the way around, or on a certain percentage?

The last pizza I had at Nostrana was 2 or 3 weeks ago at lunch. It was a Margherita with prosciutto on top. Loved it. There was a nice balance btwn cheese, toppings and crust, and the flavors were pure. Wasn't much I'd do for improvement.

- Ken

#7 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:27 PM

The major difference that sets my pizza apart from Cathy's and Ken's is that I am doing larger pizzas that are inspired by those found in CT and NY. Ken and Cathy (Ken can correct me if his pizza style will be changing at Ken's Artisan Pizzeria) are more rustic/classic Italian. I am making the neo-neopolitan style (i.e. Pepe's, Sally's, Grimaldi's, Patsy's, etc.) Making an 18" pizza is very different from making a 12" pizza.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#8 kforkish

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:28 PM

Having made comments in my opening brief about expecting a better pie from our wood-fired oven at the new place on SE 28th Ave, I think we are producing an excellent pizza from the bread oven at the bakery. What it lacks on high temp, it makes up for it in heat mass (18,000 lbs).

Having read a number of discussion group posts over the last year, I sometimes think too much is made of oven temp. That is, it's possible to make good pizza at lower temps.

#9 kforkish

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:30 PM

I agree with you there Brian, and that's similar to how I've characterized your pizza when people ask me to compare.

#10 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:31 PM

I have to have char, but it is hard to put a percentage on it. Yes, I like the char all the way around, but I won't sacrifice the integrity of a single pizza just to get the amount of char that I like to see. We will through the pizza into a reserved spot in the oven that is used to just add a little more char based upon where the sauce and cheese are in the baking process.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#11 ExtraMSG

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:31 PM

Cathy is here now, btw. My fault for not making this a little easier to use.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#12 Nostrana

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:32 PM

I have had both Brian and ken's pizzas and would happily eat them anytime. It is clear when I eat them both that they are made by extraordinary bread bakers. I love that Brian has alight but sturdy crust and bold strong flavors and there is something satisfying about eating a large piece of an 18" pie that small Neapolitan size pies don't have. I think it is the American experience of eating pizza.

#13 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:34 PM

You can make good pizza at lower temps, but they have very different flavor and textural characteristics than ones that are baked really hot for a short period of time. At lower temps you have issues with drying out the sauce and seperating the oil from the cheese. On the oppisite end of the spectrum, too hot of a temp with not allow the crust to crisp... plenty of char but not much in texture.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#14 kforkish

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:35 PM

I have to have char, but it is hard to put a percentage on it. Yes, I like the char all the way around, but I won't sacrifice the integrity of a single pizza just to get the amount of char that I like to see. We will through the pizza into a reserved spot in the oven that is used to just add a little more char based upon where the sauce and cheese are in the baking process.


Yeah, because you need balance btwn when the sauce & cheese is done and when the bottom of the crust is done, ideally at the same point in time. SEveral months ago when we were getting more variability in char on our crust than I wanted (sometimes too much, sometimes not enough), I asked our guys to give me 20% char - I don't want it on every bite of crust, but on enough for the flavor to make itself known.

#15 ExtraMSG

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:35 PM

So, Cathy, how do you see what you're doing as different from what Brian and Ken are doing -- or rather, trying to achieve?

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#16 kforkish

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:36 PM

You can make good pizza at lower temps, but they have very different flavor and textural characteristics than ones that are baked really hot for a short period of time. At lower temps you have issues with drying out the sauce and seperating the oil from the cheese. On the oppisite end of the spectrum, too hot of a temp with not allow the crust to crisp... plenty of char but not much in texture.


With greater heat mass, we get a lot of the baking characteristics of a higher temp oven. Don't ask me why.

#17 Nostrana

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:37 PM

I have to have char, but it is hard to put a percentage on it. Yes, I like the char all the way around, but I won't sacrifice the integrity of a single pizza just to get the amount of char that I like to see. We will through the pizza into a reserved spot in the oven that is used to just add a little more char based upon where the sauce and cheese are in the baking process.

I think the char issue is interesting. When we opened Nostrana we had our oven at 800 degrees and the pizzas were quite charred and some Italians told me they were burned. Now we operate at about 700 and the pizzas I believe are better. If there is too much char it makes it impossible to taste the sweet wheat flavor and other ingredients. I am excited to try Ken's pizza in a wood oven. Brian's pizza reminds me of my favorite place in NY, John's on Bleeker.

#18 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:37 PM

Cathy,

Yeah, my brain is programmed for a large slice. Not saying that there is anything wrong with small pizzas, but it is a different experience as you have pointed out. I enjoy classic Italian pizza, just as much as I enjoy Chicago-style pizza, but they are not what I think of when I do think of pizza. This just goes back to my first love with pizza, being neo-neopolitan style, and how my brain is programmed. You can't replace the memories of your first love, etc.

BTW - I miss you Cathy.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#19 kforkish

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:39 PM


I have to have char, but it is hard to put a percentage on it. Yes, I like the char all the way around, but I won't sacrifice the integrity of a single pizza just to get the amount of char that I like to see. We will through the pizza into a reserved spot in the oven that is used to just add a little more char based upon where the sauce and cheese are in the baking process.

I think the char issue is interesting. When we opened Nostrana we had our oven at 800 degrees and the pizzas were quite charred and some Italians told me they were burned. Now we operate at about 700 and the pizzas I believe are better. If there is too much char it makes it impossible to taste the sweet wheat flavor and other ingredients. I am excited to try Ken's pizza in a wood oven. Brian's pizza reminds me of my favorite place in NY, John's on Bleeker.



Hi Cathy! Have you found differences in baking your pies with different kinds of wood in the oven?

#20 Nostrana

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:41 PM

So, Cathy, how do you see what you're doing as different from what Brian and Ken are doing -- or rather, trying to achieve?

I am trying to make a pizza evocative of what I have eaten in Italy. That is the most important thing to me. I have had to become a baker, but am not one by trade. i do solicate and get response from the Italian community in Portland about pizzas and am happy that they are usually positive. I approach the rest of our food at Nostrana the same way. I guess that' the approach I take trying to recreate Italian food, not being Italian.