Monday, March 10

Sip, Snap, Savor or That's How the Pizza Crust Crumbles

It's two days later and I'm finally cleaning up the remnants from my "showcase" dinner party for Sip Snap, Savor...a couple (Melissa & Phil) who are traveling the U.S. and time capsuling U.S. cuisine. They contacted me and I invited them to come experience (for their first time) raw, live cuisine.

They came to dinner on a Sunday night and thank you to foodie and former SF Professional Food Society President, Sandra Murray and her husband Greg Karras, for providing the delicious live cocktails we enjoyed (Cucumber, Celery Mint Julips and Pineapple, Orange and Rosemary mojitos).

Melissa came equipped with her notebook, curiosity and impressive wine knowledge, and Phil with his camera and ravenous laugh. Melissa is a wine aficionado. You should check out her wine tastings, classes and info at:

The Menu:

snack - teriyaki kale chips

"Goat" Cheese and Tomato Tartlet

Firey Carrot Soup

Dandelion Salad

Live Pizzas - Sicilian & Italian

Coffee Mocha Cheesecake

I made two kinds of crusts 1) live buckwheat crust from Juliano's book (which I over dehydrated, it cracked, I panicked) and 2) onion bread crust which on it's own is over the top delicious, but I think it was too flavorful for a pizza crust.

Pizza Uno was a classic Italian Pizza (Juliano's cookbook) with a hearty red tomato sauce and Italian veggies (Roxanne's onion nut cheese, zucchini, capers, black olives, red peppers, etc.). Pizza Due - Sicilian Pizza was definitely different with an avocado base for the sauce, spiced with exotic middle eastern chutney spices and topped with sprouts, yellow peppers, green olives, scallions, etc. I think the favorite, however, were the tartlets I made as the first dish. I used Matt Amsden's goat cheese recipe, which is a sunflower seed "cheese" which I added chopped arugula to. The tartlets were the onion bread, topped with the cheese, then I had marinated zucchini shavings in a sweet lemon balsamic vinegar and topped with green, yellow and red tomatoes.

If you've never prepared a meal for complete strangers, who are then going to publish their experience at your house, let me tell you, no pressure at all.

When I chose to do this, I was all excited. I decided on an Indian menu and then thought better of it, as it involved so many steps, I decided to simplify. Pizza and soup seemed simple. But as the day drew near I started to doubt myself...would pizza be enough food?? I added a dandelion salad. Problem solved. But then, I began to visualize myself with these complete strangers. I knew I couldn't count on my husband...he would likely vaporize into thin air rather than have a social Sunday night. Oh, this was getting uncomfortable. Oh! I decided, what's wrong with me? I have all of the SF Professional Food Society to draw upon...who then? Sandra & Greg were my natural first choice to come and help me entertain these culinary travelers. Sandra and I have worked together for years in the Food Society and she and her husband are what I consider to be "Smiling Eyes Tribe"-- forward thinkers, open minds and warm they are real foodies! They generously agreed to come, and I realized it would be nice to have some live beverages, and with absolutely no arm twisting, Sandra agreed to bring the live cocktails, using Roxanne's book.

I began shopping days before carefully noting my bucolic plans. I started the crusts the day before. I composted the kitchen scraps that were buzzing with fruit flies. I vacuumed. I bitched at my husband for not helping. We washed the windows. I made the cheesecake. We went to a wine tasting party that night and I drank too much wine. Sunday: I did not have time to give into my hang over or take the dog for a walk, I flew out of bed and hit the kitchen. I checked on the crusts, and the buckwheat crust was starting to crack. I immediately removed it and it started crumbling! Panic manifested into hyperventilation as I dialed Dawn's number (co-owner of Cafe Soulstice) but no, they did not have any pre-made pizza crusts I could rush over and buy...they no longer make pizza at the cafe. I thought about crying but I didn't have time. See, this is the problem with live cuisine--you can't easily purchase replacement ingredients anywhere! My husband silently slinked into the car and headed for Sonoma. So much for the support.

Then I realized I didn't have any pretty glasses to serve the cocktails in. The thought of barreling off to CostPlus felt like a ton of bricks. A clear glass was essential to showcase these beautiful elixirs! Dinner was less than four hours away and I still had to mop the floor, clean the kitchen and prep the veggies! I enlisted deep breathing with a clenched jaw. I called Sandra. No problem, she says, I have the perfect glasses and I'll bring them. I sighed relief and then took a squirt bottle to the cracked pizza. This brilliant solution caused the crust to become doughy without patching the cracks.

When Sue called I was blow drying the pizza in the bathroom. She would take Dinah for a walk. Poor dog had been glowering at me all day. Thank God for sisters. OK, forget the cracked pizza. so what? By the time I dress it, it won't matter. And if it crumbles, it will still taste good, I told myself as I imagined these strangers as snooty professional chefs or haute cuisine food writers. The stress mounted.

The next epiphany came when I realized I didn't have any serving platters to lay these pizzas on!!! I needed a flat, solid 18"square surface to lay these pizzas on so I could dress and serve them. Usually, I just make one pizza, not two, and I use our butcher block, but this was for company! Writing, photographing, possibly-chef-people company! I tore the house apart looking for the pizza stone that never fit in our oven, which would have been perfect, but I never found it. Sue must be psychic because she called just then and before she could get a word in edgewise, I blurted out my predicament. No problem, she says, Paulette, her home-maker extraordinaire sister would surely have what I needed.

I went back to chopping vegetables and decided to forget about the crumbling crust, the missing glassware, or how the hell I was going to serve these pizzas. God, I prayed, Just don't let them be professional chefs. I have to say here, that delegation, that is sisterhood delegation, really works! Sue showed up with two marvelous blocks to serve the pizzas on. Dinah came home happy, and Sandra and Greg showed up bearing bags of drink-makings, fancy stemware, lovely freesias and even a bottle of wine that Sandra had designed the label for!

Melissa and Phil showed up and they were (thank you, God) not professional chefs, but good-natured and easy going. My favorite comment was when Melissa confessed she was pleasantly surprised and relieved to find the food so palatable, as they hadn't known what to expect from a raw, live food menu! That comment, along with Sandra and Sue flying in like angels to help me in my hour of stress, AND the fact that the crust did NOT crumble when we ate it, made my night! In fact, there was only a few scraps of that pizza left...and THAT'S how the pizza crust crumbles.