5008 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland (Temescal Neighborhood)
Well…I finally did it. I convinced the ladies to hop in the car and head over to Oakland to try this thin, wood fired pizza I’ve been hearing so much about. Now let me start by saying I’m a thin crust pizza aficionado. I worked next door to Upper Crust pizza in Boston for years and had a few too many slices for my own good. That being said, at Pizzaiolo, I thought the pizza itself was a bit overrated (and over-priced). But there are three noteworthy words I can cull from my experience that would bring me crawling right back: patio, burrata, and housemade sausage. Well, I guess that’s four, but anyway…
First, let me say that Pizzaiolo is damn crowded. Apparently, all of the time. And the waitstaff can be a bit self righteous about reservations. We simply called on our way over, were really nice about the fact that we realized we didn’t have a chance of getting in, but…was there any chance? And voila, we had a table on the coveted, outdoor patio waiting for us as soon as we arrived. Minor magic if I do say so myself. The patio has a very Austin, TX feel for those of you who’ve experienced the edgy food scene there. It is all fenced in with metal siding and colorful green wood panels, there are paper lanterns hanging in a haphazard way, a sand bocce ball court where couples gathered while waiting for their pizzas, wooden benches to sit and have beers before your meal, and great live music. I felt like I was hanging out on a friend’s back patio on a warm July evening–a bit of summer encapsulated.
We ordered the burrata to start. It came topped with sea salt and olive oil, and was served with thinly toasted slices of bread. The burrata was both light and substantial at the same time. I’ve had marginal burrata before that was too firm and bland in flavor. Not the case at Pizzaiolo. Each spoonful was light in texture with a rich, milky, savory flavor. When the burrata arrived, for a few moments, talk of Michael Jackson, Sarah Palin, and the rising cost of gas ceased.
For my entree I ordered the pizza with rapini and house made sausage. The pizzas are fairly large (8 slices) so they’re perfect for splitting with a friend. And, you have the option of adding an egg which I regret not doing as I coveted my neighbor’s summer squash and pounded parsley pizza with an oozing egg on top. The crust on the pizza was nice, although I won’t dream about it: thin (as promised), light, yeasty, and crispy. The cheese was a bit too mild and reminded me of cheap store-bought mozzarella, the chunks of onion were cut too large and detracted from other elements of the pizza, but the sausage…was the winner here. It had a little kick to it, not too spicy, not too greasy, and not too salty. It had a rustic look– crumbly and misshapen– and was full of flavor. I was a vegetarian for over ten years and, after beginning to eat meat again about six months ago, I can’t seem to get enough sausage or bacon. Pizzaolo’s housemade sausage is pretty high up there on my list.
When the bill came, we all sighed a bit at the $90 price for a few pizzas, a glass of wine, and an appetizer. Bummer. If Pizzaolo had blown me away, I wouldn’t have cared. But I was left wishing I’d ordered something different and had another glass of wine so I could linger on that patio for just a bit longer.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.