You’re in the mood for pizza but you’re not into sitting down at CPK or Pitfire. At the same time, neither are you feeling a quick pie from Papa John’s, Pizza Hut or even Costco. For the uninitiated, there’s a pizza revolution that is carving out its own piece of the pie: the craft-your-own pizza places that are popping up around L.A.
We’ve been frequent visitors to El Segundo’s Pizza Rev (as in Revolution) and Culver City’s Blaze Pizza (there’s also Pieology and 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria), where you start by choosing a dough (original or gluten free), then sauce (red or white), cheese, a variety of toppings, and so on down the assembly line until you deem your pizza customized to your liking. Then it’s popped into a 900-degree stone oven for just under three minutes and plated or boxed to go.
Finish off the 11-inch pie with basil oil, pepper flake or grated parmesan and you’re good to go with a personal pizza that’s much better than the average chain and just as fancy as the other end of the pizza scale (the thin crust is the best).
It would seem that these places have inspired Miss A & Mr. X, who have become quite the little build-your-own pizza chefs in their own kitchen at home.
With the right coast in a deep freeze, it seems like the appropriate time to post about our recent ski weekend getaway here in California. Okay so the kiddies weren’t exactly being introduced to the sport in sub-zero weather but we were on a decent mountain (Mt. Baldy, elevation 7,000 feet, about an hour from L.A.) with chair lifts, lodge and a ski school (it also has a popular tubing park).
To collect the equipment included in the child lesson package that I had purchased on the Mt. Baldy site, we all rode the ski lift to the initial jumping-off point (the chair lift was like an amusement park ride for them, though they all experienced some trepidation whenever it stopped abruptly). Once in their boots and skis, the instructor led a group of the little novices over to a small hill and started on the basics. Irene and I watched from the sidelines and when the lesson was over, I was able to spend some additional time giving some pointers from my illustrious 30+ year career as an intermediate skier!
I can remember how hungry skiing always made me, so we were prepared with pre-lunch snacks followed by an al fresco lunch of burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders at Top of the Notch Restaurant with its sweeping views of the L.A. basin. Then it was back down the mountain and back to the hotel to chill before deciding where our dinner spot would be. We had been to Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga (just a couple miles from the hotel) for a delicious meal at King’s Fish House the previous night and decided to head back to the outdoor shopping complex for night #2. Feeling a bit more casual, we hit the food hall for Mongolian BBQ and Mediterranean cuisine.
Watching the kiddies learning how to ski was great but perhaps even better is the quality time spent in the room just hanging with the famiglia, doing stuff like applying temporary tattoos to each other, playing cards or simply kicking back in bed watching a Disney Channel marathon.
As avid watchers of Master Chef Junior, the kiddies jumped at the chance to check out their first Junior Chefs Class at Williams Sonoma — a free Saturday morning series for the mini-cook set. Irene and I have attended the WS Sunday morning techniques classes so we knew Troy, Athena and Xander would enjoy this hands-on version for children.
They often play sous chef to Irene and I at home so our mini-chefs-in-the-making were already armed with some basics when they walked into their first class (baking basics).
The next week while Mr. X and I were at his rec basketball league, Troy and Miss A were back at WS for more – this class all about burgers. It was especially nice to see Athena put her new culinary knowledge to work the very next night when she made sliders for the family – spicing her beef with a burger seasoning that Irene had brought back from a recent work trip to Austin. Miss A formed her own patties and created the topping mix of lettuce, tomato, pickles and havarti (don’t forget to press the middle of the burger so it doesn’t bloat up, advised chef Tiffany).
Tiffany was also the instructor for the Sunday adults class that covered comfort foods and the burger I sampled may have been the best one of my life – a grass-fed angus beef bacon cheeseburger that was stacked so high that I could barely open up wide enough (her homemade meat and vegetarian pizzas were equally impressive).
If Gordon Ramsay were judging the food coming out of these techniques classes, he almost certainly would deliver his signature line every time: “That’s delicious!”