What does it take to do to get a decent slice of pizza around here?

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I have lived in the Bay Area for a year and a half — transplanted over from NJ in June 2013.  My new habitat has included beautiful landscapes, not nearly as many shopping centers, great people, and of course, unbeatable weather.  There are, however, four culinary experiences I want to remind East Coasters to never take for granted while they are still on the “right” coast…

1. Late night eateries

Unlike NYC (or NJ diners), the cities of Oakland and San Francisco actually SLEEP — even on the weekends.  Maybe the added hours of sleep contribute to the more laid back vibes of the Bay Area, but when you leave a bar after last call at around 1:45am and all you want is a large order of disco fries… Well, I wish you the best of luck on that one. (BTW, disco fries are not a thing here, but a girl can dream…)

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Disco fries from Tick Tock Diner. Thanks, Google Images.

I’ve learned that when living in the Bay, you should never, ever skip a dinner time meal unless you are willing to cook for yourself in the wee hours of the night.  Otherwise, you will end up driving for an hour because you’ve just missed the closing times at all of the In N Outs, late night taco trucks, and even McDonald’s (because yes, you’ve gotten that desperate).  You will be praying that the Jack In the Box 20 minutes away has its drive-thru still open.

To my East Coasters, allow that already satisfying platter of chicken and rice or that incredibly large slice of artichoke pizza or that salted, crunchy squid from Chinatown or that Fat Bitch from grease trucks to taste EXTRA good knowing that you have the ability to enjoy these at any hour of the night.  That is love.

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A gift of Halal Guys chicken & rice from the East Coast from our dearest friend, Denise. We were ecstatic!

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Denise even packed the infamous white sauce for us.

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We were clearly enjoying this halal platter during the day rather than the typical late night indulgence.  Just imagine though being able to buy this platter for $6 at 3:30am! You are so lucky, New York City. So lucky.

2. Deli Sandwiches

Honestly, how hard is it to make a chicken cutlet sandwich with mozzarella, mayo, and tomatoes on a kaiser roll?!  Or an Italian sub with salami, prosciutto, provolone, red onions, olive oil, vinegar, lettuce, and tomato?!!?  Delis (and pizzerias that can make deli sandwiches) are found every quarter of a mile in NY/NJ, and I am SO not talking about Subway.  I don’t even know the names of most of the delis near my hometown of Passaic.  All I know is that they are all good.  They will charge you $6 or less for a beautifully large, savory sub.  Don’t get me started on what $6 will get you in the Bay Area… Sandwiches are more of an art form here.  I mean I get it: you’re paying for the quality of ingredients and the presentation, but sometimes I just want a sour, oily, and salty Italian sub that is big enough to feed me 2-3 meals.  Is that so hard to ask for?

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3. Bagels

Bagels are so different outside of the Metropolitan NY area.  What gives?  Apparently, it has to do with the quality of tap water used to boil the bagels before baking.

Whatever the reason, bagels in the Bay Area are often small and just… not plump, like you would expect.  Noah’s Bagels, a bagel and deli chain here, is pretty decent, as they claim to be “New York bagels,” but I’m just not sure why New York-style bagels wouldn’t be the standard for every bagel?

(In the coming weeks, I will post my experience attempting to make my own home made bagels.)

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Gifts from the East Coast that Shaun requested his cousins to bring when they visited us!

4. Pizza

I never, ever appreciated how good “New York pizza” was until moving to the Bay.  Good pizza is so readily available in New Jersey that it’s not even special.  98% of the time, you can trust that buying a slice at the local pizzeria will wholly satiate your pizza craving.  Conversely, in the Bay Area, pizza is not sold by the slice, and pies are small with small cut slices.

I believe that pizza should be available by the slice (charging no more than $2 per slice), and the slices should require at least two staggered paper plates to hold it up.  The closest thing to NY Pizza we have found in the Bay comes from the chain, Lanesplitter.  They also advertise as being “New York style.”  Unfortunately, it will cost you $32 for a large pie.  What the fuck.  In NJ, I can buy a large pie for $12.

If you want good pizza in the Bay, you’re simply going to have to make it yourself.

This is exactly what my boyfriend and I have started doing.  I am so fortunate that Shaun is a Pizzah Mastah when it comes to making pizza.  He can make beautiful creations, like pesto artichoke, mushroom pepperoni, bbq chicken, and so on.  Right now, I am in South America, and I am dreaming of the day when I am back home enjoying his artisan pizza that takes him about 20 minutes to put together.  We began buying doughs from Trader Joe’s then eventually found that Whole Foods dough worked much better.  We also discovered that Lanesplitter sells their large pizza dough for less than $3.  That option is perfect, especially when we host friends and family over for pizza night.

Most recently, however, I started to make our pizza dough from scratch using 4 simple ingredients, and let me tell you, we are never going back to store bought pizza dough again, and we definitely are not going to pay $32 for a whole pizza pie anymore.  It was one of my proudest moments to enjoy Shaun’s pizza creation that he made with my pizza dough.  When I was first perfecting my dough kneading techniques, we ended up making pizza 3 times in one week!  We were eating pizza leftovers every other day.  It was a sort of carb blow out week, if you will.

The recipe I use is taken from the cook book, Crust, by French chef and baker, Richard Bertinet (Thanks for the birthday gift, Ger!).

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Cook book gifts for my 24th Birthday. 2013.

Home Made Pizza Dough

Ingredients

500 grams bread flour
10 grams salt
10 grams fresh yeast

300 grams water

Bread making is all about technique.  I find this cook book to be excellent and extremely helpful with its step-by-step picture descriptions of the kneading process, which Richard Bertinet calls working the dough.  If the book is unavailable to you, refer to the first 3 minutes of this video tutorial to form the pizza dough.  Just change the measurements to those above.

Before the hour of rising, you can split the dough to make 2 smaller pizza doughs or simply allow it to rise to make a large pizza!

Worked dough before and after rising:

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Shaun, the Pizzah Mastah, shaping the dough to form our crust!

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Oh my gosh. How lucky am I?!

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Even if good pizza is available to you, you will feel so proud ripping off a piece of your crust that you put together yourself!  Give it a try. 🙂 Happy baking!

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