There was pizza everywhere, piles and piles of pizza, and people pondered it perplexedly and partook of the pizza until they popped.
Last weekend’s Pizza Palooza at Centennial Terrace was a pepperoni-topped success, by all accounts. There wasn’t even a monsoon this year. However, there was a torrent of pizza that nearly overwhelmed the brave and astonishingly dedicated group of judges. They had to taste two samples from each of the 10 pizza-parlor competitors, and, for reasons that still remain a little bit murky, a third sample from one of them.
If my math is right, that’s 20 samples, or 21, and we aren’t talking tiny samples, either. At least two, three, four bites apiece. Yet the dedicated and unusually attractive crew of judges soldiered on and were equal to the task, if only barely. Some of them may never eat another pizza again, or at least until next year.
And who did these seriously no-longer-hungry judges choose as the best in town? In the cheese and pepperoni category, that would be PizzaPapalis, which specializes in Chicago-style stuffed pizzas (which means that their slices are even bigger than the others). Vito’s took second place, with Jet’s Pizza coming in third.
In the specialty category, the restaurants could go freestyle, picking their favorite or perhaps bestselling pizzas to impress the judges. In first place was Charlie’s Homemade Pizza and Italian Cuisine, which won with their Bluto Pizza: Alfredo sauce topped with cheese, spinach, garlic, chicken, artichokes, feta and ricotta cheeses, and toasted almond slivers. J-Cups Pizza came in second, and third place was given to Mama Mary’s Pizza.
Ordinary people got to vote, too, they voted for their favorites. This year’s People’s Choice award went to Charlie’s Pizza, a first-time winner in the category. Amie’s Pizza and Mancino’s took second, with third place going to J-Cups, another first-time winner.
Among the media outlets, Sylvania Advantage took first, followed by 92.5 KISS FM in second, and 1370 WSPD in a nothing-to-be-ashamed-of third.
Kingston of Sylvania proved to have the best pizza in the corporate category, with VZN Group in second and the J. Fox Agency — Nationwide Insurance in third.
Nixon’s the one
The Chaine Des Rotisseurs is such an elite organization of food and wine enthusiasts, you probably haven’t even heard of them. But they have been around for a long time; they were founded all the way back in 1950.
Or rather they were re-founded then. The original Chaine Des Rotisseurs began in 1248.
Let’s see: In 1248, the Mongols were conquering Russia. Construction began on the magnificent cathedral in Cologne. Thomas Aquinas was just a boy, Roger Bacon was not yet a friar, and Marco Polo was not yet even born.
What I am trying to say is it was a very long time ago. Any group that is even associated with a group dating back that far has to be seen with a bit of gravitas and respect. These people know their food (we have dined with the Toledo chapter, and we can assure you it is true). So it means something when they give a chef the title of Master Restaurateur.
And that is precisely the honor they have granted Chris Nixon, owner and chef of Element 112 in Sylvania — and the restaurant has only been open for less than a year. That is mighty impressive, but if you have ever been there, you will understand why he earned the honor.
Any fool can grill meat (except vegetarians, who would indeed be quite foolish if they tried). But many of us fools sometimes forget that vegetables can be just as good on the grill.
Fortunately for us, the Culinary Institute of America has some tips to make our veggie-grilling even better.
Use the freshest produce available, they say, which is always good advice when cooking any vegetables. Or meat. The veggies should be firm in texture and bright in color; the leaves should not be limp, and if it has root ends, they should be dry.
Before cooking, they should be rinsed and dried well, especially if you are going to put oil on them before grilling (you know the famously unhappy relationship between oil and water).
To speed up the grilling time of denser vegetables, parboil them first by boiling them in salted water or steaming them for just a short time, until they are slightly tender.
To keep the vegetables from sticking, give both them and the cooking grates a light coating of oil — but not too much. Excessive oil might drip on the coals, causing a flare-up, which can scorch the vegetables. Shake off excess oil before placing them on the grate.
And to get you thinking about vegetable grilling, the prestigious culinary school provides the following recipe. They go on to say, “Feel free to grill other vegetables such as cauliflower, poblano peppers, and baby carrots to add in the following salad recipe. You can also include thin slices of celery, fresh basil or cilantro, or red onions. This recipe is a great accompaniment to grilled, roasted, or baked meats, fish, or poultry.”
Marinated Pepper Salad with Pine Nuts and Raisins
4 red peppers, cored and quartered
4 yellow peppers, cored and quartered
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Preheat a gas grill to medium. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.
In a large bowl coat the vegetables with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper.
Grill the peppers until marked on each side and tender throughout but not mushy, about 5 minutes per side.
Cut the grilled peppers into ¼-inch-thick slices and drain on a rack.
Combine the vegetables with the extra-virgin olive oil, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, and garlic. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition per 4-ounce serving: 190 calories, 2g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 14g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 300mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 3g fiber.