When I first saw the commercial for the Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza ($12), I wasn’t sure what to think. The first thing you see is John Schnatter himself (he loves being in his commercials) flipping a magical burger patty on a grill, turning it into a pizza that he proudly serves up on the counter to a very, very excited crowd of patrons. There are fist bumps, identical twins, and lots of people saying “double cheeseburger.” It’s really something. You should check it out. And as a good consumer and devoted serious eater, my insatiable curiosity about this pizza-burger mashup got the best of me. I set out to give it a test drive.
Some restaurants successfully capitalize on these sorts of mashups, like California Pizza Kitchen’s barbecue chicken pizza. I’m always a little worried about hybrids, though, because sometimes they aren’t quite as magical as they seem.
The double cheeseburger pizza is a strange beast—the first thing you’ll notice is that your usual tomato-based pizza lube is replaced with “burger sauce.” Then the pizza is topped with ground beef, Roma tomato bits, and…dill pickles. Lots and lots of dill pickles.
But, you ask, does it work?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ordering the double cheeseburger pizza is kind of a bad idea. The burger sauce, which is a sweet Thousand Island dressing variant without the pickle relish, is very sweet. Last time I checked, sweet pizzas don’t seem to be a thing, unless they’re dessert pizzas. My roommate came by to check out what I was doing, took a whiff of the pizza, and said, “It smells like a McDonald’s burger.” As a fan of both McDonald’s and Papa John’s, I’m sorry to say that the smell was not an accurate representation of flavor.
So. The burger part. When it comes to the toppings, the beef has a strange processed texture to it, though there is enough gristle in it to give you the texture of ground beef now and then. If I had to describe it further, the texture is ground beef with a chewier sausage-like quality to it. There’s not much of it, either. The tomatoes bring little bursts of juicy tart freshness, but again, there aren’t many of them. But the true flaw is the pickles. There are just so many of them that you can’t taste much else, other than the sweet runny sauce.
Out of all the major fast-food pizza chains, Papa John’s is easily my favorite (followed closely by Little Caesar’s), mostly due to its light, fluffy, and chewy crust with its trademark crackly exterior. And I’ll admit it, I think the garlic dipping sauce for your pizza bones is genius, along with the pepperoncini, which I liken to the pickled ginger you get with sushi as a palate cleanser. If I were you, I’d steer clear of this imaginative Frankenstein and just stick with one of their classic pizzas. My guess is you’ll be a lot happier.
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called “Smellen Keller,” Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn’t pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.
Petaluma’s Central Market recently reopened, and early Chowhound reports indicate that it’s worth a visit. The chef’s tasting menu might be the place to start for first-time visitors looking to explore the “incredibly fresh and tasty” dishes, washed down with wine from an interesting list that features local favorites like Sonoma Coast pinot noirs.
You know what I love? Ice cream cones. And I’ll take them however I can get them. Fresh waffle cones, standard-issue sugar cones, hell even the papery wafer cones that cradle my Mr. Softee—they’re all good. So wouldn’t it be great if we could have an ice cream that tastes just like a cone?
I’ve had this dream for a while but have held off from trying to make it a reality because while making cone-flavored ice cream is pretty easy, nailing the texture takes some work. You know that moment when you’re through the top of an ice cream scoop and the outer cone rim has started to soften and you finally take a bite? That soggy cone bite is one of my favorite ice cream experiences, and it’s the texture I wanted to get in my cone ice cream.
To capture that spirit, I blended cones right into my base for a rich, cookie-thickened ice cream that freezes up ridiculously smooth and somewhat chewy. This ice cream bites back when you bite into it, and it’s pretty much tailor-made for fans of super-dense, slightly elastic New England-style ice cream. (Or, for that matter, my ice cream flavored with speculoos, the Dutch cookie spread.)
A lower butterfat base and a glug of vodka keep the ice cream soft and less overwhelmingly rich. As for the taste, there’s one important step: toast your cones until they turn a deep, burnished brown for maximum cone flavor.
Surprisingly, the most flavorful cones I encountered for this ice cream weren’t waffle cones, the grand poobahs of the edible ice cream holder world. Plain old sugar cones—six of them—worked the best, contributing a balanced sweetness and unrestrained coneniness to the ice cream.
What should you serve this ice cream in? I’ll get back to you after I figure out how to make a neapolitan-flavored cone.
Situated on the unassuming corner of 12th Street and 1st Avenue, East 12th Osteria can be easy to miss. Even with its gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows, the place seems to have a generic quality to it. But don’t be foole—the food here can be quite good—and as a brunch spot it has something to offer. It’s easy to get a table during peak hours so you can enjoy a meal next to the sunbathed windows and still have plenty of elbowroom.
If you’re looking for more than just standard egg dishes, then you’ve come to the right place. There’s a Brunch Prix Fixe menu ($23) and a brunch a la carte menu, both filled with a variety of Italian dishes. The prix fixe includes a pastry plate, an main, and a drink of your choice. If you order the orange juice, it’ll be freshly squeezed right at the bar.
On the day I visited, the Pastry Plate had croissants, mini blueberry muffins, and chocolate croissants, all served warm and baked in-house by Chef Deiaco.
Even if you don’t opt for the prix fixe, you’ll always get the generous Bread Basket. Filled with a variety of housemade bread, it’s also straight-from-the-oven warm and accompanied with a side of olive oil.
Bored with French toast and pancakes but want something on the sweeter side? Order the Strapazzato all’Uvetta ($17), Chef Deiaco’s version of “shredded pancakes” from the Italian province of Alto Adige. While the classic recipe yields a thin and flat crepe-lie cake, Deiaco makes his fluffier and caramelizes the edges. The fruit accompaniment changes based on the season; right now it’s grapes and sultanas, but in a few months it could be cherries or apples. That fruit adds most of the sweetness to the moist-but-not-sweet pancake, which is so popular it’s offered at dinner as well.
For something savory, the Tonnarelli alla Carbonara ($18) makes a fitting brunch pasta. Deiaco makes his own noodles and cooks them al dente. A golden sauce clings nicely to them; perched atop is an egg yolk in a pancetta cup a garnish best stirred right in
Another standout is the Pesce di Mare Caldo su Soffice di Polenta ($19), a dish common in the Veneto region of Italy. A mix of plump shrimp, mussels, calamaretti, and a firm scallop sit on a bed of soft, velvety polenta. A red sauce made from seafood stock, white wine, herbs, and chili pepper spices up the porridge.
It’s a brunch dish that’d be just as welcome on any lunch of dinner menu, and it goes to show how Deiaco is bringing some much-needed variety to New York’s brunch landscape.
About the author: Nicole Lam is based in NYC and eats carbs whenever possible. She is always adamant about having dessert. Follow her travels and eats on Instagram @niclam
You’ve gone through all the hassle and troubleshooting involved in seasoning your cast iron—now what should you cook in it that will really shine? Find out the tastiest things you can make in cast-iron cookware, from clam cakes to soda bread.
When it comes time to don your apron and get to work in the kitchen, a well-sharpened knife can make all the difference. Uneasy about using the honing steel? Spare yourself the stress and bring those dull knives to one of a few sharp shops around LA.
I lived for five years in a 450 square foot apartment in the East Village and somehow still managed to throw huge dinner parties, but I’m super-thankful to have upgraded when we moved to San Francisco. Our current kitchen nook isn’t perfect, but I love that it’s open to the rest of the living space, so the cook can be part of pre-dinner conversations. (Also, having fought with dirty grout in my most recent rental, my new kitchen’s solid black countertops are a joy.)
The only hitch: Chez Hoffman also serves as Serious Drinks headquarters, so there’s a lot of beer, wine, and cocktail paraphernalia to pack in. Pretty much every cupboard shelf is full of glassware, and every shelf that’s not full of glassware is full of booze. Want to take a tour? Right this way…
Asian gastropubs and brunch may not seem like the most seamless of bedfellows, but here they are jiving in tasteful tandem at Rodan. Popularized as a late-night Wicker Park watering hole—the only other time I’ve been there is a foggy twilight memory shrouded in liquor—Rodan also serves up a zesty brunch, much more ambitious and inventive than it probably needs to be, but very much appreciated.
The best way to brunch at Rodan is obviously with the more offbeat, Asian-y selections. Skip the fried chicken & waffles and save that for another day at another restaurant. Rather, direct your gullet to the steamed bao bun, preferably one filled with tomago ($4.50 each). This is the closest you’ll get to an egg sandwich here, and since the petite omelette is stuffed inside pillow-soft bao it’s infinitely superior to a vast majority of egg sandwiches. Striated with pickled onion slivers and fresh herbs, this little guy packs a wallop of flavor in a hot pocket-sized portion.
The can’t-miss entree is the Pinoy breakfast ($11). It’s a Filipino feast laden with garlic fried rice, fried egg, tomato, cucumber, and choice of meat. It’s basically an epic rendition of the continental breakfast template, each element dutifully honed. Nothing on the plate is a throwaway afterthought, not even the out-of-season tomatoes, which still manage to sing a fresh, summery tune as they juxtapose the onslaught of heavy fried fare. The fried, mildly greasy rice is the stuff of hangover-stifling dreams, especially when topped with a luscious egg and served with a side of rich sausage. Meat options include Filipino longanisa sweet pork sausage, grilled hanger steak, and sweet chili chicken breast. There’s no erring with any selection, even the vegan sausage is surprisingly solid, with a pâté-like smoothness and heady, soy sauce-esque flavor.
Something to appreciate about Rodan is that even their limited sweet selections aren’t too cloying. Take the chai spiced French toast ($11), a dish that has the wherewithal to be debilitatingly indulgent, yet here is balanced and wholesome. The bread is dense but not too poundcake-y, enrobed in a delicate sheath of chai’d batter and flecked with candied walnuts and fruit. Lemongrass butter adds a dose of herbal Asian oomph, while a woodsy maple syrup makes the whole dish taste more savory than sweet with its smoky undertones, accentuating the spicy notes in the chai batter.
A place with an Asian gastropub ethos can be a bit of a question mark when it comes to brunch. But Rodan manages to turn that question mark into a gleeful exclamation point with its thoughtful stylings and handy incorporation of Asian ingredients.
Donald Link‘s gougères in his new cookbook, Down South, are a far cry from the delicate hors d’oeuvre seen on passed appetizer trays at fancy receptions. Studded with pieces of crumbled bacon and infused with their rendered fat, these bite-sized puffs make for a seriously porky statement. Link enhances the bacon with a couple of generous handfuls of grated Parmesan—a step that adds another layer of umami and a touch of creaminess to the gougères.
Why I picked this recipe: Who could say no to bacony, cheesy puffs of dough?
What worked: Even with the additional bacon and cheese, Link’s gougères still maintain the light airiness indicative of the French pastry.
What didn’t: I’d recommend straining the rendered bacon fat before stirring it into the choux dough so that you don’t add burnt flecks of bacon to the puffs.
Suggested tweaks: If your bacon doesn’t render a full 1/4 cup of fat, you can make up for it with more butter. And if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can beat the eggs into the dough by hand in the pot (remove it from the heat first).
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED’s Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.
What distinguishes pastrami from corned beef? It’s all about smoke. Both deli favorites begin with brining brisket with spices and curing salt, but while corned beef is then simmered or roasted, pastrami is soaked, given a spice rub, and smoked. Corned beef is good, Chowhound FoodFire says, but “the smoke adds a ton of flavor” to pastrami. Hounds have tips to share on efficient brining, using the right curing salts, and which woods in the smoker help deliver perfect pastrami.