Eating at Eataly

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged….so I apologize. I really have no excuse. But don’t worry, I have still been indulging in pizza as much as I possibly can! That has not stopped (and never will if I can help it). With National Pizza Week happening in January I was inspired to start blogging again. So yay! And today I’ll be talking all about Chicago’s own Eataly.

Eataly opened in December 2013 featuring Chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and is located at 43 East Ohio Street in Chicago. This is the second Eataly location to open in the US (the first is located in NY) and let me tell you it’s a big one! It has 63,000 square ft. of space and 23 restaurants, some which include: La Pizza & La Pasta, La Piazza, La Carne, Il Pesce & Le Verdure,  Lait Gelato, etc. etc…. La Get In My Belly is what I was saying when I walked through the doors for the first time! Not only can you eat at one of the many eateries here but there is so much more to Eataly. It’s a grocery store, a wine shop, a cooking school, a bookstore… well let’s just go ahead and call it an Italian food theme park!

One of the nice things about Eataly is there is a wine bar and even it’s very own brewery inside (Birreria) where you can get yourself a drink to walk around with while you shop or wait for your table reservation. So naturally, the first thing I did when I IMG_2928walk through the door is head to Birreria. They have a really great selection of beer to choose from. Not only do they often have one of my favorite beers there, Three Floyds Zombie Dust, (which can be hard to find at times here in Chicago) but I also got the chance to try out Three Floyds Permanent Funeral. It did not disappoint. One of these times I’ll have to try the beer that they brew themselves. (Just one of the many reasons to go back!)

Ok on to the pizza. After all, that is what I’m supposed to be reviewing from this place right?  I have had the pleasure of trying three pizzas there so far – the Massese, the Salsicciotta and a third pizza I had there that was on special that day which I can’t quite remember the name of right now so we’ll just call it the “Special”.

IMG_2912          IMG_2913         IMG_4459

The Massese – mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy salami, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil.

The Salsicciotta – tomato sauce, mozzarella, Eataly housemade sweet italian sausage, mushrooms and basil

The “Special” – mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, extra virgin olive oil and basil

IMG_2917First let’s talk about the dough. The dough is very light and airy with a little bit of chewiness but with just the right amount of crispness to the crust. The pizzas are  thin crust and cooked in a pizza oven that reaches 900 degrees F and cooks in just 90 seconds.  I always love when a crust has good bubbles in it, which these pizzas had plenty of. Not sure why that is, I just can’t help but get excited when I get a bubble slice.

Let’s see, what can I say about the sauce? It was good. Good flavor and just the right amount was used in my opinion. Not too much not too little. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a pizza doesn’t have enough sauce on it. As far as the toppings go, I think what really makes these pizzas taste so great is that only fresh ingredients are used. I mean, Eataly has it’s own mozzarella lab where people can watch the process of making mozzarella from scratch in three different stages . The spicy salami was out of this world. Really great flavor and a good level of spiciness to it. It really made the pizza. I think the Massese would have to be declared my favorite out of the three I tried because of the spicy salami. The housemade sweet italian sausage was really good too. It was seasoned really well and I liked that it wasn’t just placed on the pizza in big chunks but was more crumbled over it so you’d get some in each bite. My only complaint about the toppings would be that I would have liked more basil on each one. There were maybe 2 leaves on the pizzas. Gimme more of that fresh basil, LOTS more!

IMG_2909And the olive oil.. well let’s just say I found out that Eataly offers 100 varieties of olive oils from producers that harvest exclusively in Italy. Not only did I get to enjoy the wonderfulness of the olive oil on my pizzas but they also give you complimentary bread and a plate of olive oil to dip your bread in as soon as you sit down at your table. So basically the moral of the story here is: fresh ingredients = better pizza! (I feel like that’s in a pizza commercial somewhere, am I right?) Which makes total sense though! So I would have to give the pizza at Eataly a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Side note: I also tried a bite of my cousin’s pasta (which was great) while I was there. There are SOOOOO many other things I would die to go back and try there. I would just have to somehow convince myself to NOT get the pizza…which could be a very very difficult task in itself.

IMG_29242nd side note: They also have a book I found in the bookstore in the shape of a pizza called Pizza – 50 Easy Recipes. I must have this book in the near future… therefore, stay tuned for more homemade pizza related blogs!

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Homemade White Pizza Experiment

Ok, so over the years I have never been one to purposely order a white pizza. Although I have at least tried white pizzas in the past but only if someone else happens to be eating one and says “Oh come on, just try some.” So just what IS a white pizza you may ask? Well, here is the definition according to the “Google machine.” White Pizza – (pizza bianca) uses no tomato sauce, often substituting pesto or dairy products such as sour cream. Most commonly, the toppings consist only of mozzarella and ricotta cheese. In Rome, the term pizza bianca refers to a type of bread topped only with olive oil.

So I decided to try making my very own version of a white pizza with lots of ingredients that I love and see how I liked it. I started out just making a very simple pizza dough. The ingredients I included were as follows:

3 cups of flour to start
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. of sugar
3/4 cups water
1 Tbs. of yeast
2 tsp. garlic powder

In to the bread maker the ingredients went and about 40 minutes later it was ready to become a pizza.  First I rolled out the dough and laid down a layer of pesto sauce as my base. I usually just buy a jar of pesto that you can find right in the tomato sauce isle. Next I added the toppings which included sauteed mushrooms and spinach, chopped up kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts out of a jar, roasted red peppers and roasted garlic. Now this was the second time I have tried to roast garlic. It came out better than the first time I roasted garlic which was a complete disaster. But if anyone has a quick and easy way to do it, please let me know. It just seems really tricky to get the garlic from their cloves after it’s roasted. But maybe that’s just me.

White Pizza Pesto Base

After all the toppings were added I piled on the cheese. I started with grated parmesan cheese. Then I remembered I actually had shredded parmesan cheese in the fridge too so I added that as well. I also picked up some crumbled goat cheese and feta cheese at the grocery store so on to the pizza they went. Finally I covered the rest of the pizza with shredded mozzarella. I put the pizza in to the oven which had been preheated to 385 degrees and I set the timer for 17 minutes.

White Pizza toppings

The results…. I thought it came out pretty darn tasty. Like I have always said, I haven’t always been a huge fan of white pizzas, because I usually tend to like my pizzas with a lot of tomato sauce. But when I started to think about the different types of ingredients I could add to get some really great flavors, it started to sound pretty good. I guess my problem with white pizzas is that whenever I have tried them in restaurants they tend to seem too plain and bland to me. So my solution to that was to make my own that had lots of flavors going on and a lot of fresh ingredients. And this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Oh! The one thing I meant to add to this pizza but I forgot, which I think would have only made this even tastier, was……bacon! Oh well, next time!

White Pizza

Homemade Pizza Sauce With a Zing!

Being National Pizza week this past week, well, what else was I going to make for dinner but homemade pizza of course! This time, I decided to try making a homemade pizza sauce for the first time. I had actually just gone to the grocery store and bought a ton of tomato products for making chili later this weekend. So since I had the ingredients on hand, I went ahead and used some of them for a nice homemade sauce because I had never tried making my own pizza sauce before.

But before we get to the sauce, here’s what I put in my dough:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Coors Light beer
3 Tbs softened butter (Spreadable I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs yeast

So I went to work on my sauce next. The ingredients I used for this were as follows:

6 oz. can of tomato paste
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 Tbs. olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbs. italian seasoning
1 Tbs. oregano
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

I started out by sautéing the garlic in olive oil. Next, I added all the tomato products and then added the seasonings. I stirred everything together and let it come to a boil. Then I just reduced the heat and let it sit and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. It was pretty simple, I must say. Who’d a thought? This recipe made probably enough sauce for 2 pizzas. So I have plenty of leftover sauce for my next pizza.

While the sauce cooked on the stovetop, I began prepping the toppings for the pizza. The toppings that went on this one were:

Mushrooms
Spinach
Pepperoni
Bacon
Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Mozzarella & Feta Cheese

I sauteed the mushrooms and spinach in garlic and olive oil in a frying pan. Once the dough was done in the bread machine and the sauce was finished cooking, I spread the sauce on the dough which was smelling nice and garlicy at this point. I put the rest of the toppings on and finally the cheese and in to the oven it went for 18:25 minutes at 385 degrees.

I have to say I was really impressed with the taste of this one. The sauce had a sweetness to it that I didn’t expect. But the red pepper flakes complimented it nicely and gave it just enough kick. I also liked the buttery taste that the crust had. The bacon and pepperoni went really well with the hint of sweetness I was getting from the homemade sauce because of their salty flavor. I think the garlic really added some great flavor to the sauce as well. I of course love garlic so I went a little on the heavier side when adding it to my sauce. All in all, I was really happy with this one. I was excited my first attempt to make my own homemade pizza sauce was a success!

homemade pizza sauce

Adventures in Cast Iron Pizza Pan Cooking

Have you ever thought about or wanted to try cooking a homemade pizza in a cast iron frying pan? I’ve read online different ways you can do this and one suggestion was to cook your pizza on the bottom side of a cast iron frying pan flipped upside down. Well, little did I know, they actually make cast iron pizza pans specifically for cooking pizzas on! Literally just days after I found out these genius pizza pans were in existence, we then got one as a Christmas present! How perfect is that?!
cast_iron_pan

This was my first attempt at cooking a pizza on a cast iron pan. So I did a bit of research on what to do beforehand. I learned you should preheat the pan for 30-60 min. in the oven at a temperature of at least 450 degrees or higher before you put the pizza in. I also read that you will know your pan is ready when you splash a few drops of water on the pan and the drops “dance.” The pan we received was a 14 inch pre-treated, non-stick pan so it was ready to go right out of the box. Which was great! The nice thing about cast iron is that you can use it in the oven, on an outdoor grill or even on a campfire. Cast iron pans are known for even heating and excellent heat retention when cooking a pizza. So I was really looking forward to the nice golden crust this one was going to have.

The ingredients I used for the homemade dough this time were:

2 1/2 cups of flour
2/3 cups of lukewarm water
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of pepper
1 Tbs of minced garlic
1 Tbs of yeast
1 Tbs of oregano
2 Tbs of olive oil

The tricky part of making the pizza on the preheated cast iron pan as opposed to a regular pizza pan is that you need to have your dough rolled out before you put it on the pan. This is because once you place the dough on the hot cast iron, it’s gonna be stuck there! So I transferred the dough I hand stretched and rolled out beforehand on to the pre-heated pan and quickly got the sauce and toppings on so I could get it back in the oven.

The toppings I used were as follows: (You’ll notice they are similar to the last homemade pizza I made. It was just so good I had to use a lot of the same toppings)

Pepperoni
Kalamata Olives
Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Salami
Mozzerrella, Pepper Jack and Parmesan Cheese

cast iron

Before placing the pizza back in the oven I turned the oven down to 385 degrees. Then, I cooked the pizza for around 17 minutes. And the verdict was…… success! The crust had a very nice crisp to it on the bottom and was cooked perfectly through. I was very impressed. I’ll probably do some experimenting with the temps and timing for the next one I use the cast iron pan for just to see the different results I get. But for my first attempt, it came out pretty darn good. Another idea we came up to try with was to keep the cast iron pizza pan nice and warm while putting the toppings on by lighting the burner underneath it while it sits on the stove. There are so many different things to try with this pan. It can also be used for warming tortilla shells, baking rolls, cornbread, etc. I’m very happy with the new addition to our pizza pan collection!

cast iron slice

CPG found out 2 weeks is too long to go without making a pizza

This weekend I decided to make another pizza, because well, why not? I had the time and I love pizza. Since I’m on my garlic kick right now (really, when am I not) I wanted to add garlic powder to the dough again. Well, I guess going 2 weeks without making a pizza was a little too long for me. Because I made some vital errors in my dough making this time. First I’ll give you the run down of what I put in the dough.

Dough Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups of flour to start
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. of sugar
1 can of Coors Light
1 Tbs. of yeast
and garlic powder (not exactly sure how much)..

Now I say I don’t exactly how much garlic powder I put in because I simply took the shaker and went to town. I’ve noticed in my pizza making experience that if you want to be able to taste a certain flavor in your dough, you kind of have to use a lot of that ingredient. So if I had to guess, I’d say I put in maybe 2-3 Tbs. of garlic powder. Then, I let the breadmaker do its thing. The whole time the dough was being prepared, the scent of garlic filled the whole condo. It was definitely going to be noticed in this one! :)

Now as I checked on the dough in the beginning, I could already tell that I needed to add more  flour. I could tell the flour to liquid ratio was just not right. I’ve made my own dough enough now where I could tell just by looking at the consistency of it that I needed to add more flour. So I went ahead and added probably another cup’s worth right then and there. When the beeping went off to tell me that the breadmaker was finished and my dough was ready I opened the lid and said “Oh no.. ” I could immediately tell that the dough was too sticky. Apparently I needed to add a LOT more flour than I had thought.

Have no fear, I just got out the flour again and went to work on working more in to the ball of dough I had. And soon enough, the dough was much less sticky and ready to roll out on to the pizza pan. I did have to cut the dough in half now though since I added so much more flour, there was just too much of it and I wanted more of a thin crust for this pizza. Good save Linds!! Gave myself a pat on the back for rescuing the pizza dough, because otherwise I would have been very sad. Lindsay without her pizza is not a pretty sight.

Now on to the pizza toppings. I loaded up the base with sauce. Just my usual Ragu pizza sauce this time. (One of these days I will get around to making my own sauce. I promise.) Then I added pepperoni, left over italian sausage from dinner a few nights before, and mushrooms. I shredded mozzarella (seriously, I can never remember how to spell that one and spellcheck always yells at me) and cheddar to top it off. In the oven my garlic-y pizza went at 385 degrees for 19 minutes.

homemade garlic crust

When the pizza came out, it was perfectly cooked. Lightly browned, melted cheese and a slightly crispy crust on the bottom. The first thing I noticed when I took a bite in to this pizza was the consistency of the dough. It definitely had a different texture to it than my dough usually has. Almost like it was more spongey and it wasn’t as light and airy. I am not sure if it was the amount of garlic powder I put in to the dough that changed the consistency or it was the flour I was adding to the dough after the dough was already made. But, I will say that the pizza still tasted quite good. It was just a different kind of crust. So I was happy with the end result. You could certainly taste the hint of garlic in the dough. And the italian sausage was really flavorful. I guess there is something to be said for being more careful about measuring  though :)

garlic powder crust

Nothing like homegrown vegetables on your pizza!

Homemade pizza tonight! Ok, so my decision process on making pizza tonight went something like this. I didn’t want pasta because I had pasta for dinner last night. I had grilled burgers and brats over the weekend so I didn’t feel like grilling. I figured I’d make a nice big salad one day this week but that would require going to the store to buy all the stuff to go in it and I just didn’t feel like making the trip. I wanted something that didn’t require a lot of effort or time either. I started to get the inkling for a pizza (naturally) but knew that by the time I got home, making the dough from scratch would put me at actually eating dinner around 9:00pm tonight. And I was already hungry (this was around 5:00pm that this thought process took place). So, I thought, you know…Whole Foods has really good fresh homemade dough and that would cut down the prep time by a lot. And viola, there you have it! We were making pizza tonight.

Since there was no dough making in this process, I’ll go right in to which toppings were used tonight:

  • Ragu Pizza Sauce
  • Fresh Mozzarella from Whole Foods
  • Chunks of cut up homegrown tomatoes from my parent’s vegetable garden
  • Sliced kalamata olives
  • Pepperoni
  • Sauteed homegrown zucchini from my parent’s vegetable garden
  • Basil…you got it, homegrown from my parent’s vegetable garden

Can you tell I’ve just recently been to my parent’s house? Any time I go there during the summer I get sent home with a bag full of fresh vegetables. I love it! This time I actually picked my own basil leaves too. Anyways, the pizza came out really tasty. I loved the fresh basil the best. The flavor really stood out and it smelled delicious. The kalamata olives really had a great strong flavor as well. Of course I love kalamata olives so I didn’t mind the strong taste. I can eat those things like candy. In fact, I often just sit there and eat them out of the jar as a snack when I’m deciding what to eat. I didn’t really notice the zucchini that much. We cut up round slices and sauteed them in a pan before we put them on the pizza. I wonder if I added more the next time if they would be more noticeable. Or maybe I’ll try doing shredded zucchini. We’ll see.

Whole fresh pizza

I actually felt like this pizza could have had a little more crunch to it. I cooked it for it’s usual time of around 18 minutes at 385 degrees. Maybe it had to do with the type of dough it was, but I actually put the whole pizza (what was left of it) back in to the oven for another 3 minutes after I ate the first slice. It gave it a little more crunch to the bottom. So then I was happy. All in all the pizza was very good. If you’re going to put vegetables on your pizza, you really can’t go wrong with homegrown. It just tastes so unbelievably fresh! Thanks Mom & Dad! I’ll certainly be back for more veggies sometime soon.

Close up fresh veggies