"We're gonna have at least 15 pizzas."
People usually ask me if working at Serious Eats entails gorging on free food all the time. No, most definitely not. ...I mean, there is a ginormous apple pie in the fridge right now (about the size of a baby's bathtub or an obese cat) that I eat a slice of nearly every day and will probably last for the rest of the month, but we don't usually have giant pies lurking in our kitchen. I swear.
But sometimes you just have to rate questionably edible delivery pizza for the good of the Super Bowl-watching public. I think this is referred to as, "taking one for the team, or "decreasing your life span."
The results of our taste test—the idea of which was borne forth from Adam's brain—can be found at Slice's Pizza Showdown: The Best Delivery Pizza, so there isn't much need for me to go in depth with the details here. Here are some things that didn't make it into the entry.
My pick for the worst tasting pizza would be Domino's Hawaiian Pizza. The crust was super-flat and somewhat flaky with a flavor reminiscent of paper. What kind of malformed mind invented this pizza crust? We didn't all agree that this was the worst pizza, so maybe the crust takes on different qualities depending on who's eating it. Or maybe I'm crazy. Or maybe everyone else is crazy. It's hard to tell sometimes.
Pizza Hut's plain pizza with a crunchy cheesy crust wins for ugliest pizza, solely because of the crust, which was neither crunchy nor cheesy. It tells liiiies. So what is a crunchy cheesy crust? It's like a normal crust...patchily covered with scabby protrusions resembling clumps of sand in variegated levels of burnt-ness. These clumps tasted vaguely like freeze-fried garlic. To my horror, I found out that Pizza Hut has a contest dedicated to this unworthy crust that asks customers to pick two words to describe the crust's taste before smooshing the words together to form the ultimate CRUNCHY CHEESY CRUST WORD! (Guess what words "savorshizzle" comes from!)
...Alas, the words I would pick are not available, those words being "epic" and "fail." (It's possible that the Pizza Hut we got these pizzas from just didn't know how to make a crunchy cheesy crust—Pizza Hut is not very popular in NYC—but if they can't make it, they shouldn't even offer it.)
After tasting most of the pizzas, my burps tasted like pizza and I had a tingling suspicion that my pores were releasing a pizza-like scent. In a desperate attempt to combat this odor problem, I drank some highly artificially flavored grape soda, hoping that the grape-esque chemical flavoring paired with carbonation would somehow dislodge the pizza oils that oozed through my veins and leaked out of my skin. However, ingesting the bottle of grape soda didn't completely mask the pizza flavor; instead, my burps gained an artificial grape-flavored undertone. I can't really say it was worse than pizza on its own, although certainly not any better. In conclusion, there is no hope. This statement applies to more than just pizza.
I don't mean to say that all delivery pizzas are horrible. On an edibility scale of one to ten, I'd say they ranged from -2 to 8. Most of them weren't that bad (if you have low standards; this ain't New York style pizza). I probably couldn't rate them very well since after eating so many different kinds in one sitting, they all started to taste the same, partially due to my head being enveloped in a cloud of generic delivery pizza smell. Also, my brain disintegrated just a lil' bit, a symptom that they pizza box failed to properly warn me about. My advice would be not to try more than ten kinds of pizza in one meal. I'm pretty sure you can do that.
And then there were...donuts.
When Tristan said he was coming up from Charlottesville to NYC for a short trip (with his friends Paul and Lihan), I couldn't think of anything to ask for...besides donuts from Spudnuts. I regretted not doing the best donut sampling job the last time I was there. I didn't specify how many donuts I wanted. Some, perhaps. A mountain, possibly.
Being the awesome friend he is, he erred on the side of "mountain" and lavished the pizza-coma-ed Serious Eats crew with a box of 12 donuts—four each of plain, glazed and cinnamon—plus one each of the cherry cinnamon and apple cinnamon donuts. Sadly, my stomach was so crammed with semi-digested pizza sludge that I wasn't able to indulge in as much donut magic as I would've liked. Since shoving an entire donut down my throat was likely to trigger reverse peristalsis, I only cut myself little chunks out of the donuts, leaving it up to everyone else to clear off the rest of the sweet, fluffy, fried dough matter. It nearly makes me weep to think about those donuts...the donuts that got away.
Everyone agreed that these were exceptionally good donuts. C-ville may fail in a many ways (Tristan would be able to describe these ways better than I could), but their donuts are full of win.
That night Tristan cooked the two of us a vegetarian friendly dinner to veer my body off the path to pizza and donut-induced death. The recipe was simple: combine red bell pepper, onion, swiss chard, spinach, and garlic in any way you see fit (a bit of chopping was involved here), shove in a pan with some oil (the order of the vegetables counts here, but you can probably figure it out because you're smart!!!), season with soy sauce, and BOOYA, you've got a pile of minerals and tastiness.
Cooking with vegetables is kind of satisfying and sad at the same time because you can start off with a huge baby-sized head of swiss chard...
...And end up with something 1% of the size of what you started off with. When those leaves hit the pan, they melt into a little concentrated pile of vegetable-ness. (This photo may have been taken before we put the swiss chard in, but it didn't look all that different after the swiss chard was added.) Cellulose, be gone; ease of edibility is miiiine.
Unfortunately, Tristan couldn't taste much due to intense nasal blockage, but I assured him that the finished product tasted great. Because it did. Admittedly, my favorite vegetable was the sweet red pepper, which is more of a fruit than a vegetable, but altogether each bite was...A BURST OF...MOTHER NATURE. With a hint of soy sauce.
Tristan wants me to eat more healthily so I won't die so soon. Isn't that sweet? I love my friends!
I'm pretty sure you can figure out where Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's are.
I noticed that there's a topic in my forum asking for Boston food recs. People use the forum? OH JESUS! Okay. I mean, it's awesome that people use it, but I unfortunately don't know anything about Boston and I dunno how many people notice that I even have a forum. Anything that I can answer I will—everything else is up for grabs. And there aren't many potential grabbers. If you have any recs, please help a TGWAE reader out. Thanks!