Monday, December 21, 2009

Week 8: Pie vs. Pie (Big Bite vs. Pizza Experts)

My apologies to the regular pizza blog readers for the delay in posting the results from last Friday's pizza competition; it's been a busy past few days. Friday's pizza competition was the final competition of the first round, as well as the final competition for the year since this coming Friday begins Christmas break. Obviously there was a lot of hype leading up to this event, which seen Big Bite going up against Pizza Experts. A record number of judges were in attendance. More notably though was the fact that Mutema and Sam, who both took the day off work, not only showed up for the event, but brought a guest judge each. Obviously this shows a tremendous amount of dedication to the bracket. Sam went so far as to pick up both pizza's, although there were some complaints regarding the lateness of the pizzas arriving. According to Sam the reason for the lateness was due to a bottle neck at Big Bite. When ordering I had requested the pizzas to be ready for pick up at 11:45am. Sam was there at that time and had to wait 15 minutes for the pizzas to come out of the oven. Another notable anecdote was when Sam was finding a parking spot at Pizza Experts. Upon seeing an acquaintance abruptly pulling his car into a spot without the use of an indicator Sam jokingly told him to "use a signal next time". The acquaintance, not recognizing Sam, unleashed a fury of F-bombs while walking away in response to the comment. The guy never got the joke. But Sam did get the pizza. Unfortunately on the way back there was an incident that resulted in one of the pizza boxes tipping, resulting in topping slide on a couple pieces. Fortunately though this was a Big Bite pie. When he finally returned to the office Sam was heard to comment that he won't be making any more pizzas runs. I suppose making a pizza run on his day off gets him off the hook.

Judges this week included: Howard, Chuck, Stephen, Mark, Mutema, Ryan (who lives out of province), Sam, Kathryn, Josh, Heather, and myself. Initial reaction seemed to indicate that people were impressed with Big Bite in that it wasn't horrible, as expected. My impression of Big Bite was that it's sauce was more like a spaghetti sauce and the crust, while not as substantial as the Big Bite pizza slices I've had in the past, did pack a doughy punch. More so than the Pizza Experts which had a thinner soggy dough texture with a sweeter sauce. Toppings were comparable with most of the gripes resulting from the "fake" crumble bacon on both. For me it was a tough decision. Everyone anticipated a landslide for Pizza Experts, and the result reflected this as the Experts dominated with an 8-3 result. I however did not find the winning pizza of "Expert" caliber. I think the underdog should have won since it had exceeded expectations and provided a respectable pizza. If living up to the name was a criteria I think the outcome may have been different. One interesting tidbit Sam mentioned was that Big Bite has a new oven with a conveyor that passes the cooking pizza through different temperature climates for optimal results. Meanwhile Pizza Experts continue to churn out the same soggy pizza I had in buffets while in high school. I thought it was mediocre then as well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Week 7: Italiano Supremo (Pizza Supreme vs. Venice Pizzeria)

This weeks pizza bracket competition had controversy of jumbo proportions. The competitors this week were Pizza Supreme and Venice Pizzeria from the East St. John's district.

Right out of the gate we were faced with our first hurdle. Venice would not deliver to Donovan's, despite my attempt to sweeten the delivery charge topping it to $10. Apparently Venice has enough demand in the surrounding areas that venturing into the Pearl is not a wise business strategy. Knowing the seriousness of the competition I volunteered to make the run, not only to pick up Venice but to stop into Pizza Supreme along the way as well. After discussing the most efficient route with Howard and Sam and making use of Google Map's street view feature I decided the route I would take would be to go out the outer ring, cut through Thorburn Road, onto Columbus Drive, then shoot down to Elizabeth Ave to pick up Pizza Supreme, then dart down Torbay Road and meet up with Military Road where Venice is located. I did have to make a couple U-turns in the process to orient myself in the right direction, but picking up both pizzas was an efficient process. The decision to take Freshwater Road then Kenmount Road on the way back, not such a good idea. That's where the bottle neck was and where most of the hour long ride was absorbed. That however is not where the controversy lies. Upon ordering the pizzas there was speculation that a guest judge might attend today's event, as well there was a late comer also participating. This all happened after the pizzas had been ordered. As a result it was necessary to call back and append more pizza to both orders as well to add an order of souvlaki to the Venice order for Wally. Aside from that there were a couple "one piece" participants. Feeling the stress of trying to balance coordinating today's bracket competition and handling these gray area decisions I felt the legitimate necessity of a pizza senate to decide such matter so I didn't come off as the bad guy. Upon presenting the idea of "one piece" participants and the associated per slice cost to the make-shift pizza senate it was decided (albeit unofficially) that if there was excess pizza and enough money was collected from participating pizza judges to cover the cost of the pizza then the per slice fee would be free. But of course this is a one-off sort of thing, not a weekly routine. More discussion may be necessary on this topic. Regarding the late comers, I think we should either make the cut off time later (say 11am) or make the cut off time explicit as in once the pizzas are ordered, then no additional judges can participate, but again this is something that should be decided by an appointed pizza senate.

After I returned from the epic round trip journey to pick up the pizzas I was greeted by a group of eager hungry judges. Promptly paper plates were distributed and the pizza pictures were taken, while Dale decorated our office Christmas tree. This week there were two large pizzas ordered from Pizza Supreme and a large and jumbo ordered from Venice. Another element of controversy arose from this "uncontrolled" case. Upon calling to append to the Venice order I was told that the jumbo pizza had already been prepared so I didn't feel right canceling it, hence I added a large to the order. On the ride back I thought about how this would affect the outcome of today's competition. It seems that the large pizza was favorable compared to it's jumbo brother. The jumbo seemed to be a little soggy in places. It was uncertain what caused this, but I'm sure the fact that it had been sitting for quite some time before it was eaten may have had something to do with it. Both pizzas this week came in brown boxes, so to those who weren't aware of which order had the jumbo it was a blind vote. Speculations were made as to which pizza came from where. Speculations that seemed to outweigh the truth of the matter. Josh was convinced that the Pizza Supreme pizza was in fact Venice, even after Exhibit A (i.e. Venice receipt) was presented which indicated where the jumbo pizza had originated from. Sam too was a little skeptical of this receipt. In the end we agreed to disagree. But of course I know they were both wrong. In any case both pizzas were comparable, regardless of the fact that some thought both were crap and some thought both were good. The subtle difference seemed to be one having a "saltier bland sauce taste". Trust me, this synopsis makes sense after you've tried both pizzas. Appearance wise both pizzas were also comparable, with Venice having a slight edge. Sam did comment that the Pizza Supreme pizza's cheese had a distinctive oven baked glow. The dough and crust seemed to be where most of the distinction could be made. The Venice pizza had a somewhat fluffy and crispy nature to it's dough base, whereas the Pizza Supreme had a more condensed doughier base. I found myself needing to take a sip of my drink to get through each slice of the Pizza Supreme as the dough seemed to absorb the majority of the saliva in my mouth. I'm sure the saltiness contributed to this as well. The Venice I found did not pack as much of a doughy punch. The dough acted as more of a vehicle for the toppings and sauce and seemed to come together better as a full package. It should be noted that Pizza Supreme's primary business seems to come from their per slice sales. This may be why their pizza was designed to have a substantial and filling nature.

The outcome of today's competition was also not without controversy. Judges today included: Josh, Sam, Howard, Chuck, Heidi, Stephen, Mark, Mutema, and myself. Unfortunately Mutema was in a meeting by the time I arrived with the pizzas and we commenced the eating and judging process without him. Four pieces were saved for Mutema, two from each competitor, with a pizza center support acting as a clear distinction of "Pizza B". After dramatically counting the eight votes cast by judges present the vote was at a 4-4 stand still. The tension and excitement exceeded that of any Survivor Tribal meeting that I have witnessed. This of course meant Mutema was the swing vote. Some concern was expressed over the fact that the pizza was now cold and wasn't optimal for judging. But since it would truly be a blind vote and it was necessary to have a winner today we forged ahead. Mutema managed to squeeze his judging duties in between back to back meetings. I applaud him for his efforts. As we all anxiously awaited his decision, there were many predictions and discussions of the outcome. Within several minutes Mutema stuck his head in the lunch room and verbally cast his vote for Pizza B. This of course was Venice, thereby eliminating Pizza Supreme from the Bracket. Applause and celebration commenced and Mutema received a hero's welcome being hoisted up on the shoulders of the other judges and paraded throughout the office while onlookers sang songs of courage and bravery....

Ok, there was some fiction involved in that last part, but what is factual in nature is that the pizza torch ignited by Jim of Mr. Jim's still burns strong as his Greek family recipe and traditions have been passed along and pave the way for other Greek descendants to light their own torches. I'm not saying that Greek ancestry played a role in today's outcome, but that's a helluva lot more interesting.

Upon talking to Mutema after his meeting ended I asked if the temperature of the pizza contributed to his decision. He told me that he does not favor a particular temperature of pizza and that his decision was not compromised. Upon asking him of the quality of this week's pizzas he said, "neither pizza was spectacular, but hey, I don't want a Danny Williams pizza". Words we can all live by.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Week 6: David vs. Goliath (Big Cheese vs. Pizza Hut)

Leading up to the competition this week there seemed to be a casual assumption of the outcome. With the underdog Big Cheese pitted against the pizza mogul Pizza Hut there didn't seem to be much hope for an upset. Many who judged had not even heard of Big Cheese until today. Judges today included: Sam, Howard, Chuck, Mutema, Josh, Stephen, and myself. Since there were only 7 people consuming pizza we figured ordering three pizzas would be the best idea. It was agreed that we'd order two from Pizza hut because it seemed like the likely victor, and a single jumbo from Big Cheese. There was some discussion over how ordering a jumbo might compromise the integrity of the competition, but the concern was dismissed. As it turns out Big Cheese only has jumbo pizzas, no large, cut into twelve slices. It was a relative cheap week with delivery and tax for the Big Cheese being $18.10 and the two larges from Pizza Hut coming in at a total of $41.11. Big Cheese arrived a little early with Pizza Hut following shortly after. I had to help the Pizza Hut delivery guy to figure out where we were located when he was in the parking lot. I guess suite number and company name was not enough. In any case pizzas were delivered and the competition commenced.

What followed next was quite surprising. Appearance of both pizzas seemed to indicate a clear victory for Pizza hut with their abundance of toppings. Big Cheese seemed to have some topping voids as well as a lack of cheese, which was somewhat disappointing considering their name. Upon eating the pizzas though it was quite obvious that the Big Cheese "just tasted better". I'm not sure if sauce was a topping I neglected to add to the Pizza hut order, but there was a serious lack of it, and in turn a lack of flavor. Sure there were plenty of toppings, but as we all know sauce completes the total package and in this case the package was lacking. Pizza hut being a pan pizza did have a sort of synthetic texture to it. It was compared to Montana's corn bread. Not your typical pizza dough that's for sure. While Pizza hut may have a variety of pizza doughs that may be more appealing, the intent of the Pizza Bracket is to find the best traditional pizza, and in this case it seems Pizza hut fell short. The final verdict is a 6-1 victory as the Big Cheese slays "Goliath". Mutema, the only judge who voted for Pizza Hut, was heard to comment that he "...wasn't disappointed in the outcome". To him neither pizza was astounding. We also took into consideration that the second Pizza hut pizza might be better. And while it did look more appealing, being seemingly "more cooked", it still didn't meet the mark. The last slice of pizza hut I jammed into me was quite messy and a little soggy. This would have to be the water and grease from the toppings, because it certainly wasn't the sauce. This newcomer contender has definitely made it to my list of potential late night pizza places to call. Whether or not Big Cheese will continue its upset streak is still unknown. Only time will tell.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Week 5: week of the "Threeza"

This week most of the blodder (blog fodder) comes from circumstances leading up to today's competition. There had been a lot of discussion of who would replace Greco (closed up operation) in the East St. John's bracket. Some agreed that Acropolis might be a good candidate since it appeared to be decent looking when Dale had brought a slice for lunch one day and because it was not part of the competition in the Mount Pearl district. Some concern was expressed that there should not be inner district matching in the first round of the bracket. Pizza Supreme was offered as an alternate choice. In the end it was decided that Pizza Supreme would indeed replace Greco, but Acropolis would be added to the competition this week for a three pizza shoot out, hence Threeza. One would think that this would be the end of the controversy...

After ordering pizzas from the three location, Acropolis, Dominoes, and Pizza Delight (actually two pizzas and garlic fingers plus a "crappy" Greek Panzoretti for Wally were ordered from PD) it was time to collect money. It was at this point that the unexpected happened. Heidi, who had confirmed her participation earlier in the week, had to bow out of the competition since Newfoundland Jesus had dropped his car into the garage and could not be home to care for their dog, thus it was necessary for Heidi to assume this role. This turn of events was not greeted with understanding. I attempt to coerce Heidi into participating in the bracket competition, but was unsuccessful in my convincing efforts. Upon hearing of Heidi's withdrawal from the bracket Chuck commented "I don't care if a dog shits on the floor". Other commentary ensued, and needless to say this commentary was not favorable on Heidi's character. This is where the unthinkable happened. Pappy, overhearing the dissing, promptly confronted Heidi and told her that people were talking about her and it wasn't nice. Heidi called Newfoundland Jesus to console her after hearing what had been said. Miraculously Newfoundland Jesus had his car back from the garage and he could take the role of dog sitter and Heidi could participate in the competition. Everyone was happy. So ends the pre face.

The actual pizza bracket event started with the Acropolis pizza arriving 15 minutes early and being jumbo in size rather than the large ordered. The others arrived within several minutes of each other at around noon. Everyone commenced in the large conference room since there were three pizzas and enough people to warrant the move. Judges for this week include: Heidi, Chuck, Howard, Josh, Stephen, Mutema, Sam, and myself. Also participating in this weeks judging was guest judge Sarah, who was greeted with a warm welcome after an hype filled introduction by myself. All three pizzas this week were non-blank box pizzas with Acropolis actually getting the most box design approval. There was some discussion of how the voting would be cast for a three pizza competition, but as it turns out the competition was narrowed down to the two original match ups with Acropolis getting no votes. In the end Pizza Delight narrowly edged out Dominoes in an exciting 5-4 result. Commentary regarding the outcome seemed to indicate that the sweeter sauce on the Pizza Delight pizza contributed to its victory. Both pizzas were close in terms of quality and taste, while Acropolis fell by the wayside, even having leftovers (probably due to the fact that it was a jumbo). I can say that the Dominoes was a little crispier and had a more predominant crust, whereas the Pizza Delight had a doughier feel and had a crust that tapered off, rather than rise up. In the end I think the sauce was the deciding factor. The garlic fingers were a success as well, but consumption was held of until votes were cast to prevent any influence of decision.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Week 4: No Name Pizza vs. Boston Pizza

This week the intended competitors were Pizza Pros (picture right) and Boston Pizza (picture left). After calling Pizza Pros three times and letting it ring several times it was determined they were closed and thus eliminated from the bracket. One of the necessary criteria to be part of the pizza bracket is that a competitor has to be opened during the lunch hour. Obviously Pizza Pros are a supper/late night alternative. To fill their void we called upon No Name Pizza on Ropewalk Lane. This choice provided quite the competition. Judges this week included: Stephen, Sam, Josh, Howard, Chuck, Mutema, Mark, and myself. Wally also sampled the pizza, but did not contribute to the voting. All judges were in agreement that decision this week was a tough one. In the end Boston Pizza won 6-2 (6-3 if you count Wally's unofficial vote). It came down to sauce, crust, and bacon. Bacon was pretty much the topic of discussion during the judging process. Namely, the absurd amount of bacon on the Boston Pizza. It appeared to have a layer of cheese, topped with a generous layer of crumbled bacon, mushroom was also in the mix, topped with another layer of cheese, then topped off with brilliant green peppers. It was unanimous that the bacon flavor dominated the pizza. The appearance of the No name was a little lackluster in comparison, especially the bacon quantity. Chuck compared eating a slice of No Name to a lottery where you have about a 40% chance of getting bacon. The sauce on the No Name was quite good, but the crust required some strenuous effort to get through. Despite the short comings of the No Name, it was agreed that it was one of the better pizzas that had been part of the competition to date. Wally commented that it was "the best pizza I've ever had". Notable from a guy who typically doesn't like pizza, especially since he voted against his beloved Boston Pizza.

Today's event was overall a success. Pizzas arrived within a couple minutes of each other, the per person pizza consumption was off the charts as there is still leftover pizza, and the pizza competitors were both of good value. The only concern was the low quantity of Diet Pepsi, but that did not seem to have an effect of the outcome.

One thing that can be said about Boston Pizza is that you'll be hard pressed to find a pizza with more bacon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Week 3: Stoggers' vs. Old Town Pizzeria

Week three of the Pizza Bracket seen east end contenders Stoggers (picture left) and Old Town Pizzeria (picture right) pitted against each other. This week most of the organizing was handled by Howard and Sam as I was out with a cold Thursday and earlier this morning. But the Pizza Bracket must go on! Sam ordered the Stoggers pizza from the east end. Delivery charges to Mount Pearl was $10, an additional $5 compared to deliveries within the district. That seemed fair. Unfortunately the east end Old Town would not delivery to Mount Pearl since they had a location in Mount Pearl. I called the east end location to attain a verbal guarantee that the pizza received from the Mount Pearl location was the same as what would be provided by the east end. This was confirmed, but we will never truly know. Another oddity with the Mount Pearl location was that they would only deliver 11:45am or 12:15pm, not at noon. A little suspicious. In any case both pizzas arrived within a 10 minute window. Old Town was the first non-blank box pizza that's been part of the competition. Stoggers was blank box. Not saying that contributed to the decision, just sayin.

There seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding Stoggers. This hype had been carried over from the previous week as people looked forward to a quality match up since last weeks contenders were mediocre at best. Overall I don't think Stoggers lived up to the hype. Judges this week included: Sam, Mark, Howard, Chuck, Josh, Alfred, Mutema, Dale, and myself. The outcome was surprising. A 5-4 upset by Old Town Pizzeria. This vote did not go without controversy. Upon hearing the results of the vote and observing the quantity of toppings on the remaining slices of Stoggers Chuck requested to change his vote, thereby swinging the decision to Stoggers. This request did not go without opposition. There was much discussion of how allowing a vote change may compromise the integrity of the Pizza Bracket. But it was Mark who said that the purpose of the Pizza Bracket is to determine the best pizza, not to abide by the strict rules of the Bracket (something along those lines at least). I believe this to be a profound statement. Sometimes people get to involved in ensuring rules are followed without focus on what the purpose of the rules are. When the dust settled Chuck decided to retract his request to change his vote and the official winner this week was declared to be Old Town Pizzeria. One item to note is that the Old Town Pizza was completely gone at least 10 minutes before the last slice of Stoggers was eaten. One could argue that no one wanted to eat the last slice and be seen as the glutton.

The controversy observed during today's Pizza Bracket challenge is not typical of an ordinary pizza order. Most times the controversy lies in the topping selection. Since this is a controlled condition in the Pizza Bracket this was not the issue. The controversy seen here today displays the dedication, fairness, and pride the judges of the Pizza Bracket try to instill into the competition to find the best pizza in St. john's and surrounding areas.

A notable quote regarding Stoggers loss to Old town Pizzeria comes from Mutema who was heard to say, "It wasn't everything I hoped and dreamed it would be." I think this is the essence of why Stoggers lost. Sure it only lost by one vote, but if it had lived up to the hype and met the expectations it was held to then one vote would not have made the difference. The decision would have been unanimous.

p.s. Sam has already paid for next week. And we have plates for the pizza bracket now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Week 2 Pizza match-up

We continued The Gimongous Avalon Pizza Bracket this week with yet another blank-box bout. Peter's Pizza (picture far) vs. Topsail Road (picture near) pizza. We had more interest this week, compared to last week, probably due to early notice of the event. Judges this week included: Heather, Sam, Josh, Mark, Stephen, Howard, Chuck, and myself. We also had Mutema available as a tie-breaker if necessary. As it turned out we did not need an extra vote as the clear victor was Peter's Pizza with a 5-3 win. Peter's Pizza was here on time and there was a wait for the Topsail Rd. Pizza. As it turns out the delivery drivers car had the alternator die en route and had to get a back up vehicle for the delivery. So the lateness was excused, although there was some anxious people waiting to eat. There was some discussion of implementing a 15 minute cut-off where eating will commence if one pizza has arrived and the other has not arrived within 15 minutes of the expected delivery time. this is still up for debate though.

Discussions throughout the judging process included much debate over which pizza was "blander". Chuck was heard to comment that, while Peter's Pizza was deficient in topping quantity and crust, looked a little over cook, and was generally greasier, the sum of it's pieces came together to create a superior pizza. The Topsail Road pizza did have a healthy quantity of cheese and toppings as well as a thicker crust, but there was some topping/crust separation that in some cases required and claw-like grip of pizza to control toppings. Mutema, who was acting as a swing voter if necessary, was heard to comment that, being a resident of the west end, Topsail Road pizza had been his go-to pizza of choice, but after today's competition he has switched to Peter's. This is clearly a significant statement as a resident of the region has been won over by the competitor.

Some observations concerning today's pizza off include the fact that visual appearance of a pizza does not necessarily determine it's quality, nor does it's topping or crust quantity. This statement of course is general in nature and one's personal preference may dictate otherwise.

Friday, October 30, 2009

First day of The Avalon Gimongous Pizza Bracket

Today we pitted Chilly Willy's pizza against Mr. Jim's. Two large pizzas were ordered with cheese pepperoni, bacon, green pepper, and mushroom. With taxes included, Chilly Willy's came to a total of $25 while Jim's came to $26. Jim's did have a more personal delivery with the deliverer presenting the pizza to us. Upon telling him his pizza was going against Chilly Willy's pizza he commented, "It's all about the taste". Delivery times were comparable. Chilly's was about 5 minutes early, while Jim's was right on time.

Judges for today included: Sam, Heather, Chuck, Howard, Stephen, Josh and Myself. Although there was some controversy surrounding Howard's vote. The Jim's pizza won today's bout with a tally of 6 votes to 1. I think today was a successful kick off to this event. I hope everyone is ready to gorge themselves on pizza in the coming weeks. We'll certainly have something to talk about at the Super Bowl party. Speaking of which, eventually we'll have to determine where this event will be held.

In any case, that's about all to say for me today. Actually, yeah that's it.

Signing off,