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.