pizza

Comet Ping Pong = Best Pizza North of the Equator

Having just one quick year left as a college student in DC, my friends and I are trying to take full advantage of the amazing city that surrounds us. And by take advantage of the city, I mean take advantage of all of the amazing restaurants. DC is an up and coming city when it comes to food, offering the full spectrum of eats; anything from classic American, to authentic Ethiopian, to Spanish tapas and everything in between. Some of my favorite restaurants here belong to ethnicities and flavors that are rarely familiar to the common pallet, but my newest obsession is something everyone can relate to: pizza.

I heard about Comet Ping Pong a few years ago, as being one of the best restaurants for pizza in DC, along with 2Amys. However, after watching about it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and hearing Guy Fieri claim, “If you live north of the equator, there is no excuse not to come here,” I just had to get over there as soon as possible. A week later, I’m sitting at an old-school ping pong table inhaling pizza that is, indeed, the best.

The environment at Comet is truly unique. Exposed walls with peeling paint adds to the personality, and the open space is lively and young. Ping pong tables are open in the back while you wait for a table (which is definitely smart and necessary, as we waited an hour for a table!). The beer list is quite extensive, and so are the pizza options.

Our ping pong table laden with pizza!

I went with five of my friends, which was extremely beneficial because I got to try four very different, yet equally delicious pies:the Steel Wills, The Hottie, the Yalie and The Drive. The Steel Wills had Comet’s signature tomato sauce (which they bottle… I die), wilted spinach, fresh creamy ricotta, roasted garlic, and salty kalamata olives. Salty goodness with creamy cheese and something green to finish it all off? Yes, please. The Hottie was the quintessential pizza- with tomato sauce, gooey fontina cheese and pepperoni- but the cherry on top was the jalapeno pepper rings. Literally this was the perfect, most classic pizza with a kick. I felt like I was at my 4th grade pizza party at the bowling alley. The Yalie was a white pizza with thyme, parmesan, lemon and fresh clams. It was garlicky and flavorful without tasting too fishy. Finally, the Drive, complete with wilted broccoli rabe, garlic, rich melted onions, salty Pecorino Romano and an egg. When you cut into the pizza the yolk spread throughout the pie, creating the perfect creamy dipping sauce. Each pizza was unique and truly amazing, and the crust was not too thin but not to thick, with plenty of char yet still being chewy on the inside. It was sweet and just about perfect.

The Steel Wills

After hearing that Comet offers freshly baked cookies and homemade ice cream for dessert, we couldn’t turn it down. A warm, soft, chocolate chip cookie was paired beautifully with a hearty scoop of salted caramel and praline ice cream. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal, and wee devoured it in about a minute.

The before and aftermath

Pizza is such a classic American staple, and everyone has their favorite type, but Comet brings the perfect pizza to a whole new level. I will challenge anyone to try and tell me they do not enjoy their pizza, whether you’re a thin crust New York-style fan, or a Chicago-style deep dish fan. Pizza is singlehandedly my favorite food, and Comet Ping Pong definitely makes the list of my top choices, next to Italy. So, in the words of Guy Fieri, if you live north of the equator, there is absolutely no excuse for you to not come here.

SerenDIPity

Since moving back to DC for a final year at GW, I have already deemed this the best year yet. I live in an amazing apartment with three amazing girls, but the best part about that is how their love of food is almost as strong as mine. We spent our first Sunday at one of my favorite DC restaurants, Co Co Sala, and we’ve been cooking some delicious gourmet meals every week. But, what I must say has been the most important element to our foodie repertoire is our undying love of dips. Salsa, guacamole, spinach artichoke; you name it, we’ve probably gone through at least a jar and have loved every minute of it.

Living a block away from Trader Joes gives my roommates and I ample opportunities to go grocery shopping and discover new products, even if just by chance, which is what our newest obsession was. I must admit, I was not present to witness the serendipity that occurred when Jill and Kate found this beautiful eggplant garlic spread, but the minute they brought it home and served it to me with pita chips, I was in pure heaven.

My favorite part about this spread is its versatility. We dip chips, rice cakes, carrots, and just about anything with a crunch into it. We even used it in place of marinara sauce on pizza last week. Now that’s what I call pizza.

The ingredients in the dip are simple: eggplant, peppers, tomato concentrate, sunflower oil, garlic, sugar, salt, fefferoni peppers. That’s it. No preservatives or chemicals with names I can’t spell, let alone pronounce. But the flavor is so rich and complex. Hearty, roasted eggplant is most prevalent, with sweet undertones of tomato and a hint of spice from the peppers. The spread is rich without being overbearing, and it coats your mouth with flavor, not tomato paste. If you live within 60 miles of a Trader Joe’s, I highly suggest you leave right now and go find this dip, before it’s off the shelves for good.

Now don’t worry; I’m not going to finish this blog post and leave you empty handed. Besides using this dip on pizza I have also been obsessively spreading it on to sandwiches, and my sandwich of choice is perfect for a Meatless Monday lunch. The layers of flavor and texture are complex and diverse. Creamy eggplant dip is countered with peppery arugula, crunchy cucumber and salty feta cheese, all encompassed by toasty pita bread. It is just filling enough to get you through the rest of everyone’s least favorite day of the week. And, oh yeah, its freaking delicious! Here’s the recipe for my Mediterranean Pita Sandwich:

INGREDIENTS

1 whole wheat pita pocket, halved and toasted

2 tbs Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread

2 slices vine ripe tomato

4 slices English cucumber

1 tbs feta cheese

small handful baby arugula

DIRECTIONS

Spread one tablespoon of eggplant spread on each side of the toasted pita. On one half, layer the arugula, followed by the tomato, the cucumber and the feta cheese. Top with the other half of the pita and enjoy immediately!

Eataly in Italy: Better Late Than Never

As my 4-month long abroad adventure came to an end, I couldn’t bare the fact of coming home without experiencing the country whose cuisine has truly stolen my heart: Italy. My first true love and role model on the Food Network was Giada DeLaurentiis and I am proud to say I consider pizza a separate food group. With a five day trip through Rome, Florence and Venice, I prepared my stomach for the culinary ride of a lifetime, and was by no means disappointed.

I call this post “Better Late Than Never” because it has been almost a month since I began my journey, and have had time to move back to Cleveland, settle in for two weeks, and move to New York City for the summer. I find it completely ironic that as I type this blog post I eat my delicious leftovers of linguine with pesto and shrimp from Mario Batali’s Italian megastore, Eataly. But I digress…

My friend Rachel and I arrived in Rome late Friday night and were ravenous. We stopped at the closest restaurant to our hotel and devoured our sub-par pasta and caprese salads. I wasn’t discouraged, though, because I knew my Wallpaper Guide would come in handy the rest of the weekend. On Saturday for lunch, we utilized the guide and went to Cul de Sac, right off Piazza Navona. It is a “hole in the wall” type of restaurant known for their wine selection and greek salad. Rachel and I shared this famous greek salad and pasta siciliana. A gentleman sitting across from us was eating the pasta and it looked so good that we just had to order it. The salad was full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and onions, with a beautiful block of feta cheese resting on top. It was perfectly dressed and seasoned, and I’m pretty sure Greece doesn’t even make them that well. The pasta was cooked as it should be: al-dente. The sauce was sweet and full of tomatoes and roasted eggplant, and the sprinkling of cheese on top added the perfect amount of saltiness and creaminess. I asked the waiter for a wine recommendation and he brought out a wonderful crisp, and not-too-sweet white wine that I now consider my favorite. I am not a huge fan of white wine, but this was an exception.

Only part of the wine selection at Cul de Sac

Greek Salad

Pasta Siciliana

Moving on to dinner. I was recommended to go to Tony’s by a friend, as being known for having the best- and only- chicken parmesan in Rome. Tony’s is a classic Italian restaurant: friendly waiters, Italian music, red checkered table cloths, crispy bread. Again, Rachel and I shared. This time it was mussels and chicken parm. When the waiter brought out the chicken I was wondering if there was even any chicken in it, because the plate looks like a massive sheet of melted, bubbly cheese and marinara sauce. Once we dug in, however, we found the juicy, succulent, crispy chicken, and devoured it. The mussels were easily the freshest mussels I’ve ever had. They were in a salty, buttery sauce, and there was plenty to soak my crusty bread in.

Chicken Parm Hiding Underneath Ooey, Gooey Cheese

After dinner we ventured over to Trevi Fountain, not only to see the falls in the moonlight but also to experience what I would consider the world’s greatest gelato. Il Gelato di San Crispino is tucked away a few blocks past the fountain, but it is completely worth the treck, and the ignorance of all the other gelato shops right on the Piazza di Fontana di Trevi. San Crispino prides itself on using all natural ingredients and on having truly unique flavors. I had pear sorbet and basil gelato and I do not regret my decision. The icy pear sorbet tasted just like a fresh, juicy pear is supposed to taste; probably better. And the creamy basil gelato was the perfect counterpart, not too basil-y but just the right balance of sweet and savory. I am only so lucky that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream makes a similar Riesling poached pear flavored ice cream, because San Crispino turned me into an addict.

The next day I was led to another restaurant recommended by Wallpaper Guides: Obika. Obika is a mozzarella bar that showcases all different types of mozzarella in the freshest, purest ways. The must-have at Obika is mozzarella with accompaniments. You can choose from four different types of Mozzarella di Bufula Campana with over 10 different accompaniments. We ordered the Burrata cheese with DOP Proscuitto. The cheese was so creamy and actually quite loose. It was silky and sweet and the paring with the salty ham worked very well. We also ordered an arugula salad with sweet, juicy cantaloupe, crisp apples, crunchy radish and salty pecorino romano cheese. Finally, the holy grail of cheese pizzas: Formaggi Morbidi with gorgonzola, stracchino, ricotta and buffalo mozzarella cheeses. This was by far the cheesiest pizza I have ever had, but the different flavors, potencies and textures worked beautifully together. My favorite part was the dollops of mozzarella cheese, because you could literally spread it over your entire slice and extra crust! Like cream cheese for Italians. This was my favorite meal of the entire week.

Burrata and Proscuitto

“Roket” Salad

Check Out Those Dollops…

We took the train to Florence and had just two short days to explore. My favorite part was the Mercato San Lorenzo, as it was a giant market full of produce, italian specialties, hams, cheeses, and pastries. Rachel and I ate our weight in cheese and salami samples, and only left with two mini canoli and a package of black truffle salami- another one of my favorite “meals” of the trip. We had some classic Italian food- eggplant parmesan, gnocchi,  black truffle pizza, and gelato- every single day of the entire trip- but I altogether enjoyed Rome more. Here is a pastry counter from the market:

We arrived in cloudy, rainy Venice for only a short 24 hours, but realized that it was plenty of time. Our food, while still delicious, didn’t stand up to the previous two cities, and definitely did not photograph as well. We had a wonderful seafood spaghetti with a whole lobster, which was very fresh and very messy, and squid ink risotto and pesto spaghetti. I refused to leave Italy without having classic tiramisu, which was photo-worthy and delicious.

We also stumbled upon Grom, which is supposed to be one of the best gelato shops in all of Italy. Lucky for me, there are a few locations in New York City as well!

We left Italy with sore feet, full memory cards and even fuller stomachs. I am so glad to have finally experienced Italy and all its glory, and am looking forward to having more amazing Italian meals this summer, courtesy of Mario Batali!

Grateful for Graffiato

Happy post 4th of July everyone! Now while you’re sitting there thinking about how you’re going to be sick if you ever see another hot dog or hamburger, I have a more endearing thought about food: I need more pizza. But not just any pizza, I need more of the Countryman Pizza from Top Chef Mike Isabella’s Graffiato. Why do I need more? Because it was absurdly delicious, that’s why!!

Let me explain to you the night’s precedents, and how I ended up at this tiny little kitchen, where the brick oven takes up about half the cooking station. Its Sunday, July 3rd and my friends and I have just come back from a long day at the pool. We are hungry and warn out, looking for a nice, quick bite to eat so we can get our rest for the following day’s festivities. I had heard and read about Graffiato from many different sources, and everyone had raved about the food, but more particularly about the Prosecco keg. Yep, you read correctly, they keep Prosecco on tap! Who do these people think they are?! I’ll tel you who they think they are- geniuses. Geniui? Anyway.

We arrived at the Chinatown restaurant at around 8:30. The hostess greeted us with a smile, only to reveal our biggest fear- the wait was over an hour. Yes, we were hungry, but we decided to stay figuring if the restaurant was this busy on a Sunday, it must be worth it. We managed to squeeze in at the bar and immediately ordered glasses of Prosecco. I was amused that the oh too familiar handle of a keg was delicately pouring out a more agreeable carbonated beverage. Champagne out of a beer keg? Classy. While we sipped and our stomachs growled, we decided to order some appetizers to pass the time. We went with the marinated snap peas and the cheese trio- both excellent choices, but neither filling the void of a scrumptious and hearty dinner.

Then the real bad news came. The hostess approached us at the bar and told us that our table would not be ready at the expected time and that the kitchen would be closing shortly. She recommended that we order dinner at the bar and the bill could always be transferred if a table would open up. Wishful thinking at its finest. With much trepidation, we began to glance over the menu. I immediately forgot about our less than ideal dining situation as my eyes glazed over the menu. Everything looked so amazingly tasteful, I knew my decision would be hard. Luckily, the plates are rather small and sharing is suggested. My friends and I love to share, so this was not an issue.

We ended up ordering the roasted carrot salad, the aged balsamic risotto, the  polenta with pork meatballs, the roasted potato gnocchi, the market vegetable pizza and, as a “what the hell” kind of decision, the countryman pizza. Boy am I glad we opted for the second pizza. Everything was fabulous but this pizza, oh boy. Lets start with the crust- a true test of any good pizza. The doughy, crunchy, chewy concoction that laid underneath the heavenly toppings was perfect. A little bit charred, but still chewy, salty yet yeasty and sweet. Crusty goodness serving as a beautiful canvas for the main attraction. The countryman comes topped with gooey, salty fontina cheese, savory black truffles and an over easy duck egg. Yep- a. DUCK EGG!! At first glance, this pizza may not seem all that special. Its pretty dull with a hint of shine from the yolk. But once you sink your teeth into this baby, you’ll fall in love. It was rich, juicy, salty and altogether amazing. Words honestly cannot describe this thing. You just have to try it. Our other pizza came topped with a traditional marinara sauce, roasted squash, goat cheese and tomato blossoms. It, too, was beautifully crafted, but nothing can compare to the countryman.

When friends asked how my meal was, I raved. I completely forgot that I had to wait over an hour and a half for dinner and that once my dinner finally did come, I ate it standing up (there was no room at the bar for all four of us). I forgot that I didn’t get home until 11 when I had planned for a quick dinner and a quiet evening. Nothing else mattered because I was so astonished by the food. So, food lovers of D.C., I beg of you to venture out to Chinatown for Graffiato. But definitely make a reservation and definitely order a pizza. You won’t be disappointed.

P.S.- I apologize for pictures of my mouth watering meal- like I mentioned, my camera was being fixed! It’s back now though and I’m almost positive I’m about to go picture happy. 🙂

Pi Truck: A Love Story

My food truck review continues with the truck that has become the dearest to my heart… and my stomach: Pi Truck. At first glance, this four-wheeled green monster looks a little dorky; the truck wears the Pi symbol proudly on all four sides. But when you take a closer look, you’ll see that beneath the mathematic stamp lays a beautiful interpretation of deep. dish. pizza. Mmmmm…

The battle between Chicago-style deep dish and New York-style thin crust has been ongoing since before I can remember. People tend to get rather snobby when it comes to taking ownership and pride in one’s hometown culinary name tag. Do you go deep dish and eat your slice with a fork and a knife? Or do you go thin crust, fold the slice in half, and shove it into your mouth like a hot dog? Personally, I like to combine the two methods by using a fork and a knife on thin crust pizza; I consider myself to be a pizza snob and tend to over-enjoy this simple cheesy delight as often as I can.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had deep dish pizza before I experienced Pi Truck, but boy, did it turn me into a believer. The food truck craze has slowly made its way to the GW campus and I will be the first to tell you how lucky we are to have it. First you should probably know some background information on my Thursday before I so luckily encountered the truck of Pi.

Like I mentioned earlier, Thursdays are the hot days for food trucks to roll on over to Foggy Bottom. I had finished class for the day and made plans with my friend, Rachael, to get lunch from Red Hook Lobster Truck. I brought the lobster and shrimp rolls back to my apartment for the two of us to share, and lunch was amazing (more to come on Red Hook, this is about Pi Truck remember!). As we sat contemplating which food truck we would next explore, we checked Food Truck Fiesta for other trucks around campus. “Pi Truck’s at GW still,” Rachael exclaimed. “Wanna get dinner?” I asked. It was a done deal. We left my apartment in a rush with the determination to catch the pizza mobile before it left for the weekend (the trucks tend to stay until 2 pm and it was already 3:30). As we walked towards the designated location, we saw an empty space. This didn’t look good. Where could it be?

Then, out of no where, like a peak from heaven above a cloudy sky, the Pi Truck rolled past us and continued down 22nd street. I began to run. I managed to catch up with the truck as it stopped to look for a parking spot outside of our library. I frantically approached the window and the driver rolled it down. I asked how much longer they would be around and the friendly man said to wait until they parked and that I would be the first in line for a hot, gooey, deep dish pizza pie. Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine is.

Rachael caught up to me and managed to take a picture of my epic attempt to flag down a food truck (see left, Hi Cap Mac!). We debated for a while over which pie to get- they all seemed so unbelievably tasty! We went with the favorite of the driver- the Western Addition- and shared a small piece before returning to my apartment and refrigerating it for dinner. The Western Addition contains (along with the usual mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce) spinach, creamy feta and ricotta cheeses, hearty mushrooms, onions and garlic, all enclosed by the best cornmeal crust I have ever tasted. This crust is just meant for deep dish pizza. It is thick yet delicate, and chewy with just the right crunch. It hugs, rather than overpowers the fillings, like the perfect spoon to sop up the flavors of tomato, cheese and veggies. I couldn’t wait to finish this pie for dinner.

About four hours, $12 and six slices of sweet, cheesy, crunchy goodness later, Rachael and I were happy campers. No, the $12 was not a typo- we did, in fact, get an entire deep dish pizza pie for twelve dollars. No tax, no tip, no delivery charge- for one of the best pizzas I have ever sunk my teeth into. Since the moment I took my last bite I have been anxious to return to my beloved truck of Pi. I am determined to become a loyal customer and maybe have a pie named after me one day. Until then, one can only dream. I love you, Pi Truck!!