blistered, ken's artisan
margherita, ken's artisan
i'm sorry. the screen on my camera's broken, so i had no idea the photo was this awful when i took it at apizza scholls
in the past two years i've gone from pizza rich (scrooge-mcduck-swimming-in-a-tower-of-pizza rich) in brooklyn to pizza lower-middle class in new zealand up to pizza middle-class in the dc-metro area, and back down to pizza poor in new orleans. and now i'm in pizza portland, that as yet largely unexplored region in our nation's upper west side.
my search for pizza glory is not unlike an olympic athlete's search for the gold medallion. it requires dedication, high standards, and traveling great distances. however, unlike the upcoming summer games, there are no human rights controversies surrounding pizza (unless you count people being subjected to undercooked pies made with inferior ingredients as a human rights violation). there are however wheat controversies. the price of grain is up and so follows the prices of a slice. Di Fara back in brooklyn is now infamously charging $4 a slice. According to slice.seriouseats.com, the price jumped a whole dollar in one day from $3 on Feb. 5th to the cuatro on the 6th. judging by the waits at two portland pizza purveyors, the price hike hasn't appeared to slow pizza fans from chowing down on their favorite pies.
so far in two weeks of portlanding, i've found two quality contenders for pizza gold in Ken's Artisan Pizza and Apizza Scholls (Apizza, as i learned recently, is pronounced A-beetz). the former being a neapolitan-styled spin-off of the popular Ken's Artisan Bakery and the latter being a new haven inspired thin-crust slinger. both of these places provide nicely charred thin crusts, fresh basil, and root beer, but that is where the similarities end.
the first thing you notice when walking into Ken's, besides the hordes of people waiting up to two hours (as we unfortunately found out) for a table, is the magnificent looking wood-burning oven. shortly after that is disgruntled-looking pizzaiolos stretching, spreading, and sprinkling dough, sauce, and cheese at a clipped pace. the pizza's coming out of the oven are beautiful 13-inch specimens dotted with charring, the edges nicely puffed, and spots of creamy mozzerella on a bright orange-red water bed of tomato sauce. i tried their margherita and pepperoni-style sausage pie. the first was perfectly cooked, though under-sauced, a problem that seemed prevalent on all their pizzas. the uber-thin crust held up well though. and the sauce, when its flavor peeked out over the cheese, crust, and basil, had some zing—spice!—and tang saddled up next to some sweetness. the crust, while beautiful to look at, and that hard-to-find crisp-yet-pliant balance, was a little bland. the sausage pie displayed many of the same qualities but with the added smokiness and spice that one would expect from pepperoni. arbitrary scoring: 8 giant pandas out of 11.
Scholls' dishes out the 18-inchers normally, but i was able to get a 14" special (for the same price). the margherita with half pepperoni and extra basil burned the hell out of my mouth (in the classic pizza way, right behind the top front teeth) on the first bite. always a good sign: a seriously burned mouth often means a hot oven--not that i recommend others using this method as a test, but it yields results. luckily the tongue and its trusty sidekick, the nose, were intact. the sauce-cheese balance was spot on, with the sauce containing a bitterness not uncommon from canning, while the cheese seemed to be a blend of fresh and aged mozz. a well done crust allowed for a satisfying crunch that gave way to a pleasant chewiness. arbitrary scoring: a pair of short pants, a striped sock, and an american apparel t-shirt on a fully-clothed hipster.