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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The best in town – Bada Bing pizza

Having worked in The City, I know a thing or two about pizza. The first is: the crust matters. The second is: if you want it to taste like a real pizzeria style slice, you have to heat it twice.
Yes, twice. Let me explain.
When I was working in The City south of Wall Street, used to go downstairs for lunch to the pizzeria two doors down. When I got there, I would point at a slice behind the counter, and the pizza guy would take the slice and stick it in his big Baker’s Pride™ oven for two or three minutes. Then he would plate it and charge me $2.50.
Result: the perfect slice. The cheese is bubbly, the crust is crispy – the perfect consistency to fold with a snap.
I would eat it right on the sidewalk in from of the place. Coupled with a cold soda and lunch was served, downtown style.
When I moved to Westchester, I tried to find a pizzeria that could duplicate that perfect combination of bubbly cheese and crispy crust that I so loved in The City. I could never find it. I would open the box, pull out a slice and frown. The crust was soggy.
I complained loudly and vigorously to anybody that would listen and always got the same response: it’s the water. The water in The City makes that perfect crust.
I accepted that reasoning – for a while. Then, I thought the whole process through and had the “Aha!” moment. The pizza was already made and was sitting out more or less cold, waiting to be reheated when I walked in off Broadway. In order to duplicate that oh so perfect slice, I would have to duplicate the procedure, right down to the oven. But how?
Answer: a pizza stone. I would buy the pie, then let it get cold just the pizza guy did, then re-heat it on a blisteringly hot pizza stone that had been sitting in my over at 500 degrees for a half an hour. The results were good; I could make my slice was almost as good as what I got downtown.
But there were caveats. Mass produced pizza is too much like bread and rises too much to work on the stone. Ditto anything frozen. The only pizzas that really worked right were from pizzerias that used high gluten flour that wouldn’t rise too much.
Which of course, lead to The Search – where to find the best pie.
The results are in: Bada Bing on Glenwood South right here in Raleigh. It has the perfect combination of sauce to cheese and crust that heats up perfectly on the reheat. And the use a high gluten flour for the crust so it isn’t bread like.
And it’s good, really good. Their pies are utterly unpretentious and probably as good as any I’ve had in The City. So if your diet allows for a pizza, take the drive downtown. The drive is worth every bite.

Bada Bing Pizza
222 Glenwood Ave. Raleigh, NC
(next to Tobacco Road) |
Phone: 919-754-1050
Location: Glenwood South
Cuisine: New York style pizza
Rating: *****
Prices: $
Atmosphere: Take it to go
Noise level: Does it matter?
Mon-Thur:  11am - 8pm
Fri-: 11am - 3am
Sun: 12 pm - 8 pm
Reservations: Are you crazy?
Other: Cash and credit cards.

We rank restaurants in five categories: Extraordinary***** Excellent**** Above average*** Average** Fair*

Badabing Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 9, 2012

Any fish you wish; an improvisational tail, er tale – Sautéed Tilapia, with a warm lime & cilantro salsa

Last week, one of my roommates from college, Greg, tells me about this new website he’s affiliated with and asks me to check it out, which I did. After about two hours of back and forth, the thing stops working.

“We broke it,” I IMed him.

“LOL”, he replied. “We did not.”

“It stopped working. We broke it.”

“I’ll call ****** (name redacted for the obvious reasons).”

After about 25 minutes or so, it came back online. So far, so good. But, testing the site had seriously eaten into my afternoon, leaving exactly ZERO time for dinner-type foraging. Dinner would have be something hastily assembled from whatever is in the ‘fridge. That was Tilapia, cannellini beans (in a can) and left over Chinese carryout rice.

  • 3 portions of Tilapia of some other flaky, white fish, such as Flounder, Haddock, or Halibut
  • ½ cup corn meal, for dredging
  • ½ cup all purpose flour, again for dredging
  • Some sort of all purpose Italian herb medley (I use Catanzaro herb Blend from The Savory Spice Shop, but any blend with oregano, thyme and rosemary will work.)
  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon (or so) fresh cilantro, minced
  • ½ small yellow onion, minced
  • The juice of two limes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 can white navy or Cannellini bean
  • 1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste (Trader Joe’s has tomato paste in a tube like toothpaste. It is so cool!)
  • 4 to 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Fresh rosemary to taste

Start with the beans first, since the fish can be done in a few minutes and the beans can sit. Into a 1 quart saucepan over medium heat, add your olive oil. After giving it a few minutes to warm up, add your garlic. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add your beans to the mix and stir. Add your tomato paste, and stir to mix thoroughly. Once, it’s hot and bubbly, add your rosemary and remove from the heat. Now, mix the corn meal, flour and herb mixture together.  Then, dredge your fish through the mixture and pan sauté in a hot skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté until brown (maybe 5 minutes), making sure to flip the fish only once.  Remove the fish to the serving plates. Add the tomatoes, onions and salt, sautéing for 4 to 5 minutes or until soft. Deglaze the pan with your lime juice. Top your fish with the salsa. Pair with your beans and rice and dinner is served.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The triumph of the 21st Century: J. Val and Myra’s mother’s meatloaf

The 21st Century is truly amazing when it works. Sure, nobody is cruising around in George Jetson™ brand flying cars, but who would want to? Now, I think it would be cool to fly around town and hover into place right in front of The Mall. But let’s get real: all those blockheads who cut you off in traffic and drive with a phone stuck to their ear would be even more of a menace in a flying car. Imagine if you will, these same people, who, after 8 or 10 pints of Guinness, plow into utility poles and other vehicles crashing into a shopping mall or perhaps, your house. But it’s not just the drunken that should scare you. Just think, all those really stoo-pid people you went to high school with – the ones who never passed a single class except driver’s ed – would be allow to fly around the ether, causing chaos and carnage.

No, I didn’t think you really want that to happen. Flying cars are better on television.

Still, things are pretty cool. With email and webinars, one no longer needs to transport one’s DNA to where the business is; it can mostly be handled virtually. The internet allows for all kinds of things to occur. Email, You Tube ™, Google™, Twitter™, -- all are genius and allow human being to connect with one another. I went to three different high schools and Facebook™, the latest killer app, has allowed be to connect with folks from my oh, so distance past.

Which brings me to meatloaf.

Long version: I was posting and cross-posting on Facebook about the predicted inclement weather (sheet), when the conversation drifted, as it almost always does, to food. I mentioned that I was doing chili (as I usually do on the first snowfall of the year), when Sulli McKelvey Schultz posted about her astonishing sounding pot roast. Then, Myra Eorio and Jan Valentine Schields started riffing about Steak San Marcos (to be the subject for another column) and the next thing you know, it’s a discussion about a glazed meatloaf recipe from when they were both young moms.

Short version: It’s starting to sleet. Got a meatloaf recipe?

I recently spoke to Myra and asked her where the recipe came from.

“We were both young and  didn’t really know what to do for dinner,” Myra said. “I would call Jan and ask “what are you going to do chicken? Serve it raw?’” She laughed. “There was only so much we knew how to do. We had our hand written recipe cards from our Moms.”

  • 1 ½ pound ground beef
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp of Cantazaro Herb blend (dried sage, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried rosemary)
  • Glaze
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dried mustard power
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg
Soak breadcrumbs in milk. Mix together with other ingredients. Bake at 375 for 1 hour. Pour the glaze over top of meatloaf for last 5 minutes and broil, in order to caramelize the top.

It’s the perfect centerpiece for you Post-Eisenhower Sunday feast.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brunch: œufs en cocotte with prosciutto and spinach

Regulars to this space know I detest eating Sunday Brunch out. That’s why I almost always cook on Sunday mornings. It’s comforting on so many levels. I typically find some jazz programming on cable and make the house smell yummy.

But with inclement weather on the way, I didn’t want to brave the throngs of panicked shoppers at the local market so I had to take what I had and make what I needed. This recipe is a derivative of one I saw in a magazine and wanted to amend based on what was in the fridge. The eggs are shirred, meaning baked. The whole thing is so simple anybody can do it; while the presentation is so amazing you’ll look like a genius.

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto (most of one package)
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 handfuls of spinach, coarsely chopped
  • One small diced Roma tomato or 1/3 diced red pepper
  • About a cup of a mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Sauté the veggies until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and allow to cool. Next, grease a muffin tin (that’s right) with olive oil. Then, line the muffin tin with sliced of prosciutto and add your veggie mixture. Top with mozzarella cheese, making sure to leave a well in the center. Next, crack a fresh in the cup on the cheese. Garnish with a bit of parmesan, salt and pepper. Once that’s done, pop them into your oven for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on how runny you like the yolks. Serve atop a toasted English muffin.

Now, isn’t that better than waiting in line for the mediocrity that serves as Sunday brunch in most commercial establishments? Bon appétit!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The London Bridge Pub and Chuck’s

Darren Bridger is a great guy. He was always one of our favorite barkeeps at The Hibernian on Glenwood South, as evidenced here in my write up of Strongbow Cider. Indeed, when Das Kinder had to interview a local business person for her Girl Scout business merit badge, I took her to see Darren, who had just opened The London Bridge and has known her since she was a “wee nipper”.

The London Bridge Pub is not a restaurant; it’s a private club, meaning you have to join. It has a magnificent beer (and cider) selection, probably the best in The Triangle. It also means that he doesn’t have a kitchen. So he doesn’t have food. But in an odd twist, he actually does have the best food in town: in fact he actively encourages folks to bring lunch or dinner in and that opens up a world of possibilities.

This brings me to Chuck’s, one of the other new Ashley Christiansen’s restaurants. Chuck’s is located literally around the corner from Darren’s place. My last visit to one of her locations – Beasley’s Chicken + Honey – was extraordinarily disappointing, prompting my first and only bad review. However, Her Imperial Majesty wanted to give Chuck's a run. I’m glad she insisted.

Chuck’s is a burger joint adjacent to Beasley’s. They specialize in high end, fresh ground burgers with hand cut fries. This is definitely not a “have it your way” kind of place. Here, the burgers are prepared with specific pairings. For example, I had a “Dirty South”, which is a spin on a Carolina burger done with chili, mustard, onions and slaw. I ordered it medium and was pleasantly surprised when it showed up pink in the middle. Her Imperial Majesty ordered the Bradley-Time, with roasted beets, buttermilk blue cheese, red onion, endive, and banyuls aioli.

Yeah, I know. Beets on a burger? Get over your misconceptions; it’s actually very good as was my Dirty South. We also ordered fries with a side of aioli and "comeback sauce" and I must say, they are as good as I’ve had. Absolutely marvelous. The prices are a bit on the high side but the portions are generous.
We paired our burgers with a pint of Ace Pear Cider on draft for the wife and an ice cold Bud in a bottle for me. They were sublime pairings (although her's was probably better than mine). All in all, it was a fabulous meal. Darren, with his spectacular beer / cider selection and by letting us bring in dinner, is truly a genius.


The London Bridge Pub
110 E Hargett St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 247-8901
Cuisine: Bring your own
Rating: *****
Prices: $
Atmosphere: A dark private club
Noise level: Average pub noise, unless we’re listening to a game
Open: After 3 pm most days. Unless Liverpool is playing, then he opens early.
Reservations: Are you crazy?
Other: Cash and credit cards.
237 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 322-0126
Cuisine: Burgers
Rating: ****
Prices: $$
Atmosphere: Urban hipster, but we took ours to go
Noise level: We left, so who knows….
Mon-Wed, Sun 11:30 am - 10 pm; Thu-Sat 11:30 am - 12 am
Reservations: Are you crazy?
Other: Cash and credit cards.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Das Kinder and Pancakes

Das Kinder loves pancakes. And really, what’s not to love?

Plenty – look at the ingredients on the side of any pre-made store bought mix. Strange unpronounceable things that one shouldn’t eat: corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, mono and diglycerides. Do you really want to feed that to your kid?

Er, no.

But there is a better way and it’s incredibly easy and fiendishly simple. So simple in fact, Das Kinder is an active participant.

The Dry Mix
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.

Put all the dry ingredients in a sealed Tupperware® container and do a little Zumba™ to mix thoroughly. In a sealed container, the mix should be good for at least a month if stored in cool dry place.

To make the pancakes, place in a mixing bowl one cup of your pancake mix. Next, microwave a quarter of a stick of butter. In a separate bowl, whisk one large egg. Once the butter is melted, slowly whisk the melted butter into the egg. Add this to your dry mix. Next, add one cup of milk or buttermilk to the mixture and stir until you have thick batter. Then, and this is the important bit, wait for a few minutes until the mixture starts to bubble. That’s a sign that the ingredients are starting to get to know each other. Once it starts, then cook the pancakes in a hot skillet the way you would normally.

The result: pancakes that are light and fluffy, while still having a somewhat crisp exterior. Better than store bought with none of the chemicals.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A pie like no other – Klausie’s Pizza

Mike Stenke pays a tremendous amount of attention to detail. The Michigan born former technical writer is the proprietor of Klausie’s Pizza, a truck-borne enterprise that serves Detroit-style pizza in The Triangle. It is this extra effort that’s earned quite a following. One recent Friday, we were talking in his truck about cheese.
“I have to use brick cheese,” he said.  “Can’t get it locally.”

“You imported it?” I asked.

“From Wisconsin. Nobody can do it locally.”

I asked him if it made that much of a difference and he shook his head.

“Nothing else works,” he continued. “It’s got to have a really high butterfat content.” I asked if that mattered. In retrospect, it really was a silly question.

“Yea. Most of the cheese you can get locally will either brown or melt. It won’t do both.”

“And brick cheese does?”

‘Yea and it’s the only one that does.”

Mike has been in and out of food service for more than 20 years, starting as a biscuit maker when he was a mere lad of 14. When one of his previous writing gigs wound down, he had to come up with something else. With a bit of support from Dan Cloos, another Michigan native and owner of Cloos’ Coney Island, Mike perfected the oh-so-important crust that makes a Detroit-style pie unique. The crusts are brushed with butter and baked twice in rolled steel pans that look like parts bins out of a car factory. The process allows a Klausie’s to hit a seemingly impossible trifecta: the crust is crisp and chewy and sweet.  If it sounds like a contradiction, it is. And it works astonishing well.

But the crust is only the beginning. Once the crust is baked, it has to be cheesed, and this is where the brick cheese comes into play. Mike covers the crust with cheese and bakes until it turns from translucent to white and the edges start to brown. He then pulls the cheesed crust out of his oven and lets it rest. Only then is it sauced and returned to the oven for two minutes with toppings.

I recently picked up a take and bake pie, which came complete with toppings, sauce and instructions. It came fully baked and cheesed so that all I had to do was sauce and top the pie. While it was relatively small – 9 by 16 inches – and by pizza carryout standard a bit pricey for a fill loaded pie – $25 – there were leftovers after Das Kinder, her BFF, Her Imperial Majesty and I had at it. Honestly, eating two pieces made me feel like Jabba the Hutt afterwards. It was an amazing value.

I did ask if there was a brick and mortar location looming off and his future and he said yes. The exact location is yet to be determined. I, for one, look forward to it. That rainy Friday I spoke to him, he was parked behind a catering hall that he leases space from. Normally, he drives all over The Triangle. It would be nice in my book, to know where will be every day. Chasing the truck down can be a lot of extra effort for a slice of pizza. But its worth the extra effort. Just like the cheese he imports from Wisconsin.

Klausie’s Pizza

Michael Stenke

Owner, operator, head chef, mechanic, driver, plumber

Phone: 919-880-1087

Location: Various. Follow Mike's travels at
Cuisine: Detroit-style Pizza
Rating: *****
Prices: $
Atmosphere: A food truck and everybody knows how I feel about that
Noise level: Listen to the sidewalk
Reservations: Are you crazy?
Other: Cash and credit cards.

We rank restaurants in five categories: Extraordinary***** Excellent**** Above average*** Average** Fair*